June 12, 2024

How to Shift from Expert to Influencer

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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In this episode, we delve into a critical skill for career success and advancement—transitioning from being a technical expert to becoming an influential leader as a woman in Pharma/Biotech. 

Hard work will only take you so far in your career. When you can influence others effectively you are able to “manage up”, be seen as a thought leader, and accelerate your career growth. 

What you’ll learn:

  • How to be seen as a thought leader in your area of expertise 
  • A four-part framework to shift from being seen as an expert SME to being the person your leader’s take advice from
  • The importance of shifting from expert to influencer to advance your career as a woman in Pharma/Biotech

Mentioned in this episode:

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Transcript

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast!

Today we are going to talk about something that is a core skill I help my clients with – and that is shifting from being just an expert in what you do to being influential in what you do.

Why is this important?

Being able to influence others is part of communicating effectively and managing up, managing your leaders around you. When you are able to do this, you are seen as a thought leader and able to advance your career more quickly and effectively.

One of the biggest challenges I see women in the industry face is that they are technically very strong, they are some of the best in the industry, but they are not able to advance beyond a certain level, when this happens it’s because they’ve hit a ceiling where their technical skills are no longer enough.

They need to have the people and strategic skills to be seen as a thought leader.

Ok so what is a thought leader? 

Someone who is persuasive, who has ideas people want to listen to, seen as credible, has an expertise, comes up with new and improved ways of doing things

The first time someone told me I was a thought leader was in 2009. I remember thinking woah, what is that. A senior leader was telling me that she respected my thought leadership and that this would take me far in my career.

I didn’t really know what she meant and asked her lol. She told me I have really good ideas, new ways of doing things, and that I’m able to influence senior leaders like her and others to get buy-in, that when I talk, people want to listen.

What a compliment right? And when I look back, I see how this played a role in my own career progression. To me, I was just communicating well but I took for granted that this is a skill I have. My bachelors is in Communication. I’m also big on connections and relationships. I also care about how we do things at work. All of these things combined have naturally and skillfully created this thought leadership trait that others saw in me.

Now as a Coach, this is something I work with women in the industry on. Whether it’s 1-1 or in my group, Beyond the Ceiling, communication and influence are the core skill you build. It touches every aspect of your career from how well you work with your boss, how much you work or overwork, the resources you’re able to get, the promotions you earn, the ideas that get implemented, and how well people listen and look to you.

So you can imagine, if you’re able to communicate and influence well, you are able to interview better, tap into the hidden job market, advance your career, get promotions, and just have a more enjoyable work experience and life.

You have your ideas heard, get people, budget and program resources.

You’re seen as a leader in your area and not just a doer.

Everything is easier and goes your way more often.

Let’s talk about some tips for how to make this shift from feeling like an expert who isn’t heard or isn’t being recognized to being an effective influencer.

  1. Head down to Head Up

When there is so much to do – it can be easy to keep your head down and knock things off your never-ending to-do list. The problem is that the person promoted or moved to a new leadership position is rarely the person no one sees. It’s rarely the hardest worker in the room. Advancing your career at the Manager + level takes more than hard work and results – that is the foundation.

It is the baseline.

Instead you need to get your head up and out. You need to be seen and known more for your expertise – ideally internally and external to your organization. The more people who know who you are, why you do it, and what you are capable of, the better.

Share your expertise (teach others, LinkedIn, find ways to inform others of what you know)

  1. Communicate effectively

(share your why, don’t just tell, bring people along, use good communication skills)

Let’s talk about communication skills. It’s not as elusive as you might think to communicate well, even with the colleagues you struggle with and try not to roll your eyes when you see them in a meeting.

Effective communication comes down to being simple and clear but also tailoring your communication to the audience.

If for example, your boss is always in the weeds and having a hard time prioritizing projects for you – instead of being frustrated and trying to steer them to a bigger picture conversation, you need to meet them where they are. If they care about detail, you have to provide some why and some detail and data. If they want to lead with big picture and don’t care about the data behind it, you have to lead that way.

The goal is to get them to listen to you and if you spend all your time frustrated with why they aren’t listening, you’re not solving the root problem.  And in the end, all that frustration isn’t getting you heard any better.

You have an expertise, ideas to share – now when you go in to communicate and share your expertise and ideas, you have to say it in a way that people will understand and hear you.

I call this people reading. It’s a process I teach my clients. They first gain awareness to their own preferences and biases around communication and then they learn how to read others so they can decode them and give them the message just the way they need to hear it.

To influence effectively you have to communicate your expertise effectively. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach. Trying to communicate in a way that makes sense to you, may not get you the results you’re looking for. 

  1. Advocate for yourself

The next tip to shift from expert to communicator and be seen as a thought leader is to advocate for yourself. It can be hard to do when there are other voices louder than yours or you’re concerned about hierarchy and the other leaders in the room but advocating for yourself and your ideas is important.

When you have ideas you want to share and you silence yourself you’re robbing the world from hearing your brilliance….yes, brilliance…plus it can send a message to yourself that your ideas aren’t as valuable as the other people in the room.

Throughout your career you are going to be faced with difficult people, misogynists, loud people, and leaders you don’t agree with. But it doesn’t have to silence you. It doesn’t have to mean you are going to not get your way. It means you need to be strategic and build this skill of influence to be more effective.

  1. Build authentic and strategic relationships

Number 4 is to build authentic and strategic relationships. I just told the current group of Beyond the Ceiling that to influence and manage up with your boss or other leaders, it is helpful if they like working with you. When you put your head up and are more visible, communicate a simple and clear message in the way that the other person needs to hear it, advocate and don’t back down and have strategic and authentic relationships ohymygosh – work is going to be so much easier for you.

When I say authentic I’m saying stay true to yourself. Trying to be like a man or trying to dull who you are doesn’t work as well as you think – it tends to hurt you because you don’t stand out as authentic and unique. Strategic is referring to having solid relationships with key stakeholders like your boss, decision makers, peers, every level that is impacted by your work.

When I started my role with AstraZeneca I was asked to put together a strategy for how to implement a learning culture. Had I made that strategy without talking to all levels or only talking to the people my boss told me to, it wouldn’t have been effective.  Instead, I met with everyone I could, I made sure to talk to all groups and to be visible getting feedback from all groups. For everyone I talked to I asked them who else I should talk to.

Then when it came to completely changing the way training was managed, it was embraced with open arms because it was a good strategy, with all the right pieces of information, AND I had built relationships with people gaining buy-in along the way.

When you learn how to communicate and influence effectively, you are going to push back on deadlines, increase your budget, work less hours, and improve processes and ways of working so well. 

I think all 4 of these tips are important to influencing effectively and shifting away from just being seen as the expert doer who gets results.

Think about it.

If you only had good relationships but didn’t present the information in a way that your decision makers or target audience could understand it, then you won’t be effective. If you communicate well but your colleagues don’t like working with you, you won’t be effective.

If you are authentic, build strategic relationships, advocate for yourself, can communicate well but keep your head down and are afraid to be too visible, you won’t be seen as a thought leader and be as effective in influencing others.

So you really need all 4 pieces to influence effectively.

When you build these skills, you are going to be able to achieve every career goal you have so much faster whether it’s being the best project manager or team lead, only working when you want to, interviewing and negotiating job offers, or asking for your promotion.

This skill applies to every part of your work now and in the future so there is no better time to become an expert at influence. 

Alright that is all for this week’s episode. Have an amazing week!

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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