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Owning Your Influence, with Miriam Grobman

Owning Your Influence, with Miriam Grobman

Episode 125: Owning Your Influence, with Miriam Grobman

Miriam Grobman, Founder and CEO of Miriam Grobman Consulting, joins us for the second time on the Ellevate Podcast to talk about everything from changing careers and industries from mining, to finance and consulting. Miriam shares her tips on building and maintaining confidence, switching from an operational mindset to a strategic mindset, and what it means for women to own their influence. She shares insights to her famous courses on leadership education, strategic influence, and executive presence. Miriam also gives us some insight into what’s in store for her next and how she is working to get women ahead in business.

Episode Transcript

00:12 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Network Podcast. This is your host Kristy Wallace with my co-host Maricella Herrera. Our guest today is Miriam Grobman. You may recognize that name, she's been on our podcast before and she's making a repeat performance to talk about her work advancing women's leadership in male-dominated industries. Before we get to that, Maricella, how's it going?

00:39 Maricella Herrera: It's going, it's going. I'm just really, really tired today.


00:44 KW: C'mon. Get your energy up.

00:46 MH: I know, I know, I know, I know. I woke up and...

00:49 KW: You want me to start singing? I can't sing, it's terrible.

00:53 MH: Now you need to.


00:54 MH: Now you have to.


00:56 KW: I can't... I cannot, I cannot. I'm just kidding. See, I'm goofy today so.


01:01 MH: No, I don't know why I'm so tired. I did wake up earlier than usual. I went for a run.

01:07 KW: I know, I'm so impressed. I've been following all your runs on Instagram and your great pictures. I'm really impressed.

01:13 MH: I'm trying, I'm trying, but it's becoming harder and harder instead of easier. But it's good, it gets me in a better mood, clears my head before coming in. It's good for everyone's sakes.

01:26 KW: Yeah. They always say that, I mean it's just a great mental, physical, emotional... Just getting out there, being active, doing something.

01:37 MH: Yeah.

01:37 KW: So I'm very... Have you always been a runner?

01:40 MH: No, I started... I haven't even finished... I can't run more than 25 minutes maybe. I did C25K, which is just getting ready from not doing anything to actually running a 5K. So I couldn't run, not even a minute. I wasn't a runner, had been a smoker for years. So of all the bad things and been getting into it, and now I like it.

02:04 KW: I am inspired. We should sign up for a race, we should get everyone to sign up for a race.

02:08 MH: Oh my god, so Liesel... You know Liesel?

02:10 KW: Yeah, of course.

02:11 MH: Ellevate member, a good friend of mine, she just texted me the other day and she's like, "Should we do a Turkey Trot for Thanksgiving?" [chuckle]

02:19 KW: Yeah. We should do something. It's so fun. Just do a race with a...

02:23 MH: We should, we should.

02:24 KW: With friends.

02:25 MH: Yeah.

02:25 KW: Jake and I have this great story 'cause he was never much of a runner either and he has total flat feet. I don't even know how he could go a block but...


02:36 KW: And side tangent but anyway, so we did a race and we were running and we were kinda neck-and-neck, and we get to the finish line, and he stops short because he thinks he's crossed the finish line. But he hasn't. So I blow past him and win the race. Well, our individual races, the two of us against each other, and I won't let him live it down, of course, because as you do, I won.

03:04 MH: Of course.

03:05 KW: Jake if you're listening, I won.

03:07 MH: He's not listening Kristy.


03:10 MH: You should know this by now.

03:15 KW: I know.


03:16 KW: So yes. So I beat Jake in the race. But it was fun, it's fun. I really liked racing.

03:22 MH: Yeah, I said I was gonna do one, I've not... Obviously, since I don't run, I've never done one but I said I would do a 5K before the end of the year. We'll see if that actually happens.

03:31 KW: It will. Let's do it.

03:32 MH: Yeah. Let's do it.

03:33 KW: We're gonna make it happen.

03:34 MH: Cool.

03:35 KW: Says the person who has signed up for two half marathons and has not done them. [chuckle] But we're gonna hold each other accountable, we'll be accountability buddies.

03:43 MH: Yes, I like that idea. Good.

03:46 KW: Alright. Cool, so what did you and Miriam chat about?

03:48 MH: So Miriam... I love talking to Miriam, we talk a lot about culture, she's been really insightful as our team has been growing and we've been trying to make sure our company culture still stays the way we want it to be, so we kinda geek out. I'm not gonna lie, I fully accept the fact that I'm a nerd as are most of the people in our office.

04:13 KW: You always say that but you're not. I think you're cool.

04:16 MH: Oh, thank you. That's because you're also a nerd.

04:18 KW: Although, wait is that... I mean, can a nerd not be cool? That was... Yeah. I feel like I'm...

04:24 MH: Well, we had this discussion very recently 'cause I was saying I am a nerd.

04:29 KW: Feeding into a stereotype.

04:30 MH: Yeah.

04:30 KW: We're cool nerds.

04:31 MH: We're cool nerds. Of course.

04:33 KW: Nerd is not a dirty word.

04:34 MH: No. I like being a nerd. I like nerds.

04:37 KW: Yeah.

04:38 MH: So we did geek out on the podcast, we talked a ton about culture, we talked about ways in which women can advance, we talked about what she's been doing, which is working a lot both with individuals but also with companies. It's been... It was good, it was a great conversation, tons of great ideas. Like, you know, Miriam is the one that recommend that the culture code, which is our next...

05:06 KW: Leadership Book Club?

05:07 MH: Yeah. Leadership Book Club at Ellevate.

05:11 MH: So another book we'll be digging into soon. So, it was good.

05:15 KW: Well, cool. All of that sounds amazing and I cannot wait to hear your conversation. So let's get to it.

05:22 MH: Let's get to it.


05:36 MH: I'm very excited to be here with Miriam Grobman, who has been, I guess before, on the podcast. We usually don't do repeats but I know you're working on some new stuff and doing some cool stuff. So, glad to have you on the podcast today.

05:51 Miriam Grobman: Thank you for having me, always a pleasure to be with you guys and talk about all the cool stuff that both of us are working on.

05:57 MH: Yeah, Miriam's a... I, you know, I'm super excited to have a chance to talk. Last time Kristy did the honor. So it's my opportunity. But what you don't know is that Miriam and I also talk not on microphones about a bunch of more internal culture, company growing pains. So Miriam's been such a huge help. So Miriam why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your career? I know you covered the journey in our last podcast, but maybe, the highlights and what your focus is at this moment.

06:34 MG: Sure. So my career has taken me to different geographies around the world. I worked in the US, in Europe, I worked in Brazil. I worked in different industries, I started my career in the financial industry, I got my MBA from Wharton then I got into the mining industry. Of course, the natural transition from one to another. I had a few stints in the cosmetics industry and a few other projects in tech. So I've been around the block a little bit. I also worked in different functional roles, finance, strategy, some with organizational culture change, business processes, structuring and I started my company a few years ago to help companies think about how to promote women into leadership based on more business types of needs and focusing on the real challenges that professional women face at the workplace. And I do that, I also create leadership programs that focus on women.

07:39 MG: And overall, the focus is on the kind of challenges they face at the workplace. We don't talk about just being a woman, but as a woman, how do you influence in a company? How do you present yourself? How do you navigate a very male-dominated industry where everyone looks and thinks differently from you? So this is what I'm doing. Lately, I've also started helping some companies with talking about culture; what does organizational culture mean? How do you build an organizational culture? How do you change it? How do you make an effective culture? What are some of the challenges you have in achieving those goals?

08:21 MH: Yeah, which is my favorite part of all of this. But you've been industry agnostic. So before we go into more of the things you're teaching and building on with companies and with individuals right now, tell me a little bit about that. About going from this finance which we all know how it is but very specific mining industry to cosmetics, to all that. Do you think being so industry agnostic was a way for you to learn more skills or how did you make sure everything you were doing was transferable from one to the next?

08:54 MG: It's a very interesting question. So one of the things I realized about my career, later on in my career, was that every opportunity was filling out a certain gap in my skill set as a business leader or as an entrepreneur, let's say. Because in finance I learned, obviously, finance type stuff and in mining industry, I had a more corporate strategy role, so I learned a lot about corporate strategy. In tech, I got exposure to more online platforms and how do you scale things. As an entrepreneur, I get exposed to all of these together mixed every day, all the time. Maybe less finance because as a small business you have less of those challenges. And it's always interesting, I'm always learning.

09:46 MG: Probably, had I stayed in the same industry and grown through the ranks, it would have been easier in a way because you have a very clear path of what you need to learn and how you do things. I think moving around has taught me really dealing with complexity and going from, "I don't know anything that's going on. Where am I?" to "Okay, this is what we're gonna do next and this is how we're gonna prioritize. And here are the critical points we need to address". And this is the one thing that's very common across industries, and I would say the biggest thing that's common across industries, is people problems. So you can have all your technical expertise, but then if your company has more than three people, probably, you need to get different people to work together to align their priorities, to understand what each party wants and how to do things, and agree on all of that. So I think being always the new person on the block has helped me really hone that skill of figuring out who is not talking to whom and getting them to talk to each other.

10:52 MH: So one question we get a lot, at Ellevate, is people who wanna switch from an industry to the next. In your instance, you clearly have built, like you said, skill sets from all these different things. Which is really cool, at least in my view as a generalist. It seems like a great way of building different skills. But how did you move from one thing to the other, was it through people you... Through your network, how can you... What advice would you get someone who wants to switch industries?

11:25 MG: So in one word, networking. Yes, definitely. I've gotten all of my jobs, ever, through networking. Maybe my one job after university I got through the formal campus recruiting process but the way I found out about it was through networking because some friends told me that Deutsche Bank, that was the company I went to, at the time was hiring on campus and gave me some tips about how to pass the interview. So I would say my biggest advice to others, build your network, connect with different people. I think it's hard to express passion towards a certain role that... If you've never worked in that industry or in that position. So you can try to do a lot more research in the beginning whenever you're networking instead of looking like, "Oh, do you have a job for me?" But rather ask, "Oh, what do you like about your industry? What do you like about your job? How did you get into this role or into this industry?" And then you collect a lot of that information and see if there are any common patterns that you can imitate in a way. What I found that worked for me is building relationships with people, not just networking to chitchat, but really building close relationships and getting them to know me and my way of thinking. I was never very good with structural interview processes where people ask you these very boxed in questions.

12:52 MH: I hate those.

12:53 MG: Yeah, it's... And then I end up answering something weird and then they don't call me back, but when they ask me questions like, "What do you think about the industry? What do you think about the trends?" I always have some opinion because I'm reading about different stuff. And the companies that hired me in the past, they appreciated the fact that I had opinions. So that was my strategy. But you kinda have to see, how do you connect with people and what makes you different, and then if they recognize that difference as something valuable, your chances of getting into these roles are higher.

13:27 MG: But there is no magical formula. Each one of those steps was really, I met someone from that industry, like mining, I was in Brazil for a random MBA course and there was a speaker from this mining company that came to talk to us. And I said, "Oh, this is interesting". I couldn't even speak to the person because there's so many people around him. So I just got his business card and I started emailing him every few weeks and telling him, "Oh, the mining industry is so exciting. I would love to work for you guys. Do you have any positions open?" And then eventually, they decided to have an MBA recruiting program and they invited me to interview and then end up hiring me, someone wouldn't have any industry experience, didn't speak Portuguese. And got me to come to Brazil because they saw something interesting in me. So it's been like that, in my corporate career times and it's been like that definitely as an entrepreneur. You're always building relationships with people and then those people eventually might turn into clients.

14:30 MH: Yeah. I think, you know... It's fascinating to me that you went to Brazil for that. But it's really great and I agree it's building those relationships and what you said at some point, it was a little bit of both you talking to people, not just for them to get to know you, but also for you to get to know them. You need to understand if you are gonna be a fit in the industry because a lot of what we hear just outside or what you hear... Read about, doesn't necessarily give you the insights of what it's gonna be like to be part of a company and an industry.

15:02 MG: Most definitely. Even if you're staying in your industry and you're trying to get a job in another company, you should be networking to find out what the real culture is like, and not what their website says.

15:12 MH: Right. 'Cause everyone looks good on paper.

15:14 MG: Yes.


15:16 MH: So tell me a little bit about your leadership program. I know you're focused on develop... Leadership development for women specifically. And this is kind of loaded, I guess, but what are the specific things that you are focusing on when it comes to helping women get ahead?

15:33 MG: Sure. So whenever I was thinking about what to teach in terms of leadership, leadership is very big concept, very broad, can be very fluffy sometimes. So I wanted to focus on the things that I felt really make a difference in terms of getting to a leadership role and staying in that leadership role. So I started with teaching strategic influence and this is kinda what I referred to before, whenever you move from individual contributor to a leadership role, you don't have a road map in terms of what you need to do and the skill set you've had before doesn't really help you in your next steps. So you're kind of used to... Here's what I need to do, here's how I execute it, let me deliver the right report or presentation or something like that.

16:20 MG: Once you move to a leadership role, your job is much more about people. How to get people to do something and those people can be your peers, your superiors, your clients, whoever else. And being able to communicate a clear message, being able to inspire people, being able to understand how different people approach different things... Differently. Is a really critical skill but a lot of times it's not being taught. You're just expected to just go there and swim. So that's why I started teaching strategic influence. So for women, this can be a bit challenging because a lot of how you influence depends on who you are and how other people perceive you. And women have a lot of times this competence, ability gap, they face at work.

17:11 MG: So if you're too strong or too harsh, people don't like you. If you're too nice and sweet, people don't take you seriously as a leader. So this is one of the topics we talk about in the course, kind of how do you find the middle ground between those two? How do you come out as your real self even though some of the feedbacks you may get are not positive. But sometimes you just need to accept those because if you try to act like somebody else, you're not gonna be a very influential leader. You're gonna be a fake. You're gonna come out as someone who is insecure. So these are the types of things we talk about.

17:50 MG: Other things I'm focusing on with women is negotiation skills. So either for their jobs, kind of... Do they want more salary, bigger position, certain benefits or for even the projects they're working on, how to get the resources, how to convince people that their project is the most important project, this kind of stuff. And now I'm working on the new course on executive presence because that's something that comes out a lot in, apparently, in women's performance reviews when they are told, "You don't have the executive presence". But when they're asked... When they ask, "What does it mean?" They don't... The answer doesn't come across very clearly and they don't get clear instructions in terms of how to get this executive presence. So my future course will be on trying to define what it is and help women figure out how to be more effective with showing some presence.

18:47 MH: So you can't see me, but I was rolling my eyes. We hear that a lot too, but it's the same problem. What exactly do you want? What exactly are you thinking these people need, 'cause it's not really communicated. It's one of those buzz words and buzz terms that can mean a lot of things.

19:05 MG: Yes.

19:06 MH: So talking about influence though, can you... What's your number one tip when you actually are saying, giving these courses and I understand it's a lot of information that you can't cover in a small time but where do you think it's... Like one component that matters the most? I know you mentioned authenticity, but is there something that kind of makes or breaks a person's influence?

19:30 MG: Yes. So the one thing I tell them, always, "If there's one thing you take from my class, or webinars, whenever I do a shortened versions, the most important thing about influence is what's in it for them. So it's not about you, it's about them, and this is where a lot of people fall because they keep thinking about what they want and how they think about stuff and how they would do something, and whenever the other person doesn't do things the same way they kind of think this person's not competent, is this and the other, but it's not about them being the same as you, it's more about understanding what their needs are, what are their perceptions of the situations, how do they feel about stuff and sometimes how do you feel about stuff is not even related to the work, it's like maybe they had a bad day and they're just in a bad mood and you're trying to convince them to do something and you're not paying attention to the fact that something else is going on in their lives. So whenever you're trying to convince someone in something, you need to understand all of those things and figure out how to tailor your message to what's in it for them.

20:41 MH: I love that. When I talk about networking and people ask me the first thing I said, I say is, "Stop thinking about it as networking, and think about what you can give someone else 'cause that's the only actual way to build a relationship." I like that way of thinking. Let me take that into my pocket. What do you think is the kind of challenge or biggest challenge you see women face when they're moving up the ladder like that?

21:08 MG: I think the one challenge, and I'm not sure if it's just women, maybe men face it just as often, is moving from that individual contributor role, to now I manage people, and I don't do everything. I have to delegate, prioritize. I have to think at a different level. I think this is a very big challenge for... I see it in women but I think men often have this as well. Moving from operational mindset to strategic mindset. And what do I mean by that? It's not how we do this each individual task, but how do we organize a long-term process. We're doing this thing now, but in six months from now, what do we need? What kind of resources? What kind of new projects should we be developing because it seems like this one is working for now, but maybe in a few months, it's won't be relevant anymore. The industry is changing, our clients are asking for new things. So just kind of thinking more broadly versus thinking of the one particular challenge.

22:11 MH: Do you think it's... And I agree, it might be men as well. When I think of women specifically because of what we do at Ellevate, and I think of that mindset of how women are always taught to keep their heads down and work, which seems to be translating into this, keep, just keep doing, because you have been doing versus...

22:36 MG: Yeah, doing and not asking too many questions.

22:38 MH: Mm-hmm.

22:39 MG: Like don't be difficult, don't challenge stuff so I think this has been a challenge for me in my career, because I've always been the person that questions things and asking why we're doing this way, we could be doing it better. Here are five other ideas what we could be doing. And I often gotten like, "Miriam, just calm down. You're asking too many questions. Just do your work." Know your place kind of comments. And until I kind of build my confidence in my career and I saw that this approach gets me to better places and gets outcomes, I still wasn't sure if I am wrong or they are wrong. So I think for many women, if they don't build that confidence, they end up saying, "Okay, that's how you're supposed to behave. So I'm just gonna behave this way, because then I don't get questioned. I just get my pat on the head. Good girl, you've done the work." Again, it's a great strategy for staying stagnated in your career, but not getting too many questions. So if you wanna move to more senior role, you have to wake up out of this mode, and continue questioning. But it's tough, because there's a lot of stressful things in our lives and we kind of don't wanna add more stress, but "no pain, no gain" is the saying.

24:04 MH: Yeah.

24:04 MG: So you just have to do it.

24:06 MH: I agree and some people do wanna have a career that's very steady, and that's great. Everyone should define success in whatever way they want to, but if you do wanna grow, you do need to start getting uncomfortable.

24:19 MG: Yeah.

24:20 MH: You mentioned confidence, so how, for you, how did you develop that confidence?

24:26 MG: So it's interesting because I think I was born with a lot more confidence.


24:31 MG: I lost some of it in my, early on, in my corporate career, by...

24:36 MH: Well, finance will do that to you.

24:38 MG: Yeah. Yeah, like when you know what you want and you know how you think and people tell you it's the wrong way, it lowers your self-esteem, it lowers your confidence. I think always trying new things, and falling on my face, and getting up and getting stuff done despite a lot of challenges, really built my confidence in the long-term. So, it's not like every time I start something new, I feel like yeah, I know everything, it's gonna be great. I still feel kind of insecure about it, but since I've had this situation happen to me so many times, I know that when you start something, it's tough, you fail a lot, but you need to give yourself some time with that learning curve, so once you give yourself some time and maybe compassion about failing, at some point, if you're smart at a reasonable level, and you have some experience, you're gonna start catching up, you're gonna start succeeding, you're gonna start seeing results.

25:43 MG: So just having that patience to wait until that moment is how I see my confidence or this is how... What my confidence has evolved to, but I always say the way to build confidence is to try new things, fail, learn from those mistakes, try different things, show yourself that you are able to do things and then once you've done the cycle a few times, you will see your confidence gets built up. It's not about sitting in front of the mirror, telling yourself you're a powerful woman. I mean, the research says that it helps you feel more confident, but I think it's a very superficial effect. If you really wanna build strong confidence, resilience, you just have to fall on your face. That's...

26:30 MH: Yeah. Resilience. I think that's a key word in this because the more you fail, the more you know that you can get up and just keep going.

26:38 MG: Yes.

26:39 MH: Well, this has been great. It's always, I always enjoy talking to you. Tell me, what's next? What are you working on?

26:46 MG: So the influence boot camp has been really successful, and I'm building on top of that and developing new courses, so I will be launching one on the Impostor Syndrome, which is a topic that comes up a lot in my classes and in other forums. I have another course in the works on executive presence, as I mentioned before. In the last one year, probably I focused more on direct to consumer courses, teaching women's directly online. I hope to offer more of my programs to companies and having them invite their employees to participate and I love the topic of organizational cultures so I look forward to working with more startups at this kind of growth stage because that's where you can do a lot of things and really build for the future.

27:39 MH: Yeah. I definitely recommend everyone checking out your courses, both on the personal level and companies on the more organizational level. I know you've done some jam sessions for Ellevate that have been extremely popular, so I can't wait to hear more.

27:56 MG: Yeah. And you can go to and find out more about this stuff I'm working on.

28:02 MH: Thank you.


28:06 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't get follow us on Twitter @Ellevatentwk, that's Ellevate Network. And become a member, you can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Catherine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice-over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much, and join us next week.


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