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The Leading Role

Stuart White

Mpho is learning to teach MBA students and despite being relatively advanced in his studies he can’t help feeling he might not make the grade as a lecturer. This feeling is strongest when he is faced with a group of students, as even though he has prepared so much for class, he feels inadequately prepared for what comes up. 

“There is simply too much to learn, know and the insurmountable literature on the subject matter is overwhelming and I can’t know and read everything” is how he describes these anxiety attacks. He worries that he isn’t as good as the other MBA lecturers.
Frederick Hives is a fourth-year PsyD candidate at John F. Kennedy University in the US. He has struggled with never feeling good enough throughout grad school, and says he often feels he’s progressed not on his own merits, but due to sympathy from others.

Hives says that as an African American student, "I was taught I would need to ‘work twice as hard to be half as good.' While this instills a goal-oriented approach within me, it also keeps me feeling as though my efforts will never be enough." Frederick, despite his achievements, feels like a fraud. Do you ever feel the same way?
Both these examples are similar to what was first described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s as ‘Impostor phenomenon’. This occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud. 

Though the impostor phenomenon isn't an official diagnosis, coaches and psychologists acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt. Impostor feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression. Most victims suffer in silence, says Imes, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Georgia. "Most people don't talk about it. Part of the experience is that they're afraid they're going to be found out," she says.
When the impostor phenomenon or imposter syndrome as it is sometimes described, was first noted, they thought it was unique to women, but the disease is not sexist and according to research it affects men and they fall victim equally. No one can tell where it comes from or how it develops but some hypothesis that people who feel like impostors may have grown up in families that place a big emphasis on achievement. 

Parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism and setting impossibly high standards — may be part  culprit as they can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings where the child feels they can never possibly match up to expectations.
You don’t necessarily have imposter syndrome for life.  Sometimes it manifests itself when you find yourself in a new position or role. Let’s say you get your first Board appointment or are catapulted into a higher level of management.

This in-between or new phase of your professional development can leave you inwardly panicking that you aren’t ready to handle it or function in that capacity. Now nearly everyone will experience a certain level of self-doubt when facing something new but this is not the normal level of uncertainty and stress relating to a new situation.  Those with imposter syndrome experience an overwhelming fear of being found out to not have what it takes.
So can you spot people with impostor phenomenon? Well you may find some of the outward signs in behaviors which people exhibit. Often the syndrome goes hand in hand with obsessive levels of perfectionism. So-called impostors think every task they tackle has to be done flawlessly and they rarely ask for help.

There is also a flip side to that coin. An impostor may procrastinate, putting off an assignment out of fear of failure of completion or that they won’t be able to do it to the high standards required. When they do finally produce the goods they are left thinking that it still isn’t good enough or that performance was luck or a fluke.
At the heart of the problem are distorted notions of what it means to be competent and individuals will sometimes set this bar unrealistically high.  Consequently when they fail, they may adopt negative behaviours such as procrastination and perfectionism.

Mary says that her impostor feelings "maybe slightly held me back, particularly in terms of getting things written up and submitted. … I'm never sure whether it's good enough, so maybe I hang onto things longer than colleagues." But when asked, she concedes that she doesn't know how much time her colleagues spend on their work–an example of setting goals based on an incomplete understanding of her competition.
“Ultimately, the impostor phenomenon becomes a cycle. Afraid of being discovered as a fraud, people with impostor feelings push themselves beyond what is reasonable to do a project perfectly. When they succeed, they begin to believe all that anxiety and effort paid off. Eventually, they develop almost superstitious beliefs. "Unconsciously, they think their successes must be due to that self-torture," Imes says.
Plenty of people get their motivation by comparing themselves to peers and trying to keep up or get ahead. So how do impostor feelings differ from a natural sense of competition, insecurity, or humility? "Humility and self-esteem are certainly related to the impostor phenomenon, says Justin Kruger, a professor a NYU Sterns School of Business.  He goes on to point out that true humility relies on an accurate assessment of ability, whereas people who demonstrate the impostor phenomenon, "despite being fully competent… feel that they don't really belong."
If you relate to this article you might be feeling a huge weight of relief in that there are others out there who feel the same. Feelings of Imposter syndrome are both normal and irrational but can be treated by speaking about them either to a professional coach or counsellor and making a personal audit of your skills and abilities.

I guess as most high achievers are pretty smart people, they should be able to reframe their thinking to accept that they are where they are through merit- that far from being an imposter and a fraud they deserve the glittering prizes.  Or perhaps their great intellects will rationalise the situation and conclude that they are simply better actors than they gave themselves credit for and that those glittering prizes are really just Oscar substitutes. 

For at the end of the day what is an actor but an imposter and a fraud, playing the part of someone they are not?  And to those of you I say, if you are really that convincing, you deserve the gold statue as much as the next person because your performance is truly convincing and all around you have willingly suspended their disbelief. As Shakespeare succinctly said ‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’.  But they don’t all win an Academy Award, now, do they?

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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