Why, in Product, it pays to fake it till you make it till you become it.
Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk says that if you fake confidence you will eventually become confident. Cuddy claims that by using confident body language like standing tall with arms on hips, we can convince our brains that we are in fact confident. My favourite practical tip of hers is to do a power stance in the lift on your way up to an interview (or in a toilet cubicle – needs must). It feels weird but it does work.
I watched this TED talk five years ago and have used the advice ever since. I find that when I pretend I’m really comfortable and confident in a situation, be it a meeting, a presentation or even a date, I successfully fool the other people into thinking I am. Then, having noticed their belief in me, I become comfortable and confident. A great example is networking which, as an introvert, I detest. However, I see the value in it so when I have to do it I adopt my confident persona. I pretend that I love chatting to complete strangers about work, that I thrive on engaging in complex conversations in the evening – when typically my brain shuts off at 3pm. I only have enough social battery to keep this confident persona up for a couple of hours but it works and I can leave knowing I did a good job.
Faking Confidence is a Life Saver
Faking confidence is a life saver when it comes to Product. This kind of confidence is different from the chatty, sociable kind above, it’s the kind that appears in the way you carry yourself. The best, and most surprising, compliment I ever received was that I was, “always as cool as a cucumber”. I laughed out loud because inside I had anxiety bubbling in my stomach, my lips were torn from being chewed and my foot was forever tapping something. But what I realised was that people thought I had everything under control. So maybe I did?
The best managers I’ve had have been those who seem utterly unflappable. The kind that, when I approach them with a situation that feels truly world-ending, they simply say that it’s okay; it isn’t that big a problem. Because really, when it comes to Product, problems are daily and problems are the norm, so we may as well address them alongside our other prioritised tasks without any added drama.
It Engenders Trust
Another benefit of appearing confident and calm is that people trust you. We all like to work with people who are on their game, delivering and having a laugh at the same time. Stakeholders especially want to feel looked after by somebody who is capable. So even if you don’t feel it, just pretend you do and you’ll fool others into believing you are, and, et voila, you will be. Fake it till you make it till you become it.
So next time a team member, a supplier, or a stakeholder brings a problem your way, smile. Sit back, take a deep breath and say, “this isn’t that big a problem”. Then you can begin to plan your solution, cool as a cucumber.