My Imposter

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My Imposter

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I was coaching another agile coach the other day and the topic of her insecurity in taking on new things came up. For example, a client had asked her to develop an agile leadership class to deliver as part of improving the overall performance of their leadership team.

What was interesting is that she was “frozen”. She didn’t feel that she could do it. Her mind was in a continuous state of analysis paralysis around how much information there was that needed to be shared and how she really didn’t have the experience and skill to design and deliver it.

I went on to share that it sounded to me as if she had Imposter Syndrome. And, as a way of potentially breaking thru the freeze, I began to share my own experiences with it.

First, let me say this. I feel like an imposter every day. Yes, really. Even now!

Let me give you some historical context behind that statement—

  • I’ve been doing what I do for nearly 40 years.

  • I’ve got oodles of experience (that’s a lot 😉

  • I’ve written 4 books and contributed to several more.

  • I’ve delivered hundreds of conference talks, tens of workshops, and ~10 keynotes.

  • I’m considered a Subject Matter Expert in the agile space.

  • I’ve coached and trained thousands of individuals in organizations and teams.

That’s not my ego talking, it’s simply the results of ~20 years being active in the agile space. So clearly, I’ve got some chops.

But that being said, each day I encounter a situation that makes me feel uncomfortable. That makes me feel like I’m incompetent and I can’t do what they want me to do. Where I’m out of my depth. Where I feel that I’m a pretender or a fake.

And boy is that an uncomfortable feeling for me.

I often want to run away from it. And there’s a wide variety of ways I’ve used to do that. I can—

  • Procrastinate (freeze)

  • Pretend I’m too busy

  • Charge way too much for the work

  • Simply say no

  • And myriad other ways of, in my mind and actions, avoiding doing something…

But I’ve learned (largely) to become much more comfortable with my discomfort. That’s where we’re going next with a hope that you might find it helpful.

First of all, I discovered a name for this habit a few years ago. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. And oddly, being able to “name it” helped me to better understand and deal with it.

In fact, this video by Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-CEO of Atlassian, really helped me understand it and put it into perspective.

It also made me realize that my workaround was something that worked for others. So, here it is…

The key for me in dealing with Imposter Syndrome is to MOVE. To not let it freeze me or stop me. The very fact that I keep moving helps me to get through it and gain the confidence that, yes, I can do this.

Now, the movement doesn’t mean you won’t fail. Trust me, you will.

But if you don’t move, you’ll never fail. Nor will you succeed. Nor will you learn. So, movement is the key.

One of the things that help with movement is my stubbornness or doggedness or work ethic. I know I’m not the smartest or most experienced agilist on the planet. Far from it.

But I know I can outwork most folks. And that attribute of movement + hard work has really helped me deal with my Imposter Syndrome.

Now I think may have left the impression above that you can work around your Imposter Syndrome—curing it if you will.

Well, I have some bad news. At least it is for me. I’ve realized that I will always have Imposter Syndrome. Just when I least expect it, its little head rears up in a situation to remind me that…

I’m here…

And you’re not good enough, or smart enough, or capable enough…

But then I remind myself that I simply need to MOVE…

Take a step, try something, fail, succeed, take another step,

But always MOVING…

Getting back to that coach I was talking to in the beginning. I sincerely hope she learns how to cope with her Imposter Syndrome.


Because I see her as being an outstanding coach with great instincts, wonderful experiences to share, and capable of great things.

And because FROZEN isn’t a healthy state for any of us…outside of Disney movies 😉

Stay agile my friends,




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