Executives Unpacked Episode 17: Impostor Syndrome is something that affects people at every level of business

This post was written by: John Clifton

Episode 17 of The Executives Unpacked Podcast featured a conversation with Kim Lawrence, the EVP of Global Client Operations at Visual Data Media Services. Growing up Kim had ambitions to be a journalist, but now she works with a provider of premium Digital Media Supply Chain Solutions and some of the world’s best known media brands. Read on to hear how Kim has progressed her career whilst tackling impostor syndrome. 

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned during your career?

Anything is possible if you approach it with the right mindset. No matter how unachievable it might seem, if you start it with a curious, positive mindset, it’s incredible what you can accomplish. Over and over and over in my career we’ve had projects that just seem impossible to get done, but we’ve succeeded in the end. There’s always a way to figure it out.

Is there anything you wish you’d been told earlier in your career?

Impostor syndrome is a thing that everybody experiences. I didn’t realise that until about five years ago. Until then I thought ‘At some point, somebody’s going to figure out that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.’ Knowing that other people in the same roles as me and even CEOs still struggle with impostor syndrome was a game-changer. I started my working life straight out of secondary school at 16, so I was always the youngest person in the room and I had no formal education. As a result, I always thought that someone was doing me a favour by letting me be there. I wish I had been told that I was there because of me, I earned a seat at this table, and people want to hear what I have to say. All sorts of people, even those at senior levels, can all feel like their progression is a fluke. It’s hard to get that across to young people who are just coming into the workplace, but it’s something that we should really try to communicate. It’s what I wish I knew then. 

What advice do you think had the most impact on you?

‘Fake it till you make it’ is an obvious one, but it’s less about faking the job that you do and more about faking your confidence. It takes courage to walk into a room and host a meeting, give a presentation, pitch to a client or go into a post-mortem meeting with a customer. If you can channel your confidence, it puts everybody else at ease. I’m an inherently shy, introverted person, which people often say doesn’t come across at all, because I push through that to find my confidence. That’s helped me achieve all kinds of things. 

Another piece of advice I got recently is ‘don’t try and be the hero in somebody else’s story’. I have a tendency to want to fix everything, but I’ve learned that people need to be the hero in their own story. That’s led me to one of my core passions, which is mentoring and developing people. I had so many amazing mentors in my life, and now I want to give that back to other people. I wish I’d had a female mentor like me to look up to, so I try to be that for people. I’m here to help people see their potential, support them and give them the resources they need to smash it.

What keeps you awake at night?

I don’t think I can count my sleepless nights on one hand. Having said that, I do worry about whether I have the wrong person on my team, or the dynamic isn’t quite working for someone I’ve brought in. If I see potential in this person, how do I know if our culture is strong enough to set this person up for success? Anything we do that affects people causes me a lot of stress. I feel a responsibility for people, because when you have someone who doesn’t fit, it impacts the whole company culture. 

Can you identify a single thread through your career that’s led to your success?

If I listen to my imposter syndrome I would say it’s I’ve got here by pure luck, and I have no idea what I’m doing or how I got here. Curiosity is actually my secret. I’m a truth-seeker by nature, and I always want to get to the bottom of something and understand it. If I’m told no, I’ll ask annoying questions until I completely understand why, and that usually leads to a creative conversation about solutions. I remember seeing a woman at work once, and she was commanding the room, answering questions and coming up with solutions. I realised that I needed to understand how to do that, and it’s my curiosity that got me there. 

What is the one bit of advice that you would offer to others?

Be intentional about who you surround yourself with. You need to make sure that they inspire you in some way, because you become a little bit of each person you spend time with. Cut toxic people out of your life and out of your business quickly. 

To hear more about Kim’s work, tune into the full episode of The Executives Unpacked Podcast here. 

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