Learning to Get Over Imposter Syndrome with Jennifer Brown

Award-winning Speaker and Author Jennifer Brown Shares What She Has Learned From 13 Years As A Diversity and Inclusion Expert

Invisible Stories Season 2 Episode 5 with Jennifer Brown

Today’s podcast is with award-winning speaker, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expert Jennifer Brown. She is the author of two essential books about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, titled How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive and Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change. 

In this discussion, Jennifer and I talk about two of our favorite topics, marketing and entrepreneurship, and how it relates to wrestling with authors’ self-doubt. Jennifer Brown reveals:

  • How she overcomes feelings of imposter syndrome in order to market herself and her brand, and to reach a wider audience.
  • Her experience as a keynote speaker, and how she is able to get her words to relate to and be accessible for people of all backgrounds.
  • Why it was important to her to include her own story within her books, and why hybrid publishing can be a faster track to success.

Inclusion by Jennifer Brown

Embrace Diversity and Thrive As An Organization

In the rapidly changing business landscape, harnessing the power of diversity and inclusion is essential for the very viability and sustainability of every organization. Talent who feel fully welcomed, valued, respected, and heard by their colleagues and their organizations will fuel this growth. We will only succeed in this transformation if those in leadership pivot from command and control management styles to reinvent how we look at
people, every organization’s greatest asset. It’s also critical that we build systems that embrace diversity in all its forms, from identity and background to diversity of thought, style, approach, and experience, tying it directly to the bottom line.

Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change stands up and embraces what true diversity and inclusion represent to any organization in any industry-an opportunity.

Open your heart and prepare to be inspired as award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, and respected diversity and inclusion expert Jennifer Brown shares proven strategies to empower members of your entire organization to utilize all of their talents and potential to drive positive organizational change and the future of work.


How to Be an Inclusive Leader by Jennifer Brown

We know why diversity is important, but how do we drive real change at work? Diversity and inclusion expert Jennifer Brown provides a step-by-step guide for the personal and emotional journey we must undertake to create an inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive.

Human potential is unleashed when we feel like we belong. That’s why inclusive workplaces experience higher engagement, performance, and profits. But the reality is that many people still feel unable to bring their true selves to work. In a world where the talent pool is becoming increasingly diverse, it’s more important than ever for leaders to truly understand how to support inclusion.

Drawing on years of work with many leading organizations, Jennifer Brown shows what leaders at any level can do to spark real change. She guides readers through the Inclusive Leader Continuum, a set of four developmental stages: unaware, aware, active, and advocate. Brown describes the hallmarks of each stage, the behaviors and mind-sets that inform it, and what readers can do to keep progressing. Whether you’re a powerful CEO or a new employee without direct reports, there are actions you can take that can drastically change the day-to-day reality for your colleagues and the trajectory of your organization.

Anyone can—and should—be an inclusive leader. Brown lays out simple steps to help you understand your role, boost your self-awareness, take action, and become a better version of yourself in the process. This book will meet you where you are and provide a road map to create a workplace of greater mutual understanding where everyone’s talents can shine.

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Key Takeaways

  • Jennifer: [00:00:30] Yes. Yes. Um, and I was sort of a reformed opera singer had to reinvent and somehow found my way to this world of leadership development and, um, love the platform. Love communicating messages, just, you know, love. Um, improving and kind of not knowing where things are going to go. And so I made a really good trainer and facilitator, and I ended up, um, doing HR for a while and then founding my own business 13 years ago, Jennifer Brown Consulting. And, uh, I specialize in helping companies build their diversity equity and inclusion strategies, and then building the subsequent pieces of those strategies, whether that’s Employee resource groups or affinity groups, which are groups per identity, and then also any kind of training and learning needs. We love learning and development. I mean, that was how I cut my teeth on the stage, quote unquote, in the corporate classroom. Um, and so I, I like to say, even though I can’t sing anymore, I was meant to use my voice, just not as a singer, uh, because we get to work on building more inclusive workplaces where all of us can feel seen and heard and valued and thrive. Even though I am a corporate refugee, um, because I couldn’t stand it anymore. Um, I somehow like returned to that and try to make it better for people. And in a way I think, try to hold people in organization and make it better there because you know, entrepreneurship is not for everyone as you And I know Jen, it’s a hard road. It’s really amazing road, but. Um, you’ve got to have the resources and the fortitude and the resilience and patience, uh, and you know, the list goes on and on. So, yeah, so I really. I just felt like so much of the workplace was broken for me as a woman, as an LGBTQ person who is closeted at work for years, um, who was very creative and didn’t really want to be kind of constrained by a job description, but that, that was not fundamentally appreciated and it couldn’t hold me. And, you know, I was, I was just fortunate enough that. You know, the, the, when push came to shove, I was, I had the, you know, resources to go out on my own and happened to be an extroverted networker, extraordinary, and kind of, you know, found my first clients and started to build my mailing list. And you actually, one of those founders that really enjoys all of the marketing side. So, um, so we were able to build the business and it was just a very comfortable. It was the most comfortable place professionally ever been an end being an author. And now, now sort of a speaker, a thought leader is really comfortable. I mean, that’s. I think that’s what all of this has led to. And I’m finally in the sweet spot coming up to age 50.
  • [00:03:11] Jennifer: So I hope it happens for everyone at some point, maybe later in life, uh, for some of us, but Hey, you know, it’s, it makes it all worth it. And all the mismatches of our careers are worth it. When you kind of look back and you say, I had to make all those mistakes and figure out what I didn’t like so that I could get the porridge just right. For the three bears.
  • [00:05:45] Jennifer: And, um, and I think that’s different than saying I’m keynoters and authors even right, who are sort of trying to figure out what their expertise is. I had a lot. It was more, I think, a confidence game, which will probably resonate with a lot of your listeners to believe in yourself, to say, I, you know, the cake is baked. In fact, it’s probably over done. It’s been in the oven a really long time and like, you can take it out now. You know, I think the key in life life is particularly for those of us who are unseen voices, underestimated voices have experienced Discrimination and bias and marginalization. Um, I think that self belief that the cake is done and it has been done for a long time and it’s time to bring it out, we hesitate. Because we don’t see the role models because we aren’t pushed and kicked by someone else lovingly. Right. Who, identifies as we do to say, Hey, I did it, you can do it too. Um, and you know, we know all the statistics about like, you know, women and men and job to job applications like that women won’t apply unless they have 150% of the qualifications and men will apply if they have 30% and they just they’re like, ah, it’s fine.  I got this. I’ll figure it out, whatever. I don’t know how to do, I will figure it out. And so I think [00:07:00] that it took too long, but you know what? I don’t like to be a regretful person. Um, I also wonder if the timing was just right and you know, that we had built such an amazing foundation underneath me that once. We did that book. And then I started to keynote. We hit a higher level faster because we had that foundation.
  • [00:08:22] Jennifer: It can be very tempting to not think that you’re to think that your story doesn’t matter or to think it’s already been told. I, that was another thing I went through. Like, what’s going to make this different, there’s so many other books on this. Why is it going to matter? I mean, it’s funny, all the excuses. [00:08:37] Um, also the other one is my story. Doesn’t need to be included in this. It can just be a book that I write from my head for my expertise. And I know you kicked my butt about that. And many others did as well, who helped me Sherpa the book and said, there’s no Jen, in this entire chapter, go back, put ’em in, put it in.[00:08:55] And I’m like, what am I supposed to write? You know? And so a lot of us also have we erased[00:09:00] ourselves even to even erasing ourselves to ourselves. Like we don’t even notice we’re not in the frame because we’re so used to not even being in the frame. So, so overcoming the imposter syndrome, first people like us, isn’t it enormous.
  • [00:09:15] Jennifer: There’s a lot going on in that is a lot that prevents progress and we have to see it for what it is. And please read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, big magic. She talks about her creative process and I think she puts like fear and self doubt Like she’s driving a minivan and she’s, she puts fear like over in the passenger seat and she puts like imposter syndrome in the trunk and she says, no, like I know how to drive this car and I’m in charge.
  • [00:10:00] Jennifer: That story that you have inside you and what kind of transformation could happen because of it. So that’s sort of the, I guess the personal answer, the business answer of course is books enable higher keynote fee and enable yeah. Your expertise to have a depth of credibility in the market for selling consulting services, which is what we also do that, um, it is like an unmistakable lift. [00:10:25] I mean, you just. You even if you’re the same person before you publish the book and after you publish the book, you are seen differently, the perception is different, right? People get excited. Um, they can hold something by you in their hands and actually feel that they. Or somehow like next to you or talking to you in a way that I think nothing else, maybe podcasts enable that too.
  • [00:12:28] Jenn T. Grace: And so to hear from somebody who has a very successful business has two very successful books to, I also see that, Oh, Hey, she’s also wrestling with this. I think it just kind of anchors that. And for people like, okay, I’m not alone. And even successful people feel like frauds from time to time, because I think we all, we all experienced that whether we want to, or not, like I have my moments of ups and downs where I’m like, Oh really? Why am I the one, why am I the one saying this? But, you know, I feel like that’s kind of the nature of the beast.
  • [00:14:01] Jennifer: Yeah. Oh my gosh. How much time do you have? Yeah. And I appreciate what you said, Jenn. Like, this is definitely not meant to discourage anyone. You know, like I said, the fight is what is, what makes it worth it. You know, you learn so much about yourself in terms of what you fight for when you’re writing your book. You know, if you’ve got an editor who’s giving you a hard time, Jen, you know, I cycled through a lot. I write together with other people. And so I’m a little bit unusual in that way, but picking the wrong partners like over and over and over again. Um, even that is disappointing, frustrating, expensive, time consuming and delaying you. [00:14:38] Right. Um, and yet every time you sort of learn what you don’t like and what you don’t need is clarifying. And so even as you’re struggling through these things, like it’s an education about ourselves and. Our style and our, um, you know, this doesn’t quite feel like a fit. Well, why, you know, we learn a lot through that. [00:14:58] So I think it’s the writing partners to get that mix right. Has taken me. I have gotten it wrong so many more times than I’ve gotten a right. I will say. Um, so that’s been hard because I’m a busy CEO. Like none of us actually, whether you run a company or not, you can’t sneak off for six months and write your book, you’ve got to multitask and write your book.
  • [00:15:54] Jennifer: Like I could write being a consultant is like wonderful and also difficult because there’s so [00:16:00] many. There’s so many topics I’m passionate about and the focus piece is difficult. So for me, I’m one of those that has to much stuff. And then the help I need is the sequencing of the stuff and like the filtering and the prioritization. [00:16:14] Right? So each one of us is going to need different things. Some of us look at a blank page and we’re overwhelmed because we don’t know how to fill it. And actually, I sort of felt that too, at the same time, I had too much and too little. Um, and then, um, the biggest shift, I’d say back to audience between book number one and two is one I think of as the sort of table setting of the conversation, like the overview, like why is this topic important? And I pulled in a lot of different stats and research and, um, he was kind of that cool, a survey class in college. Right. Um, and then. And then the second I decided to really dive into what does a leader, an individual leader need as a toolkit. So it got, it went from like macro [00:17:00] to micro and that was advice of an editor that I was working with. I think that was very well placed and something that I didn’t necessarily a direction I wasn’t necessarily going. Uh, but it has been a brilliant choice truly.
  • [00:19:36] Jennifer: And I’ve had the company for 13 years. So I do think. Noticing your own growth and evolution as an expert. And is it changing? Is it shifting? You can’t really map out what’s ahead. I mean, some authors, I know have all their 15 books lined up and it’s going to be a series and they know all this stuff, but I, I like the serendipity, you know, approach of just saying [00:20:00] like what I’m so like tuned into the world. [00:20:03] And I’m always thinking about like, what is the problem that, that nobody has kind of cracked or articulated or resourced. And, and do I have any tools that I can lay out there? That’s going to unlock that or identify that or. Sort of awaken that. And, um, if you sort of use that as your guiding light, I think, you know, the right people will find their way to your book.
  •  [00:23:03] Jennifer: it just was, it was he’s like, you want this to resonate 20 years from now, you know, you want it to become the who moved my cheese and I Again, imposter syndrome, by the way, that’s a harder book to write because you think to yourself, what in the world could I write? That would be. You know, a bestseller 20 years from now that will age, right. That way that it just gets better. Um, you know, that’s, that’s big, you know, and yet, um, I think that was just such good advice, but I fought against it because I’m so embedded in current events and current events have so much to do with what I do. So much, you know, I mean, look at what’s just happened in the last couple of months, you know? So I think that delay, that you’re talking about that cycle of traditional publishing of a year and a half in the best case scenario from the day you turn your book into when it hits the market or not quite that long, but it’s long. The world is changing so fast. So I do, when I think about, and, and mentor aspiring [00:24:00] authors, you know, I do say self publishing or hybrid publishing is faster. It’s a faster route. You can still get great editing and copy editing and content editing, advice and support. Um, you know, so you don’t, and in fact, I’d say some of the big publishing houses, like they don’t provide that really anymore. So you’ve got to. Sort of fill that gap anyway yourself. Um, and so I think, I guess, I guess though, you know, don’t forget the advice that I heard, which was the evergreen, it’s an, it’s an interesting challenge to try to write Something for the moment, but that’s not so embedded in the moment that it can’t live and flourish like later. So that’s kind of a, just kind of to put that lens on and try to write it in that way is I think a good challenge to give yourself.
  • [00:25:51] Jenn T. Grace: Yeah. And I think it’s the difference between getting on a cruise ship or a speedboat. And I think when we’re talking about content and getting content to market, you need to be on the speedboat to [00:26:00] be at the front of the herd in terms of voices that are being heard, but, you know, unfortunately the big publishers, they’re all corporations. And so they have a lot of people, a lot of processes, a lot of moving parts. So I can see how it’s difficult for them to kind of cut, cut down on any timelines, because it is such a massive operation versus smaller companies like mine, where, you know, there’s six of us who are all hands on deck, just getting things done.

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