Usually it’s whispered, a confession of sorts. Not something they want widely known. There’s shame implied. “You know… I actually… um… wing it… quite a lot”
When working with senior executives one on one, we hear this a lot. In fact, the more senior someone is, the more likely they are to think they’re winging meetings and presentations.
But are they – or you – actually winging it? Or are you in fact trusting your strong instincts, gained over years of experience, to guide you to know what to do, what to say?
The fact is, time is limited and will only get more limited as you progress through your career. With each promotion comes more responsibility, bigger teams, more ambitious targets and higher stakes. Given that, ideal preparation for any interaction is surely investing the minimum amount of time required to get the desired outcome. To cope with that pressure, the key is learning exactly what you need to do to be confident and effective, and not spend one minute more on it. This is not to say zero preparation is ideal, but knowing just what you need to do and backing yourself on the rest is crucial.
However, to do this, you need to reframe ‘winging it’ and change the story you’re putting around it.
The typical story (the loud one, inside your head) sounds something like this: “I really should have spent more time on this, this is really important, these people are really senior/important/intimidating and I’ve hardly thought about it, what if they ask me [enter something obscure and highly unlikely to come up], they will find out I’m winging it…” This story leaves us feeling inadequate, irresponsible and like an imposter (click here for a previous post on Imposter Syndromewhich is closely related to the notion of winging it).
How about telling yourself this story instead: “This is really important, these people are trusting me to help them because I have extensive experience with similar issues, I have strong instincts which I will rely on in the moment to know what to say, the right question to ask… I am backing myself.” How will that story leave you feeling?
So let’s stop calling it winging it and start calling it backing myself. No shame necessary.
…do one thing, take this quiz on the Four Tendencies. ‘The four whats?’ you say. So glad you asked. The Four Tendencies, developed by Gretchen Rubin of Happiness Podcast fame, is a framework for understanding the different ways people respond to expectations – both outer expectations like work deadlines, and inner ones like New Years resolutions, losing weight etc. Knowing your profile is useful to influence your own behaviour; knowing others’ profiles will help you influence theirs. If you manage a team, it could be a good team exercise, particular as people work more flexibly and self-direction becomes more important. If you want to know more, the book comes out in September.
Til next time, over and out.