High Impact Players Tools and Resources
...solve thorny business challenges in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea
Model the behaviours of high-impact people and secure a brighter future for your own business...
How often have you thought about the impact your team have on your results?
And how often have you looked at the individual members of your team and analysed the impact of their work on your business?
Within your team, you will be able to identify the people who contribute the most, those who contribute the least and those who make a worthwhile contribution but who never quite hit the expectations you have for them.
Take a moment to think about your team and then ask yourself this one question:
How do I change the behaviours and habits in my business to encourage and guide my team towards higher-impact ways of working?
STOP trying to act on too many things or too many practices at one time.
START focusing on the 2 core competencies
The one ‘BREAKTHROUGH QUESTION’ you must ask to help yourself…
How do I change the behaviours and habits in my business to encourage and guide my team towards higher-impact ways of working?
This question jumps right into what you do as the leader of your business.
These are the 3 types are players in your business:
High-Impact Players – those who achieve their full potential (the exceptions)
Typical Contributors – those who do a good job but could do more (the majority)
Under-Contributors – those who consistently underperform and who cause most of your stress, doubt and uncertainty.
You almost certainly know which of your team belong to which category.
But before you can encourage your team to be high-impact players, you need to think about the impact YOU are having on your business.
Can you guide your team towards higher-impact ways of working if you are not making the same impact as the leader?
What does a high-impact leader look like?
A high-impact leader possesses the qualities and skills necessary to make a significant and positive difference within their business.
Think about the difference you make to your own business.
High-impact leaders have a profound influence on the performance, culture and overall success of their business and exhibit the following characteristics:
Future focused: High-impact leaders have a clear and compelling plan for what the future of their business will be. They are able to easily and clearly explain this to any member of the team and very quickly signpost what they want the future business to look like.
Can you do this?
Strategically minded: High-impact leaders are very clear on the strategic direction of their business and their plans are either in place or they have created a road map to move their business forward. They are also very aware of the opportunities and threats in the environment in which they operate and how these might positively or negatively affect their business growth.
Do you have a clear strategic direction?
Heavy focus on results: High-impact leaders are keen to use KPIs to track and measure the results of their team members and their business. They will have a strategic objective for the business and will more than likely use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to focus on one key objective per quarter that is tracked and measured.
Do you use OKRs in your business? Do you focus on one key objective every 13 weeks?
Strong decision maker: High-impact leaders are not afraid to make tough decisions when necessary. They will seek, and even encourage, opinion, conflict and debate before making a decision. The decision they make will be in the best interests of the team and the business, not just of themselves.
How good are you at garnering opinion, debating ideas and encouraging conflict when it comes to making decisions?
Active communicator: High-impact leaders are not only great talkers, they are also attentive listeners. They prefer their team to share multiple ideas and thrive on being challenged.
How well do you listen to your team?
Highly motivated: High-impact leaders are opportunists, optimists and ‘glass half-full’ people. They foster a positive, engaged, committed, motivated working culture and environment where everyone in the team has the chance to achieve their full potential.
Is the working culture of your business healthy? Are your team motivated and engaged in the work they do?
Able to adapt to changing situations: High-impact leaders are adaptable and resilient, and they have the ability to cut through negativity and ambiguity. They look at setbacks as opportunities to improve and view failures as learning opportunities.
Think of the COVID-19 pandemic – how did you adapt to that? Did you see it as an opportunity to help your team and your customers?
Team and relationship-driven: For a high-impact leader, their team is everything. They are acutely aware that their business would be nothing were it not for their team and they will take every opportunity to be vocal about this. They will build strong relationships and expect high levels of trust within the team.
How is your relationship with your team? Do you operate a ‘team first’ business?
Fosters a strong working culture: High-impact leaders adhere to a strong set of cultural values and principles. They lead with integrity and hold themselves and others accountable for their actions.
How clear are the culture and values within your business?
Growth mindset: High-impact leaders naturally have a growth mindset and are constantly looking for ways to learn and self-improve. They are not afraid to change and take on something brand new in the pursuit of bettering themselves.
Which is your mindset – fixed or growth?
High expectations: High-impact leaders have high expectations and will demand a high level of performance and commitment from their team. This is often rewarded, and the team are always a major part of every achievement.
What do you expect from your team? Do they know what is expected? Do they meet your expectations?
Could you be making a higher impact on your business? In simple terms, it's about doing the things above, maybe starting one at a time by beginning to adopt the thinking patterns and behaviours of proven high-impact leaders.
Essentially, it’s about leading by example. Think about the world's great leaders, heads of state, of government, even of sporting teams – it's what they do.
“Talent is everywhere, winning attitude is not.” – Dan Gable (American Wrestler and Coach)
5 impact practices – what is your score?
In her book Impact Players, Liz Wiseman identifies 5 common business challenges which virtually everyone involved in business will deal with at some point. These challenges are constant realities in an everyday workplace – your business.
But what is key here is the way the impact players respond to these factors. It’s what separates them from the typical contributors and under-contributors, and it's what makes them essential to your team and business success.
Their response to these challenges is why you MUST invest time in building the habits and behaviours within your team so that they too can adopt a high-impact way of working.
Here are Wiseman's everyday business challenges:
Image from Liz Wiseman's book – Impact Players
Now, with your team, score yourselves on each of the questions below.
The total score will give you some indications of your own mindset and that of your team and should also reveal how close you and your team members are to exhibiting high-impact behaviours and habits.
Your results will also act as a guide to the areas on which to focus – for you and for the team members who are the closest to delivering high-impact ways of working in your business.
It’s very important that the participants make this an honest assessment. The results will enable you to use the 5 challenges and 5 high-impact behaviours alongside the 2 core competencies (mentioned below) to build a framework to access the hidden potential in your people.
1. Do you see a messy problem as a distraction from doing the job or as a chance to be useful in completing the job that’s really needed
HIGH-IMPACT PLAYERS DO THE JOB THAT’S NEEDED
2. If roles and responsibilities are unclear, do you wait for direction or do you see an opportunity to lead?
HIGH-IMPACT PLAYERS STEP UP AND LEAD
3. When unforeseen challenges show up, do you see more hassle or do you see a chance to finish the job in a better way?
HIGH-IMPACT PLAYERS FINISH STRONG
4. If the goal feels like a moving target, do you stick to what you know best or do you see a reason to build new capabilities, behaviours and habits?
HIGH-IMPACT PLAYERS ASK & ADJUST
5. When the work seems unrelenting, do you ask for help or do you see a need to work better together and help lighten the load for everyone in some way?
HIGH-IMPACT PLAYERS MAKE WORK FEEL LIGHTER
What’s your score out of 50? Which aspects are strongest? Which areas need more attention?
Dive into Liz Wiseman’s book and you’ll get stories, insights and direction on what to do next.
“The Impact Player behaviours are not about working harder, it’s not about working more – it’s about working more courageously.” – Liz Wiseman, Impact Players
It's important to remember that impact players react to certain situations differently than most of us – they see uncertainty as an opportunity, failure as a chance to learn and, whilst most of us run away from the chaos, they embrace it as a chance to step up and sort out whatever is creating the issue.
The following practices identify 5 key ways in which the high-impact players in your team perform in contrast to their lower impact teammates. Each behaviour is deeply embedded into the high-impact player's belief that, amid the challenge, chaos and ambiguity, there is an opportunity and a view that has not yet been considered.
Here are the 5 behaviours of high-impact players in more detail – adapted from Liz Wiseman's book, Impact Players:
1. Do the Job That’s Needed – Impact players, when confronted with a messy problem, will step out of their box or comfort zone to tackle the real issue. They are flexible and agile and are naturally responsive to change. They are not afraid to dive into an unfamiliar area if it helps them get to the heart of the problem.
They see ‘not knowing something’ as an opportunity to learn.
Some of your team may avoid taking this approach as it leads them into uncharted waters. They may have to deal with a situation or people with which they are not familiar – scary!
2. Step Up, Step Back – When something needs to be done and it's unclear who is to take charge, impact players step up and are happy to lead. They don’t need to be invited but are happy to kick things off and actively look to get others involved. They are leaders on demand, taking their cues from the situation.
How many of your team possess this skill? It very often creates a culture of initiative, idea creation and an environment where your team feel psychologically safe to make suggestions.
This is different from the norm, where many teams are made up mostly of people who are bystanders. They assume someone else will take on the role of leader if one is absent and are happy to await further instruction.
3. Finish Stronger – Impact players are completer-finishers – it's part of their DNA to see something through to the end and this will translate to their personal lives as well. They stick with something until the entire job is done. They take ownership of the whole job, solve any issues along the way and finish the job to a high standard without the need to be managed. Remember, any setbacks along the way become opportunities for an impact player.
Other members of your team may flag up the issue to a manager, but that is where they consider their involvement finishes. Impact players grab hold of the problem and get the issue resolved and over the finish line.
4. Ask and Adjust – Impact players can adapt to changing conditions faster than their peers because, to them, new rules, changes and targets are opportunities for learning and development.
Many of your team will view change with fear and frustration or as something that threatens the current status quo. You know who these people are and the challenge is to turn them into people that have a high impact on your business.
5. Make Work Light – When your team is overloaded with work and deadlines are looming, impact players actively look to lighten the load. They do not take the work away, but they make the work seem less onerous by being easy to work with, adding a sense of buoyancy and effervescence to the workplace that reduces the drama, chaos, pressure and stress.
In contrast, you will have those team members who, when the stress is high, will make little effort to handle the pressure and will quickly ask for help.
“Real Impact Players channel their intellect, talent, and passion toward what is of the greatest value to the organization, the stakeholder, and the shareholder – those the organization serves. It can be a long way from a supposed Impact Player to a real Impact Player.” – Liz Wiseman, Impact Players.
Here is an image that illustrates the difference between typical contributors and Impact Players:
Optimism from keystone actions – 2 core competencies that create a cascade
“Some think you become great on the big stage under the bright lights. But the light only reveals the work you do in the dark.” – Jeff Bajenaru, American Baseball Coach
Liz Wiseman’s research suggests that, if you want to encourage your team towards high-impact ways of working, you need to focus on 2 core competencies. When you do this, you set yourself up for a cascade of improvement in your business, as the behaviours and habits of your high-impact players filter down and affect the behaviour of the rest of the team.
You’re more likely to see other improvements and results because you focus on the keystone behaviours.
In science and nature, this would be called a trophic cascade. This is an event that happens when a KEYSTONE species is introduced into a region, for example, when wolves were reintroduced back into Yellowstone Park after being absent for 70 years.
This reintroduction changed the way in which deer roamed and ate, it enabled trees and vegetation to regrow and birds to return and, along with many other ecosystem changes, it also changed the behaviour of rivers.
The reintroduction of the wolves, even though in the beginning it was only a few, immediately transformed the behaviour of the animals and vegetation across the park.
To discover more about this and to appreciate the scale of the impact of a small but simple change, check out this video narrated by George Monbiot called ‘How wolves changed rivers’. It’s only 4 minutes long and really worth watching.
Can you create this type of cascade in your business simply by changing the behaviour and habits of a few? You can when you focus on 2 core competencies.
In her book, Liz Wiseman calls them Master Skills. In the research Liz Wiseman conducted for her book, these 2 core competencies are the skills which all high-impact players possess.
When the competencies are practiced naturally, they produce certain behaviours – such as David Beckham's left foot skills or Andy Murray's backhand down the line – that are done without thinking…
- Who do you serve? – This is about changing your perspective and seeing what you are doing through the eyes of the people or communities that are served by your work.
- How full is your glass? – This is about ‘changing your lens’ and seeing opportunities where others see threats.
Changing your perspective
When faced with problems, it's easy to get stuck in your own consciousness and work on what you think is most important from your own perspective. The intention is there, but this may be the wrong point of view to take.
“When vision is limited, so is impact.” – Liz Wiseman, Impact Players
High-impact players have minds trained to look at any situation from a variety of perspectives.
It's not just about the problem they are facing, but also about how that problem affects everyone around them. For you, this could be your team, your suppliers, your customers, your local community – you need to see all perspectives.
Here is a great chart that reveals how this core competency can trigger a number of high-impact practices. It demonstrates that looking at the problem from a variety of different perspectives can avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by typical contributors.
Image from Liz Wiseman's book, Impact Players
One of the skills and habits supporting this approach is to ‘change seats’, as Intuit, the technology company, has done to great effect with their ‘Follow Me Home’ program.
This program provided Intuit with a way to step into their customers’ shoes in order to understand the full picture of how they run their business or home life with Intuit products.
Since Intuit's founding days, the company has used this program to observe customers in their homes, offices and other locations to determine exactly how they use the company's products.
"Whether we are watching someone at their kitchen table doing their tax return, or watching someone do payroll or taxes in their office, Follow Me Home is a critical way we learn about how our platforms are used." – Neil Williams, Intuit CFO
Another aspect of this master skill is that high-impact players listen longer and are genuinely curious and committed when it comes to dealing with an issue or solving a problem.
Changing your lens
When faced with the challenges of working every day in your business, the high-impact players will see threats as opportunities. Have a look at the diagram below and you will see how they focus on challenges with an opportunity-driven mindset.
You can use these 4 steps to start re-framing threats as opportunities:
1. Recognise ambiguity – Use the next uncertain situation in your business to ask your team to think through the perspectives of everyone affected and to look at it as an opportunity, not as a threat.
2. Check your lens – Pay attention to the thoughts, behaviours and reactions of your team, and ensure they are looking at the positives, not the negatives, with an outward perspective.
3. Reframe the situation – Ask certain questions of your team when faced with a challenge:
- How would an impact player deal with this?
- How can this situation positively affect my own goals?
- What strengths do I have to overcome the uncertainty?
4. Decide and act using your opportunity lens – If this is an opportunity, what do I do next? Identify the beliefs and practices to employ and then follow them.
Image from Liz Wiseman's book, Impact Players
How do you develop a team of high-impact players
Developing a high-impact team in your business is crucial for achieving long-term success and growth. Here are some key steps to help you build and nurture such a team:
- Lead with integrity, empathy and a strong work ethic.
- Be a role model for your team by demonstrating the behaviour and work ethic you expect from them.
- Clearly articulate your business's core purpose, vision and values. Your team should understand and align with these principles.
- Identify the team members with opportunity mindsets and high-impact skills and hire individuals who possess them.
- Look for candidates who not only have the ability to be high-impact players but who also fit into your company culture and share your long-term goals.
- Clearly define each team member's role and responsibilities. High-impact players will thrive from clearly set performance expectations and goals.
- Encourage initiative. If a challenge or issue arises in your business, high-impact players will do the job that really needs doing.
- Establish regular team meetings and one-on-one check-ins to discuss progress, challenges and ideas. Remember, you want the behaviours and habits of your high-impact team members to cascade down to the rest of the team.
- Encourage your team to step up and lead should a situation require it. When they do, assess how their impact affects the other members of the team.
- Create an environment where team members feel psychologically safe to collaborate and share ideas.
- Promote cross-functional teamwork to leverage different perspectives and expertise and to foster open communication, feedback and active listening.
- Provide ongoing training and opportunities for high-impact skill development. Investing in your team's growth is investing in the growth of your business.
Ask people to stay until the job is done - If you want people to finish jobs and finish stronger, you need to:
- Set and maintain high standards for performance, quality and professionalism. Expect excellence from your high-impact team.
- Recognise and reward exceptional work to motivate and incentivise your team.
- Delegate tasks and responsibilities to team members based on their strengths and expertise. Encourage the path towards high-impact working within your team of typical contributors.
- Trust your team to make decisions within their areas of responsibility.
- Look for opportunities for experimentation and view failures as opportunities for learning.
- Ensure your team have the necessary tools, resources and support to excel in their roles.
- Address any obstacles or challenges that may hinder their performance.
State what you appreciate – if you want your team to ‘make work light’ then you need to:
- Acknowledge and reward outstanding performance and contributions.
- Recognition can be in the form of monetary rewards, promotions or public appreciation.
- Create a positive and inclusive workplace culture that values diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Address conflicts and issues promptly and constructively.
- Implement key performance indicators (KPIs and OKRs) to assess team performance.
- Regularly review progress, identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments.
- Celebrate team achievements and milestones. This boosts morale and reinforces a sense of accomplishment.
Building a high-impact team is an ongoing process that requires dedication, continuous improvement and adaptability. By investing in your team's development and creating a positive work environment, you can maximise their potential and drive your business to greater heights.
Challenging assumptions about high-impact players
It’s easy to bring a whole load of assumptions when considering high-impact players and their thought processes and behaviours. Liz Wiseman shares some very specific caveats to challenge any assumptions you might have:
- There are impact players in almost any business or community – there are definitely some in yours.
- This is not a contrast between winners and losers. It’s about the subtle distinctions in thinking and action that make all the difference between impact players and the typical contributor.
- The focus is on practices (what to do), not on a classification of individuals. It’s about modes of thinking and behaviours that we all move into and out of.
- The mindset and practices are, by and large, learnable and coachable, hence available to all. A leader can develop an entire team with the impact player mindset and skills – so what's stopping you?
- Impact players don’t necessarily work any harder or any longer than their peers, but they tend to work with greater intentionality and focus. They create an energy and impact that prevents exhaustion.
- There’s no quick fix. It’s about embracing the impact mindset and skill set so that you build the habits of a high-impact player over time.
- There are no shortcuts – just hard work that pays off. It probably all sounds like common sense – it's just not common practice.
The book and other resources
Impact Players – How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger and Multiply Your Impact
Why do some people break through and make an impact while others get stuck going through the motions?
In every organization there are Impact Players—those indispensable colleagues who can be counted on in critical situations and who consistently receive high-profile assignments and new opportunities. Whether they are on centre stage or behind the scenes, managers know who these top players are, understand their worth and want more of them on their team. While their impact is obvious, it’s not always clear what actually makes these professionals different from their peers.
In Impact Players, New York Times bestselling author and researcher Liz Wiseman reveals the secrets of these stellar professionals who play the game at a higher level. Drawing on insights from leaders at top companies, Wiseman explains what the most influential players are doing differently, how small and seemingly insignificant differences in how we think and act can make an enormous impact and why—with a little coaching—this mindset is available to everyone who wants to contribute at their highest level.
Based on a study of 170 top contributors, Wiseman identifies the mindsets that prevent otherwise smart, capable people from contributing to their full potential and the five practices that differentiate Impact Players:
- While others do their job, Impact Players figure out the real job to be done.
- While others wait for direction, Impact Players step up and lead.
- While others escalate problems, Impact Players move things across the finish line.
- While others attempt to minimize change, Impact Players are learning and adapting to change.
- While others add to the load, the Impact Players make heavy demands feel lighter.
Wiseman makes clear that these practices—and the right mindset—can help any employee contribute at their fullest and shows leaders how they can raise the level of play for everyone on the team. Impact Players is your playbook for the new workplace.
What people are saying about this book:
“If you’re trying to navigate the new world of work, this book is your GPS. With solid research and sparkling examples, Wiseman shows how to do the things they don’t teach us in school—tackling ambiguous problems, surmounting unforeseen obstacles, hitting moving targets, and traveling beyond the boundaries of your job description to make a real contribution.” — Daniel H. Pink, number one New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive, and To Sell is Human
“If you want to stand out early in your career, this book is required reading. Liz Wiseman highlights the practical, often surprising habits that will help you reach your potential and make your mark.” — Adam Grant, number one New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife
“Impact Players will teach you how to have empathy for your boss without kissing up, how to step up and take charge even when you don’t have formal authority, and when to step back and follow, so you can make big things happen for your team and your career.” — Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor and Just Work
“Liz Wiseman has done it again. Impact Players is an engaging and practical guide to how anyone can be more effective at work. In a refreshing departure from the relentless emphasis on leadership that dominates the field, Wiseman digs into the important question of how people make themselves valuable and how they find ways to make an impact when and where it matters most.” — Amy C. Edmondson, professor, Harvard Business School, and author of The Fearless Organization
Here is a link to the Wiseman Group website.
On this website, you will be able to read more about Liz Wiseman, her book and the impact players that affected her writing. Listen to her contributions to various podcasts and read and download lots of useful tools and resources, including an opportunity to read the first chapter of the book before you buy it.
Here is a video that is part of the FranklinCovey On Leadership series – in this one, Scott Miller interviews Liz Wiseman to discuss her book, Impact Players. Liz shares what it is that constitutes an impact player, what sets them apart from others and how simple mindset shifts can increase your impact:
Below is an image with a link to an interview with Liz Wiseman on the ‘How to be awesome at your job’ podcast series. She uncovers the small but impactful practices of exceptional performers.
- Why it’s okay to not be working on what’s important to you
- The five things impact players do differently
- The trick to leading without an invitation
Listen to this Biz Group keynote speech from Liz Wiseman, with highlights from the Impact Players event. During the session, she shares her insights about how to increase your leadership, influence and impact at work.
YOUR SUPPORT TOOLS ARE HERE:
Click the button below and you'll be able to download a pdf version of this page.