Fake it till you make it

"I don't think I have truly 'faked' it, so I'm not sure I agree with the concept. But I have definitely 'winged it' and 'exaggerated it', as long as I know I can deliver. Maybe that's considered faking behaviour, but not faking competence."

Carla Heath | Agency Advisor | Carla Heath Consulting

How would you explain what "Fake it till you make it" means?


We often think we should be further along a path than we are, but once we reach that point, we stretch it to the next one. So, if you "fake it until you make it," wouldn't that imply that you are continually trying to ‘make it’ so therefore you are continually faking it? But maybe that's just semantics?..

I've suffered from imposter syndrome and I imagine most people have. I don't think I have truly "faked" it, so I'm not sure I agree with the concept. But I have definitely "winged it" and really exaggerated it, as long as I know I can deliver. Maybe that's about faking behaviour, rather than faking competence. I think if you fake it and fall flat, there's a risk of eroding trust and damaging your own self-belief.

I suspect that women are less likely to fake it than men and are more prone to imposter syndrome as well. I think women are conditioned by society to underplay their skills and achievements. I’ve fought with this but now just try to embrace it - I’m a believer in underselling and over-delivering.

I heard an alternative phrase the other day which I like: "learn it until you earn it”. That's about being open to learning. I guess it’s a relative scale.

What do you think of the advice?


I think the phrase is a little dangerous. It suggests that you can fake your way to success, but I believe that having self-belief is a better piece of advice. It's a balance between having self-belief and confidence enough to potentially exaggerate or wing it on occasion, but knowing you can deliver. That's much stronger advice than "fake it until you make it," in my opinion.

Would you give this advice to agency owners?


No, I wouldn't. Because I believe there is a danger in not being able to deliver for a client. If a client finds out that you cannot deliver, your whole business reputation is at risk. There is a difference, in my opinion, between completely faking it and knowing that it can be done or knowing people who can do it, and therefore being confident in your ability to deliver. However, I do not believe in completely faking it. That is just my personal stance.

If not what alternative advice would you give agency leaders?


I would advise them to invest in efforts to develop their own self-belief. The self-belief I am referring to is not false confidence, but a genuine confidence and belief in what you can achieve, combined with self-awareness.

This can come from a variety of sources such as up-skilling through courses, therapy, peer groups or just good old life experience.

This way, you won't have to fake it; you will approach situations with genuine confidence and an understanding of your skills, whether they are related to your business or network.

Carla Heath gives an example of when she's bent the truth in the past to appear more credible...


I have exaggerated many things in the past, as we all have, but what I've probably done that is relevant to the topic of self-belief is when I decided to climb Kilimanjaro and then Everest Base Camp: I wasn't a climber and I was actually incredibly unfit, but I signed up for these challenges anyway.

When I showed up with the other climbers, who all had their gear and seemed confident, I lacked the self-belief that I could actually do it. I had to convince myself to take that first step and start the climb. However, as I started and kept putting one foot in front of the other, I gained confidence in my ability to complete the task.

This is directly related to running an agency, as in that context, it was about being truthful to myself. I had to lie to myself and convince myself that I could do it, just to get started. It was hard, but once I started, I gained the confidence to continue.

Carla Heath's bio

I have 30 (eek) years experience in brand and marketing. I have worked client side for large businesses (eg FCUK), for smaller product design businesses, agency side, in creative roles, in commercial roles and a bit of everything else in between. Which is probably why I ended up running a business. Jack of all trades etc...

I then ran Whippet UK for over ten years leading the team through a rapid period of growth from a small generalist design agency to a world class retail brand specialist. My clients included high street retailers eg Marks and Spencer, Holland & Barrett, Wickes, Iceland and Carpetright and I supported them through transformation and strategic repositioning.

I exited Whippet last year and am now helping other small agencies on their way to even greater things as an advisor. I like to think my years of experience have taught me some ‘warrior wisdom’ and love using it to help people face their own challenges within the industry.

I have also transitioned from a city loving Londoner to an outdoor loving hiker and can be found up Scottish mountains with my dog when I’m not on Zoom.


Humble promo of Carla Heath


I am not surprised Carla decided to take this stance on this topic. Because she is realer than real. And incredibly humble about her achievements over the years. When Carla was in charge of the agency Whippet (she recently exited the agency), she grew that business to an incredibly profitable business and cash machine. I know the figures and I know that most agency leaders would be begging for a fraction of those numbers in their business.

This brings me to the next point, which is, if you're an agency that is in the teens size and looking to scale up, she is a fantastic advisor. She will not just let you find your answers, but give you clear direction on how to take your agency to the next level.

Finally, I'm personally so honoured that I have crossed paths with Carla. She is being instrumental in helping Polymensa evolve, for which I will be eternally grateful for. And she's just an incredibly helpful, kind, supportive and fun person to around. I know whatever the future holds for Carla, she will be mega successful - again!

Daniel (Polymensa founder)



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