Looking Forward – Richard Mills, Chief Financial Officer, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
#TeamSFH’s Chief Financial Officer, Richard Mills guest blog post ‘Looking Forward.’
In it, Richard shares his experience of ‘imposter syndrome’ and the wealth of coaching, mentoring and training opportunities within the Trust to help you to manage it, read it below.
Hello everyone. I hope you’ve had a good week so far and thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog.
A few weeks ago I was asked to run a session on the topic of imposter syndrome to a group of people on an NHS leaders development programme.
Simply put: imposter syndrome is the feeling that you are a fraud or that you are out of your depth. This might be because you doubt yourself or you feel that everyone else seems more competent and capable than you are.
I’m sure most of you will have had these feelings at times, probably at work but also in your personal life. I suspect you think that you are alone in having these doubts. I want to tell you that this is more common than you think.
I know this because I asked a group of NHS colleagues from all backgrounds how often they experienced the feeling of imposter syndrome. About half of them said they felt it most days or most weeks, with most of the others saying they did experience it but not as often. Only a couple said that they never experience this feeling.
Personally, I’d say I experience it most weeks. As a non-clinical person working in a hospital, it is most common when I speak to colleagues working in clinical roles. This type of imposter syndrome can be called ‘The Expert’ because I feel like I need to be an expert in everything and may be seen as a failure if I don’t immediately understand something.
Another common type is ‘The Superhero’. This is where you base your success on the number of different roles you can play (parent, partner, manager, etc) and if you can’t play them all perfectly, you feel like a fraud.
Others include ‘The Soloist’ where you feel that asking for help from others is a sign of your own weakness and failure, ‘The Natural Genius’ where you expect to meet goals quickly and effortlessly and feel ashamed when things get difficult, and ‘The Perfectionist’ where you will consider any slight error as a failure and feel shame and guilt as a result.
Do you recognise any of the above in yourself? Have a think about how this feels.
The people that I have spoken to have used words like fear, anxiety, worry, doubt, inadequate, unsettled, nervous, unsure, insecure, self-conscious and exposed. I’m sure you’ll agree that these are all uncomfortable feelings, and most of us would prefer to avoid them. This is why we sometimes don’t put ourselves forward for things that might be outside of our comfort zone, and this can hold us back.
I think that understanding these feelings and learning how to manage them helps us to grow and realise our potential, so I thought it would be good to share some tips from the group that I have spoken to.
Speaking to others about how you feel was the most common response.
You will probably find that others feel the same and having a trusted network of people to chat to will provide support.
Try to be open with vulnerabilities as it is ok to say you don’t know or to acknowledge if something didn’t go to plan.
Talking through different perspectives can be a massive help.
Other people almost certainly think more of you than you do of yourself.
Try to be kind to yourself, celebrate your successes, remember your key strengths and achievements and try to re-frame thoughts and use positive language.
Some people find it helpful to keep a file of positive feedback or a journal to help with this.
Think about times where you have felt like an imposter and why.
Could you do anything different in your preparation? Could you practice these situations? Is there some training available that could help you to feel more confident?
Lots of people suggested talking to a coach or a mentor to help with this.
From my conversations it was clear that experience helps to overcome imposter syndrome.
It can be scary to put yourself out of your comfort zone, but if you “feel the fear and do it anyway,” you will soon notice that you feel much more comfortable with these situations.
Think about kids learning to ride a bike: at first they’ll most likely be nervous, frightened and doubtful, but after a few goes they’ll start to feel comfortable and it will soon become second nature.
In summary, I think that everybody experiences imposter syndrome in some form and it is nothing to be ashamed of. The important thing is to understand it and to manage it as best you can. If you find the right balance, you might find that those personal and professional goals aren’t quite as unreachable as you once thought they were.
If you’d like to find out more we have a number of courses that may be of interest and we can also help you to find a mentor or a coach if this would be useful l I’d also be very happy to have a chat with you over a coffee.
Have a lovely weekend,
Richard Mills, Chief Financial Officer, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.