I often hear the term “fake it until you make it” – usually in relation to a woman who does not feel confident in her own abilities. In fact, I recently used that term when mentoring a young woman. She was hired by a new client who was really stretching her beyond her comfort zone. This new client was a nationally known brand and the stakes were higher than any client she had experienced working for in the past. She just did not feel that she had the depth of content knowledge or experience. Yet, the client had hired her as the expert.
She did all of the things that you would expect; researching and talking to others who had similar clients and challenges, but she still did not feel confident. As I was prepping her for a first meeting in New York City with her new client, I found myself saying, “just go there and be confident, don’t let your hesitance show to the client, just fake it till you make it.” What I really meant was, don’t let yourself defeat yourself. In the eyes of the client, you are the expert. Make sure you see YOURSELF as the expert too. Come into the room with a air of confidence, a command of the subject matter, reaffirm the problem to the client and turn to other experts on your team to provide the detail.
In reflecting on what I said to her, perhaps “fake it until you make it” led her to believe that she did not have the content knowledge, but she did. It simply meant that she needed to get the age-old foe of women, the imposter syndrome, out of her head. She was not faking anything, she had the right stuff, she just needed a bit of a confidence-booster.
I recently had the opportunity to meet two very impressive women at an event (as I often do!). During the course of the conversation we began to discuss the events surrounding the Presidential election. One of the women told me that she had the opportunity to follow the family member of a Presidential candidate on the campaign trail. When I asked her how she able to do that, she responded by telling me she was a producer for a major network. I again responded with great enthusiasm and she said, “oh it’s really not a big deal. I just do it part-time…I’m really just a warm body, a hired hand.”
I was so disappointed to hear her response. I was very honest and told her that she really needed to develop an elevator speech that was not so self-deprecating. Her friend replied, “You’re right, she has won two Emmy awards for her work on national news shows! ” Clearly, this woman was accomplished and had built an impressive career. I suggested a few key points to add to her elevator speech so that in similar situations she would be more prepared to respond with a few key points highlighting her competencies and accomplishments.
I often talk to mentees about how to construct and practice their elevator speech. The speech should be about 1-2 minutes, start with a clear articulation of name, your role and a bit about the company you represent. In this story, the women I met could have said:
“I’m Sue Jones, producer at _____ network, where I have worked for ____ years covering such stories as ______. I’ve had the pleasure of being called into action when needed for some of the most interesting stories such as _____.”
Now obviously that can be tailored to feel more off-the-cuff, casual or less structured. Just please be sure to steer clear of self-deprecation or minimizing your real accomplishments, as tempting as it may be to appear humble. If you don’t have an elevator speech, write one today and practice it in the car, or even in an elevator while alone!
[Photo courtesy of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia]
I’m on a train heading from Philadelphia to New York City for a meeting with a group of high-powered people in the healthcare industry. As usual, I’m taking time to review the attendee list and go over notes on their collective backgrounds. I just realized that I’ll be the only woman in the meeting.
Now I’m giving myself a mental pep talk,
“How do I position myself in the room, how will I get a word in edgewise with this group, will they simply dismiss me? Should I practice my power poses in the restroom to increase my testosterone? Remember, keep your voice directed, loud and low.”
Wow, it takes a lot of energy to do this. I’m sure the male attendees are not going through this exercise before entering the meeting.
I’ve always been drawn to the phrase, “chance favors the prepared,” and I’ve advised women many times on how to prepare for meetings such as this. Unfortunately, often times that means more than just doing the background work. For me I know it’s true, being a woman means spending a lot more of my energy on mental preparation for meetings. Who has felt the same way? What have you done to combat this imposter syndrome?
One of the topics I’m asked about most often by younger women is confidence — how to gain more, project more, BE more. There are tons of articles on confidence — everything from body language to visualization techniques and more. A lack of confidence seems to be something that affects almost everyone at one point or another and I’ve written on my thoughts about the “Imposter Syndrome” I see so many women experience. I came across this article in Fortune by entrepreneur Beth Monaghan and it spoke to me. It’s her attempt to teach confidence, which I do believe is possible, and I found her advice to be spot on and extremely applicable in a workplace setting. I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading it – do you think successful women can help teach other women to become more confident? What is the best advice you’ve received to help build confidence?
“This Will Make You Make You Appear Less Confident” By Beth Monaghan, Principle & Co-Founder of InkHouse
I wanted to share this article from the Harvard Business Review, “To Seem Confident, Women Have to be Seen as Warm.”
It details a fascinating study which suggests that, in order to be viewed as confident (read: worthy of promotion), women need to display not only competence, but warmth and nurturing qualities. Men, on the other hand, are judged solely on the perception of competence.
This is a huge issue for women, workplace culture, and promotion practices. What do you think?
A recent article in the Philadelphia Business Journal offers “2 ways women can develop their leadership presence.”
Want the thumbnail? 1) Tout your accomplishments, and 2) use technical/numerical terms to discuss the impact of your work.
Read the article, then re-visit my thoughts on how to establish your executive presence here.