Episode 111 | Imposter Syndrome with Kendra Penski
WITH KENDRA PENSKI
- Episode 111 | Imposter Syndrome with Kendra Penski 00:00
Hi Group Practice Listeners! In this coaching episode, I’m talking with Kendra Penski all about imposter syndrome.
In this episode we cover:
- Navigating + owning your own leadership role
- Leadership skill building
- Being okay with not knowing everything
- Valuing your own qualifications & expertise
This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.
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Hey everyone, welcome to another episode. I’ve got a coaching episode today. And with me I have Kendra Penski. We’re gonna be talking about working through imposter syndrome as a group practice owner. Which is always a very exciting topic. Hey Kendra, how are you?
Good. How are you doing?
Not too bad. Not too bad given our world circumstances at the moment?
Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
So as you know, you can just jump right in! Let’s talk about where you’re at with your group practice. And why this topic is important to you right now. And we can jump in from there.
Okay, sure. So I started my group practice a couple years ago. But didn’t really define it as a group practice till this last year. And I have since brought on five clinicians and my fifth one starting today, actually. And it’s been a long process, switching them over from IC to W2. So that’s sort of in the works right now as well.
But kind of what’s come up during this process and as I’m moving to the model of having them as W2 employees is just kind of figuring out how to navigate that leadership role. And owning it in a way I think. Sometimes stepping into this is kind of like, you know, you’re you’re starting something you don’t really know what you’re doing. And then you’re trying to manage every aspect of your business and there’s no way you can be an expert on every part of your business! And then having to convey that with confidence to your staff is a bit challenging at this point for me.
Yeah, I totally know that feeling. For me, it took a while. Someone posted recently in the Facebook group: what’s one thing you’d like to tell yourself before starting your practice? Or like, what’s the one thing you wish you would have known when you started your practice? And for me, it was, you know, really starting on focusing on the leadership skill building. Because it tends to be an afterthought, you know? We focus on the logistical piece of, you know, systems and finding people to hire and getting clients in the door and all that stuff.
We were focusing on the literal things of starting a group practice, but not some of the things like leadership growth.
And I will say that that was something that took a while to grow because I had to put intentional focus on that. And as most people who listen or, you know, follow me in any sort of way know, now that a big part of my weekly focus is on my own leadership growth. Whether it’s through reading books, which I do a couple months that are leadership focused, or it’s doing my own coaching around leadership. I think it’s such an important piece.
And you said something in the beginning of this when you started your sentence here, which was not knowing everything. And I think if you can focus on that piece over everything else, at least when it comes to the imposter syndrome piece.
I found that when I was able to shift from feeling like I needed to know everything, to actually being okay with not knowing everything, my confidence in the unknown parts when people had questions on things I didn’t know, actually skyrocketed and made a huge difference in my whole imposter syndrome, you know, struggle.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t ever go through it now, because I still do. But it’s definitely one piece that is, was for me, a very tangible thing to fix. It was my thinking that I because I own the group practice I need to be above which means I need to know everything. And that anyone below needs to not know more than I do when it comes to business and all that stuff. And it wasn’t until I like was very intentional and thought: The next time someone asks me a question that I don’t know, I’m not going to try to like make a statement that seems like is the right answer.
But then I’ll go do the research. And if it’s wrong, I’ll say actually, let’s do this instead, which was tended to be my MO.
I always had an answer for everything. Whether that was backed in a ton of research or backed with my long experience of owning a good practice. But if someone had a question, I’m a person that was always quick on my toes to be able to come up with like, let’s do this thing without having, you know, thoroughly thought through it and gone through, you know, the pros and cons and what other options there are.
And it wasn’t until I realized that that part of me that ability because of my fear of being seen as someone who doesn’t know anything.
It wasn’t until I forced myself at one meeting to be like, “I don’t know. I have no idea actually. I’m gonna look that up. Do you have any ideas before I start looking things up?” And it was interesting to see how they didn’t look at me like, “Oh my god, we’ve been working on this person who doesn’t know what they’re doing!” It didn’t that didn’t come off at all. And then I actually got good feedback on the question that they were asking me for feedback on. It became a really good connecting point.
And now you’ll see my, my clinical director will say this, if anyone ever talks to her is, I tend to ask everyone questions on anything that I’m doing now.
And I’m like, I’m not the expert in anything. I mean, I’m like, literally at the opposite end of the spectrum now where I have such I don’t think I know everything to the point where I use the feedback of every everyone on my team.
I’ll be like, hey, I just made this booklet, like, this was the most recent thing. I’m trying to be as paperless as possible. So we’re not doing business cards anymore. And I’m getting rid of because we moved one of our locations, which obviously means I have to get rid of some stuff. And I was like, I’m not going to print new flyers and new folders to put the flyers and in addition to that, I made one eight and a half by 11. It’s almost like a oh my gosh, what size is it?
It’s like it’s a booklet. So it’s a little smaller than a sheet of paper booklet.
Okay, yeah, with like, all the information about our practice about who we serve, what our mission is how we get back to the community, how we work with kids, adults and couples, all the stuff we do into this little booklet cuz I was like, if we just hand out a booklet and it has everything they ever need, that would be awesome.
And even in that case, I handed a booklet out to everyone after I got it printed and I was like, obviously, this is this one’s you know, done and done. Because it’s, I got it you guys all to to butcher it. If you see anything that’s wrong with if you see anything that should be added to it, like right all over it. Because the next time I make a badge, I’m hoping it’s the final best badge that we’ll have to make that I can keep reproducing unless we obviously move.
But that’s how much I’ve moved from being in this position of feeling like I need to be the source of comfort and answer for everything to the person that knows everything and then behind the, you know, screen is scrambling trying to figure out is that the right answer to now really being like, I don’t know all the answers and I let people know.
I mean, even with this, you know Coronavirus thing that’s going on. Yeah. And it’s recorded and goes out, hopefully, hopefully it’s better. Yeah.
But even with that, the first thing I did was say you guys, I’m gonna probably make some mistakes because I’ve never had to deal with a situation like this. And then I felt really confident when I was laying this out.
I said, here’s what I’m gonna do. At this moment, it might change. And I’m open to feedback from you guys. But this is what I think is best for us at this point in time. And tomorrow, that might change because it seems like you know, the government is changing things day by day. But so this is how comfortable I feel with what we’re doing now. But I know, you know, when we’re done with all of this, and we look back, it’s going to be a great learning experience for me. I’m actually excited to learn about myself.
As a leader through this through this experience and you know I want you guys to be you know open with me as we’re going through this experience so in it’s really helped everyone feel comfortable with the decisions I’m making for the business it’s helped them be comfortable with even questioning some of my decisions and asking like oh you know why this or what do you think about that or?
And so I don’t know it’s a really long answered. But I feel like you kind of hit the nail on the head with a great place to start which is in just not not feeling like you have to know everything but also being open to let your staff know that I find that the moment I let them know I don’t know everything like just said, I actually don’t know that answer. I you know, I’m learning on this piece on this piece to let me look that up for you.
It really helped me become way more confident in not in the decisions I was making, but also made me not rush to make an answer so that I’m seen to be all knowing to my staff, right?
And then I think that can cause problems too, right? If we’re constantly changing direction of how we’re doing things, and you know, our staff doesn’t necessarily have confidence in that.
Yeah, that’s totally okay.
Yeah. And I think, really where it came up or was highlighted when we had our first meeting with two new staff that I’d brought on. And they, even though initially they were coming on, as ICs, we were transferring. They almost had the mindset of like a staff member already, because the first two ICs were very independent, not a lot of direction. And they were bombarding me with questions about any and everything.
It was kind of like, whoa, wait a second, like and I think part of that is planning and preparation to like, obviously, that’s an important piece of leadership. And I think that it really kind of made me step back and say like, I really need to get a lot of these systems in place as well for myself and for my staff, and so I can feel calm. With those things, so when there are pieces that I’m not sure about, like, it feels more okay to say that, you know?
I agree. And I think that’s typically where we get that feeling that you’re having and that I have as well when we make these big decisions is our confidence in ourselves can be tested when we make big changes. And definitely switching from IC to W2 in our world is one of those confidence shaking experiences. Or at least it can be, but I do find that the thing that helps is and this is just something I like on my side personally because I tend to be a person that makes decisions and then will change their mind or not change your mind but will will say, yeah, that didn’t work.
Because I’m so much now of a person that isn’t afraid of making mistakes that sometimes I’ll be like, let’s do this thing and it fits our mission, vision and goals. But after doing it I’ve learned to become a person that’s like, if it doesn’t work, we’re gonna throw it out. No we’re going to try something different. We’re going to say, look, we learn from our mistakes, like that’s how much I am in that kind of lane.
But it’s also tested me because obviously not all my staff is that way. They’re not all confident in every change and whim that I might have. And so what I’ve learned is, I don’t mind that part about me. About the fact that I feel comfortable making mistakes and trying things out and saying, yeah, let’s let’s dump that that didn’t work.
But I’ve learned that to be able to keep that part of me, which I think is something that helps me just grow as a leader is making mistakes.
And that sort of way, is that I have to have a really good communication line with my team. Whether that’s through, you know, having supervisors or clinical director that can kind of filter that information. In a more one to one way or you know, as a smaller practice if it’s me doing that. But I learned that a lot of times we spend a lot of time thinking about the changes that we might be making a switch from IC to W2, you probably are spending 40, 50 hours just thinking about what questions that they’re gonna ask. Or thinking about financial shifts, thinking about benefits and all this stuff that we forget.
Even though we might spend like a half hour, putting a nice email together or set up an in person staff meeting to talk about it for an hour. Because we’ve spent so much time prepping we feel like we’ll be able to, like regurgitate that information out well, but we forget that our staff has not had the 40 hours of right information overload that we’ve had.
And that’s something that I’ve learned like, Oh, I can’t just quickly give all this information very clearly that you know, I thought I gave this information very clearly. It should be really good, easy to understand.
But I, it took me a while to realize just because I can very clearly articulate how we’re going to do things and why that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to take the team to, you know, have some time to question and be confused and all that other stuff, which definitely can shake the competence of a group practice owner who feels like they’ve done a lot of work getting set up at the best interest of their employees, and then feel like they’re, you know, questioning it, you know?
Right. That’s a really good point. Yeah, you had time to process and make sense of it all. And they’re just getting all that information for the first time. Yeah. Yeah.
So what else is going on?
When it comes to the imposter syndrome is I know we talked a little bit about you know, it can help a lot with like hiring too. Like, okay. Why do they want to work for me?
I love that question. Actually. It’s so funny. I guess I was never smart enough to think this initially. I just literally never thought this. And I think it’s because I worked at a group practice that a lot of people worked at. And you know, the wage at the time, I don’t know how you know how much better they are 10 years later, but the wage at the time wasn’t great. I didn’t realize that. But they had a ton of people working there. I remember when I started my own thing that I was like, I’m going to do better than that financially. So I never even thought like, why would someone want to work for me because I thought man I worked for someone not as good.
So you gotta you have a different perspective, which is kind of nice, too. We did the meetup here in San Diego for owners and a couple of them had worked for other group practice owners too. And I think it does kind of give you a little level of insight as far as what you want to do and how you can make things a little bit better too.
I never had that experience, but obviously I’ve had other experiences. You know where, for me, the thing that I stressed during the interview process is just feedback in general, like, I want their feedback about process and the business myself, like, that’s a really big value of mine. And then I want, like, I would want autonomy too. So I try to provide that to them as well as like you’re getting into private practice because you want some of that independence and autonomy and, and stuff. So I know that that the people that come on, I stress that to a lot. And they, I mean, obviously people want to work because there’s five people that work, right.
I think that’s the bottom line is there. Why does someone want to work for you? If you’re clear about who your ideal therapists are, then those are the people that want to work for you, you know, and so, you know, the question tends to come when people have hired someone who maybe isn’t in perfect alignment with their group practice, mission, vision values, the culture. Or we feel like we haven’t been super clear during the interview process.
Because I definitely have had that experience as well, especially in the beginning when I was just learning how to do interviews.
And so that tends to be where that comes up most with is because someone challenges that part of us whether overtly or not, but I find that those are the best learning opportunities. Because when you feel that way, you can think okay, what is it about me feeling challenged, you know, me feeling challenged in this way with this person, a feeling like maybe my practice isn’t good enough, or maybe I’m not paying well enough, or, like, I don’t know why, you know, what is it about that interaction or that discussion or that email or whatever from that person that’s brought that on? Because usually we can pinpoint something that we might have missed that we can use for future interviews, you know, and so that’s what I suggest.
Yeah, it helps a lot to being part of The Exchange and getting ideas from people. I think a lot of confidence has grown out of that to hearing what other people are doing and their ideas. And I know the last interview, I was able, you know, they were saying,well, you know, I can make more, you know, here or here. And I’m like, yeah, that very well may be true to be able to accept and say like, that’s true. I don’t have to pay the most kind of thing. And they still went with me, because I said, but you know, these are the things that we offer that I don’t know that you’ll find it those other times.
So everyone who’s listening, did you hear that? I feel like that is a marker of a good interview, and a good hire, and probably going to be a good employee for your practice.
And for anyone who thinks that they have to be the highest paying practice, that’s not the case, you don’t! I feel like everyone is competing to somehow have the most amount of benefits but so much research has shown that at the end of the day, people overwhelmingly say we’ll take take a pay cut to work at a place that has good culture that feels support over a business where they’re making a little bit more where there might be this like grind till you die mentality where there’s not support.
So I love that you mentioned that just especially for anyone who’s listening, because I think this is a struggle that every group practice owner goes through.
And it doesn’t even matter if they are the highest paying every group excellent or feels like they’re not paying. They could pay more. And at some point, maybe not all the time. I feel good right now about mine, but they’re every group excellent. I’ve gone through and felt that like, Oh, my God, I should probably pay. There’s probably someone else somewhere else that someone can make more. Why would they want to work for me because of, you know, my pay or my benefits? I can’t offer this much. And I know there’s other factors. So I’m glad that you mentioned that because it just shows which is something I already know, which is that people you don’t have to pay a million dollars to have good employees.
Another theme that came up during this was kind of funny. But during our group meet up with the San Diego therapists, one of the other therapists, I found out that one girl that I had interviewed before that I wanted to hire, and she didn’t end up working with me, but she ended working with her. And so I was like, well, that’s interesting. I want some feedback about what appealed to her about going to that practice. Am I not offering something? And it was interesting, because at the time, that’s when I was still doing ice so that she was going to be making a bit more money.
But, she went with this other practice. And I imagine you know, one of the things she said is that there was another person that she met with on the team and they really connected and then I don’t know if even being a W2 was more appealing to her, but it was just interesting to just kind of like take that in and see you know, everyone even that you think might be a good fit, might find something else a better fit. And that’s okay, too.
Yes, there’s so many things that can make a group practice really great. And all of us, you can’t have it all. You can’t give all the things. That’s what makes us all so different as businesses. And so that’s also a great example of a person going to another group practice, that’s also great in a different way that aligns more with that employee. And that doesn’t make your practice any less great, you know? Yeah, that’s a good example.
Yeah. So it’s interesting. It’s been an interesting journey. I think this year’s going to be a lot of growth as with leadership in general. Just shifting and trying to figure out balancing, you know, when do I focus on marketing versus systems versus the people like that even that aspect of leadership of knowing which areas to spend the timing because I think at this stage it’s just really hard because there’s so many pieces that you have to attend to and you can’t attend to them all so you have to kind of decide what’s my biggest focus right now?
Well, yeah so I’ll say now and next month training in The Exchange is (so April for anyone who don’t know when this is coming out. It’s probably gonna be April by the time it comes out) but my exchange training is on Fix This Next. I did this with my interview with Mike Michalowicz, which will have already come up by the time yours comes out, on his new book Fix This Next. I messed it up even with my interview with him! It’s just too hard to say for my fast ass mouth. Fix This Next. I’m doing a training in The Exchange in April.
It’s literally about knowing what are you supposed to be focusing on next and is based off of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is for business and is called the business hierarchy of needs.
I’m really excited about it. I’ve been putting it together all month. So if you’re still thinking about that, yes, that training because I’m excited about that one, especially because the book comes out at the end of next month, I think like the 28th of April. Sso I’m doing the training right before it comes out. But I feel like this is probably going to be his most genius book when it comes to business because I mean, it’s just so smart. I love it. So. So the fact that you brought that up just weighed, like a little bit over a month, it’s March 16. Right now, April, mid to late April. I’ll be doing my my webinar on that.
Yeah, that’s awesome. I think another thing that I’ve kind of started to recognize and I’m not quite sure, maybe you can give some guidance on this, of how much to feed into this, but there’s obviously areas that I don’t appeal to me within being a practice owner of having to do. Or that I’m just not very good at, I’m not good at creativity, I’ve learned to sort of start delegating that stuff to admin, even with marketing, like just having the time and bandwidth to do local marketing.
And so I’ve considered approaching one of my clinicians who’s still building her caseload about her potentially investing some time in that. I just wondered, because I’d heard before that, that sometimes you don’t want to have your clinicians do that, because it’s kind of like, well, gosh, I could just do my own practice. If I know how to market and market myself, then. I don’t know if you have any guidance on that as I’m trying to figure out like, who could potentially help some of these roles.
I’m 100% of the camp, even when it happens in it, I admit, you know, initially have that all hurt, you know, by someone starting their own practice, you know, human, the feeling will be there for a second, but I’m 100% of the camp that if someone is meant to have their own private practice, they should go have it, you know.
And if they get to get experience while also seeing clients and helping me grow my business by seeing clients if they get experience, you know, whether it’s by like helping my practice market and they get marketing experience that helps them become competent in doing it.
Any person who leaves to start, they were going to do it, if there’s that, that’s what they know. That’s what they were meant to do. If someone wants to start a group practice now, you know, I do know some people who’ve started solo practices and gone back to owning a group or going to a group practice, because it wasn’t their cup of tea, but I don’t want to be the person that stops them. And I also don’t want to be the person that hinders the creative growth that a person could potentially have in my business that helps my business and helps them do things that they love to do.
Whether it’s they’re taught the person who loves to talk to people and market network. I don’t want to be the person that withholds that because of my insecurity to them potentially, like, I don’t want to stall their own growth, right? That might lead them to have their own practice.
It doesn’t mean that I’m going to I’m not going to like hand out a marketing plan for them to start their own practice.
I’m just not gonna if I my whole goal and with having employees is that if there’s a way that I can help them lead in some way because they want to leave now obviously, there’s some that are the rock star types Radical Candor, who just want to do kick ass therapy, you know, you need to have a little bit of both. You can’t have all superstars wanting to like grow grow, because that would make it impossible.
But if there’s someone who is in my business who shows potential in an area that is a strength of theirs, and it’s something that I can kind of make a position for I we have a creative lead are all of our social media for urban wellness. Those pictures, the content is my one of my therapists, Nick, who loves to take photos and video and all of that, and, you know, came up to me and asked, you know, is there a way we can implement that creative part of me so I can get that, you know, scratch itched? And I was like, totally. So we’ve put some in place.
And same with, you know, my Fariha, one of my therapists who’s our onboarding coordinator now. She literally knows most of everything about how the business is run, because she trains every single hire, right from beginning to end.
I truly feel that if there’s a strength in your group, practice with one of your staff, one of the best things you can do is to help you know, one delegate, because it’s important as a business owner, but to is two, you know, lift your people up when you can. And if that means that this person can be in charge and be a marketing director or whatever, I think that’s a great! Move as a business owner in letting them know that we’re that you value them. And that you see, you see them, you see them outside of just being a therapist. And if that ends up being a move that you know, gets that person to start their own practice at some point, then so be it.
I feel, I think, nine times out of 10, when you put someone into a leader position of you know, being in charge of something, whether it’s in charge of the marketing of your practice, they feel more invested in your practice, you’re less likely to go.
So that’s how I see things is that I’m helping them make this more their home, something that they can play a role in molding with me.
I feel that with all my supervisors with my onboarding coordinator, and creative lead and the practice manager and all that is all I want them to feel like this is, you know, their second home where they get to make a larger impact beyond seeing clients because they’re the kind of people that want to do that, you know?
Right and it sounds like it taps into like these other areas that they’re not potentially getting out of just doing therapy that connects them more. Like you said, like that creative piece. You know, a way to be able to exercise that and have fulfillment from that. And I think just kind of like, as we’re talking, I’m just thinking, you know, it sounds like the biggest concern is when like that fear mindset comes up of like, fear, they’re gonna go somewhere else fear that your practice isn’t offering what they’re needy, you know, like, if we can just like let go of that piece and say, like, if they go they go, they don’t want to join, they don’t want to join.
Like, I think letting go of that is a huge piece or like, oh, they’re gonna find me out that I don’t know everything like, okay, who cares, right. So, I think like, just as we’re talking, that’s probably like, the biggest theme of like, for me to let go of that piece.
Yeah. Yeah. And I think if you can find small instances where you let it go, because obviously idea seems like a huge and hard thing to do. But if you can find a small instance, maybe someone sends you an email and instead of, you know, researching first before responding, send an email write back and say, I don’t know yet I’m gonna look I’m gonna look that up and get back to you.
It’s like a little small instances where you, you, you know, you lay your cards out in a way and let them know where you’re at versus, you know, potentially just giving an hour doing the research finding the answer, then answering them they those are like small experiences, exposures, you know, response prevention, where you can, you know, not where you can respond to them right away and just say, you know, the question I’m not sure let me look that up. I feel like I’ve done that a lot this past week with you know, everything that’s going on.
Like, I don’t know yet. I’m driving right now and I want to respond to you let you know that I see this and that I hear you. But I thought when I get home after research that am I quite sure a lot of that happening this week.
yeah. Well, it was really good talking to you.
Yeah, thanks for you know, having this dialogue and getting some good ideas. It’s been really, really helpful. And I ordered a couple books too on leadership. So I’m at home, and I ordered the Radical Candor and then I don’t remember what it’s called, even though I’m almost done with it. Now the one with the hungry, humble, smart.
Oh, The Ideal Team Player. That’s so funny that I do that all the time. And then I think, oh, man, this is so bad. How do I not know the name of the book that I love reading? I know, like that. Oh, yeah, that book is an interesting effort. It took me a while to be like, why am I reading this because the first three quarters of it is like a story, you know, essentially. And I remember being like, you know, hear about this construction workers. But it all wraps around. I don’t know if you’re yet at the part where it like ties it in all together. So that’s a really good book for any of you haven’t read it.
I just was about to say hungry, humble, smart. That’s not the name of the book. Ideal Team Player. Yeah. All right. Well, it was good talking to you all your week, hopefully, you know, you can manage your practice and self care through everything that’s going on. And, you know, post your questions. I know we’re all kind of weathering through a new sort of thing with our businesses. So we need to support each other as much as possible. So if you have questions, if you need support, make sure you keep posting about that.
All right, you too.
Thanks for listening to the practice exchange podcast. We’ll see you next time.
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Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:
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