10 Reasons Not to “Fake It Until You Make It"

Please stop telling people to “fake it until you make it”.  It’s an old piece of career advice that is often shared with the best intentions.  The rationale is that if someone responds to a new challenge by adopting successful behaviors, their confidence will eventually catch up.  Unfortunately, most of us have internalized the harmful message that showing up as we are at work is unacceptable.  We believe that people prefer the successful show we put on instead of our real selves.  Almost every week, I hear coaching clients describe aspects of themselves they wish they could change.  In their drive to belong and excel, they have taken self-improvement to extremes and value the appearance of expertise over deeper personal alignment and authenticity.

Here are 10 ways I have seen “Faking It” hurt organizations and deplete leaders: 

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Plan Your Career Using Your Three Centers of Intelligence

Navigating Your Career as a Whole Leader

I recently started accepting applications for a new career development program called The Gathering.  In it, I share tools and practices that help women navigate career decisions with clarity and confidence.  What I found in my own professional journey was that my career planning became an authentic expression of my strengths and passions only after I listened to parts of myself that I had ignored.  Engaging Three Centers of Intelligence - showing up as a whole leader - is one of the most practical, easily accessible frameworks I know for making these big choices.

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Giving Ourselves Permission to Want What We Want

In my family, when it's your birthday, you are empowered to make more choices than usual.  The birthday girl (or boy) gets to select their favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They decide if presents get opened in the morning or evening and get to request a special activity that they love.  The whole family supports their choices as a celebration of who they are.

During my birthday last week, I noticed how many choices I allowed myself because it was my special day that no one was preventing me from making every other day. 

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I Don't Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

I have only known a handful of people who had a clear calling from a young age.  Most of us discover our career path in a different way.  One client couldn’t stand her commute anymore.  Another wanted more financial stability after years of contract employment.  A third had been passed over for multiple promotions with no clear feedback about development she could focus on.  Each woman had reached their limit.  I heard anger in their voices.  I recognized the energized commitment in their bodies.  A change was coming and they wanted help navigating it.

Other clients have come to me in an earlier stage of the “what's next” inquiry.  They recognize it as fantasizing about leaving their role or calling in sick to work.  This can be an incredibly uncomfortable place to be.  People often get stuck here because they believe they have to choose an ideal role before taking any steps forward.  After being asked as children “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and by their managers “where do you see yourself in five years?”, they feel paralyzed. If career development is a linear journey along a straight path, their next step could be the WRONG one! If they don’t know what to do next, isn’t it better to do nothing at all?⠀There is an important difference between staying still to listen to your own guidance and ignoring the question that is stirring inside.  Sometimes when people choose to wait they are actually just avoiding the discomfort of uncertainty.

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Responding to Feedback When You Feel Triggered

Why does feedback hurt our feelings?  Here’s the image that often helps me identify what is being triggered.  Imagine yourself as a baby.  As you interacted with the world, you learned behaviors and strategies that helped get your needs met.  When you smiled, others smiled back at you.  When you fell and hurt yourself, adults rushed over to comfort you or gave you space to see how you felt or scolded you not to cry.  With each of these patterns of interactions, you started to create beliefs about yourself, about the world, and about how the world treats you.  Most of these beliefs are unconscious.  While we like to think of ourselves as highly adaptable people, always capable of learning new things, the truth is that our lives are simplified by having these beliefs to fall back on. And we have powerful enforcers like the superego (a.k.a. your inner critic) that are constantly looking for evidence that enforces these beliefs and ignoring information that contradicts them.  

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A Practice For Navigating Uncertainty

“Is this the right choice?”  “What will I do next?”  “What do I want to do with my life?”  These big questions frequently come up during sessions with my clients.  Sitting with this uncomfortable uncertainty can feel overwhelming.  Many of us want to reach an answer quickly or be told that a choice we’re making will turn out well.  I experienced this a lot over the past two years as I decided to start a coaching business.  "Is this my purpose?"  "Will someone please tell me I'm doing it right?"

There is one activity I have been introduced to that translates that inner journey of not-knowing into a physical contemplative practice: walking a labyrinth.  People have been building labyrinths for over 3500 years across multiple continents and cultures.  Moving along a labyrinth combines the mindful practice of walking meditation with a surrender to the twists and turns of the path.  There is only one way in and one way out.  You may find yourself trying to puzzle out how soon you will get to the center or what the overall design is.  Letting go of your need to predict the journey is a powerful metaphor for exploring uncertainty in life.  Another metaphor within the practice is that as you move towards the center it is as if you are coming closer to your Inner Knowing or True Essence or the Divine.  In this way, it is also a practice in developing trust.

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Finding The Gift In Your Experience

I consider myself a Spiritual Career Coach.  What that means to me is constantly evolving but if I were asked to describe it today, I would say that my coaching is based on these beliefs: 

  1. My work is part of my spiritual practice.  Being in deep presence with my clients is healing for them and me and we are constantly learning from each other. 
  2. No one needs fixing.  Truly transformative personal work is not about changing who you are; it is a process of loosening the grip of beliefs and habits that have obscured the real you.
  3. Each one of us has access to the intuition we need to expand and grow.  The paradox is that this highly personal work can often only take place when witnessed and supported by someone else. 
  4. Holding space for people to be seen in their wholeness - the aspects they love about themselves and those they don’t yet - is the privilege of my work.
  5. I see the world as an ally.  I believe that the people and experiences that come into our lives are invitations to become more conscious.
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What My Daughters Teach Me About Gratitude

“I'm grateful for the cow who gave us our milk and the worker who picked these strawberries and the person who packed this glass in a box to send it to the store and Daddy for cooking … “  When our older daughter was a toddler, we started the practice of naming and appreciating ingredients in our meal.  We wanted to teach her where her food came from and help her recognize how much abundance we have.  Now that she is seven and has a personal passion for details, her list can be quite long.  “And I’m grateful for the person who created the fabric for our napkins and the lettuce plant for growing our salad … “

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Inclusion Starts With How You Treat Yourself

“Every part of you is welcome and needed in your leadership.”  

If you have seen this declaration in my email footer, you know that I’m passionate about enabling people to show up as themselves at work.  In teams where individual differences are valued and each person feels invited to contribute authentically, engagement increases and big problems get solved.  There are many ways to foster inclusion at work and we often focus on shifting cultures at the group level.  That's why so many leaders are surprised when I ask them whether they are including and welcoming themselves in the same way.  Quite often, they realize that they tell their team they value authenticity but send a different message through their behavior toward themselves. ... It is by modeling the authenticity and vulnerability that they hope to support in their teams that leaders can create the psychological safety necessary for true inclusion.  Here are some thoughts on how to do that.

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Engage Your Team By Valuing All of Their Leadership Styles

Most of us are familiar with the competitive advantage experienced by companies that focus on diversity and inclusion.  Valuing differences in identity, experience, beliefs, culture, and working style increases employee engagement, decreases turnover, and creates novel approaches to problems, all of which increase profits.  The challenge I most often see leaders grappling with is how to harness the diversity in their team.  How can they foster a more inclusive culture?  How does their own leadership style create biases about the value of contributions from others?  What can they do when a colleague’s voice is not being heard?  The tool that I have found to be incredibly valuable in this discussion is the Enneagram. 

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Exceptional Interviews are a Balance Between Preparation and Presence

I recently wrote about a formula for responding to interview questions in a compelling way.  Preparing specific anecdotes helps you illustrate why you’re a great fit and lessens the chance that you will draw a blank when searching your memory for a relevant story.  Some people prefer not to prepare because they are concerned they will sound overly polished.  I understand this concern.  We’ve all had the experience of talking to someone who feels too rehearsed.  They are attached to the way they planned to communicate and their body language and speech don’t seem natural.  It feels difficult to connect to them as a person and as a result, you subconsciously distrust what they’re saying.  That’s why the most powerful interviews are a balance between preparation and presence.  You can think of presence as the quality that gives life to the stories you have prepared.  Another way to visualize this is to imagine the preparation - your structure - as the riverbank and your presence as the flow that shares your stories and connects you to the interviewer.

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A Formula for Persuasive Interview Answers

Interviewing others radically shifted my experience of being interviewed.  When I was the one asking candidates questions, I wanted two things: 1) for the applicants to feel they shined and 2) to have a clear recommendation about whom to hire.  As an interviewee, when I put myself in the shoes of the interviewer, it helped me quiet my nerves and focus on a clear goal:

I will answer these questions so clearly and authentically that I will make the choice easy for the person across from me.  The only way they will discover how capable I am is if I claim my expertise as the protagonist in the adventure of my career. 


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Networking That Feels Fun and Easy

Have you ever had the experience where you introduce yourself at a networking event and have the thought, “that doesn't sound like me”?  At a recent event, someone approached me and asked what kind of coaching I do.  My answer was four words long followed by an awkward pause.  

I was shocked at my own response.  Coaching is something I’m incredibly passionate about.  ... The truth is I was putting too much pressure on myself.  In wanting to say the perfect thing, I said nothing at all.  I was surprised and amused to see this old pattern show up because, in general, I have enjoyed most of my networking events this year.

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Back to School

Yesterday, I took my daughter to an event at her elementary school where we could drop off supplies and spend time with other families.  In two days, she will start second grade and my family will transition from the rhythm of summer camp and travel back to 5:30 am alarms and remembering that it’s Wear Clothes From Your Favorite Sports Team Day, 5 minutes before we leave the house.

I love these kinds of occasions.  The first day of school.  New Years.  Birthdays.  Anniversaries.  These moments remind me to pause and reflect on what has changed over the course of a year.  What traditions do I want to maintain?  How have the four of us grown?  How can we make our routine easier? 

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Staying Present at the Playground

“Are you ready to go to the slide?”  I ask.

“No!  More pushes!”  My 2-year-old daughter is in a swing phase.  And by swing phase, I mean she wants to do that activity with a single-minded focus that outlasts my interest by 15 minutes.  It’s beautiful that she’s learning and enjoying herself and smiling adorably but oh-my-gosh-why-can’t-we-switch-to-something-else?!  I’m crawling out of my skin with impatience, which is ironic because I’m helping both girls practice ways to be patient every day.  Remembering this, I try to flip my internal script.  I decide to ask the developing expert.

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Craving Play at Work? Make a Play List!

It was still dark outside and my kids were asleep.  Time for another international video call with my peers on the leadership team.  I put on a sweatshirt and tied my hair back but left my pajama pants on.  No one would see them under the dining room table where I sat.  Shower and makeup could happen later.  As people signed on, I noticed the pile of bows and ribbons on the table from the previous night’s birthday celebration and chided myself for not being a better housekeeper.  And then, because it felt playfully authentic, I stuck one of the bows on my head and waited for my colleagues to notice.

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