Denise McClennen



Carolyn Herfurth is co-founder and managing partner of Impostor Syndrome Institute™.

As a nationally recognized business growth strategist and award-winning entrepreneur with more than 30 years of both corporate and entrepreneurial experience, Carolyn is uniquely qualified to guide Impostor Syndrome Institute’s mission to address the (avoidable) impact of impostor syndrome on individuals and organizations.

Carolyn Herfurth, Co-founder Impostor Syndrome Institute


Her 13-year career with Oracle, Rand Worldwide and other leading companies cemented her reputation to move teams and resources to consistently surpass client expectations — and exceed benchmarks and quotas in the process.

Prior to co-founding Impostor Syndrome Institute™, Carolyn spent 20+ years advising entrepreneurs to make thoughtful decisions about business ownership, helped launch over 100 businesses and grow thousands more.

She authored “Buying a Franchise: Tips, Tools & Tales for Doing It Right”, co-founded the Minnesota Franchise Spectacular, a trade show that attracted thousands of individuals interested in owning a franchise, and founded and led an accelerator for women entrepreneurs.

But at each new level of success, impostor feelings proved to be a stumbling block. And since her own copy of her friend Valerie’s book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women was well marked-up from countless readings, she began to gift each client a copy and became inspired by the profound impact it had on them. 

Industry Recognition for Carolyn Herfurth


Honored by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)


Recognized by Upsize Magazine for Best Practices in Customer Relations


Received numerous awards from The Entrepreneur’s Source, including her favorite “Woman On The Way”


Earned multiple President’s Club award trips during her corporate years


Fast forward to 2020. 

During their regular conversations over the dozen years they’ve known each other, Carolyn saw how busy Valerie was delivering her Rethinking Impostor Syndrome program to audiences seeking a solution to combat the impact and costs of impostor syndrome.

But once she discovered how often other speakers and coaches rely on key concepts from Valerie’s book in their own work — they had a hunch that teams, organizations, presenters, workshop facilitators, coaches, associations, and higher ed organizations would want to learn from the world’s foremost expert on impostor syndrome — and further spread the practical information, insight and tools of Rethinking Impostor Syndrome.

After all, who wouldn’t want to learn this proven, practical, immediately usable solution that’s been shared with over a half million people around the world?

And that’s when it clicked:  Combine Carolyn’s three decades of experience helping entrepreneurs translate their personal values into profitable business models with Valerie’s widely recognized, proven expertise, and join forces to co-found Impostor Syndrome Institute to stamp out impostor syndrome worldwide. 


In her role as managing partner of ISI, Carolyn’s purpose is to extend and expand Dr. Young’s vetted solution so corporations, associations, executive and leadership coaches, speakers, trainers, and workshop facilitators may better serve their employees, audiences, and/or clients on this multi-faced, highly nuanced topic.

Today, as one of ISI’s guiding forces, Carolyn brings her boundless energy to: 

Deliver presentations and facilitate workshops for major corporations around the world to educate executives and employees alike on what impostor syndrome is, where it comes from, how it impacts productivity (and profits!) in the workplace and what to do about it

Manage partner licensing relationships so their enterprise clients can share ISI’s information, insight and practical tools into their business culture and counteract the negative effects of impostor syndrome so employees become even greater contributors in their roles

License professional speakers and workshop facilitators, showing them how to integrate Rethinking Impostor Syndrome™ into their existing business model in order to expand and complement current and new client relationships, secure first and future clients with a potent, step-by-step sales strategy, and increase customer lifetime value

Oversee the highly regarded Impostor Syndrome-Informed Coach™ training for coaches who want to effectively move clients through their feelings of impostor syndrome, develop a realistic understanding of competence and a healthy response to failure, mistakes, and constructive feedback to enable them to achieve their goals

If you’d like to get involved in addressing the (avoidable) impact of impostor syndrome on individuals and organizations, take a look at the services Carolyn, Valerie and ISI have thoughtfully developed to support you.  

Carolyn Herfurth, Co-founder Impostor Syndrome Institute

We envision a world where individuals and organizations are free from the internal and external factors that drive impostor thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Imagine all the good we’ll create when we no longer hold ourselves back.

Carolyn Herfurth
Co-Founder & Managing Partner
Impostor Syndrome Institute™

Denise McClennen

Denise believes people are the foremost experts on themselves. Every person has the potential to solve their own dilemmas, create a roadmap for their own lives and make a unique contribution to the world in some amazing way. Whether it’s in a coaching session or a workshop, she loves facilitating people toward that magical ah-ha! moment of insight.

Her professional career titles have ranged from Executive Coach, Chief Learning Officer in the financial services industry, Author and Facilitation Lead, and Professor.

Thought Design

With over two decades of executive leadership, consulting, training, speaking and coaching experience, Denise is a frequent keynote speaker at national conventions, corporate and academic learning events and retreats. In addition to her role as Senior Associate at Impostor Syndrome Institute™, she holds certifications with Tilt365 Positive Influence Predictor, NeuroLeadership Institute (Certified Coach), Enneagram (Train-the-Trainer), LifePlanning ™ process, Tom Paterson StratOp process, E-Learning Instructional Design (USC Irvine), DiSC, Conscious Leadership Coach, Cynefin Foundations, The Neuroscience Academy certification, Growth Edge Coaching/Growth Edge Network, and Bar-On Emotional Intelligence Assessment.

She has served on boards with Growth Edge Network, Habitat for Humanity, Kent District Library System, City of Grand Rapids Advisory Board, and Pregnancy Resource Center. Denise has been a Member at The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) since 2001 and also with The NeuroLeadership Institute.

Denise established Thought Design in Grand Rapid, Michigan in 2013 to allow her to create and curate the physical environment for her high-performance thinking programs. Thought Design is the culmination of a lifetime of constant experimentation and discovery related to learning. Using the most current brain research to design learning experiences that can REALLY transform people and teams, she knows that organizations, teams, and the people that inhabit them can truly thrive if they are learning together as a lifestyle.

Denise and her husband split their time between their home in Rockford, Michigan, their houseboat in Douglas, Michigan, and a home in Punta Gorda, Florida, gravitating towards the best weather for each of the seasons. In addition to her professional career, she is a mother to five adults, and grandmother to seven growing-so-fast kids, who also help her decide where she spends her free time.

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