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Boost Career Success with a Better ‘Inside Game’

Over the past few weeks we’ve received more calls than ever from brand leaders, CoE leaders, and other managers and executives, all with the same problem: They’re trying to get things done within their organization, but they’re running into internal roadblocks, apathy and bureaucracy that stalls their projects and hinders their success.

If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Across the industry, it’s getting harder for marketers and team leaders to get buy-in and internal support from colleagues within their own company. And when that happens, it can seriously jeopardize a team’s success and a manager’s career.

Yet we know and work with successful managers who don’t seem to have this problem. They have high levels of achievement and get promoted on a regular basis, but they’re working at a more relaxed pace, with less worry and stress.  So, what are they doing differently?

They have a better inside game.

Surprisingly (and sadly) most employees never learn that one of the most essential skills for team leadership, and career success, is the ability to generate and maintain exceptional internal support from others in the company. We call this “playing the inside game.” And if you want to get things done, get credit for your achievements, and get home most days at a decent hour, the inside game is the game you really need to learn to play.

Unfortunately, the inside game isn’t taught by HR, or in marketing seminars, or by most bosses because they don’t know how to play it either. And the inside game isn’t about treating others poorly or acting in an unethical or predatory manner. Instead, a great inside game allows others to see the problems and opportunities you see, understand the solutions you envision, and “buy-in” to your ideas with enthusiasm and even passion.

Playing a great inside game makes work dramatically easier, more productive, and even more fun when you develop a system to do it well. But that’s the really hard part  –  a great inside game requires a systematic approach to organizational communications, and most managers and team leaders just don’t have such a system.

“Self-promotion is not my strong suit, for sure. I don’t look down on it; I just don’t understand how to do it.” — Katherine Waterston

Joe Shields and I founded the Health Accelerators agency to help managers and team leaders in the biopharma industry with strategy and communications, and we knew from the start that helping our clients with their inside game would be a big part of helping them achieve success. Often, it’s the inside game that is lacking in otherwise solid approaches to team and project leadership.

To be candid, as we look back on our own careers we’ve had an incredible amount of success playing the inside game, probably because others taught us about its importance and helped us develop systems that generated consistent results, year after year. But having significant time under the watchful eye of teachers and mentors like those that taught us is now rare in the biopharma industry. So most mid-level and young managers don’t have the benefit of those teachers, and unfortunately never learn what we learned. Now we’re seeing some mid-level managers become senior executives, yet they still lack a truly great inside game. We often wonder just how much more they could achieve, and how much easier it may be to achieve it, if that aspect of their talent arsenal were enhanced.

We are sometimes sad for those who never develop their inside game, but we’re also grateful for the opportunity to help at least a few within the industry as they seek to develop their own inside games and systems. We can’t reach everyone, but hopefully those with whom we are privileged to work will embrace and practice the skills that we learned and have honed throughout our long careers in this industry. Our hope is that a few of the people with whom we have worked will pass those essential skills on to another generation of marketers and leaders.


Author: Joe Meadows

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