Fake it 'til you make itThere’s a big meeting coming up any minute. You’ve led loads of important meetings – but this really is the one. The one that matters. This is when you share your vision for the year and get the whole team in your organisation on board.

Your brand-new ring light is all set up. You’re rocking a great shirt and a slash of bright lippy (who cares about the joggers below the camera?) Your very thorough notes are ready.  All should be well. You’re in charge.

And yet… it doesn’t feel like that, does it? You have a pit in your stomach. Your hands are shaking. Your thoughts are all over the place.

“What on earth am I doing?”

I know that feeling well. The non-profit leaders I work with know it too. In our coaching sessions they talk about how doubts crowd in at a big moment like this. When, despite all evidence to the contrary, they feel massively daunted to stand up in front of all the amazing people they imagine could do their job better. They talk about how they know for certain they will be exposed as a fake.

No, you’re not the only senior leader who feels like that. But it is, horrible, isn’t it?

This year, I’ve been coaching more leaders than ever around personal self-belief and confidence, and the dreaded imposter syndrome. I find myself responding with one of two pieces of entirely opposing guidance

Fake it till you make it

‘Fake it til you make it’ is the most brilliant solution. If…

You’re feeling inadequate because you’re lacking confidence or self-belief in that moment. Perhaps the crowd is bigger than normal. Or you’re talking on a new topic. Or the meeting has more riding on it than ever before. In these circumstances, of course nerves are to be expected. But if it’s ‘just’ confidence that’s holding you back – don’t bottle it! If, when you’re able to think rationally and clearly, you know you’ve got the skills and the knowledge, and that you are capable – now is the time to most definitely fake it until you make it.

This is the moment to ‘act as if’ you felt more confident and to mimic leadership and authority. Go ahead and pull those Amy Cuddy power poses. Change those joggers so you are feeling like a leader from top to toe. Repeat out loud your positive, affirming mantras (cheesy, but super helpful).

Then take a deep breath – and smile. You’re on!

And when you’re done. And you’ve pulled it off, think what that will do for your confidence?

Don’t fake it, whatever you do

If you feel wobbly because you know you don’t have the skills, knowledge or competence required for the job ahead, don’t even think about faking it. It will only end badly.

When you pretend to know how to do something you have no idea about or you don’t have the right knowledge or experience, people will see through you. It will shake their trust in you as a leader and undermine your authority.

In these situations, my very best advice is absolutely do not fake it. Instead, acknowledge that this area isn’t your particular zone of genius. Turn it down. Pass it on to someone else. Or work on the skills, knowledge and expertise that are needed to pull it off next time.

You’re not alone

There are lots of ideas for how to ‘fake it til you make it’ in my previous blog and I’ll be adding more in my next one.

If you want support to move on from feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome, get in touch on the form below. Or book a no-obligation Discovery Call here. We could be talking later today.