KATE ATKIN

Kate Atkin logo
kate@kateatkin.com
07779 646976

What does psychology have to say about leadership?

I recently spoke on Positive Leadership to a group of professionals in Cambridge and asked them whether the would like to be a more positive leader.  90% said yes!  I wonder about the few who didn’t… perhaps their reluctance to answer yes was because they didn’t see themselves as leaders, or perhaps they knew something else.

But when I asked a follow up question, “would you like a leader who is positive?”  the answer was surprising!

Check out this video following my recent workshop to find out more…

 

For further details about workshops or keynote talks on Positive Leadership, the Imposter Syndrome and other topics covered by Kate Atkin, please do get in touch.

Anxiety and the Impostor

Many people will experience levels of anxiety, some more so than others, and for some people the levels are so stressful they impair their ability to function well, both at work and at home. October 10th is World Mental Health day, with mental health at work being the key focus for 2017.

World Mental Health day

This September 2017 saw the start of my 18th year in business I have decided to formalise my fundraising efforts. Some of you reading this will be aware of my husband’s 2,500 mile walk around England in 2011-2012, with our springer spaniel Poppy, and his subsequent walk along the Welsh Coastal Path in 2013, both raising awareness of mental health and some valuable funds for two charities SANE and Anxiety UK. during my business year from September 2017-September 2018 I will be fundraising for Anxiety UK – a small national charity that provides much needed support for people who experience anxiety, be it phobias, work-related stress, or other causes.

The Impostor Syndrome

I am now also researching and giving talks on the Impostor Syndrome, which for some people also causes high levels of anxiety.   Called, “Behind the Mask” these talks uncover some of the causes and effects of the impostor syndrome and also provide some strategies to help people cope, or strategies to help people manage and support others, who experience impostor feelings.

Anxiety? Or is it imposter syndrome?

During the course of the next five years I will be working towards a PhD, focussing on the impostor feelings in the work place — so will have much more to share through these pages and also through my irregular newsletter (you can sign up on the right, or via the home page). If you would like to support me in my charity endeavours you can donate below, and do get in touch if you would like me to speak to your group, organisation or at your conference. kate@kateatkin.com or call me on 07779 646 976

Kate’s Fundraising Page for Anxiety UK:

Donate to Anxiety UK

 

 

Photo credit: Helena G Anderson

Impostor syndrome

Who is the fraud?

Who am I to write a guest blog for the Oxford English Dictionary on the Impostor Syndrome?

I have now given several talks on the subject of the Impostor Syndrome – more correctly termed Impostor Phenomenon – chaired a panel discussion for the General Assembly on the subject, been interviewed by the Telegraph and Cambridge TV on it, as well as receiving a distinction for my research into it when doing my Masters Degree a couple of years ago.  So why did I still think, “what me?  Really? can I do this?” when contacted by the Oxford English Dictionary to be a guest blogger on their new entry “Impostor Syndrome“.

The answer, as you may have guessed, is that I am one of the 70% who experience ‘imposter’ feelings.

Of course I said yes, and then set about controlling my internal chatter to be able to write a comprehensive piece.

Then I spot a completely incorrect use of the term in the The Times today.  A fraudster does NOT experience the impostor syndrome or phenomenon.  Those who set out to deliberately deceive others are actual impostors.

Please, it’s hard enough to experience the feelings without being confused with with real fraudsters.  So, a plea to all journalists, please don’t muddle the use of impostor syndrome with real impostors.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was recently quoted on Inc. as saying that successful people learn to take feedback well. What it seems she was actually referring to was “constructive feedback” or what is sometimes thinly disguised criticism. While it is true we all need to learn from our mistakes, whether pointed out to us in the form of “feedback” or ones we spot ourselves, why, oh why, when we refer to “feedback” do we automatically mean the negative?

From my studies in positive psychology, of course I know the answer… Human beings are predisposed to look for the negative first; that has been our natural survival instinct. But being wired to see the negative is very different from actively encouraging it at work.

Of course managers need to address poor performance, point out mistakes and help correct behaviour. But they also need to let people know what they are doing right. And people do things right far more often than the frequency of positive feedback would lead us to believe.

 

Employ the 5:1 ratio

There is a growing body of research on couples, begun by John Gottman, which indicates that the ratio of positive and negative feedback needs to be more than balanced for healthy relationships. In fact, Gottmann found that the ideal ratio is 5:1 – yes that is five pieces of genuine positive feedback, or positive interaction, for every one piece of constructive/developmental/negative/howeveryouwanttophraseit feedback. This is now being studied in the workplace too.

Other research indicates that the positive feedback will only be effective if the feedback giver is held in esteem by the receiver. For instance relentless praise quickly becomes meaningless, it is the 5:1 balance of positive and negative that works.

 

In the Workplace

Is it little wonder that engagement at work in the UK is low, when we don’t train managers on how to give positive feedback?

So what can be done? One way tip to give a boost to the morale of your staff is simply to identify something they have done well and let them know. Too many things are saved for the annual review, and too little is said during the course of every day. Meetings focus on problems to be addressed, but why not start them by celebrating one thing that has gone well? That will, as positive psychologist Barbara Fredrikson discovered, encourage greater problem solving skills and generate more innovative ideas. Fredrikson coined the term “broaden & build” for this effect.

Looking back to when I was the manager of an international banking team, I now realise I could have done this better myself; but back then nobody had trained me in the importance of positive feedback.  So if you do manage a team, please start your meetings on a positive note, catch people doing things right and let them know… and remember the 5:1 ratio.

 

What is the accepted rate of speech for a presentation?

I was recently interviewed by Cambridge TV, and while I have completed some media training and been live on radio before, this was my first foray into a TV studio.  The interview was recorded “as if live”, so there would be no chance of editing out any mistakes, umms, errrs, or hiccoughs.  This set my mind into overdrive to “be perfect” a trait that is so prevalent in those of us who have experienced the imposter phenomenon.  So I could feel my nerves increasing as it came ever closer to the start of the interview.

Afterwards, I felt as if I had rambled through the interview, spoken too quickly and couldn’t remember what I had said or whether it made any sense at all!  The interviewer assured me it was “excellent”, but did I believe her?  Of course not, she says that to all of her interviewees!  Maybe she does… but having watched the recording, and received some lovely tweets and emails about the interview (thank you to those who have got in touch!) it is ok, well more than ok, I’m pleased with the way I come across.

This got me thinking… in presentations I often need to get people to slow down, which is appropriate for face to face presentations. The accepted rate of speech is somewhere between 140-160 words per minute.

But the rate of speech needs to be faster for TV, and this includes Vlogs, Webinars and YouTube videos.

We have a short attention span and need to keep the energy high to maintain audience engagement.  The same happened during a webinar for The Cheeky Scientist where I was the guest interviewee.  We were focusing on management skills and how post docs could transition into industry.  The interviewer, Dr Isaiah Hankel has written a great testimonial and not once did he say I spoke too quickly!

Kate is a incredible presenter and one of the best communicators I have ever interviewed. We brought Kate on for a live interview on management skills and she over delivered throughout the entire event. What impressed me most was her ability to break down complex topics into easy to understand and impactful takeaways, delivered in a fun, engaging, and professional way.

For those of you interested in watching my TV interview you can find it on this link:

Kate Atkin discusses the imposter syndrome

 

 

Last week I ran a seminar on effective networking for the Federation of Small Businesses and yesterday I ran an in-house session for a client on the same topic.  It was 17 years ago when I ran my first session on this topic and what has surprised me most was how much people still loathe networking.

Is there an innate fear of approaching strangers, I wonder…? Maybe we fear rejection more than we like to admit? Or are we worried about being tongue-tied when giving our elevator pitch?

Whatever the reason, it is apparent that, while networking is an essential part of doing business and getting on at work, it is often a disliked part.  Approach it with an attitude of not wanting to be there and it won’t be surprising that people don’t come to talk to you… your apathy or resentment will show on your face however hard you try to hide it.

Discussing the topic of networking with a friend recently she told me she had organised a business evening event and was the only women in attendance.  Not unusual for her in the sector she works in, but what saddened her was that the three other women on the attendance list all cried off at the last minute.  Do women loathe networking more than men?  Was it to do with it being a male-dominated field? Or were there genuine reasons for cancellation?  We won’t know the answer, but I do know that sometimes we all need to build up our internal courage to put ourselves “out there” in the networking arena.

So what are the tips to get the most out of your networking and to feel comfortable while doing so?  Well, apart from arranging for me to run an in-house workshop to impart my 20+ years of experience, here are a few of the common errors, and a few common-sense tips.

 

Common error #1

Thinking you will achieve a sale

Networking is about buying relationships, not about sales.  While ultimately everyone there is probably looking for business connections to be made with a view of creating a sale, going into an event with the mindset of “who can I sell to?”or even “who will buy from me today?” Is self-destructive.  If you have this mindset it will be apparent to those you are talking to that your focus is on your sales pipeline, and not on their business.

Networking is about making connections, which may lead to sales.  But it is not about sales.

 

Common error #2

Not being able to explain what you do

The elevator pitch, so called because it is the explanation you should be able to give about your business in the time it takes an elevator (lift) to reach the top floor, is commonly misused.

A long explanation will switch people off.  As will a clever or convoluted explanation.  Far better to understand what you do in your head and say something more accessible and appropriate aloud, than try to be clever.  To craft what to say, think about the person asking you.  How much do they know about your industry?  Chances are if you are at a specific industry event it could be a lot, but if you are at a general networking event, maybe not much.  Then think about the benefits of what you do; what does those who buy your products or services gain?  What problem does your product/service solve?  Then go ahead and craft your answer.  But only use a short, few seconds of your reply – give people the chance to have a conversation!  Too many people see the question as an opportunity to open the floodgates and spew out all of the information straight away.

 

Common Error #3

Making Assumptions

Having said above that networking isn’t directly about sales, there is still room for asking for a contact, sussing out interest, and arranging a follow-up conversation.  Too many opportunities are lost, because we fail to recognise that someone may be able to help us.  Not directly, but through their own network.  Asking a question which starts “do you know anyone who…” could be the leverage you need to take your business to the next level.

 

Three tips:

Be Bold

Approach those you wish to speak to, ask if you may follow up for a further discussion, and make the most of your networking opportunities.

 

Know What you do, and Why you do it

As Simon Sinek says in his TED talk, most people know what they do and how they do it, but some are disconnected form the WHY.  If you understand your why, you may have a stronger chance of succeeding in business.  But also, think about why you are networking.  Just going to have a chance to socialise can be a good enough reason if you work alone all day and need to talk to people once in a while!

 

Watch your Body Language

Having a firm (but not too firm) handshake, making eye contact and standing up straight while networking helps to create a positive impression.  Don’t underestimate the judgements we humans are likely to make of each other and give some thought to how you present yourself in public, what impression do you want to give to others and whether it is congruent with you and your business.

 

Finally, watch your internal chatter.  As an expert on the imposter phenomenon, commonly referred to as imposter syndrome, I know that feeling like a fraud can get in the way of promoting yourself successfully.  Having researched into the phenomenon with successful entrepreneurs, be reassured that if you experience extreme self-doubt, and think that at some point you may be “found out”, know you are not alone.  It is a common experience, but not commonly spoken about.  I’ll blog more about how to overcome the imposter feelings another time.  But for now, just watch your internal chatter – you are worth talking to, and your business is worth talking about!

 

Happy networking

Kate

 

Following Kate’s interactive seminar on effective networking I can now structure how I answer “what do you do?” in a way that allows a good conversation to flow. I also feel more in control of my confidence and am comfortable that I have something to say which will make my networking more productive in the future.  Stephen Way, The Work Bees

 

Hear What Alan Todd, Chair of the Cambridge branch of the Federation of Small Businesses has to say on Kate’s Effective Networking seminar

 

 

Motivational Speaker

Kate Atkin, taking time to network with participants

Known as an inspirational and motivational speaker, Kate Atkin gives talks, workshops and seminars across the UK and overseas on networking, confidence and the imposter syndrome.  For more details of these or to discuss individual coaching give Kate Atkin a call on 07779 646976 or drop her an email to kate@kateatkin.com  or see  www.kateatkin.com