Dec. 8, 2020

The Fastest Way to Become a Thought Leader in Your Niche with Adrienne Garland

The Fastest Way to Become a Thought Leader in Your Niche with Adrienne Garland

Wish you knew how to do a better job of standing out among the crowd and establishing your thought leadership in your industry? 

Today’s guest is here to show you the surprising ways you can start speaking your truth and outshine your competition by using your unique voice to lead, persuade, and influence others. 

Adrienne Garland is not only a consultant to Fortune 1000 brands in the media, entertainment, and tech industries, she is an expert in digital marketing, business strategy, and relationship building.

She has a passion for helping women entrepreneurs and female founders like you learn how to speak your truth and establish your thought leadership in your industry. 


  • The secret to getting ahead in business through relationship building

  • The concrete, actionable steps you can take right now to establish your thought leadership in your industry

  • How to speak your truth and use your unique voice to lead, persuade, and influence others

  • The counterintuitive way to outshine your competition and foster a legacy that lasts

If this episode inspires you, leave a review and share your biggest takeaway with me. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.





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© Copyright 2022 | The EffortLESS Life®


You’re Listening to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, Episode #47! Wish you knew how to do a better job of standing out among the crowd and establishing your thought leadership in your industry? Today’s guest is here to show you the surprising ways you can outshine your competition and rise to the top by speaking your truth, relationship building, and using your unique voice to lead, persuade, and influence others. That’s all coming up next, right here on the EffortLESS Life®.


Today’s guest is not only a consultant to Fortune 1000 brands in the media, entertainment and tech industries, but she is also an expert in digital marketing, business strategy, and relationship building with a passion for helping women entrepreneurs and female founders like you learn how to speak your truth and establish your thought leadership in your industry. 

As the founder of She Leads Media, Adrienne Garland believes we’re stronger when we connect. She also believes relationship building and speaking your truth are two keys to success in entrepreneurship. That’s why she’s dedicated to connecting women leaders and helping female entrepreneurs establish their thought leadership across the globe.

Through meaningful relationship building, we're able to refuel and recharge so we can keep going. Through speaking your truth, you're able to establish your thought leadership within your industry. 

That’s why it’s such a privilege to introduce you today to Adrienne, because when it comes to relationship building, establishing your thought leadership, and speaking your truth, Adrienne is the go-to expert. She’s here today to help you understand what relationship building in business means, and she’s going to show you the secrets to getting ahead in business simply by speaking your truth so you can establish your thought leadership faster and more effectively.

You’re going to walk away with concrete, actionable steps you can take right now to establish your thought leadership in your industry, master the art of relationship building in business, and learn to speak your truth to lead, persuade, and influence others so you can foster a legacy that lasts. 

Let’s jump into that interview right now. 


Courtney Elmer 0:03  

Adrienne, welcome to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast. I can't wait to hear what you have to share on thought leadership, relationship building, and speaking your truth. Thank you for being here, I'm excited for our conversation!


Adrienne Garland 0:14  

I am so excited Courtney, thank you so much for inviting me on!


Courtney Elmer 0:21  

You have an incredible story and the platform that you have created for women leaders to help you speak your truth and establish thought leadership is truly inspirational. I'd love to know, what inspired you to start She Leads?


Adrienne Garland 0:37  

I got to a point in my career where I was getting close to the top of the corporate ladder. I'd done a lot of relationship building, but looked around and I didn't like what I saw. I didn't want to live the life of some of those executives. I saw what it took, and I didn't want to be a part of it. I hit a roadblock in my career and I wasn't able to speak my truth. My thought leadership was being stifled, I faced a decision to leave the company where I was, or start my own business. I'd been successful, so I thought, I did this on my own, there's absolutely no reason that if I start my own business, that I can't be successful doing that too. So in 2010, I left my corporate career and I started my entrepreneurial journey and I found that it was very, very difficult to translate what I had learned in corporate into the entrepreneurial world. So a friend and I decided we wanted to bring together women that have started successful businesses with people who wanted to learn how to start successful businesses. That started the journey of She Leads Media, bringing experts to women who want to learn what it takes to establish thought leadership, speak your truth, and build relationships — and a legacy — that lasts.


Courtney Elmer 3:52  

What a huge need. I feel, and maybe those listening can relate, this journey of entrepreneurship can feel lonely at times. You get into it and you realize wow, this is a lot more than I expected. I don’t know the right steps to take to grow to scale in a way that I don't burn out or bog myself down with overwork. And there's a lot of noise out there, so cutting through to establish your thought leadership can be tough. It's even tougher to speak your truth and master relationship building when you're worried about others' opinions, and you're more concerned about the transaction than the relationship itself. I think a question many entrepreneurs have is, what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? I would love to hear your answer to that.


Adrienne Garland 4:42  

What it takes to be a successful entrepreneur is mindset. That's the key to thought leadership, too. Setting yourself up to know that the journey is going to be rough, and that success is not the final destination. To know that there's a lot of growth and uncertainty ahead of you and to be okay with that. That makes for a successful entrepreneur. That, relationship building, speaking your truth and being open to pivot.


Courtney Elmer 5:54  

Mmm yeah. Not putting all of your eggs into a single basket, while knowing how to keep your blinders on and avoid those shiny objects that would otherwise take your focus away from whatever it is in front of you.


Adrienne Garland 6:13  

Absolutely. What ends up happening, is many times people will start businesses in an area that they believe that they have the expertise and thought leadership. I was in marketing and was great at relationship building, so I thought, I'm an expert marketer, so why don't I start a marketing consulting company? But it doesn't always work to take whatever you were doing in corporate and translate that into a successful entrepreneurial venture. For some people it does, there's definitely luck and timing and so on. So having a good idea of exactly how you can make money, not revenue, but profit. That is something that many women don't think about when starting a business. A lot of times we do it from this place of “this is my expertise”, or “this is my passion”, and we don't think about the business idea and the business plan and the profits. In the long run, this hurts your chances of establishing your thought leadership and makes relationship building difficult.


Courtney Elmer 7:52  

Exactly! Sometimes you start a business thinking, “This is what I've always done, so let me start a business doing XYZ.” But maybe it's not something that you're passionate about, so it lacks that drive behind it. You're not speaking your truth authentically because you're doing work you feel you have to do vs. work you want to do, so you don't feel inspired to continue or to put in as much heart as you would. So it’s finding that sweet spot between what you love, what you're good at, and what the market needs. You have to be able to solve a problem for someone that they will pay you money to solve. If you're trying to please everyone, you'll please no one and no one will seek out your thought leadership. You won't have any! Trying to please everyone is the opposite of speaking your truth. If you look at the variety of businesses out there, there's everything from pest care and lawn maintenance to fine luxury goods. It’s a wide variety but every one of those businesses that are successful solves a problem for people. If you’ve got spiders in your house, you call the pest guy. If you don't have time to go grocery shopping, you get your groceries delivered. You have to make sure your business solves a specific problem, you have to know the market, and it pays to do some research before starting your business to make sure that there is a market for your idea. This makes relationship building and establishing your thought leadership easier in the long run, too.


Adrienne Garland 9:37  

And when it comes to relationship building, thought leadership, and market fit, 100% you have to make sure that there is a market and that there are people that are willing to pay for whatever it is that you are selling. Then I also see a trap with some of the people that I work with who spend way too much time on the research portion of it, and they think they're not expert enough to have thought leadership. The story of not being expert enough yet keeps you from speaking your truth.


Courtney Elmer 10:19  

Yes. The more information you have doesn't give you clarity, it just breeds confusion. We have a lot of people listening who are transitioning from corporate to entrepreneurship, and what I see happening a lot is that people are taking what I call an employee mindset with them into the entrepreneurial space. As you alluded to, that doesn't work. Will you talk a little bit more about why that is?


Adrienne Garland 11:18  

I don't know why it doesn't work. Some aspects worked for me, like relationship building and establishing my thought leadership. But I have to admit that this has been my single greatest challenge in building my business, because I wanted to bring that level of professionalism from corporate into my business. But what that did is it brought that corporate mentality into my business and I approached problems, customers, clients, and delivering work in the exact same way that I did it in corporate. I had a hell of a lot more resource support buffers in corporate than I did in my own business, so I ended up doing so much more work and putting so much more time and effort doing things in this thorough way that I would have done in corporate. I did not price my services appropriately to account for that. Nor did I work with clients who appreciated that. I was misaligned on many different aspects. It's taken me a very long time to recognize that I was over delivering and I undervaluing my services.


Courtney Elmer 14:15  

Wow, I admire and want to honor your vulnerability in sharing how you weren't speaking your truth in this sense because as business owners, we often want to put our best face forward while behind closed doors, we all struggle. You know, it's counterintuitive but that's another way to establish thought leadership faster than your competition: simply by being vulnerable. No business out there is perfect. So many people listening can relate to exactly what you said about over-delivering and undervaluing the work that we do. When you go down that road for too long, you'll resent the work you're doing because you're not getting paid your worth for it.


Once you have awareness about the things that aren’t working in your business, you can do something about it. You can raise your prices. You can adjust your deliverables. You can focus on relationship building. You can take steps to be more visible and establish your thought leadership.You can speak your truth. What precedes the “how to” steps is awareness. I'm curious, what other obstacles or challenges have you faced in your business, realizing later that it was related to how you were thinking about your business?


Adrienne Garland 16:33  

I feel like I’ve literally made every mistake. I’ve also done a lot of things right. So if I could offer advice it would be to get super clear on your product and service offerings, and focus on relationship building. In corporate, when you're offering a certain product or service, you don't throw in something extra unless it’s been vetted, unless the analysis has been done, etc. Being very measured about how you put together products and services is something that translates well into the entrepreneurial world. 


Courtney Elmer 17:04

That is great advice. You brought up boundaries, too, which is a reminder we all need. You can have short term success by putting up an offer and putting it out in the marketplace and working as hard as you possibly can for a time. Then you'll hit a wall. And in order to break through to that next level, it becomes about reordering your priorities, relationship building, and protecting those things that are of highest value to you. This one of the most counterintuitive ways to establish thought leadership - identify what you value first, and take a stand for that. That's what it means to speak your truth. This is so critical to your long term success and thought leadership.


Adrienne Garland 20:28  

And approaching things in that way will ultimately build that long term value and allow your entrepreneurial venture to continue to grow and evolve. You'll be looked to for your thought leadership too. But if you're throwing spaghetti at the wall doing whatever is going to make money — that is not building a sustainable business, nor is it building a responsible business, and you're definitely not establishing your thought leadership that way. Relationship building will be tough for you too. And it will be impossible for you to speak your truth.


Courtney Elmer 18:48  

Let’s go back to something you said earlier that came out of this experience of you getting your business up and off the ground. In learning what worked and what didn't work, you focused on relationship building and you were able to build a solid community around you in the process. Most waste their time networking, without understanding the secrets to genuine relationship building. How has relationship building helped you to grow your business in a way that you couldn't have on your own?


Adrienne Garland 22:42  

When I first started out in corporate, there wasn't a lot of encouragement to get out into the world practice relationship building because the company I worked for was protective of their brand. Then I went to a company called PR Newswire, where it was the opposite. It was get out there, meet everybody that you can, focus on relationship building, speak your truth and establish your thought leadership. Talk, write articles, build your brand. This was so incredible to me that the company was encouraging every employee to build your network, speak your truth, and establish your thought leadership. So I started relationship building and realized that those relationships are the things that I'm always going to have, no matter what company I'm at. Continually honing my skills in relationship building and maintaining those relationships are some of the most valuable assets that I have today. I don't know if people know what relationship building truly means. Relationship building is something that I honor from my time in corporate, because when I launched my business, I was able to leverage my network to find great work. Speaking of relationship building, through a third party, I met someone who I formed a terrific relationship with, who introduced me to you, now here I am on this podcast, promoting myself and relationship building with you. It's a snowball effect. We have to honor what all of these relationships are and what they can help us do, now and in the future.


Courtney Elmer 27:08  

In everything you shared, what stood out to me the most was how relationship building became such a foundational aspect of what you were able to build with your company. Through relationship building, you've built the foundation of your success.


Adrienne Garland 27:57  

At PR Newswire, I learned the difference between transactional relationships vs. real, genuine, relationship building. My thought leadership was encouraged there, too which I'm grateful for. There are many people operating in this world where they “build relationships” but it’s solely based on “what can you do for me?” That’s transactional. I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong about it. But if you approach everything as a transaction, especially a relationship, it is short-term, not long-term.


Courtney Elmer 28:46  

Agreed and such a good point. You mentioned how a lot of people don't understand what relationship building means. I'm curious, what’s the key difference between transactional vs. long term, genuine, relationship building? And what does relationship building have to do with thought leadership and speaking your truth?


Adrienne Garland 29:08  

Relationship building requires you to be selfless and be a great listener. Speaking your truth requires you to respond in a way that's authentic and genuine to you. Just as you'd want your friend to be happy and see them succeed, and also give them great advice so that they can avoid problems or challenges. You speak your truth with your friends, right? The right friendships can last a lifetime, and you both get something out of it. If you can approach relationship building as if you're building a business friendship where you guys are in it together, there's mutual respect there. That's what works. This helps you establish your thought leadership too, because you're speaking your truth while relationship building.


Courtney Elmer 30:20  

What a great perspective shift. When you think about relationship building like going out there and developing friendships, or even nurturing the friendships that you have, it's not self motivated. And for entrepreneurs listening today who might be starting out in this entrepreneurial world and feel alone right now — they're not sure where to start when it comes to relationship building, they're not sure how to put themselves out there or where to begin when it comes to establishing their thought leadership — this is the other thing I wanted to touch upon with you today: this idea of how critical it is for women to speak their truth, and to use their voice to position themselves and their business in the marketplace. Will you speak to this critical need to be able to speak your truth and use your voice to establish your thought leadership, and how we can take steps to do that?


Adrienne Garland 31:54  

I'm so passionate about encouraging and inspiring women like you listening, to speak your truth, establish your thought leadership, and get your ideas and opinions out into the world. It's something that my She Leads conference creates space for: to help women like you listening speak your truth, craft your powerful message, and pitch yourself to the media, so that the media can help to amplify that message. It’s critically important for women to be in the media because we hear way too much from a one-sided perspective. If women don't speak up, they're never going to be covered. 

And if you feel like you're not an expert yet because you're just starting out, and therefore aren't at the same level of thought leadership as others you aspire to be like, you definitely need to get yourself out there. Move through the fear. Do it scared. That’s what you’re doing now in having your podcast and getting your ideas and thought leadership out into the world; that is one very tangible way to do a couple of things: first of all to engender people to you because they can listen to you and get to know you. And second, to speak your truth and establish your thought leadership. As a woman, having your own podcast and being able to build your own platform and draw a community of people into you is a powerful thing. So I congratulate you for being bold and starting your own podcast. Having a podcast is a great relationship building strategy, too!

I hope that by you having this podcast and other women having their own podcasts they see that establishing thought leadership is easier than you think. I also think that women need to craft their message and own their thought leadership in a particular niche and not be afraid of being controversial. You need to polarize people so that they can agree or disagree with you so that you can engage in conversation.


Courtney Elmer 34:55  

I’m so glad you brought that up because it's a huge fear people have. But look at politics. It's a great example to highlight exactly what you're saying about being polarizing. You can look at political figures out there and see how polarizing they are. I could say any name on either side of the line, and there's going to be people who would say, “I love them," or "I hate them.” It's that polarization that creates connection within a community. And those within their community look to them for their thought leadership and guidance. When you're out there speaking your truth, people admire that.


Adrienne Garland 35:31  

Yes! We see the Oprah Winfrey’s and the business stars like Marie Forleo, and we say “I could never be that.” Well guess what? You don't have to be Oprah to be successful. You need to stop thinking that you have to be perfect or this incredible public figure in order to have success.


Courtney Elmer 36:42  

Also learning what you don't know. There's so many resources available today. If there's something that you don't know how to do, don't let that be an obstacle to why you can't do the bigger thing you want to do. Having room for growth is a good thing, because you can take those steps to realizing your dream and learn how to connect with others in a way that is influential; in a way that positions your thought leadership. Oprah didn't start out as a well known figure. Her thought leadership wasn't looked up to when she first started. But she had to start somewhere, Marie Forleo had to start somewhere. If you don't know how to speak your truth, you can learn. Today is your somewhere. So start today.


Adrienne Garland 38:07  

Love that. Yes.


Courtney Elmer 38:09  

The word that keeps coming to my mind is filter. Your transition from corporate to entrepreneurship, and also the lessons that you've learned along the way, particularly about relationship building, thought leadership, and speaking your truth, is proof that it's not about discrediting your experience or where you've been. It's about learning to filter your experience to where you want to go. It's about learning to filter your experience through the bigger lens of what it is you value and the dreams that you hold for yourself in your life, in your business, in your future. When we create those clear filters for ourselves in our business, putting those boundaries in place, being crystal clear on our message, knowing who we're here to serve, and knowing what it is we value, running a business becomes so much easier. It acts as a compass. You can sit there and go, okay, yes, this is in alignment with my value of integrity or my value of responsibility or my value of freedom. It makes it easier to identify shiny objects too. It makes relationship building easier, too because you'll create connections with people who see eye to eye. It makes speaking your truth easier because you're clear on what it is.


Adrienne Garland 39:58  

Filter is a perfect word. You can literally put things into a filter and shake it around and see: should it stay, or should it go? Being decisive and having a lens through which you're looking at all of the shiny objects that are constantly coming your way is another critical success tool you can use to keep your business moving forward.


Courtney Elmer 41:00  

Yes! It’s about your business working for you vs working for your business. Adrienne, we have a tradition here on the Systems Made Simple™ podcast. It's a special question that we ask every guest who comes on the show. I’d love to end on this note with you today and to hear your answer. The question is simple yet at the same time, the answers aren't always easy. The question is this, what's your definition of success?


Adrienne Garland 41:44  

Yeah, simple but not easy. I'm going to be 50 this year, so as I sit here today, success to me is having a holistic, rich, and full life. Having richness across all the areas in your life that are important to you. If you can say, “I'm happy with all of the different areas that are meaningful to me,” that's success.


Courtney Elmer 42:51  

It's fascinating to me to sit here on the other end of the mic and hear the different definitions of success. In the history of all the guests that have come on the show, not once has the same definition been given. That's thought leadership for you right there. That's speaking your truth. It goes back to this idea of being polarizing and of speaking your truth and of owning what you believe. You've done that so beautifully here today. Thank you so much for your time and for being here with us on the show.


Adrienne Garland 43:25  

I have enjoyed this thoroughly. Courtney, this is amazing. This is one of the most favorite podcast interviews that I've had and I feel so warm inside. So thank you so much for speaking your truth and for this opportunity.

Wow, are you feeling as inspired as I am right now? I hope you found this conversation refreshing, and that you feel compelled to get out there, speak your truth, focus on relationship building within your community, and establish your thought leadership.

Coming up next week we’re talking about how to calculate your hourly rate as an entrepreneur and why this is so important. If you’re currently working 8, 10, 12 hour days and still not making the kind of money you want to make, you’re going to want to tune in next week where you’ll discover that the problem is not the number of hours you're working, but how you’re currently valuing your time. So join me back here on the Systems Made Simple™ podcast next week, and until then, go live YOUR EffortLESS Life®.