Three tips for earning a seat at the top table

Do you need uncommon charisma to win a seat at the direction setting table? Do you need to be a conniving political operator? No, but you do need break through. Here’s how.

As experts we often feel frustrated. We are often preoccupied with tasks that no longer stretch us or fulfil us. We want to progress our careers beyond our specialist technical areas. But how do we do this? How can we earn a place at the top table?

Do we need uncommon charisma to win a seat at our organisation’s direction setting table? Do we need to be a conniving political operator? No, but as subject matter experts we do need break through help to gain strategic influence in our organisations.

Here are Expertunity’s three proven tips to help make our voice heard where it matters .

Tip 1. Widen you understanding with value adding strategic insights

  • Research the competitive landscape. This will enable us to come up with the strategic ideas our executives will pay attention to. We need to demonstrate a deep understanding of the competitive landscape or market context our organisation operates in.
  • Drill into key information sources. We need to get our hands on all the relevant information. We should analyse our competitors and their strategies. We should develop an understanding of where our organisation positions itself in the market and where it’s heading. How does it view its value proposition? What do our customers want and what do they think of our current offerings? What are their behaviours around repeat business, loyalty, average spend per account?. For practical Growth Guide ideas, click here. [link].
  • Know what’s keeping our bosses awake at night. We should be talking to the individuals we are trying to influence and understand what their hot buttons are. Which specific organisational initiatives and results preoccupy them, and why?
  • Understand ourselves. From a 360 degree perspective, we need to think how our work can positively impact strategic initiatives, KPIs and organisational value. What proposals can we make and what initiatives could we drive to lift performance, add more value to our customers and increase our organisation’s competitive advantage?

Tip 2. Proactively cultivate a strategic network

  • Identify who we need to reach. From our immediate contacts, we should explore how many degrees of separation there are between them and the senior stakeholders we’re keen to reach. We need to help them to help us. How can we add value for them in a way that opens them to introducing us more broadly across the organisation? For practical Stakeholder Engagement ideas, click here. [link]
  • Take advantage of internal and external networking events. Some of us find this difficult, but it is an essential part of the process. We simply have to bite the bullet. We need to accept invitations to networking opportunities and to seek out other events that will be attended by the right people. The best way to make networking worthwhile, meaningful and productive it is to attack them intellectually. We should go with a clear plan of who we need to get to know, how we should introduce ourselves in a way that immediately explains our value-add and our abilities and interests, and develop a set of questions we can ask them. For practical networking ideas, click here. [link]
  • Be a visible contributor to success. We can start by volunteering to be involved in projects of strategic importance. This will enable us to become a visible, valuable and constructive participant in a team that delivers compelling results.

Tip 3. Show thought leadership

  • Promote our ideas. Once we have gathered intelligence, built bonds and formulated potentially valuable initiatives and insight, it’s time to broadcast our ideas. This could include preparing white papers with analysis of key business issues and the implementation-of worthy resolutions.
  • Prepare impact reports. Members of the senior team will appreciate brief, easy to read reports that highlight problems or opportunities that have been addressed, how those initiatives were implemented, the measurable value capture, and learnings from the outcomes. This is valuable ammunition for executives. They will recognise and acknowledge our contribution. This proof of understanding will see your projects, recommendations and resource requirements prioritised over others.

With these tips explored and new skills mastered, we are better able to develop a strong, highly regarded brand. We will learn a seat at the table and be shaping the direction of the business – leveraging both our Expertship and our leadership.

DOMINIC JOHNSON is a Partner at Expertunity, and a master facilitator of the signature program for technical experts, Mastering Expertship. He is co-author of the Expertship Growth Guide, and the forthcoming Master Expert.