“Is this imposter syndrome, or am I actually doing a bad job?” If you’re a manager, or really, if you’ve ever had a career at all, you’ve probably asked yourself that question. You’re not alone, but there is an answer. It’s up to you to find it.

“Is this imposter syndrome, or am I actually doing a bad job?”

If you're a manager, or really, if you’ve ever had a career at all, you’ve probably asked yourself that question. You’re far from alone — in fact, our research team at Lead Belay asked more than 150 new and emerging millennial managers to rank their biggest challenges and “Gauging how well I’m doing as a manager” ranked second, just behind “Giving/receiving feedback.”

This isn’t exactly surprising, but that doesn’t make it any less of a challenge. Thankfully, there is a way to go about finding out how you’re doing.

Take some time to reflect

When trying to gauge how you’re doing as a manager, the first step before talking to anyone else is to reflect on it yourself. Before going and asking for feedback, it’s important to consider the feedback you’re already receiving. This respects your supervisor’s time and your team’s time, because presumably, they’ve already said some things that might have you asking this question in the first place. Organize that feedback into categories, and try to figure out what they might say about you if they were asked. What you do well, what you could do better, and how it might compare to others are great places to start.

As you do that, it’s important to recognize that each of these assumptions are just that — assumptions. Unless they’ve said it outright, or put it in writing, all of this is just you speculating about what they think — not necessarily facts. But this exercise can help you have a conversation and find out what the facts actually are. 

It’s important to dig deep on those hypotheses. 

  • In what areas are you strongest? Weakest? 
  • What has the best data behind it?
  • Does one in particular keep you up at night? 
  • What is true, and what might just be a fear? 

Finally, once you know what you know, think critically about the best way to figure out what you don’t know.

Get helpful feedback by asking sound questions

It’s not that we don’t want you to have conversations and get feedback from your bosses and team members. It’s that we want you to have them in a focused, productive way. Because, most of the time at least, just asking people “how am I doing?” won’t do anything to relieve your anxiety about how you’re doing as a manager. It could, very likely, make you feel worse.

Whenever you ask someone for a critique, they generally will give it to you. Even if they weren’t thinking about you critically beforehand, once you ask, they are now. And because you asked, they might not hold back. They might offer conflicting feedback on things they’ve said before, or bring up things that aren’t necessarily helpful to you and what you’re trying to discover.

If you ask people to be critics, they will be. So instead, ask them for help in areas where you’re feeling stressed. But first, you have to know what those areas are, if they’re real, and why.

Employ some cognitive restructuring

Sound a bit like therapy? Well, it is. It’s called cognitive restructuring. Its basic structure is simple: 

  1. Identify the situation, your thoughts, and your feelings.
  2. Identify distortions and thoughts that might be more accurate.
  3. Evaluate if these thoughts are helpful. What might be another thought that is more helpful? 

The goal isn’t to make your concerns go away (although some of them might), but to make them more grounded and take them to a place where you can work on them and grow. 

None of this is new. And there’s certainly more than one way to do it. But it’s important. 

So the next time you’re trying to gauge your performance as a manager, start by taking an empathetic look at yourself. Are your fears or stress based on actual evidence, or just your interpretations? Are you telling a story in your own head, or is it real? Dig in. See if you can find the truth. And then, go talk about it.

Does this sound like just what you’ve been looking for, but maybe you need a bit more help? At Lead Belay, we offer our participants specific frameworks —

and questions — for just this process. Contact us to find out more today!


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