Photo credit: Zahrina Robertson from Zahrina Photography
Let’s be honest, most of us would like to walk into every job opportunity, speaking gig, or meeting room with confidence. But, we’re human and we have bad days, insecurities, and learning to do. Yet, we still strive to fulfil the popular saying, ‘fake it until you make it,’ to meet a long-time societal belief that to be successful we need to pretend.
Last year I met Janine Garner, founder of Little Black Dress, an Australian business network for women in business. At the time I had joined my first startup, and I had reached out to Janine for advice on how to lead where I believed I didn’t have all the information. Her advice? Don’t fake it.
We recently sat down with Janine to break down why many of us believe we need to fake our abilities, solutions for how to lead, and why it might be easier for men than women to fake their way:
Why does society champion ‘fake it until you make it?’
I'm not convinced society can be given the title of championing "fake it until you make it.’ I actually believe it's all of us, as individuals not embracing who we are, warts and all, that collectively has created this norm.
The willingness to be vulnerable, to embrace our flaws, to ask for help, and to admit mistakes is not naturally encouraged or endorsed. Failure, vulnerability, and not actually having the answer to the problem, are traditionally seen as a weakness. The result? Bravado not bravery kicks in; the game of pretence and sometimes bluster and false promises. It can be a matter of constantly not speaking up and instead going with the flow of the majority for fear of looking stupid; it could be refusing to take ownership of personal development needs and instead pretending that you know it all; it can be refusing to disclose one’s own actions out of sheer ego or even acting for the 'good of the company' by staying quiet when in reality the status quo is not correct.
Why do we try to fake it, and what are some examples?
I think most of us in the early stages of our careers faked it until we made it whether it be via the elevator pitch introduction, the first negotiation with an outside supplier, or presenting on behalf of the company after being thrown in the deep end by a manager.
We fake it until we make it for two reasons. First there is the mindset reality of if you believe it enough it will happen. Second, you don't want to look stupid. However, I learned early on that curiosity didn't actually kill the cat and that the willingness to constantly learn and ask questions, and accept help and advice, makes us smarter, builds support and takes us further.
We have to embrace our flaws, and we have to be fearless and go for it, because togetherness really is the one thing that drives change.
Why do you think men get away with faking it more than women do?
I'm not sure if it’s that men get away with it or whether they are more willing to go for it. There are endless research studies that support the fact that men are more willing to go for it, whether it be speaking up in a meeting, applying for a job when they only have a portion of the skills or saying "hell yeah" to a job or profile opportunity.
On the other hand women generally stand back and wait until things are perfect. As Sheryl Sandberg so eloquently shared, we have to lean in, because it is only by doing this that the barriers to diversity will be broken down. In first world countries it is not necessarily society that can be blamed for this; we as women of worth have to start being brave enough to stand in our spotlight; we have to speak up and share openly to take the opportunities that are right in front of us, because we can.
If you know a woman that you think should be featured please tweet Kristen on Twitter @kmarano.