Fake It Till You Make It
♦ by Albert Acheampong
Upon reading just the title of this article, one might be somewhat apprehensive about its contents. However, whether you are a seasoned professional or a young prodigy, I believe you can identify a period in your career that this speaks to.
The world of management consulting consists largely of physical interaction with clients owing to the fact that it is a crucial part in the success of engagements. As a consultant or an analyst, (especially in a progressive firm like EOH) you will get the opportunity to interact with people in the highest possible positions in their companies. It can be a daunting task especially for a young professional still soaking in all the tricks of the trade.
One of the most nerve-wracking tasks you may be required to perform is solo management interviews or focus group sessions. It goes without saying that confidence is the key to navigating these situations. However, like the correct answers when writing an exam; sometimes confidence does not manifest when you need it most.
The question becomes, “how do you fake confidence so well that it looks real?”. Today I will like to share with you some tricks that I employed early on in my career that I sometimes still use today.
- Tell yourself that you are the CEO: It may sound funny at first but there is great power in this kind of positive affirmation. The objective is to get to a point where you start asking if a CEO would be afraid to talk to anyone or any group of people. The answer to that question is always no and for some reason nerves start to dissipate as you mentally repeat the phrase.
- Project your voice when speaking: Even if internally your guts are doing gymnastics as a result of anxiety, when you speak in a clear, audible, calm and collected manner, you immediately seem confident (This is very different from shouting by the way). Secondly, structure your thoughts before speaking and if need be, stay silent for a few seconds between sentences to do just that. It is much better than punctuating your speech with “uhh” or “umm”.
- Look directly at people when engaging: Now this can be incredibly difficult to do when you are not used to it but it is important. The act in itself already projects confidence but it also tells the other person that you are present and listening attentively to what they have to say. Constantly averting your eyes makes your lack of confidence too apparent and this can have an adverse effect on the quality of the interaction with the client.
- Remember who you are representing: You have to be careful with how you think about this one because it can either boost or diminish your confidence. Think in terms of “I am part of an industry-leading firm and they know I can do this”, as opposed to “What if I can’t do this the way they expect me to?”. Focus on the pride of representing such a well-known entity as opposed to creating scenarios in your mind of what will happen if you fail.
- Dress well: When you look good you feel good, it’s really that simple (Don’t overdress though).
I still remember the way it felt when I got a call from my then supervisor to tell me that I should go and carry out a Unit Manager interview on her behalf during an IT Strategy Development engagement a few years back. If it wasn’t for these tricks above, I am not sure I would not have even made it through half the interview before passing out! Fast forward a few months and I am confidently mapping processes and simultaneously carrying out interviews as part of a team that was camped at the client’s office for seven whole weeks!
This goes to show that in the beginning it is completely fine to fake the confidence as you tackle different tasks. Even if it’s not completely real, these little tricks make it so difficult to tell. One day, you will wake up and realise that you have morphed into a professional unfazed by the requirements of any engagement or the type of people you’ll have to meet.