Personal development and imposter syndrome

The CSP's CEO Karen Middleton talks about how she sees the role of a Council member

by Karen Middleton


I want to talk a bit about the elections and give you food for thought.

One of the things I talk about a lot when discussing career and leadership development is the importance of taking the opportunity to learn and develop skills from activities outside that of your paid job. This might be supporting local community groups, working for a charity, being a school governor…or it might be as a CSP Council or committee member.

One of the intentions with the Governance Review in 2017 was that serving on either the CSP Council or a committee should not only be of huge value to the CSP and the profession, but also be of value to the individual members who have been elected or selected. That whilst the members will bring their own knowledge and experience of the profession, they will also leave with so much more. I hope the current members would agree they have.

I imagine that through the actual process of election (Council) or selection (committees), you learn a lot about how to ‘sell’ yourself as the best possible person for the job. For Council, learning how to organise your support, and therefore votes, may also be new but what a useful set of skills when you think about applying for jobs and garnering support in the future!

Then I wonder if there is something about learning to deal with Imposter Syndrome when you get there? I have heard numerous hints at this as members realise the responsibility that comes with their election/selection and perhaps have second thoughts about whether this was a great idea or not. Again, we all experience Imposter Syndrome and the more practice you get to deal with it, the more adept you are at managing it well, particularly when you realise others are the same.

That’s when the induction kicks in. The Governance team, Directors and I are here to support members who have taken this step. We will guide you through what would be helpful to learn about governance, finance, risk and strategy and also expose you to some of the detail of the work trying to move the strategy on. And induction isn’t just a one off, it continues from meeting to meeting. 

Where else do you get this sort of learning opportunity about subjects which might be new to you? You might already know some of it, but it is always interesting to listen to others’ take on it. And the governance of the CSP benefits from members who have had no previous experience of these areas through to those who have a lot – the mix of the two, and everything in between is invaluable.

There are other skills to learn from this experience: How to chair a meeting, for example. More often than not we find ourselves having to do this with little or no thought or support to do so and, let’s be honest, we’ve all had experience of chairing a meeting badly so more exposure to this can only be helpful. Especially with the support and development offered in the role.

And then there’s the learning to debate a subject when there are diverse opinions and expertise and still needing to come to a conclusion or decision. My observation of countless Council meetings is that this is where the real learning and ‘sweet spot’ can be. Seeing a group of members who work in the same profession, yet have completely different opinions, experience and expertise come together to make a decision informed by the expertise in the organisation is a real privilege for me. This requires trust and mutual respect and part of the ongoing induction and learning is about building the team. Clearly, another skill set that is so relevant to our paid jobs.

Part of that team building work is learning about oneself and one’s own impact on others. This is probably the most valuable learning from being elected/selected because it is the start of really understanding what it means to be a leader.

Of course, there is a wealth of other learning and development that relates directly to our profession – its scope, its diversity, its potential – and the work that the organisation is doing to achieve our corporate aims. Being involved in the strategic decision-making of our work means really engaging in the profession and where it is going. And then, of course, being able to communicate this to the membership and bringing messages back and influencing our external stakeholders. All this work will help you to develop your communication and influencing skills, again invaluable in your day to day working lives.

So think about the elections this year as part of your personal development plan. Think about what you can give back to the profession but also take from the experience of serving on Council or one of the committees. Have a chat with one of the present members and keep that Imposter Syndrome at bay – I can assure you that by the end of your time on Council/committee, you will have gained so much experience and expertise that the imposter in you will be pushed into the background, at least for a while!

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