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Learn how to contribute to your full potential and multiply your impact.

So, you know an Impact Player when you see one in action. The colleague who always gets handpicked to help out in a crisis? An Impact Player. That team member who seems to have a natural ability to solve problems? That’s right! Another Impact Player. A leader who time and again knows what to do, and even better, gets it done? You guessed it. Yet another Impact Player.

These “not all heroes wear capes” type of people are invaluable in any organization or team because they can be relied on, no matter how novel or complex the task at hand might be, to find the way forward. But what is it, exactly, about these influential superheroes that sets them apart from everyone else? More importantly, how did they get their superpower?

So welcome, fellow mortal! I’m Renée, and you can think of me as your blinkist coach for the next 20 minutes as we focus up and drill a few basics from Liz Wiseman’s Impact Players. Together, we’ll tackle their unique mindset, and learn how they multiply their impact through consistent performance.

But what’s the goal, you ask? Great question! It’s to show how you, too, can become an Impact Player – and attract other Impact Players to your team while you’re at it.

So let’s huddle up, focus up, and bring along that A game to this mini bootcamp in pushing your impact to the next level. Along the way you’ll hear about everyday people – from coaches, engineers, actors, office workers and parents – who became Impact Players in everything from ending wars to achieving their professional dreams. Along the way, we’ll uncover their secrets for overcoming the hurdles on the road to becoming an Impact Player.

In these blinks, you’ll learn

why the best soccer players ignore their own footwork during a match;
how a mother and office worker stepped up to inspire the end of a 30-year political war; and
why you should pursue problems rather than avoid them.

The Mental Game.

First up: The mental game.

So what is it, really, that makes Impact Players so influential? Sure, they are smart, talented and have a great work ethic – but so do many contributors out there who don’t make as much of a difference.

Like Monica Padman. She dreamed of making people laugh and feel by becoming a professional actor – that’s how she landed a role in a small TV show. Right here on set, she met the A-list actress Kristen Bell, who mentioned she had a young daughter. Padman instantly took the opportunity to offer her babysitting services as a side-gig.

While working at the family home Padman met Bell’s husband Dax Shepard, another well-known actor. Padman and Shepard found themselves in endless fiery and entertaining debates, so he suggested they start a podcast to share them with the world.

Hundreds of episodes later, Padman is living her dream – making people laugh and feel. Looking back on that first encounter with Bell, she could have just asked for a career boost to her acting career. Instead, she’d decided to offer help where it was needed, and uncovered greater opportunities as a result.

Professionals like Monica, and many like her in other industries, are rare. The people who don’t just do the job they have, they also do the job that’s needed. They identify where they can help and they step up to take on the challenge.

It is precisely these kinds of people Liz Wiseman calls Impact Players, and they’re a valuable asset to any team or organization. Just like in sports, Impact Players in the workplace bring their A-game to everything they do. They raise the bar, and encourage a culture of growth and creativity.

So what’s their secret? That would be their mental game.

See, most professionals have what’s known as a Contributor Mindset. Unlike Impact Players, those with a Contributor Mindset are not called to duty when things get tough. Because, while a normal contributor may be committed to his task, as soon as a problem comes up he gets sidetracked, loses focus on the goal. Meanwhile, the Impact Player sees a challenge as an opportunity to be embraced.

So if you want to multiply your impact, you must grasp this same mindset. The Impact Player approach is not just marginally different to other contributors, it is radically opposed.

Expand your focus to find your W.I.N.

This brings us to our first pro-tip: Expand your focus to find your W.I.N.

According to a youth soccer coach, the best players on the team don’t look much at their own footwork during a match. That’s because they’re too busy scanning the field, ready to adjust their performance in response to their observations.

The same applies in organizations: the best employees don’t limit their focus to their own tasks. They also observe what’s happening around them to check if any other job needs doing. Once they identify where they can help, they jump in.

To be of maximum value as a contributor, you, too, need to know what your leaders, customers and stakeholders value the most. Ask yourself, how well do you grasp the skills that are indispensable to your organization?

A quick way to tune into these priorities is to identify your W.I.N. – which stands for What’s Important Now. This is something valued by your organization that’s also important to your immediate boss or stakeholder. Think about your organization’s business model, and compare it to your stakeholder’s top three priorities. For instance, if you work for a nonprofit organization, your W.I.N. could involve getting more volunteers involved in your organization, attracting more funding, or innovating new ways to support your cause or target community.

Once you’ve established your all-important W.I.N., look for places where your own capabilities overlap – so you can find an opportunity to contribute. Are there any problems that you can tackle with your unique skills? This step will help you form your agenda.

Finally, make sure your boss or stakeholder knows about your agenda. Craft a short statement that captures how your work will help them achieve the priorities on their agenda. For example, you could say: “I’m aware that our top priority is customer retention, so I’m making profiles of our different customer segments to help us better understand their needs.”

It’s a good idea to begin your one-on-one meetings like this, so that everyone is on the same page. However you decide to communicate your agenda, be it a phone call, text message or email, make sure you send the clear message that you understand what is important to your stakeholders, without needing to be told.

Remember, Impact Players don’t wait until they are given a task. They proactively identify problems to solve.

While others wait for direction, Impact Players step up and lead.

Betty Williams was an ordinary citizen of Belfast when political violence broke out in her hometown in the late 1960s. It was the start of the thirty-year conflict known as the Troubles, fought between Catholic nationalists who wanted to leave the United Kingdom, and Protestant unionists who wanted to remain.

Williams, an office worker and mother, wanted to do her part to improve the situation. So in 1976, she began circulating petitions to women, and inviting them to march in protest. Eventually, she gathered tens of thousands, and established the Women for Peace movement, which was credited with reducing the amount of violence in Northern Ireland over the ensuing years.

Williams started off with no political power. She simply wanted to see change, so she took the lead and fought for it.

Impact Players like Betty don’t wait for permission to influence the course of history. They show initiative and take responsibility. And when they lead, they do so collaboratively, so others want to play on their team.

By contrast, people operating with a Contributor Mindset look to their leaders for direction. While loyal followers can be trusted to carry out requests, they uphold the status quo. When they spot problems, mere contributors might be concerned, sure, but unlike Impact Players, they don’t take charge unless it is already their job to lead.

To become an Impact Player, don’t wait to be appointed. Be on the lookout for everyday situations that lack clear leadership and fill the vacuum yourself.

You don’t even have to wait for a huge problem to come up. Listen for ambient problems, seemingly small, persistent problems that everyone complains about but does nothing about. Those perpetual inefficiencies that accumulate into a huge waste over time. For example, it is estimated that 63 percent of meetings have no planned agenda. If that’s often the case for you, offer valuable clarity at the start of a meeting by simply asking, “What is the most important thing for us to accomplish in the next half an hour?”

One Impact Player saw people spending too much time on presentation slides and identified this opportunity for improvement. She developed a tool to help, which the company rolled out globally, saving hundreds of hours of work as a result.

It goes to show, as we’ll talk about next, that stepping up is only the beginning. To have impact, you also have to finish strong.

Others escalate problems, Impact Players move things across the finish line.

Betty Williams was an ordinary citizen of Belfast when political violence broke out in her hometown in the late 1960s. It was the start of the 30-year conflict known as the Troubles, fought between Catholic nationalists who wanted to leave the United Kingdom, and Protestant unionists who wanted to remain.

Williams, an office worker and mother, wanted to do her part to improve the situation. So, in 1976, she began circulating petitions to women, and inviting them to march in protest. Eventually, she gathered tens of thousands, and established the Women for Peace movement, which was credited with reducing the amount of violence in Northern Ireland over the ensuing years.

Williams started off with no political power. She simply wanted to see change, so she took the lead and fought for it.

Impact Players like Betty don’t wait for permission to influence the course of history. They show initiative and take responsibility. And when they lead, they do so collaboratively, so others want to play on their team.

By contrast, people operating with a Contributor Mindset look to their leaders for direction. While loyal followers can be trusted to carry out requests, they uphold the status quo. When they spot problems, mere contributors might be concerned, sure, but unlike Impact Players, they don’t take charge unless it is already their job to lead.

To become an Impact Player, don’t wait to be appointed. Be on the lookout for everyday situations that lack clear leadership and fill the vacuum yourself.

You don’t even have to wait for a huge problem to come up. Listen for ambient problems, seemingly small, persistent problems that everyone complains about but does nothing about. Those perpetual inefficiencies that accumulate into a huge waste over time. For example, it is estimated that 63 percent of meetings have no planned agenda. If that’s often the case for you, offer valuable clarity at the start of a meeting by simply asking, “What is the most important thing for us to accomplish in the next half an hour?”

One Impact Player saw people spending too much time on presentation slides and identified this opportunity for improvement. She developed a tool to help, which the company rolled out globally, saving hundreds of hours of work as a result.

It goes to show, as we’ll talk about next, that stepping up is only the beginning. To have impact, you also have to finish strong.

Impact Players ask for feedback and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Listen to this orchestra tuning up for a performance. Notice how each instrumentalist carefully adjusts their pitch until it matches the reference pitch, and each other. Even outside the orchestra, musicians tune by comparing the pitch of their instrument with a reference pitch – be it a tuning fork, a digital tuner, or a fellow musician. The goal is to continue adjusting the instrument until the two pitches match.

Just like the orchestra, professionals usually need a reference to recognize where they may be off pitch. Unless you are extremely experienced, you won’t be able to analyze the subtle nuances in your own performance. But you can get better at it by asking for feedback, and making incremental adjustments in response.

Impact Players get mentored by leaders because they are seen as coachable. They seek out feedback, receive more guidance, and achieve better outcomes as a result. The process is what’s known as closing the feedback loop, and you can leverage it to your own benefit.

To launch the feedback loop, ask for guidance. For instance, you can ask your manager, boss or stakeholder: Am I going in the right direction? Where am I straying off course? What should I continue doing, and what should I let go of? According to the feedback you receive, you can adjust your performance.

In the process, check back in with your mentors to let them know that you are valuing their guidance.

Take Braden Hancock, the CEO of Snorkel AI. Despite his lack of engineering experience, he secured an internship at the Air Force Research Laboratory, which happened to be right in his hometown.

This in turn helped him get another internship at Johns Hopkins University, under the direction of Mark Dredze, an associate professor of computer science. Since Hancock didn’t have a computer engineering degree, he took an online programming course before getting to the lab. Once there, he sought feedback from his professor every step of the way. As he implemented their guidance, he looped back to the professor regarding his next steps.

This internship opened a new career path for Hancock, which led to a doctoral program in computer science at Stanford University. Even after the internship, he looped his mentor in, letting Dr. Dredze know where his advice handled. To this day, he continues to keep in touch with other mentors.

Certainly, the-now-Dr. Hancock entered the workforce with access to opportunity. But these practices took him to the next level. Wherever you start, closing the feedback loop can take you further.

Impact Players make the workload feel lighter by keeping things simple.

The Endgame: Lightening the Load.

Isle is a highly capable chief operating officer at a global technology company. She is so hardworking that she is usually the last person to leave the office, often staying late to fix other people’s work without telling them.

The problem is that her colleagues usually find out that she is redoing their work, and they don’t like it. So they try to undo her efforts, in the process also sucking in her boss and others into the conflict.

As good as Isle’s intentions are, she isn’t adding value through her hard work. Actually, she’s adding to everyone’s burden, which is the exact opposite of what an Impact Player would do.

So, what does this have to do with me, you might ask?

Well, the truth is that even if you don’t realize it, you may be adding to your superiors’ workload in significant ways. To see where you stand, ask yourself how often you seek help or guidance from your boss when things get tough, or pass work on to your colleagues when you get behind or overwhelmed.

While ordinary contributors may compound everyone’s workload, Impact Players actually reduce the burden on everyone else. Even in those cases where you may not be able to lighten the workload – you can do your best to make the process go more smoothly.

Consider Karl Doose, who was just twenty-three when he became a business manager at SAP Innovation Services. As soon as he started his new job, he looked up “chief of staff” – a role a notch or two higher than his – to understand his career path.

Based on this, he created a three-slide presentation about his ambitions for his own role to present to his CEO. On slide one, he demonstrated how he understood his role. On slide two, he broke down his current skills and abilities. On slide three, he outlined his plan for improvement and growth.

Despite his young age, Karl was recognized as an Impact Player thanks to his passion and perspective. But just as importantly, Karl was recognized for his ability to digest data quickly, atomize it and communicate it clearly.

Whenever you communicate at work, summarize your thoughts – or a larger discussion – into clear bullet points. When you make yourself easy to understand, you’re also making yourself easy to work with.

Do this consistently, and you will develop a reputation as a high-performing, time-saving player that everyone wants on their team.

Final summary

The main takeaway? In order to multiply your impact on your environment, keep your eyes open and notice problems beyond your job that warrant attention. Without waiting for direction, identify where you can help and step up to do so. By embracing a mindset of leadership, grit and resilience, you can make a difference and inspire others to rally behind you, too.

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