Imposter Syndrome Series 3/3 – Investing in Change

My first two pieces on Imposter Syndrome (Piece 1: Imposter Syndrome, Piece 2: Critical Thinking)in the cultural sector have pointed to unresolved power imbalances as a key issue and suggested that we need to challenge ourselves through critical thinking to move forward. In this third piece I want to argue that the key to doing so is investment in training and support for staff at all levels.

Limited financial resources mean that too often investment in training and development is seen as a luxury or a low priority. At Achates we always say that organisations come to us at key moments of change when investment can be justified but is frequently otherwise overlooked.

Too often provision for training and support is made at only the most junior of levels, and the rest of the time is undertaken only when the relevant Arts Council tell us we have to undertake it in a specific area. Or is seen as a badge of honour, through programmes such as Clore Leadership, which have consistently overlooked those working in skill areas such as fundraising.

The problem is of course linked to the fact that whilst training, personal development and support don’t have to be expensive, they too often are, and this leads to training becoming either task or status related. And even when training is invested in, it is too often linked to learning by rote, as opposed to supporting critical thinking, with the result that its value and impact are fundamentally limited.

I have also noted that a sense of shame seems to have crept in at some levels when training or support is mentioned, which I can only conclude is linked to Imposter Syndrome and the fear of being ‘found out’. Not so long ago the idea of lifelong learning (LLL) was accepted, along with pride in the idea of continuous professional development (CPD). It is well documented that the lack of investment in professional development is causing the UK to lag behind in productivity at a national level: “we need to see economy-wide improvements to how firms invest and innovate, as well as how staff are managed and trained.”¹

An attitudinal shift, which is connected to a change in attitude to risk (which I advocated for in my second piece) and to continuous development is required and it must start with honest dialogue about the challenges we are facing – we must move beyond our comfort zones, we must continue to challenge ourselves and continue to grow and embrace, as entrepreneurs, so the idea that failure is acceptable; what is not, is standing still. And we can do this in a supported manner, not simply in fearful isolation. What is urgently required is support that teaches new skills, supports the development of critical thinking and brings us together as a sector to discuss ideas, share models and challenge one another.

This is why Achates is sponsoring the Cultural Philanthropy Foundation’s Thought Leadership programme. Starting on 8th November with an interview at the US Embassy with President of The Ford Foundation, Darren Walker OBE (invitation only, livestream for those on the Achates and Foundation mailing list or on YouTube after the event). Join us and let’s grow together.

[1] Greg Thwaites, Research Director at the Resolution Foundation, Reuters, November 2021

Caroline McCormick

Director, Achates