The Fake it ‘Til you Make It principal (and it’s application to leadership)

As I type this I’m admiring the treetops from an apartment in Santiago, Chile. My being here is a personal experiment intended to expand mine, my clients and future clients thinking around the portability of Executive Coaching.  My post See you in Santiago shares some insight into how I came to be here, but the bit I’ve not yet shared is my process – the classic Fake it ‘Til you Make it principal.  I often invite clients to use this principal when embarking on something new, scary and unfamiliar and for me, it really does work a charm.

When I decided to embark on this journey, it was daunting to me.  I was going to leave the familiar and step-out into the unfamiliar in a new way.  Some have called it courageous, and although I’m flattered by that, it hasn’t felt that way to me.  And that’s because I’ve been faking living in foreign surroundings for many months before I even got here.  About six months ago, despite living in Cape Town where everything is priced in Rand, I started converting the prices of everything into US Dollars.  My grocery bill, my lunches, my gym membership. Everything.  I was faking living in a whole new currency.  Part of my Fake It process also included visualisation and imagining.  When I went for my daily walk, I imagined the scenery around me to be different to that which I actually saw.  When I admired the moon from my balcony in the evenings, I imagined I was looking at the moon from another corner of the world.  Google Earth helped me to get right down to street level so that I could familiarise myself with what things looked like on the ‘other side’.  And ah, the joy of Facebook, where I joined several groups populated by people already in my new destination so that I could learn what they were doing, saying and asking for.   And so, this was not so much a leap of faith as it was a familiar entry into a world that I had sort of already created in my head.

Fake It ‘Til you Make it for Coaching and Leadership

As their Executive Coaching partner, I use the same principal with clients who are transiting from the corporate world of work into their own entrepreneurial enterprises. They’re overwhelmed by the unfamiliar of what lies ahead.  I invite them to start thinking of themselves as already self-employed.  This new perspective allows them to think differently about how they budget, spend, make choices and make decisions.  For several months, while they are existing the old, they are already living the new.

Similarly, my clients who are aiming for promotion and higher leadership responsibilities:  they Fake it ‘Til you Make It.  If the new position calls for a set of buzz words – they start learning them now.  If it calls for a different degree of confidence – they start displaying it (or pretending, if they must) right now.  Imagine yourself in that corner office.  Take on a strategic perspective.  Network at a different level.

It was Picasso who told us that  ‘Everything you can imagine is real’, and this extends well beyond art.  If you want to be someone different, and see something different in your world, start it now.  Consider the nuances that will change in your new future, and bring them into your present.  Keep walking, and one day you’ll notice that the scenery has indeed changed.


MC Final-4

Michelle Clarke is an Executive Coach.  She works with Leaders, Executives and Executive Coaches, helping them to  develop strong, influential personal brands and to elegantly navigate the complexity of 21st century leadership . To learn more about her work please visit her website, and be sure also to subscribe to this blog for future updates. If you enjoy Facebook, please join Michelle’s Business Page

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6 responses to “The Fake it ‘Til you Make It principal (and it’s application to leadership)

  1. Wow. That was one of the most inspiring pieces on visualization I’ve ever read. You just explained one of the most powerful tools there is in a way everybody can appreciate and relate to. Good job.

  2. Veronica Wantenaar

    I liked this a lot Michelle. Thanks Veronica

  3. I love your “tool”! Without consciously knowing it I think I’ve been practicing it. But I will now continue with more focus as my consultancy slowly takes off. Thank you Michelle!

  4. I never felt comfortable with the phrase ‘fake it until you make it’ Perhaps I have a negative connotation with the word ‘fake’? I like ‘Act as if…’ which essentially has the same results, but sits more comfortably with me.

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