Thursday 24 March 2016

On 21 April we are holding our next Haberman Ilett Women’s Network event, hosted by Jo Maughan. As a coach and mentor to leaders and professionals, at this mini-masterclass she will be talking about how to handle the imposter syndrome.

Here she explains the part that self belief plays in managing the imposter syndrome in professional services.

“As a corporate tax director, I regularly worked with very talented men and women from the world of professional services. Some had self-belief and some did not. I knew it when I saw it! And yet, in those days, I couldn’t work out why I sometimes had it and sometimes didn’t, or how to get more of it. People would say things like ‘you don’t seem that confident in the way you say it’, and ‘you hold back in large groups’. Those trying to help would say ‘you need to develop your self-awareness’, and ‘you need to be more authentic’. I understood the words but I didn’t understand what they meant because at that time I had had no experience of developing myself as a human being only of developing skills and technical knowledge. This changed in 2011 when I did my first leadership development programme with the ICAEW and got myself a coach.

So what does self-belief look like in women in professional services?
In my view, it looks different for each woman and yet we know it when we see it! She is self-assured, she is able to present herself effectively in a wide variety of situations, and she comes across genuinely to those who are interacting with her. She inspires others as she does it ‘her way’ yet at the same time she takes account of the context so is able to succeed in her workplace.

How do we get more self-belief for ourselves?
I believe the key lies in learning to manage our inner critic, by which I mean the little voice inside our heads that provides a running commentary to everything we do. For those of us with the imposter syndrome the voice goes something like: ‘You can’t do that presentation, you don’t know enough. X is much better than you. You’re faking it and you’re going to be found out…’. When we work out what triggers these thoughts of self-doubt, understand where they come from and learn to manage them, we are more able to respond authentically to the situation we are in, acting from a place of who we genuinely are, rather than who we think we should be, and then, in my experience our self-belief grows. It also comes across to others. At the event, I will be helping us recognise the symptoms of the Imposter Syndrome and I will share tips for limiting the effect our inner critic can have on our careers and wellbeing.”

More information about Jo can be found on her website,

If you are a female lawyer or arbitrator in London and would like to attend our Women’s Network event on 21 April (details here), please email

Liz Perks, partner