It was my honor to recently welcome award-winning researcher and author Liz Wiseman to share her wisdom with our Women in Revenue Employee Interest Group (EIG) quarterly meeting. She focused on some proven ways that all of us can build more influence at work.
Liz’s new book, Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact, talks about her interviews with top employers, including Google, LinkedIn, Salesforce and SAP, around one, main question: “What is it that the most influential people in the workplace do?”
It turns out these “impact players” have an extraordinary effect on their organization because of several important traits. In her research, managers identified 170 impact players, and 50% of those were women. That means women are equal partners and players when it comes to delivering influence and impact at work.
As I listened to Liz, I thought, “I need to bottle up these tried-and-true methods so everyone can learn to be an impact player!” So here we go. Here are some key messages I heard from Liz’s research and the personal stories she told from her early career as a technology executive.
Impact Players Step Up When Things Get “Messy”
Solid team players were usually stellar in ordinary times. But when work started to get “messy”, and the environment was chaotic — steeped with ambiguity and uncertainty — that's where the impact players stepped in and stepped up. They thought differently. They handled the situations differently, and they had an extraordinarily different level of impact — 3.5x more impact than rock-solid contributors!
From frontline sales reps to mid-level managers to executives, impact players at all levels in an organization differentiate themselves by how they deal with “messy problems” at work. Liz shared an experience from her early days as a tech executive, where she was initially focused on “getting the job that was listed done.”
But through the sage advice of a leader who turned out to be a mentor, she quickly realized that she needed to focus on “the job that was needed” at the time. The company needed her to get 2,000 new employees — all new college graduate “techies” — up to speed on the technology.
This wasn’t a role Liz envisioned for herself as a management trainer, but successfully applying her skills to the job at hand helped advance the company. Plus, it helped her advance her own career. In other words, she quickly switched gears and became an impact player!
Handling Unforeseen Obstacles: Don’t Just Get It Done. Finish Stronger.
When something unplanned happens at work, even the best team members may fall back or freak out. The impact player looks at that same situation and sees an opportunity. Liz explained, “If you've ever spent time at the ocean, you know the difference when you try to outrun a wave. It usually takes you down, or it keeps you sort of stuck on shore.”
On the other hand, “The impact players dive in — they kind of duck dive in. They make a strategic dive in the wave.” They also don’t go it alone but ensure they have the people they need bought in and at their side to succeed. Liz shared an example from her own career when she secured executive support on a project where she knew she needed that team approach and buy-in to move forward successfully.
Handling Unclear Roles: Don’t Wait for Direction. Step Up and Then Step Back.
Liz challenged us to think about, “What's it like to work with someone who always needs to be in charge, or who just simply always is in charge?” In a nutshell, it’s exhausting. She said, “We find that the best leaders step up and take charge. But they also are willing to step back.”
She asked us to think of a formation of migrating geese. The geese take turns in that lead role, but when they tire, they fall back. It's a rotating form of leadership. She explained, “We tend not to listen to the leaders who always need to take charge.” She challenged us to have the courage to step up and lead, but also have enough courage and confidence in ourselves and others to step back and follow.
Sometimes, it also means we shouldn’t wait to be invited to places we think we belong. Liz discussed a time in her experience when a product team tried unsuccessfully to develop an overarching strategy. When she showed up, uninvited, at their next product planning meeting, a leader asked her what she was doing there. She squared her shoulders and explained to him that since they are trying to take a lot of complex technical information and distill it down to a simple and compelling message, she could help. She was good at that.
In her words, “I just started taking notes, not minutes, just notes, and sharing some observations.” Eventually, they asked for her observations and, ultimately, they asked her to facilitate the meetings. She said, “They came to the realization that a good strategy has many thinkers but a single author.” That’s a great lesson for all of us.
Additional ideas include:
- Moving targets: Don’t just stick with what you know. Act and adjust.
Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Some refer to that as the ability to “disagree and commit.” It’s not always easy to do but it’s one of the things that her research showed was the difference between being an ordinary player and an extraordinary one.
- Be powerful. But make work light.
We all appreciate when we have a team member that gets the work done well but makes it seem effortless and easy.
Enhance Your Impact at Informatica
Liz Wiseman’s personal discussion about how to build influence at work had an impact on me and the rest of our group. Informatica is proud of Women in Revenue for giving voice, building allies and collaborating in the technology industry. Through speaker programs, coaching and mentoring, we strive to create a network that elevates and empowers the women in revenue-generating roles at Informatica.
Informatica is always looking for great candidates who believe in the power of data to transform lives and who are passionate about helping organizations modernize their enterprise with Informatica’s Intelligent Data Management Cloud™ (IDMC). Learn more about Informatica careers.