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How To Outperform Under An Imposter Leader

It’s not always the feedback that matters in year-end reviews.

Over the holidays, I asked a friend—a high performer—how her job was going. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, my year-end review and bonus weren’t what I expected,” to which I responded, “Yes, for you and a majority of others who report to a below-average boss.”  Confused, she asked, “What does having a mediocre boss have to do with my year-end review?” 

Unfortunately, it has everything to do with your review. You see, the truth is, your review will only ever be as good as your boss.

Considering only 20% of bosses receive excellent ratings from their direct reports, very few employees will feel energized and ready to take on 2022.

In fact, most individuals will head into the New Year having just experienced one of the most discouraging outcomes of reporting to the other 80% of bosses: an average-to-poor year-end review. And, for high performers, such an outcome is practically guaranteed. 

This is because the other 80% of bosses, those whose efficacy rates are average-to-poor, are what I call ‘imposter leaders.’ Imposter leaders possess very few true leadership traits or qualities such as vision, trust or team-inspired direction, and they often leverage their position and power to minimize those around them, especially high performers.

If you are a high performer who reports to an imposter leader, you’re likely going to experience a frustrating, underwhelming, or confusing year-end rating and review. You may even watch a peer similar to the imposter leader receive accolades that should be reserved for only the genuine higher performers.

It doesn’t seem fair, and it’s not. But, if you are dedicated to becoming an excellent leader or are striving to get promoted and make a greater impact, here is what you need to know: 

One imposter leader or mediocre review does not a career make. 

Yes, it’s difficult not to receive recognition for your hard-earned results. Or to have your boss not care about your professional development or the positive effect you’ve had on your team, the company, and maybe even your community. 

If you are striving to design a successful career, here’s some perspective and tips to help you start the year off on the right foot.

High performers maintain the right mindset 

High performers understand everyone else’s feedback as input to their own personal assessment. Their key questions? What did I learn, where did I grow and make an impact, and what opportunity do I need next year to build on these new skills?

High performers leverage year-end reviews as an opportunity in disguise

Every difficult situation allows you to flex new muscles, so plan to respond as the high performer you are. Use this as an opportunity to add to your solid reputation by managing the situation.

Start by gathering as much feedback as you can. Reach out to your boss, mentor, sponsor, coach, etc., and start the conversation with your intent i.e. to gain a broader perspective on how you can make a more positive impact. 

At a minimum, you will gain insight. At maximum, you will use their feedback as fuel to design a plan to outperform.

The best question you should ask them: What opportunities would provide me the chance to perform at my highest potential? Then ask for that exact opportunity. Why? Because the first step to outperformance—or consistently performing above the crowd—is opportunity.

High performers always keep the proper perspective  

Bosses come and go, but your resume and reputation will be the ultimate recognition of a high-performing career. In fact, your performance—and impact from last year—may be what another company is looking for in a leader.

Whether your boss acknowledges the high performance this year or not, your resume and reputation will.  

Great leaders always remain committed to delivering high performance in every situation.

Statistics show you will work for more average-to-poor leaders throughout your career than great ones, so minimizing their impact while maintaining your momentum will reap the most ultimate career reward: outperformance.

Related Read: Keep your teams on the path of continuous learning by checking this out: 10 Best Learning Management Systems (LMS) For Employee Training [2022]