How certain indispensable employees help in uncertain and ambiguous times
Do you have an indispensable person in your organisation? They solve the messy problems and step up when there are challenges. Liz Wiseman, the bestselling author of Multipliers and Rookie Smarts, set out to study them for her new book Impact Players – How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact.
One of the world’s top management thinkers
Liz is an Impact Player herself, having received the top achievement award for leadership from Thinkers50 and has been consistently named one of the world’s top 50 management thinkers in its biannual ranking. A former corporate executive herself, the CEO of the Wiseman Group was interviewed this week for Growth Faculty book club.
5 key differentiators
Liz talked to 170 managers to discover what differentiates Impact Players from high-performing but Typical Contributors, and Under Performers. The managers’ descriptors broadly fell into 5 key differentiator groups.
1. Do the job that’s needed
Instead of finding messy problems a distraction from their job, they see them as a chance to be useful. They do the job that’s needed, not just their job.
2. Step up, then step back.
When roles are unclear, instead of waiting for direction Impact Players use the opportunity to provide leadership.
1. Finish stronger.
If there are unforeseen obstacles, Impact Players don’t view them as added hassles. They take a stab at the issue - as one manager put it: ‘Instead of like a cat - dropping it like a dead rat at your front door’. They also see it through to the end. 98% of the time Impact Players always or often get the job done without being reminded, compared with 48% of the time for Typical Contributors and 12% for Under Performers.
2. Ask and adjust.
Impact Players see moving targets as a reason to build new capabilities. They don’t stick to what they know best. They respond to coaching and micro adjust their behaviours. In this way, they exhibit a learning or growth mindset.
5. Make Work Light.
While Typical Contributors are highly capable, they are like the massive petrol-guzzling Hummer; it will get you there but it consumes a lot of resources in the process. Impact Players are like the ideal car that performs exceptionally, requiring little effort to achieve and maintain that performance.
Tips to Develop the Impact Player Mindset
· Focus on getting better at one of these: 1. Training your mind to view situations through others’ eyes. 2. Interpreting challenging situations as opportunities rather than threats.
Tips to Build a High-Impact Team
· Hire people who have the qualities that are most difficult to develop (ie. deeply anchored personality traits like the belief that you can control the outcomes of events in your life, and grit).
· Create a positive environment that is both comfortable and intense. Make it energising and intense so that it demands people’s best efforts. The Great Resignation could well be partly down to employees not being challenged.
· Help the team to see what is important at any given time. Keep What’s Important Now (W.I.N.) front and centre.
· Critique the work, not the person. Insist the work is finished.
· Flag behaviour you appreciate.
Building a champion team is a bit like making sourdough bread, says Liz Wiseman. Baking a loaf of this tangy, airy bread requires sourdough starter – some of the bacteria that is already growing and living in flour and water. When starter is kept in a warm environment and frequently fed fresh flour and water it grows and spreads. Similarly, to replicate a set of mindsets or behaviours, you need starter talent – people who serve as the model and catalyst. Like the sourdough starter, this person could be either transplanted or carefully cultivated. When the Impact Player starter is placed near others the qualities spread. Eventually everyone rises.
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