I am Meghan Messenger, co-CEO of Next Jump with Charlie Kim. I going to start with a little analogy: breaking up with someone. Apologies if this is painful for anybody, whether it be a boyfriend or girlfriend or TP maybe. But picture yourself when you are about to break up with somebody: if you have broken up with somebody, or maybe you have been broken up with. You know when someone is doing that thing when they are beating around the bush, and being a little passive aggressive: “I am not sure it is working out”, “I don’t know… but you know..” and they are just going on that long winded path. And it just kind of takes a while until someone just blurts out “I don’t love you anymore!” And you get that, direct to the point truth out. It is very efficient right? It can be very harsh and I am not advocating to do that all the time.
But imagine that scenario: if you played that out all day long, every day at your job. How exhausting it would be. So it is an extreme example, but this is happening in all organizations around the world. It happens less at Next Jump and I will explain why, but it is still happening at Next Jump. And I think solving this would be so huge for an organization, for yourself personally, but also for the work that you can have.
I am going to start with a painful story about myself. 10 years ago, when I was running the Merchant team, “Obliterate the category” was a strategy that was sort of handed to me by our strategy team. I remember hearing it, and it was being talked about. But I felt so insecure in that meeting to say “I have no idea what we are really talking about”. I had a sense of what I thought obliterate the category would be; the travel category, the electronics category and so on. But I walked out thinking: “you know I don’t really know what they are talking about”. I walked out like “mmhm sure” trying to hide this not confident version of myself. And I remember that long walk from his office to my office and sitting down at my desk, (maybe you have experienced this) and saying: “I actually don’t know what to do. Like I heard it but I don’t even know the execution plan. I don’t even know what to do”. And so weeks went by, and I cannot exactly remember when I got called out, but I remember thinking: “I can’t go back to that office and tell the team that I just lied, because I told them I knew what to do”. I did not want the strategy team to know that I was lost and confused because I was running the merchant business and it was a big job, I was responsible so I can’t act like I have no idea what we are talking about.
So I let a few weeks go by and I think it was about a week before our board meeting and Charlie called me out and said “you don’t actually know what the strategy is” and I was like “oh no I do”, trying to re-articulate it using all the business jargon we had talked about. I had become a master at that. And I will explain other ways you become a master at lying faking and hiding. And as he started to call me out he said “you know what is bad? You don’t even know what we are talking about but here is what is even worse: your team is suffering because you do not know. Because you didn’t clarify; not only are you suffering Meghan, your entire team is suffering.”
“Because you didn’t clarify; not only are you suffering Meghan, your entire team is suffering.”
So this is the problem, and I am going to talk about how we actually solve for that. This problem has a name as well which we learned from Jim Loehr – the Imposter Syndrome. People who feel like they are not worthy. And these are some of the things that go on in their head: if anyone ever figured out how little I know I would be fired. Now some of you may be more on the arrogant side and thinking “God, I totally know”. But then if you don’t actually know, it’s not good either way. But either ways, we are falling into this bucket of trying to hide what we don’t know.
Do you remember the movie Catch Me If You Can? Everything looks awesome and glamorous at the start when Leonardo is pretending to be a pilot. By the end, you see that it is exhausting to lie, hide, and fake constantly. It is not good physically, mentally or emotionally. It is draining. Not surprising when we know from research that it actually takes twice as much energy to lie than tell the truth.
In most companies such lying, hiding and faking is called politics.