Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Scrum Masters with the Imposter Syndrome

Scrum Masters with the Imposter Syndrome

Leia em Português

This item in japanese

Geoff Watts, certified scrum trainer, certified scrum coach and author, talks about scrum masters with Imposter Syndrome, in his recent blog.

The Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.

You may be suffering from the Impostor syndrome if you believe:

  • You are a fraud, that you are faking it and that one day soon, you will be "found out"
  • That everyone else knows more than you do
  • The faith that others have in your ability is misplaced
  • That you aren't as good as they seem to believe you are
  • That your successes are largely down to luck, being in the right place at the right time or because of other people.

Geoff mentions that the Impostor syndrome is an actual widespread phenomenon among people. Nearly 70 percent of the people are having the Impostor Syndrome.

Joachim Bauernberger, Managing Director at Valbonne Consulting, talks about the Imposter syndrome in software development in his blog.

The Imposter syndrome is very common among professions where work is peer-reviewed such as journalism, writing, … and Yes: Software Development. It is a sign that you apply extremely high standards to yourself which is not in balance to how you view others.

Geoff says that scrum masters are perhaps more prone to feelings of the Impostor syndrome than anyone else in an agile team or organization. This is partly because of the lack of authority inherent in the role. They have no power, and so often find themselves doubting themselves and their position. He justifies it as the role is quite loosely defined in terms of their responsibilities and that increases the lack of clarity and confidence that scrum masters can have.

Having the Imposter syndrome is not a bad thing as per Geoff:

The Impostor syndrome, like all of the traits that come up in my coaching practice, is not a bad thing. People with the Impostor syndrome are generally quite humble, reflective and diligent.

They are constantly trying hard to prove themselves worthy (to themselves and others) and rarely settle for mediocrity because of their anxiety about being found out. As a result, people with a high degree of the Impostor syndrome are often high achievers.

Geoff suggests the first step in bringing the Impostor syndrome into balance is normalization by accepting it as common, then consciously appreciating strengths. He says that it is important for scrum masters while coaching teams.

Bringing this trait into balance for yourself in your role as scrum master may also help you coach others on their Impostor syndrome as well.

Mark Buchan, executive, management coach and organizational behavioral change consultant at nlighten, talks about values elicitation exercise for leaders to work on the Imposter syndrome in his blog. This exercise is based on reflections and coaching questions. Few examples of these questions are as follows:

Think about a difficult situation that is current for you. Take a moment to just be with it. How close do your thoughts and feelings align with that reality? Are you able to have a good grasp on reality? How often do you check your assumptions with reality? How often do you find yourself believing that your thoughts or feelings are reality?

Do you underplay your achievements in your professional life? How much do you feel that has luck been a factor in your achievements?

Have you noticed any behaviors that have recently started to negatively impact your performance? Are you effective in managing your time? Do you prevaricate on urgent decisions? How effective are you at delegating?

Rate this Article