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Impact Players

Impact Players

MOST people are contributors and do quite well at it. Then there are the few that are Impact Players. Which one are you? Could you have greater influence and impact? The difference between the two is in the way they work, and that determines their level of contribution, influence, and thus their impact. If we are just doing what we are told to do and looking out for ourselves, we are living beneath our potential. In business and in life, how we approach everything we do makes a huge difference regarding the impact we have on others.

Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers focused on the impact leaders have on someone’s ability to contribute. But that’s only part of the equation when it comes to making an impactful contribution. The other part is the contributor’s role. How does one become a top contributor—an impact player?

We all want to contribute in meaningful ways and make an impact. To do this, we must have the right mindset. In Impact Players, Liz Wiseman shows us how.

Impact Players are those who “make a significant contribution individually but who also have an enormously positive effect on the entire team. There’s also their mental game: how they view their role, work with their managers, and deal with adversity and ambiguity, and how willing they are to improve.”

The fundamental difference between contributors and Impact Players is the way they respond to ambiguity and uncertainty and the everyday struggles in the workplace like problems without clear owners, unclear roles, unforeseen obstacles, moving targets, and unrealistic workloads.

The Five Practices of Impact Players

There are five practices that set Impact Players apart from contributors, as summarized in the chart below.


Five Practices of Impact Players


1. Do the Job That’s Needed. While others do their job, Impact Players do the job that needs to be done.

Contributors see themselves as position holders. They do the work they’re given and stay within the boundaries of their role but risk becoming so myopic that they lose sight of the overall strategy and veer off the agenda.

In contrast, Impact Players see themselves as problem solvers. They aren’t trapped by antiquated organizational structures or overly enamored with their positions. They don’t just do their job; they find ways to serve where they can be of greatest value.

Impact Players have an awareness to see what needs to be done without being asked. They know what is valued by the organization and know what it takes for the organization to succeed. Having an overall view, they fulfill their role but play outside it too. Wiseman recommends, “Don’t just update others on your work; find out how their priorities are shifting so you can stay on top of the agenda.”

2. Step Up, Step Back. While others wait for direction, Impact Players step up and lead.

Leadership is needed at all levels of an organization. Impact Players practice on-demand leadership. They step up when needed and step back when the task is completed.

Impact Players take charge of situations that lack leadership. When they see an opportunity for improvement, they don’t wait for permission to act. They step up, volunteering to lead long before higher-ups in the organization ask them to do so. They are disruptors of the status quo who choose to lead rather than let things be. They offer a higher value proposition; instead of just carrying out the boss’s direction, they can also rally others.

Wiseman adds, “The real key to not overstepping our authority or stepping on toes is to be willing to step back when our work is done and showing our colleagues that we can get behind them when it’s their turn to step up and lead.”

3. Finish Stronger. While others escalate problems, Impact Players move things across the finish line and build strength along the way.

Impact Players offer a low-maintenance, high-accountability proposition: they take ownership, anticipate and wrestle down problems, and do what it takes to complete the job.

Persistence allows you to move forward even in the face of ambiguity. When they need help, they call on reinforcements without relinquishing accountability. And they deliver—every time.

4. Ask and Adjust. While others attempt to manage and minimize change, Impact Players are learning and adapting to change.

Small adjustments are always needed to stay on track. “The most valuable players are never finished. They are continually adapting, adjusting to hit the mark. When targets are continually moving, you need continual feedback, guidance, and correction so you can adjust your aim.” Feedback as information, not criticism. “The critical skill isn’t what you know but how fast you can learn.”

Impact Players were able to adapt because they were confident in their ability to learn. But they were also comfortable enough with themselves that the prospect of failure—and inherent risk of learning—didn’t compromise their self-worth. It is a posture of confidence—the belief that I have value that can grow and evolve.

The Impact Players we studied received more feedback than others because they made it easy for people to correct them. They solicited advice and asked for feedback before their managers, and other stakeholders thought to give it.

5. Make Work Light. While others add to the load, Impact Players make heavy demand feel lighter.

Impact Players create a positive and productive work environment for anyone on the team—including themselves.

When people begin creating more noise than value, they become an additional burden to their leaders and colleagues, which, in turn, makes work harder for them as well.

Impact Players steer clear of noisy, taxing, and fruitless efforts like finger-pointing, complaining, showboating, and land grabbing.

Impact Players are quick to lend a hand and bring levity to stressful situations.

Importantly, each one of these practices come with Safety Tips—emotional intelligence, if you will—that are valuable as you begin to develop these practices. The many examples found in the book help to see how others perform as Impact Players. You don’t need to master all five, Most Impact Players in their study usually exhibited three or four of the five practices.

Where Do We Start?

Becoming an Impact Player is a matter of adopting a new mindset. We begin by focusing on two master skills that all Impact Players seem to possess. First, we learn to see situations and issues through the eyes of the people that are served by our work—seeing the needs of others. And secondly, we view ambiguity and uncertainty as an opportunity, not a threat. We change the lens through which we see the world.

When we use a threat lens, we become myopic: we look inward, consider the situational aspects, and tend to see ourselves as standing alone, lacking control or organizational backing.

When ambiguity is viewed through the lens of opportunity, the resulting image is more expansive, and we tend to see what is happening around us.

Wiseman writes about how to create a team of Impact Players and what behaviors and beliefs are the most and least coachable. Valuable information.

Finding Meaning in Your Work

If you are looking to find meaning in your work, the path to becoming an Impact Player that Wiseman lays out here is your answer. Being an Impact Player is about having an other-awareness.

Along the way, some people have gotten the impression that meaning is something a leader gives you or an organization fills you with because of their mission. Meaning has become a right and someone else’s responsibility. Certainly, leaders can create a nurturing environment that facilitates the individual’s creation of meaning, but meaning comes from inside you. It’s personal. Working with initiative and enthusiasm is a decision you make regardless of the events unfolding around you. Ironically, while meaning is developed on the inside, it is not present in the self-absorbed mind. Meaning is derived from your impact and influence with the people around you. To do that, you need to think outside yourself.

It doesn’t matter—and it has never mattered—where you work or what you do. If you apply the mindset of an Impact Player at work or in your personal life, you will find meaning in your life.

Impact Players was a 2021 Best Leadershp Book of the Year for a good reason. The ideas presented here are critically important for leadership and influence.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:21 AM
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