Do you ever feel like an imposter? That at some point other people will realize you don’t have the answers? Here’s what got me thinking about these questions.

One of our clients hosts an annual convention each year where more than 10,000 people gather at a big resort to celebrate their success and to introduce new products.  We’ve attended the event for the last six years, and it’s a really well-done event. Last year was in Las Vegas, and this year was supposed to be in Nashville, but COVID-19 forced it to become a virtual event.

Anyway, this year’s virtual convention is just days away, but it got me thinking about last year’s event. One of the breakout sessions featured one of the more successful Ambassadors (Independent Sales Representatives) where she admitted to a room full of her peers of equal stature (around 1,000 people) that she was an imposter. She said she felt like a fraud. That people were fools on her team to think she knew all the answers and knew exactly what to do all the time. In truth, she was just making it up as she went along. Trying to copy what her mentors were doing and demonstrating for their teams and demonstrating it to her own team.

I thought she was talking about me. A year later, I still do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still extremely confident in my team on the work we’re doing for clients. I’m proud that we’ve won a lot of awards for our work. I’m thrilled that we continue to grow and have added clients despite COVID – that we’ve adapted to new realities that will result in us coming out of COVID stronger than when it started. All the same, I keep looking at my team and others in the industry expecting them to finally realize that I’m an imposter. That I don’t have all the answers and that I’m making it up as we go along.

And that’s the point. The point the convention presenter made in her confession. It’s okay to feel like an imposter, and it’s okay not to know all the answers. The key is to share the answers you do have as it helps lift those around you up.  It’s okay, no, completely appropriate as a leader to ask for opinions of your team and of those you consider mentors to help you make decisions when you’re unsure of what to do next.

I’m lucky to have a team where I can ask and trust their opinion. I’m lucky to be part of IPREX, an exclusive network of independent PR firms from around the globe where I can ask dumb questions and learn from leader of other amazing PR agencies that I’d love to emulate.

What I’ve learned is that it’s not a one-way street. They’re asking me questions back and requesting my opinion too.  Just as that convention speaker told the group, just because you feel like an imposter sometimes, it doesn’t mean you don’t have value to add.

Here’s the sad truth. We’re all just a bunch of posers seeking validation and approval. Imposter syndrome can be real, but it doesn’t change the work that needs to be done. It doesn’t change what you already know and can share with others. The final lesson is to follow your gut even when it’s not popular or when you’re unsure of what to do. Because in the end, you’re the one staring yourself in the mirror once time tells you if you were right or wrong.

– Josh Weiss, President of 10 to 1 Public Relations