In a meeting with one of my team members this week she talked about how she felt a little out of her scope of expertise on a call earlier that day. She is new to her position and we are working on a cooperative research study that requires several different institutions to develop common practices and operations to execute the protocol. The largest task at hand is a budget that works for all the various sized venues. She asked to be included on another site’s budget discussion to get some insight on their process. She reported back that she had so much to contribute to that meeting, they asked her to run the national meeting.
This person has only been in this position for 7 months, and has been learning the ropes faster than I ever could have imagined. I recruited her because I knew her socially, and recognized her as having a wonderful skillset and temperament to do the job of a research coordinator. She has quickly become one of my best team members. She is always so eager to learn and contribute, I honestly hit the lottery with this one.
During the call, she mentioned that she felt intimidated with speaking up. The other people on the call were (seemingly) seasoned research personnel, so truly she thought she would just listen in. However, when one of the physicians missed a crucial detail about the protocol, she respectfully chimed in to correct her. This instance of speaking up opened the door to several more questions, including some on the budget methodology and operations questions. She answered the inquiries flawlessly, but got off the phone wondering why they wanted so much information from her. Who was she anyway?
She recognized this as imposter syndrome. Adam Grant talks about this frequently on his social media platforms, books, and podcasts. He stresses the importance of taking this feeling out of “syndrome land,” which inherently has a negative connotation, and normalizing it as something everyone goes through from time to time. He further encourages us to use it as an opportunity to rethink and grow from the experience. How exciting is that!
I discussed this sentiment with my team member and encouraged her to speak up more often in these settings. Not only does she deserve to be here, but her new and fresh approach to looking at these things is invaluable to this large, multi-disciplinary team. I told her to run the national meeting if she was comfortable doing so, and to be transparent about where she needs more input on some of the nuances of the protocol. Only good things can come from humility and the genuine seeking of input to make a collaborative project stronger.
I want you to literally take a page from Adam Grant’s book “Think Again” and re-think what imposter syndrome means to you and your work life. I would be thrilled to hear the results!