Trust the important people of your life. See out and rely on your mentors and key people that believe in you, recognize your worth, and encourage you to take up challenges, especially if they are expert in their areas of expertise.
As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Lacanal.
Amber Lacanal has been helping leaders build optimal organizations and teams for 12 years. She combines a strategic and analytical background with a creative mindset, allowing her to help clients solve complex people issues. She has driven change initiatives across a wide range of industries, disciplines and countries, and this experience allows her to thrive in an ever-changing environment. She naturally gravitates toward both large organizational issues and interpersonal and behavioral issues.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
My mother was an engineer and my father was a head of school and educational psychologist, and they have both had a big influence on my life. Because of them, I have always felt a tension between my interest in business and my desire to help individuals succeed. While I was getting my Master’s degree in Business Management, I felt like I was missing the human aspect of it. So I completed a double diploma and got a Specialized Master’s, focusing on Business, Human Resources and Organizational Development at the same time.
During my early career, I became a leadership coach. While I have retained this role, I have also constantly pushed forward Digital transformation and Data & analytics capability-building. This is another example of my two-sided brain!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Working in France and in the US has been an invaluable experience. But I definitely went through an adjustment phase at first. I lived with an American family when I was younger so when I decided to work in the States I assumed my transition would be very smooth and familiar. I didn’t expect the working culture to be that different. But I was surprised by the differences in the pace, the expectations and the communication styles.
I have learned so much as I’ve lived in both worlds and taking the best out of them. When I coached, I definitely leveraged my own experience going through the change curve to help my clients do the same. External changes occur at all times in our life (going to college, relocation, company reorganization…) and they trigger an internal transition that is a three-phase psychological process (ending, neutral zone and new beginning). From my perspective, the ending phase shouldn’t be neglected: respecting the past and building awareness of what the transition will entail (who is going to have to let go of what) is vital before moving into any transition strategy.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Notion, the sky’s the limit. Not only am I able to bring my whole self to work but I can also help define where we are going as a team. As Notion’s Innovation and Thought leadership lead, I’ve developed our unique service offering as well as trained our team on our Fast Track methodology, which is helping to shape our direction as a new and growing company. Throughout the process, I’ve felt supported by leaders, and had the privilege of collaborating with other creative minds to get to an even better end product.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
A lot of people have supported me throughout my journey, especially early on in my career. When I started my path in consulting, I met Anny, a senior leadership consultant who took me under her wing. I looked up to her for her skills but also her unwavering authenticity. As I moved into a managerial role, she became my mentor and coach, but also a true friend. When she passed away this year, it made me realize that we never say thank you enough to these people who help guide you, and who see your potential before you even do.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?
People with Impostor Syndrome have the constant feeling of not being good enough and not deserving credit for their success. It often goes along with a lot of self-doubt and fear of failure. For a lot of us, it goes back to our early childhood experiences. Our environment, education and culture have shaped who we are and how we see ourselves and the world around us. But really — how do you break a mental framework that has been built since your early childhood?
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
A huge downside of this Syndrome is not asking for what you deserve — from a personal and a career perspective. In terms of work, that means it can limit your opportunities — for promotion, for career development and compensation.A turning point in my career was when my first manager told me in one of our 1:1 conversations: “you have to ask for what you want”. I learned that no one understands your needs and dreams better than you do and no one is going to anticipate them or meet them if you don’t put them on the table.
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
If you’ve had Impostor Syndrome, you probably project a little bit of your experience onto others, which can help you show more empathy towards anyone displaying any sign of lack of confidence. But let’s face it — we all feel Impostor Syndrome at some point in our lives, simply because this world is moving so fast, and it is constantly raising the bar and pushing us to adjust and take up new challenges to feel a sense of meaning and accomplishment.
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
As far back as I can remember, I have had feelings of self-doubt towards tasks that were out of my comfort zone. In hindsight, this was probably the result of setting the bar too high. I had very high standards for myself that were unachievable, at least in the short term. For example, when I started to practice leadership assessment and development, I felt I had to know all the tools and techniques from the get go, so that I could be called an expert. This was my personal framework. I was restless until I realized that these standards were preventing me from taking on new challenges. Expecting perfection from the outset can simply paralyze you because it can seem so daunting. Now, I try to value progress over perfection.
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
Yes, but it didn’t happen overnight. Overcoming Impostor Syndrome and gaining personal confidence have been more of a process and a journey.
I was born and raised in a small village in the Southwest of France. I’ve lived in Paris and Singapore, and now I am settled on the east coast of the U.S. I have studied and worked with many cultures, and in a myriad of different environments. By meeting new people, cultures and backgrounds, my perspective has shifted. I have learned to trust in myself and my ability to solve problems. I have learned that my experiences all contribute to my ability to coach others, and I can position myself as an expert by constantly challenging myself to do more, while keeping a curious mindset. I don’t assume I have all the answers, but I know that I can bring a valuable perspective to the table, no matter what the problem is that I’m trying to solve. By recognizing that each of us can determine the definition of perfection, I took back control. Through all my life experiences, I have changed my perspective. I continuously try to keep learning, and unlearning my mental framework so that I can continue to grow.
In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Get external validation — through indisputable proof, like education, degrees and certification.
- Look at objective measures of success — defining and meeting metrics and targets is another objective way to validate your accomplishments.
- Trust the important people of your life. See out and rely on your mentors and key people that believe in you, recognize your worth, and encourage you to take up challenges, especially if they are expert in their areas of expertise.
- Be vulnerable and stay curious. A partner at my first consulting firm taught me that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” By saying that, he gave me permission to ask questions without doubting myself.
- Change your context and perspective. Above all, I think radically changing your mental framework, with something completely different and new, is the single most meaningful thing you can do. For some, this change might mean picking a new career or way of life, for others it’s moving to a new country. By changing your surroundings, you are changing your perspective. You are learning that knowledge, worth and success are deeply relative to each individual. When you shift your context, you are allowing yourself to see things and yourself through a different lens. Being exposed to new people and environments allows you to recognize that we are all flawed, imperfect humans. We all have much to learn, and we all have much to teach.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
When I don’t spend time with my little one, I help women find their authentic style and feel their best every day. Separate from the work I do for Notion, I’ve developed “Like a haircut,” a unique coaching approach that combines American willpower and the French sense of style. The name of the project originated from the idea that life is like a haircut — as easy to love as it is to hate. I want to continue to empower women to help them understand what they want, know how to go after it, and look and feel great while doing so! Your readers can learn more about the project here: http://www.likeahaircut.com/image-consulting-1
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Brene Brown. She has been and still is instrumental in my personal journey to vulnerability as well as in my coaching practice, where I help others recognize their potential. Brene, if you read this, thank you.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find me on Linkedin linkedin.com/in/ambrelacanal
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!