How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Lean Leader

In our lives, we have all suffered from what is called imposter syndrome.  Maybe you have just been promoted to a new leadership position.  Maybe you have been asked to be the Lean coordinator for your site or company.  It could be you are beginning an entirely different career or switching to a new industry.  Chances are we have all been placed in situations that have led us to doubt our accomplishments and have an internalized fear that we will be exposed as a fraud.


Even after 30 years of consulting within many different industries I sometimes feel the imposter syndrome.  I wonder if I am helping clients get better in their businesses.  Did we do enough in the Rapid Improvement Event to make leadership happy?  Was everyone fully engaged and did everyone take part?  What could we have done better?

Many of these mental battles rage in all of us.  I can tell you that the answer is to push through.  When leading change in any organization you realize that there will be times when you feel you failed.  So what.  Working with people and leading them to undertake a continuous improvement mindset takes a lot of heavy lifting and not everyone will come along for the ride.

If something doesn’t go as planned, learn from it and move on.  The ultimate rewards belong to the people willing to fail and learn from the experience.  Every time this happens you have an advantage over the person next to you.  You tried something!  It changes your perspective.

As Woody Allen said, 90% of the battle is showing up and doing the work.  Some key success strategies to help you overcome imposter syndrome include:

1. Establish a vision for your Lean transformation

This helps drive alignment and support. Develop a management system and share the vision with the entire organization. Employees will get behind the change effort then they can see there is a vision for change.

2. Select a few KPI’s to measure the business

There is a saying in Lean that is very important- measure what matters. Don’t go to the KPI smorgasbord when developing your KPI’s. Keep them simple, and don’t use so many that you confuse the organization. Develop KPI’s that employees can impact through their performance.

3. Train everyone in the organization on Lean concepts

That way you don’t have to do all of the heavy lifting by yourself. You won’t feel like you have to be the smartest person in the room all of the time. It will remove the pressure and it’s more fun to work with lots of smart people.

4. Always use a project charter and champion for your Rapid Improvement Events

This ensures you understand the goals and boundaries for the event which leads to better success. Having a project champion allows you to coach and develop others in the use of Lean tools and techniques. This allows you to share your Lean knowledge in a one-on-one situation.

5. Celebrate success!

The biggest way to overcome doubting your accomplishments is by celebrating them as a group. After your successful report out, celebrate the improvement as a team. You spent several days together working hard to improve your organization. Celebrate that fact and get ready to do it again and again!

As always, I hope that you and your organization get a little bit better today.

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