Lessons in leadership: 3 ways to overcome impostor syndrome

(BPT) - As a woman in business, it's common to feel like you're out of your league, don't belong or are failing even when you have evidence to the contrary. Impostor syndrome is hard to shake, but you don't have to live with chronic self-doubt about your business acumen.

When Cindy Monroe founded Thirty-One Gifts, she was a young mother with no formal experience as a business owner and felt that people viewed her as "unqualified" for the job. Now, she's celebrating a milestone with her first book "More Than a Bag: Celebrating the First 20 Years of the Thirty-One Story."

In the book, Monroe shares leadership lessons from 20 years of working with and mentoring thousands of women as she built one of the largest woman-owned companies in North America.

Here are three tips she recommends to combat impostor syndrome and create a meaningful impact.

1. Embrace change and take risks

Early on in Monroe’s business, making big bets on her product line and investing in consultants paid off. However, as the business grew exponentially, she and her team had to embrace more difficult changes to sustain the size of the business.

"As the company experienced a number of difficult turns, I [had to look] for a transition plan that would allow me to focus on my strengths and what I love most about the business, supporting our independent consultants," said Monroe. "I took a step to secure the future of Thirty-One and create the change I needed in my own role."

For Monroe that included taking on an investment partner, as well as hiring a CEO for Thirty-One Gifts so she could focus on her passions.

Monroe’s journey taught her that the best professional development happens when you take risks and embrace change. She reminds readers to not only think about change but to be it and do it. By doing so, you can become more confident in your business decisions.

2. Make margins in business and life

In business and outside of work, it's important to set priorities and boundaries to make margins in your life. According to Monroe, "Margin is the space you build into your life to live intentionally and make time for what is most important to you."

In her book, Monroe explains that this tip was inspired by pastor and bestselling author Andy Stanley's example of how margins work on the printed page. He encourages his audience to imagine how stressful it would be to read a page in their favorite book if there were no white space on the page — just words crammed from edge to edge. It would be unreadable.

This analogy spoke volumes to Monroe. "So much of my creativity, dreaming, free thought and even rest happened for me in the [margin] of life," she said. "I learned that [margin] was not only where my dreams were born. It was also where they were mapped out and turned into action."

In making time for yourself and enforcing boundaries between your personal and professional lives, you can make space for new ideas and solutions.

3. Trust your gut

When making business decisions, it's important to not only rely on data and advisers, but to trust your gut or as Monroe calls it, your “inner coach.” This can be a tricky tip to practice, especially as a woman in business, where many prioritize facts over feelings.

Monroe shares that one of the most important things she learned in her 20-year entrepreneur journey was how to balance her own intuition with hard data and the wisdom and experience of others when making decisions.

When business takes a difficult turn or you face a disappointing outcome, it's easy to worry that you're not qualified or good enough to make an impact. Instead of projecting an unattainable image of an entrepreneur that knows it all, Monroe suggests stripping away concerns over image and defining your own version of success. By doing so, it's easier to see the impact you're making today and the opportunity to create a lasting impact in the future.

Using these three tips, you can feel more confident in your business abilities and focus on your passion and purpose. To learn more about Monroe's journey and read more leadership lessons, visit MoreThanABag.com.


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Nigel “Garbu” Dedier, 51, and Mitchell “Frist” Evangelist, 31, were ambushed and shot dead shortly after 10 a.m. as they worked on the construction site of a house off the Blanchisseuse Main Road.

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