How to build a stronger reputation, more significant influence and impact, and get higher value opportunities.
Early in our careers, we want to know what it takes to get ahead. Later in our working lives, we want to know what it takes to stay on top and continue to play our A game. Often we think it is about knowing the right stuff, having the right degree from the right school, or knowing the right people. And, of course, all these things play a part, but while they help to get you noticed, they don’t guarantee staying power.
The people who make a lasting impression are those who make a significant contribution individually and have an enormously positive effect on the entire team.Liz Wiseman
In her book Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger and Multiply Your Impact, Liz Wiseman explains that there is more than talent and work ethic at play. There is also the mental game: how we view our role, work with our managers, deal with adversity and ambiguity, and are willing to improve.
In this podcast, Brené Brown interviews Liz on the key insights from her research. Importantly, once you know what to look for, Impact Players can be found in various job types, at all levels, and in every industry, but also evenly distributed across age groups, genders, races and ethnicities. They are not just hard-working people but have critical differences in thinking and working.
Seeing opportunity in uncertainty
Everybody deals with waves of ambiguity and uncertainty, regardless of where they work. These are problems everyone can see, but no one owns. Situations with unclear roles or unforeseen obstacles, moving targets or unrelenting demands.
To Impact Players, unclear direction and changing priorities are chances to add value. Lack of clarity doesn’t paralyse but energises them. Perhaps most fundamentally, they don’t see problems as distractions from their job; instead, problems are part of the job and there to be solved.
Putting arms around chaos
Impact Players aren’t just seeing opportunities in uncertainty and ambiguity but act differently in situations where these are present:
- Do the job that is needed. These folks aim to serve, so they empathise with their stakeholders and look for unmet needs. Rather than stay in their box, Impact Players don’t hesitate to help where they can and focus on where they are most helpful.
- Lead on demand rather than by command. When something needs to be done, but it is unclear who is in charge, Impact Players lead rather than wait to be asked. They take their cues from the situation, and when they have fulfilled their stewardship, they step back and follow others equally.
- Not just a doer but a finisher. Impact Players are completion freaks. They work with a strong sense of agency, leveraging their strengths, taking ownership, solving problems and finishing jobs without constant supervision.
- Learn and adapt to change. New rules and targets are opportunities for learning and growth. Impact Players actively seek contrary views and input and use this to recalibrate and refocus their efforts. In doing so, they bring about a culture of learning and innovation.
- Easy to work with. Work doesn’t need to be more challenging than it is. Impact Players lift the mood of their colleagues and take out the drama, politics and stress while injecting joy into work. They create a positive, collaborative, inclusive environment for everyone while being high-performance, low-maintenance people.
Liz dives deeper in the book on how these behaviours generate a fly-wheel effect for Impact Players, leading to a stronger reputation, more significant influence and impact, and higher value opportunities. Most importantly, she outlines how we can each become one and the habits that help turn each of the behaviours into strengths to build on. In the podcast, she mentions the qualities of a boss’ nightmare employee, which made me chuckle.
Although much of the insight feels intuitively correct and something anyone with work experience might be familiar with, I liked how clearly and simply Liz brings it together. It is powerful advice for those starting their career and a good reminder for the rest of us that it is often not the job or the role we have that determines how we add value but what we do when the unexpected happens and how we show up for those around us daily and how we frame the challenges we face. For more on that, have a look at this post.