I had worked hard to transition from Finance to HR. It felt “risky” at that time. After all, why rock a solid boat? I was told this decision likened abandoning the security of a rock foundation for the sea of greys. People are complex. Nevertheless, my spontaneity nudged me to dive into what I saw as a sea of vibrant colours!
Through the transition, there were voices of Encouragement and plenty of Doubt – one in particular that said: “you are not cut out to deal with the people issues”. These voices came from well-meaning colleagues as well as the tape that replays in my own head. They were voices of Protection. Yet, these well-meaning voices chipped me down - initially.
Looking back the last decade, this transition has rewarded me enormously in my life. Not an easy path though. For a long time, I yearned the validation of the people around me to say “Hey, she is good!”. So, I strived to be the best I could be in that role. As you can imagine, my heart-broke early in my process when I came to know someone said “Yeah… but she must be faking it.”
At that point and many points thereafter, I asked myself, “Was I? Does striving to do my best in my role, sometimes feeling like an odd-ball, and the willingness to be out there, constitute being fake?”
Interestingly, I always came to the same conclusion: “Hell, NO!”. I am glad those words never stopped me from pushing through the discomfort.
Through the years, many have shared with me that they feel like a fake when they have to adopt new behaviours to do well in a role. They don’t feel comfortable or they don’t feel like themselves. They want the new behaviour, but they also feel bad because it feels inauthentic. The fear of being called out and shamed for trying was paralyzing.
The word Fake denotes “not genuine; a forgery or sham.” It doesn’t sit well for us that we need to peddle inauthenticity to get ahead. It feels as though we sold ourselves out and becomes a huge barrier.
I believe we have another way.
Discomfort is part of the growth process. The foreign feeling is often equated to being a fake. But this doesn’t have to be. What if we replace this foreign discomfort with a different meaning? By changing the meaning, we can relate to the process in a very genuine way.
Here’s what I mean. Martin Broadwell introduced the 4 stages of competence (1969):
The four stages suggest that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence (Stage 1). As they recognize their incompetence (Stage 2), they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it (Stage 3). Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence (Stage 4).
From this model, we learn that when our effort still feels unnatural to us, it’s not that we are a fake. We have already progressed to Stage 3 of a 4 part journey to building a skill. If we continue to consciously make the effort and practice, we will eventually reach stage 4- a place that you will feel that the response is so natural you don’t even think of it. There are no skipping stages. To achieve Stage 4, we need to continually practise until we achieve comfortable proficiency. It’s part of a growth’s journey. I relate it to testing how serious I am about acquiring a new skill.
The way we frame our thoughts will determine the story we tell ourselves. Our story gives us a reason to abandon or fuel us to continue. The story doesn’t change the process. To grow, we still go through hard work. We still go through the discomfort.
The growth process of “Fake it till you Make it” works. For many, it’s the story that doesn’t. So, if you don’t like the idea of faking it, the 4 Stages of Competence Model reminds us that your conscious effort is an indicator of your genuine willingness to grow the new skill. Power on!
I am #CoachWendyWong, passionate about helping talents optimize potential by building leadership skills.
Reach out and have a conversation with me today!