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Restaurant entrepreneur Kevin Boehm says professional insecurity has haunted him his entire career. And it hasn’t always been a bad thing.

Almost three decades ago, on my very first day as a restaurant owner, I opened the oven to put some bread in. The pilot light had gone out, and the oven blew up in my face, catching my hair on fire. Up until that point, my naivete was hiding just below the surface, but by the next morning, it was written all over my scabbed face and shaved head. I was sure all my customers were thinking, “This knucklehead does not know what he’s doing.”

The reality was, I really had no clue at that early stage. But my own fear of being found out to be a fraud would continue for years throughout my career, way past the point it should have. I would attribute almost all of my success to luck and good fortune—a classic characteristic of the imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern first identified in 1978. Studies have shown that almost 70% of high-functioning leaders experience this insecurity in determining their own self-worth.

While imposter syndrome is widely believed to hurt personal and professional self-esteem—and can be especially detrimental to women and people of color in the workplace—my own experience is proof that “IS” can be harnessed and transformed into a powerful driver for self-improvement.

As a young owner managing other managers, often older than myself, I developed a way of training, based on a deck of cards. I created a 13-card set of handwritten playing cards, each labeled with a quality needed to master in order to become the ultimate leader in hospitality: financial acumen, table dialogue with guests, executing pre-shift (the 30-minute briefing before a service), running a front door, conflict resolution, administrative, responsibility and punctuality, energy and spirit, food knowledge, beverage knowledge, empathy and people management, service skills, and attention to detail.

Read the complete Fast Company article BY KEVIN BOEHM:

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