Building Mastery in a Knowledge Economy

Thriven Partners

cultivating breakthrough thinking and action

Building Mastery in a Knowledge Economy

Knowledge is Currency

     In a world of increasing digitization, there is a growing demand for adaptive, versatile employees who have mastered multiple domains. As a result, employees (and people in general) look to expand their knowledge base – even if it lacks direction and focus – and feel justified by the idea that, if they accumulate as much information as possible, they will become more useful, adaptive, and (conceivably) more valuable to companies and prospective employers.

     So how does one balance life-long learning with mastery without diluting the quality of the knowledge you acquire? The key is to build on what you already know, expanding to secondary topics and interconnected information, and enjoying the process. Try starting with:

What you know

This is a relatively obvious starting point. Begin by adding to your current knowledge base on topics that you’re familiar with. Go over it again and look for gaps.

What you're good at

Excelling at something makes you feel good about your learning experience. Think of this as being on the Beginner level of your knowledge journey. As you amass more information, you can slowly increase the complexity and tackle more difficult topics.

What you enjoy

We’re more inclined to do things that we find happiness in. When you dig into new knowledge on topics you enjoy, you find multiple other related topics and your interest is piqued to learn more.

Expand to auxiliary strengths and interests

Once you’ve began to master what you already take an interest in, start to think about how these strengths and skills can be applied to other areas.

Narrow in on specialized information

Just because you have a broader understanding of a topic doesn’t mean that you have mastered everything there is to know about it. What are the smaller components? What lessons are still left to be learned? How can you gain more specialized knowledge on that subject?

Melissa Álvarez Mangual, Ed.D

Dr. Álvarez Mangual is the founder and executive coach of Thriven Partners, LLC. She has over 20 years of workforce and talent development experience that has intentionally centered inclusion, equity, and justice.

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10 Tips for Aspiring Executive Women of Color

Thriven Partners

cultivating breakthrough
thinking and action

10 Tips for Aspiring Executive Women of Color

The percentage of women in leadership and executive positions within the United States is quite low. Within the C-Suite, only 21 percent of those positions are held by women; of those, women of color make up only 4 percent.

With a lack of role models at the executive level, it is difficult for aspiring executive women (and to an even greater degree, women of color) to find living, breathing examples of success within their own industries. Women who have aspired to and suceeded in securing positions at the executive level bring valuable insight and unique experiences to the industry in which they work, the organization that they serve, and the women who hope to follow in their shoes.

Although not necessarily representative of an entire demographic, executive women of color help aspiring leaders along their journey to secure executive-level positions by providing valuable insight into the unique challenges that can be expected from within that industry as an underrepresented group. I talked to ten different executive women of color, and asked them to answer the following question:

What advice would you give to women of color aspiring to leadership and executive-level positions within their organizations?

Without hesitation, they willingly shared thoughtful, actionable recommendations for women like us who aspire to become leaders, executives, and change-makers.

10 Key Recommendations

Lead with confidence. Trust you are the right person for the mission and are fully capable.
There’s a reason you’re at the table. Especially as a minority female, if you’re at that table, you have earned that space.
– African-American CEO

Be proud of your identity and exercise your voice even when you question its value.

I would tell them that their voice, even though they doubt it, even though they may question it, even though at times they may even feel it, their voice is important. They need to continue to put themselves at a table where no one looks like them. That’s how I think real change happens.
– Puerto Rican CEO

Be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster.
It’s rough, and expect it to be rough. It’s not going to be a cakewalk, and you’re gonna have days that are great and days that are really, really bad. Do not internalize that.
– Puerto Rican CEO

Mistakes are a part of being human. Do your best to make the most of these learning opportunities.
Own your mistakes. When you make a mistake, admit it….for minority women in leadership, when we do make mistakes we are scrutinized at a much higher level than others. When that does happen, we have to be strong in terms of knowing who we are and understanding that yes, this happened…and we learned something from it.
– Native American ED

Assess the boundaries you have created.
I think for a lot of women of color, we’re so used to creating boundaries. Our power comes from saying no. Maybe just learn to find power in saying yes.
– Asian ED

Your support system should include advocates as well.
Advocates I think are the most important because advocates are in places where you are not.
– African American CEO

Take time to capitalize on opportunities for personal and professional development.
Since I mentor and work with a lot of my team members, I really encourage them to do a lot of development of their knowledge and to take advantage of opportunities….I encourage people to take advantage of professional and personal development opportunities, work/life balance.
– Native American CEO

Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.
Definitely take time for [yourself]. I’ve gotten better about not working longer. I do have to leave it alone at times. I do, on occasion, shut off my phone….try to do your very best to also take care of yourself.
– Puerto Rican CEO

When you do experience discrimination, acknowledge it, process it, and attend to it.
Sometimes we don’t give ourselves permission, as native women especially to say, yeah, I’m experiencing this.
– Native American CEO

Create a support system. Each person you have near you has something different to offer.
One of the things I am trying to do is develop a kitchen cabinet of people I can go to for advice or talk about just this issue.
– Black COO

I encourage people to check in with somebody that they might trust, to ask if their perception is in fact correct.
– Native American CEO

Melissa Álvarez Mangual, Ed.D

Dr. Álvarez Mangual is the founder and executive coach of Thriven Partners, LLC. She has over 20 years of workforce and talent development experience that has intentionally centered inclusion, equity, and justice.

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Shutting down that pesky imposter syndrome

Thriven Partners

cultivating breakthrough thinking and action

Shutting down that pesky imposter syndrome

Not just self-doubt

     The more driven to succeed we are, the more vital our process of personal growth becomes. As anyone who has sought out challenges on their way to achievement can tell you, the path towards success is replete with obstacles that require facing. One of the most notorious obstacles that ambitious people must face is none other than that pesky imposter syndrome. If you’ve ever felt like you’re perpetually stuck in a mode of self-doubt despite being steeped in the research and latest best practices and having experience in what you are engaged in, you might be struggling with imposter syndrome. 

What is it?

     Let’s dig into what imposter syndrome is so we can understand the best approach to shut it down. Imposter syndrome is a type of experience or phenomenon characterized by feelings of self-doubt over one’s competence, a fear of failure and evaluation, a sense of incompetence resulting in over-compensating or passing on opportunities, and/or an inability to take credit for one’s achievements. You’ll know you struggle with imposter syndrome if success creates a worry that you’ll be “found out” as not truly deserving of that success.

     While imposter syndrome may seem like a regular bout of low confidence that merely causes some unpleasant feelings, it can have much more profound effects than just occasions of self-doubt. The risk of experiencing unchecked imposter syndrome is the influence it has upon our willingness to pursue challenges. If you doubt your abilities and let opportunities pass, you’re less likely to reach the peak of your potential. The fear of success that is a core aspect of imposter syndrome creates an unnecessarily negative experience around the process of achievement. The symptoms of imposter syndrome have been found to resemble certain aspects of depression and the phenomenon is a similar experience to struggling with anxiety and stress. Not only does it impede your potential success, but imposter syndrome also impedes your ability to experience feelings of wellbeing and positivity.

     You might recognize some of the common themes of imposter syndrome within yourself and want to find ways to curtail the harm this phenomenon can do. When it comes to imposter syndrome, as with every process of personal growth, there is no quick fix. Instead, you’ll begin a challenging but vital process of observing and reframing your thinking process.  The best way to think of imposter syndrome is as a processing error just like in any computer program—the computer program is your brain and imposter syndrome is the processing error. By treating your imposter syndrome as an error, you short circuit its potency. The only power imposter syndrome has over you is in convincing you to think in a way that isn’t reflective of your reality; if you deny it the power to convince you by treating it as an error, you deny it the power to affect you.

Changing the pattern

     The first step in shutting down imposter syndrome on your path to personal growth is observation. Familiarize yourself with the stories that imposter syndrome tries to convince you of, stories like “What if I’m not as good as they think I am” and “I hope people don’t realize I’m not actually an expert on this matter.” Once you know what to look for, you’ll more easily identify your own thoughts from your errant, imposter syndrome thoughts. This is where observation comes in, as you begin to notice and challenge the thoughts that crop up stemming from imposter syndrome. 

     Once you’ve got a strong identification system going for observing and picking out the problematic, imposter syndrome driven thoughts from your regular thought patterns you can move onto the next vital step in shutting down imposter syndrome—challenging those thoughts. This step can feel just a bit awkward, but it works. As you practice challenging your imposter syndrome, you’ll begin an ongoing conversation with yourself where you ask yourself whether questionable thoughts are helping or harming you. When those damaging imposter syndrome doubts arise, open a dialogue with those thoughts; is this thought beneficial? Is this thought corroborated by the external evidence in the situation? Would my friends and family accept or reject this thought? By questioning your thoughts you’ll give yourself the chance to break the habit of immediately accepting all imposter driven thoughts as facts.

     Another great strategy for shutting down imposter syndrome that has crossover benefits for personal growth and confidence-building, in general, is to compartmentalize your imposter syndrome by naming it. This might sound like an odd solution, but giving a name to the source of your problematic thoughts makes them much more easily rejected. Think of a funny and perhaps slightly insulting name for your imposter syndrome so the next time a problematic thought arises you can say “You’re wrong, ___!” and go about your day. 

The bottom line

     Imposter syndrome is a common experience that many people struggle with; part of controlling the problem is in realizing it’s not an unusual problem at all. According to research, nearly everyone is equally at risk for imposter syndrome—both men and women suffer from this phenomenon as well as people of all ages and social identities. Controlling imposter syndrome is all about observing and taking charge of your inner monologue to transform it into a dialogue where you can challenge the damaging thoughts originating from your imposter syndrome. At Thriven Partners, we work together with leaders to identify success-limiting factors like imposter syndrome, and offer powerful coaching to control their negative influence. While it’s not easy, shutting down imposter syndrome is a major benefit and an integral part of moving forward towards success and a journey of personal growth and professional advancement.

     A good rule of thumb when considering what you can use your own platform and role to accomplish in championing diversity, equity, and inclusion is to let your role be determined by those you’re attempting to assist. Rather than offer predetermined assistance, be open to hearing from BIPOC leaders (whether in title or role) how you can best be of service in that situation. By allowing yourself to be open and take instruction from those you’re attempting to support, you’ll be ensuring that your efforts are closely aligned with their needs rather than with your idea of what those needs might be. 

     Practicing inclusive and equitable leadership requires you to engage reflectively and intentionally with BIPOC colleagues and leaders. You’ll need to have brave and candid conversations about what their experiences have been at the organization and what opportunities they have their eyes on. Learn more about what barriers exists for them and if they’d like your help with gaining access. If your support is welcomed, use your position, decision-making power, and influence to open doors and opportunities for those diverse leaders.  You can facilitate connections between key decision makers and diverse leaders that may not yet exist or help to strengthen ones that do exist. You can serve as a bridge for those diverse colleagues and leaders who are usually on the periphery of social networks and working groups that most often serve as spaces where future organizational leaders are groomed. 

     This leader and ally work can seem complex, but if you think about the way you’ve learned new business skills and mastered them, you’ll recognize that effort pays off.  You will see and experience change in your organization only after having done the work on yourself to better understand how systems are set up to be exclusionary, surfaced your own biases, done the work to shut those biases down, stepped aside to enable BIPOC leaders to lead, follow their lead, learn about their goals, and facilitate connections. At Thriven Partners, we provide specialized coaching to help you uncover the blind spots in your life and unlock the power you have to be an outstanding ally and leader.

Melissa Álvarez Mangual, Ed.D

Dr. Álvarez Mangual is the founder and executive coach of Thriven Partners, LLC. She has over 20 years of workforce and talent development experience that has intentionally centered inclusion, equity, and justice.

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Thriven Partners LLC © 2021. All Rights Reserved.