Have you ever worried that you’re not good enough? Are your achievements down to luck and you’re just waiting to be found out as a fraud? Have you recently been promoted, and are struggling to shake the feeling that you’re not operating at the required level?
If so, don’t worry. You are not alone. You might be suffering from Impostor Syndrome.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
The phenomenon called “Impostor Syndrome” was coined in 1978 and it is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of Impostor Phenomenon in their lives.
For sufferers this can result in working long hours, and putting down successes and achievements to luck or the kindness of others. In extreme cases it can become a vicious circle which can lead to burn-out and stress.
My personal experience with Impostor Syndrome
I experienced Impostor Syndrome when I was promoted internally to become Head of Transformation for TUI Destination Service. I went from having a small UK-based team to a large multidisciplinary team based across the globe. I was suddenly on the Senior Leadership Team with far more experienced colleagues (as I saw it).
For me, this manifested in fear that my boss (who had placed his trust in my ability) would be let down, and ultimately that I would be ‘discovered as a fraud’ in some horribly public manner.
Neither happened. You know why?
1) I was good enough – and had earned my opportunity
2) Most of my new peers felt the same way!
And this was a key learn. We’re all winging it to some degree.
Observations and ideas to work on
I’ve observed this in colleagues and members of my team. One example springs to mind of a recently-promoted colleague who made a mistake in their day-job. The impact of the mistake was very small, as they fixed the problem themselves prior to their key stakeholder noticing.
However the impact on confidence was large. Much larger than I would expect for an error so small. I was concerned that this confidence-knock could lead to my colleague pulling back and not getting the most out of the role.
We discussed the issue, and I was reminded of the Newly Promoted Oli back in 2015. It was a really good conversation, and it has given me a number of ideas on how to deal with this issue.
Recognise that you are facing Impostor Syndrome
Talk to someone you trust about your fears
Itemise the issues you are most worried about – and come up with a plan for them
Have a process to deal with flare ups – perhaps line someone up who can listen when you are struggling and provide an objective view
This is not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure there are people better-placed to provide insight on this issue. However I am a strong believer in sharing thoughts and experiences with the hope that this may help some who are struggling with the same issue.
So next time you are struggling with Impostor Syndrome – remember that you are not alone.
 – Clance, P.R.; Imes, S.A. (1978). “The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: dynamics and therapeutic intervention”. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. 15 (3): 241–247. doi:10.1037/h0086006.
 Sakulku, Jaruwan (2011). “The Impostor Phenomenon” (PDF). International Journal of Behavioral Science. 6 (1): 73–92.
Metrics are everywhere these days. Data is a way of life, and we expect to get it! But what happens when it’s used badly?
I recently took a trip to London with my son, and was waiting at a bus stop to catch a number 10. I noticed that the bus stop gave me the amount of time I would need to wait. Great KPI! I only have to wait 2 minutes for the next number 10.
But then 2 minutes came and went.
And another 2 minutes.
Then another 10 minutes.
Finally, the bus showed up 15 minutes later than the board had suggested. How could the computer have got it so wrong?
We need valuable information
The information I was reviewing at this London bus stop was not valuable. It gave me false information – which could not be relied on. How many times have you seen data or information in your organisation which has a similar profile. How many times have you made decisions on bad KPIs such as this, which have caused you and your organisation issues?
Be bold. If you are responsible for producing data or information, make sure it is valuable and correct. If it is not, stop doing it.
Find the right metric
I have a theory about the bus data.
The buses are all fitted with GPS systems, so the central computer always knows where they are in London. Therefore the computer know how far away the bus is from each stop on the route (distance).
The system then uses the average speed of a london bus is used to convert distance into time (time = distance / speed). So when I’m sitting in Oxford Circus with my son (probably the slowest road in London), this formula is far too ambitious. In other areas with faster roads, perhaps the buses arrive sooner.
So what is the right metric? I would give the customers the distance of the next bus, in kilometres or miles. So for example, rather than seeing 2 mins, you would see 0.4km. As I sit at the bus stop, I feel comforted that a bus is coming, although I can see that the road is very very slow. As the distance reduces, I get a feel of when the bus is coming, which is never wrong. This is a valuable metric which keeps my expectations managed.
If you reflect on this example, and apply it to your organisation, can you think of any similar examples?
As a finance reporting professional, I feel that often too much focus is placed on EBITA variances to the month, or year to date. These historic figures only tell you what happened, not what is going to happen.
My favourite KPI is distance to go (DTG) Vs. prior year. This shows you the future remaining months in your EBITA forecast, Vs. the same period in the prior year. Even in rapidly changing businesses I find this KPI gives me really strong insight into the likelihood of what we think is going to happen. It also highlights errors in forecasting, or ‘sandbagging’ (hiding of upsides from prior months in the final month).
I’m as guilty as the next person in leaping to opinions based on headlines and opinions. Gatlin’s win has reminded me that it’s worth looking deeper into the detail when it comes to making my own opinions.
Do you believe in rehabilitation?
Justin Gatlin’s last offence was in 2006. 11 years have passed. Is he not rehabilitated?
If you committed any of the following crimes in the UK you would be released from prison after 10 years, society believing you to be rehabilitated.
Possession of firearm with intent to cause fear of violence
Administering poison etc. so as to endanger life
Cruelty to persons under 16.
Does the same not hold true for athletes? 11 years of clean competing? How do you feel about this?
Doesn’t everyone deserve respect?
In my opinion, the booing of Justin Gatlin was wrong. He deserves respect.
Same goes for David Beckham following his red card in World Cup 1998. Someone hanged an effigy for goodness sake.
I worry that in this post-truth world where online trolls anonymously abuse others that we are losing respect for one another. It has become the norm to disrespect others.
I believe we need to challenge disrespect whenever we encounter it. Don’t get caught up in the crowd, or follow the easy path.
Everyone deserves respect.
Any thoughts or challenges, please share them below.
In 1996, an author called Harvey Coleman came up with this model to give a clear and actionable view on how to get ahead at work. This was first brought to my attention by Nick Clench – an executive coach (check him out, he’s awesome.)
P – Performance – 10%
“Doing your job well only gets you 10% of the way there”
How many times have you heard someone complain about not getting recognition for what they achieve at work? As a manager/leader, I hear this quite a lot.
Whilst it may seem fundamentally unfair, it is true. You need to think beyond your performance in your job if you want to get ahead.
However, you might notice the way I’ve built the pyramid above (hint hint Maslow’s Heirachy) with performance sitting as the foundation stone. This is by design, as you must ensure that you are performing in your role, otherwise the other areas of focus will not mean anything.
I – Image – 30%
“Your image helps you to differentiate yourself”
I like to think of this as your personal brand. This is how you differentiate yourself from the competition. This is what makes people think of you when they think about your business area.
It’s quite difficult to define how to improve this, but I’ve always preferred people with a positive mental attitude, who lead with solutions, who take ownership, who offer support and challenge.
So I would take a moment and think about how your personal brand comes across. Be honest with yourself, and look for ways you could improve it. Some ideas:
Positivity UP – negativity – DOWN
Look for and provide pragmatic solutions
Show a geniune interest in other people
Be credible and consistent, however show flexibility
Exposure – 60%
“Are you known, are you seen, are you sponsored?”
The big one. If you believe Mr Coleman, this is where you should really be spending your time. Who knows you, and what you do? Does your boss know what you do? Does their boss know you and what you do? Do others inside and outside your organisation know anything about you?
If you answer no to these questions, then it’s probably time for a fresh approach. Without colleagues knowing who you are, you have limited chance to maximise any opportunities that might be available.
Why not try the following:
Volunteer for stuff
Work on an elevator pitch for when you find yourself next to the CEO in a coffee queue
Find a senior mentor
And finally – get out there!
I hope this has been useful, let me know if you have any thoughts or challenges to this approach.
I’m an optimistic guy, so here are my 5 reasons why the Brexit vote might not have such a massive impact.
If you agree with me, then please share on social media with your buddies…
What does a vote “Leave” actually mean
We voted to leave the EU.
Not to reduce migration, not to increase sovereignty, not to stop wasting money (£350m per week) on EU government departments. We didn’t elect Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage into power.
If we leave the EU, the referendum result will have been actioned. That is all that has been asked for. The levels of migration or sovereignty were not part of the vote.
So aside from the trade deal, not much necessarily needs to change.
We still have the same number of businesses, delivering the same goods and services to customers in the UK, the EU, and elsewhere. The quality of these businesses (good or bad) has not been impacted by the vote.
We still have the same number of schools, hospitals, fire stations and police cars as we did pre-Brexit. We still need all these organisations, who provide jobs for UK citizens.
Britain is still Britain under the bonnet. The deficit is as big as it was yesterday. The England football team are probably going to go out of a major tournament on penalties…
The size of trade between Britain and the EU means a deal will be struck for the benefit of both sides. German and French companies will want to sell cars to UK customers. UK financial service organisations want to trade with EU customers.
From what I’ve heard, the terms of the trade deal may well end up looking similar to the pre-Brexit deal (freedom of movement and trade).
If this is the case, then we’re in a similar place we were before…
Market adjustments are short term
Everyone is rightly worried about the value of sterling, and the impact on the FTSE. A devalued pound means we pay more at the pump for petrol, and the cost of our imported products go up. This can lead to cost inflation, with no offsetting salary inflation (ie less cash in the bank at the end of the month).
However, these adjustments are paper based adjustments, based on perceived risk and value. Part of the reason for the mini-crash was an expectation of a remain vote, which led to strengthening of the currency and commodities pre-vote, which obviously reversed after the leave vote was delivered.
The short term market adjustments will (in my opinion) reverse over time, as they are generally based on the underlying fundamentals of an economy or market.
It could take ages to agree a new deal
The new deal with the EU could take years to iron out. During this time we are still a member of the EU, so actually nothing will change.
Yesterday I wrote a blog about the need for calm in the aftermath of the vote to leave. In my opinion we should take our time and not rush to any decisions or strategic plans.
So you could say that not much has changed. The result feels seismic, but if you look a little closer there is definitely room for a little cautious optimism for those who voted remain, even though we are going to leave.
This is a hugely emotionally charged time for many people. I think we need to recognise this and give people the space to do whatever they feel. If you want to grieve, then grieve. If you want to celebrate, then do so quietly. Above all stay calm and don’t panic.
We all saw the pound drop against the dollar, and the stock markets take a 500 point tumble. I saw a 20 deep queue to a cash point this morning as people rushed to grab EUROs before the rates were updated at 09:00 am (they were stuck on the prior day rates).
In my opinion these are short term adjustments driven primarily through the markets making the wrong assumptions, and then pricing them in to the markets. They got it wrong, again. Don’t get me wrong, the currency and commodity markets are a vital part of our economy, but these kind of adjustments will probably even themselves out.
The fundamentals of our day-to-day lives have not changed overnight. We are still in a trade agreement with Europe, and most businesses will carry on in a similar way as pre-vote (albeit with robust contingency plans, I hope!)
We need a plan
The people have spoken (well, 52% of them have), and we’ve got to move forward with the decision. David Cameron has quit, Jeremy Corbyn has a vote of no confidence, and Nicola Sturgeon is looking into the possibility of a Scottish referendum (which to be fair she put on her mandate, and was elected to). Everything feels… Unsettled.
Life will go on, but we need a plan as a nation. We have elected the government to come up with a plan, and I feel it is incumbent on the key Brexiters to come to the table and help us shape the future.
Watch this space
So the next few weeks will be key. Hopefully this decision will eventually be looked back on in history as not a massive mistake!
Scotland held a referendum in September 2014 over their independence from the United Kingdom. An eventual “No” vote by 55% of the population was the outcome, but were the opinion polls any good at predicting this? And what does this tell us about our EU referendum vote – based on current polling?
I hope you find this article interesting. If so, please share with all your friends via social media!
“No” was predicted, but the undecideds all went one way
If the 18 polls carried out in September 2014, only 2 predicted a “Yes” vote. The remainder all predicted “No”. The polls were very close near the end of the campaign.
So why was the victory so much bigger than the polls predicted?
As with any opinion polls about voting intentions there are a number of undecided voters. And if you look at the figures for the polls (link here to excellent Wikipedia page) it is clear that almost all the undecided voters landed on the “No” vote when standing in the polling booth.
So what does this mean for the current opinion polls about the EU Referendum?
You’ll probably be aware that the latest polls for the EU referendum are much closer than those in the Scottish referendum. It’s bloomin’ close…
Looking over the last ten polls we’ve got 6 wins for Leave, 3 wins for Remain and one dead-heat.
But the undecided vote is massive. It looks like it’s averaging toward about 10%
How will these undecided voters act?
I’m going to draw a parallel between the “No” vote in Scotland and the “Remain” vote in the EU referendum. Both votes are for remaining in a union, and both votes are risk-averse in nature (i.e. not embracing the uncertainty of a brave new world…)
So my prediction is that most of the undecided voters will side with “Remain” on polling day.
If my prediction is correct, we can make adjustments to the polling data by assuming that all “Undecideds” will vote “Remain”. Following this through, the shape of the last ten polls change significantly.
Rather than 6 results supporting leave, it’s now 2. Rather than 3 results supporting Remain it’s now 8.
So what does this mean?
In my opinion, this evidence strongly supports a victory for Remain. If voters act in a similar way as they did in Scotland, then the result of the EU referendum will be for us to stay in the EU.
Before David Cameron pops the champagne, it might be worth considering some of the issues with this hypothesis.
Scotland leaving the UK was a bigger decision. A new country would have been formed, and the underlying risk of uncertainty was higher. This will introduce bias, and perhaps a smaller number of undecideds will vote remain.
The U.K. is roughly 10 times the size of Scotland, and has many more regions with different identities and goals. Simplistic extrapolation of the Scottish data may lead to erroneous hypothesises.
The 2015 general election polls were almost universally wrong. The silent voters the pollsters missed could be missed again. Any theory using the polls as a baseline is therefore flawed.
Extrapolation of Scottish polls suggest victory for Remain camp due to undecideds converting to the perceived lower risk vote.
If you have found this article interesting or helpful, please share with your buddies on social media…
Are you undecided on the EU referendum debate, and unsure how you will vote?
Check out my analysis of the UK import / export data, and perhaps you’ll become closer to a decision. If you find the following helpful, please share with your social media buddies via Facebook, twitter, and all the other sites!
In honour of the Euro 2016 competition, I am keeping score between the Leave Campaign, and the Remain Campaign. Any fact from my analysis that supports either campaign scores them a goal… Let’s see who wins 🙂
Please note I do not support either Leave or Remain side on this website. It’s up to you to make up your mind. I’ve been disappointed with the quality of information available throughout the campaign, and this is my small way of making a difference.
All data comes from HMRC site UKTradeInfo, an excellent resource to dig into the stats, if you’re that way inclined…
So how much do we import and export?
Let’s start off simple, looking at the totals for 2015. Figure 1 shows how our imports compare to our exports, and the breakdown of EU and Non EU countries.
A couple of clear facts emerge:
The UK imports more than it exports (£106 billion more!)
The EU is a major provider of imports (53% of total), and a major receiver of exports (44% of total)
Imports (-2.3%) and exports (-1.8%) were lower in 2015 than in 2014, but interestingly, the exports to Non EU countries increased (+4.7%), suggesting non EU countries were our source of growth in 2015.
This information has been used by both sides to prove their side of the argument.
On one hand, you can see that the EU is a huge trade partner with the UK, so vote Leave would impact this relationship and therefore hurt our economy.
On the other hand, the EU imports more to the UK as a percentage (53%) than it receives as exports (44%), suggesting the EU countries are benefitting from access to the UK as a market, without giving us supporting export trade that helps our economy grow.
Also, the only area of growth in these high level figures is exports to the Non EU partners (+4.7%).
Using a football analogy to keep score, I’ll award a goal to Remain due the size of the EU trade, but a goal back to Leave due the growth of the Non EU trade.
So we’re at 1-all after ten minutes 🙂
Let’s go deeper into the numbers…
So who are our major trade partners – EU and Non EU?
Figure 2 shows the split of the previous information by country. The top ten EU countries and top 7 Non EU countries are shown (otherwise the table gets too big to look at on a phone screen…!)
What are these numbers showing me???!!
This table shows the absolute value in pounds sterling of the exports and imports by country, what proportion of the total this makes up, and the change Vs. the prior year (i.e. growth or decline).
For example, The UK imports £61 billion worth of goods from Germany, which is 14.8% of our total imports, and these imports have grown Vs. 2014 by 1.3%. The UK exports £30 billion to Germany, which is 10.0% of our total exports, and the amount of exports have decline Vs. 2014 by 3.9%.
What are the facts from this information?
So you can draw your own conclusions from the table if you wish, however here are a couple of nuggets that jump out at me when reviewing the numbers.
I have cut the data into roughly equal thirds.
Large trade partners (Germany, USA and China) with over £30bn of either exports or imports
Medium trade partners (6 from EU, and Switzerland) with over £10bn of exports or imports
Small trade partners (everyone else – less than £10bn of exports or imports)
Of the large trade partners, USA and China have strong growth in both exports and imports. Germany has strong growth in imported trade into UK, but decline in exported UK goods to Germany.
Trade slowed with the medium partners – both imports and exports are lower than 2014, with the exception of Spain (EU) and Switzerland (Non EU).
The UK small partners trade slowed with the EU partners, but grew strongly with the Non EU partners.
Using the figures above, you could say that the UK trade with non EU countries is stronger than that of EU partners. Exports are are growing to Non EU trade partners, and imports from our top 2 Non EU countries (USA and China) are also growing. The EU position is decline in both imports and exports.
However, before any Leave campainers start crowing, it is clear that our EU trade partners are still a very large part of our underlying economy. There are 7 countries I have classified as large of medium for the EU, and these countries make up more than a third of UK exports.
Also, the trade between Non EU countries (e.g. USA) and the UK is based on the current trade agreements with the EU. So the UK would need to renegotiate these deals with Non EU countries.
What would happen if… If trade between UK and EU fell by 1% due to an exit from the EU, this would mean a reduction in UK exports of £1.3bn per year. However imports from EU countries would reduce by £2.2bn over the course of a year. Both EU and UK economies would be impacted by this.
Going back to my football analogy, I’ll award a goal to Leave given that they have 2 absolutely huge trade partners that are growing strongly, that are not in the EU (USA and China). However Remain equalise by the fact that the trade with these 2 partners are based on current EU deals, so require future negotiation.
Final score by my reckoning is 2 – 2. For me, the economic argument is not clearly supporting either Leave or Remain. Both have evidence in the numbers supporting their claims, but neither side have a crystal ball. Take anything the politicians say with a massive pinch of salt. Also, take anything the economists say with a slightly smaller, but equally salty pinch of salt. Economists are great at doing long term predictions, but often their predictions are out of date by the time the ink has dried…
How should I vote?
Really, the economic argument comes down to a number of factors. How you feel about those factors will drive your decision.
Do you fear economic instability? If so, probably best to vote Remain, as the result of this vote is certainly more certain – as nothing really will change as a result.
Do you believe that UK can continue to trade with all countries, if we leave the EU? If you believe this, then you voting Leave makes sense
Would you rather focus UK efforts on trade with Non EU (given the growth and size of market)? If so, vote Leave.
Do you see the large number of EU imports as vital for the economy? If you believe this, then you are probably leaning toward Remain.
Ultimately, the way you vote will be swayed by a number of arguments and factors. You have a great chance to ensure that your voice is heard, so make sure that you get out there and vote!
I hope that you have found this at least a little helpful in making your decision. If you liked this, please ensure that you share on Social Media, to make sure others get the chance to review this information before making a decision.
As a management accountant or finance professional a core skill is forecasting and budgeting. My mini-series offers tips and tricks to help you improve your skills in this area.
We’re on step 3 here, if you want a recap of the other steps, click here.
Today I want to talk about the importance of assumptions, and your flexibility of working with them.
The importance of assumptions
Budgeting is a process that creates a financial plan. This plan is based on future events that are not 100% certain.
So this makes budgeting ambiguous. Over the years I’ve seen many approaches to dealing with this ambiguity, from rolling forward last years results, to bottom up forecasting from numerous business partners, but the successful attempts have always been based on clear assumptions.
And I mean super-clear.
E.g. I am assuming that we will have an identical mix of customer types next year, with 10% growth.
As long as you’ve made this clear then people can get behind the assumptions, or not, but at least they will understand what they are looking at…
Get your assumptions signed off
Are you the ultimate business owner of the profit or cost you are budget in for? As a finance professional, I doubt it. Therefore, you need to make sure whoever is on the hook for the budget delivery has agreed to the final figures.
Organise a sign off meeting with the ultimate owner, plus your FD, and present your super-clear assumptions. Agree the budget in the meeting, and decide on any follow up actions.
How to test that your assumptions are good enough
This is quite easy.
You’ve been in budget sign off meetings and felt that sinking feeling as your FD rips apart your 3 months of work, right? He/she does this by asking questions like:
Why is income up 200%? Why has your rental is Spanish properties gone from £100k to £0?
The best way to test assumptions in a budget is to print off the P&L, then leave it overnight. Come back the next day with fresh eyes and imagine you wanted to pick holes in the numbers.
What questions would you ask? Do you like the answers? If not then I suggest you have another look at what you’ve assumed.
Your budget is only as good as the assumptions you make. Make them clear, get them signed off, and test them for robustness.
Budgeting is all about managing expectations, so it’s probably no great surprise that communication is a major tool is delivering an awesome budget.
We previously looked at timelines in a previous post, also you read my intro to this series here.
How are your communication skills? You need to find your answers to the following questions:
Who is your key audience?
Who are the stakeholders you need to engage? Remember that each stakeholder may need their own approach.
For example, in my business I have
Each of these groups have different communication needs. I’m in finance, so the finance leaders want me to demonstrate that I’m on top of the budgeting process. Regular, top level updates with key risks and opps keep them happy.
Business leaders want to challenge the division to deliver more than last year, with stretching targets. They need to understand what level of challenge has been embedded in the numbers.
So you can clearly see how different requirements of your audience will drive different types of communication.
Understanding who needs to be communicated to and ensuring you have a plan to meet their needs will really help you stand out as a talented communicator (and budgeter).
Don’t use Excel as a presentation tool
A good tool for presenting a budget is powerpoint. If you’re already using powerpoint then skip to the next section.
Now if you’re using excel to present your budget then it might be time to think about an alternative approach.
Don’t get me wrong – Excel is very good and I use it loads, however I never (ever) use it to communicate with. Why? Because it makes you think in tables, and makes you talk about numbers rather than assumptions and initiatives.
Using powerpoint is great for communicating. It’s a ready made storyboard. I map out the skeleton of my budget pack first – even before I’ve VLOOKUPPED anything.
I hope you’ve found the tips helpful, come back next time to find out about Xxx