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Book Summary: Impact Players – How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact

Impact Players (2021) uncovers the qualities of the most indispensable players in a team or organization, and breaks down the mindset that sets these influential individuals apart from the rest. Drawing on insights from top industry leaders, it shows how to leverage the approaches used by influential professionals to multiply your own impact in the workplace.

Book Summary: Impact Players - How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact

Content Summary

Genres
Who is it for?
What’s in it for me? Learn how to contribute to your full potential and multiply your impact.
The Mental Game.
Expand your focus to find your W.I.N.
While others wait for direction, Impact Players step up and lead.
Others escalate problems, Impact Players move things across the finish line.
Impact Players ask for feedback and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Impact Players make the workload feel lighter by keeping things simple.
Final summary
About the author
Overview
Read an Excerpt
Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award
Video/Podcast/PDF Preview

Genres

Business Culture, Leadership, Workplace, Management, Self Help, Personal Development, Psychology, Influence

Who is it for?

  • Aspiring leaders
  • Business owners and entrepreneurs
  • Organization development professionals

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 summaries, 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.

The five practices of impact players

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.

Messy Problems Complex, interdisciplinary issues or opportunities that don’t fall within any one person’s job
Unclear Roles Lack of clarity on who is in charge
Unforeseen Obstacles Unprecedented challenges and unforeseeable problems
Moving Targets Changing needs or circumstances that render current practices ineffective or inadequate
Unrelenting Demands Work demands that increase faster than capacity

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.

The Opportunity Lens

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.

About the author

Liz Wiseman is a researcher, executive advisor and CEO of talent development and research organization the Wiseman Group. She is also the author of New York Times bestseller The Multiplier Effect and Wall Street Journal bestseller Rookie Smarts.

Liz Wiseman is a researcher and executive advisor who teaches leadership to executives around the world. She is the author of New York Times bestseller Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools, and Wall Street Journal bestseller Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work.

She is the CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley, California. Some of her recent clients include: Apple, AT&T, Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Salesforce, Tesla, and Twitter. Liz has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and named one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world.

She has conducted significant research in the field of leadership and collective intelligence and writes for Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and a variety of other business and leadership journals. A former executive at Oracle Corporation, she worked over the course of 17 years as the Vice President of Oracle University and as the global leader for Human Resource Development.

She is a frequent guest lecturer at BYU and Stanford University. Liz holds a Bachelors degree in Business Management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Liz Wiseman | Website
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Liz Wiseman | Linkedin
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Overview

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 center 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.

Read an Excerpt

Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award

“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

“In building innovative Silicon Valley companies and running US economic diplomacy, I’ve learned that Impact Players are the essential ingredient for growing transformative organizations. And Liz Wiseman’s book gives you the recipe. Impact Players will help you develop the desperately needed next generation of bold, principled, transformational leaders to address our challenges and make sure the world of tomorrow is a better world for all.” – Keith Krach, former United States undersecretary of state, chairman and CEO of DocuSign and Ariba

“Being busy? Easy. Having an impact and making a difference? Well, that’s hard, really hard. Liz Wiseman, in her typically brilliantly, generous, and rigorous way, shows how any of us can change what we do so we too can be an Impact Player. This book is every bit as important and as good as Multipliers. And that book changed the working world.” – Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit

“Impact Players is a gold mine! It is filled with powerful insights and actionable recommendations on how to move beyond being a competent employee to being a truly impactful team player. This should be required reading for individual contributors and leaders alike.” – Tina Seelig, professor and executive director, Knight-Hennessy Scholars, Stanford University

“As we slowly get through the challenges of the global pandemic, we cannot declare victory and go back to normal. We must look further forward to face a future of unprecedented adversity and opportunity. We need more leaders with the right mindset and skills to tackle our biggest and most important challenges—like the climate crisis or technological disruption of jobs, work, industries, and institutions. The world needs fewer people accepting the status quo and more Impact Players who are actively working to create the future they see is possible. This book is a playbook that will help individuals work at a higher level, inspire teams to do great things, and enable organizations to create a culture that fosters growth and to become high-impact organizations.” – Rob Nail, associate founder and former CEO, Singularity University

“Every colleague, teammate, and contributor wants to be the ‘go to,’ high-performing, high-contributing player. Some might call them indispensable. Well, now you have the practical mindsets, strategies, and tools to achieve those goals. It doesn’t take much, but it does take leaders and colleagues who are able to apply simple techniques to extract that extra engagement sitting just below the surface. Liz is a master, and every CHRO/CPO should read this book. If you’re looking to take your organization and the amazing colleagues you have to another level of contribution, this is the guide to help you get them there!” – Eric Hutcherson, chief people and inclusion officer, Universal Music Group

“As with all of Wiseman’s books, this is supremely well-researched, structured and filled with relatable stories. If you want to develop the Impact Player mindset and learn their specific practices, or want to have more Impact Players on your team, this book is gold.” – Forbes

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