There are many books about leaders, but not contributors. Why do some people operate at their full potential while others underutilize their abilities? This book by Liz Wiseman explains why/how the most impactful players see and do things differently from typical contributors. In this free Impact Players summary, you’ll learn the 5 mindsets and practices that set Impact Players apart from others, and how you can cultivate them in yourself and your team. These insights are useful for (1) contributors who wish to make a greater impact, (2) leaders who wish to multiply their teams’ results, and (3) professionals handling organizational and talent development.
Why Bother with Impact Players?
To understand what differentiates the most impactful players from others, Wiseman’s research team spoke with 170 executives working in 10 countries, surveyed 350 managers from various industries, and conducted detailed interviews with 25 high-impact contributors. They focused on 2 groups of smart, talented players:
- Impact Players play at their full potential and deliver exceptional value and impact. These are the people you go to for high-stake projects or to get things done.
- Typical contributors play below their full potential/impact and deliver work that’s good (but not superb). It can be frustrating to work with smart, capable people who are clearly performing below their potential. Often, these people want to contribute, but simply don’t know how.
The 4 Differences of Impact Players
The researchers found that Impact Players exist in all levels and industries. In particular, they demonstrate 4 distinct differences from typical contributors.
- They have a different mindset: they see uncertainties as opportunities to add value, instead of threats to avoid.
- This leads them to respond differently to 5 types of everyday challenges: messy problems, unclear roles, unforeseen obstacles, moving targets, and unrelenting burdens. Specifically, they exhibit 5 practices or behaviors: (1) do the job that’s needed, (2) step up then step back, (3) finish stronger, (4) ask and adjust, and (5) make work light.
- Many of the norms and standards in a team/organization are not explicitly stated. Yet, impact players grasp the unwritten rules which helps them to figure out what must be done and how to do it in the right way.
- Impact Players are estimated to contribute more than 3x the value of a typical contributor and about 10x that of an under-contributor. Hence, managers are more likely to invest in Impact Players by giving them more responsibility and resources. This increases their potential to shine, learn and grow, to create an even greater impact in a positive cycle. Unfortunately, biases from gender, generation, race or ethnicity can cause certain Impact Players to be overlooked, leading to lost opportunities for both the individuals and their organizations.
The 5 Practices of Impact Players
By understanding the mindsets and behaviors that set Impact Players apart from typical contributors, you too can up your game and contribute at your fullest potential. In the book, Liz Wiseman breaks down the 5 practice of impact players in great detail. You can get the specific tip and examples in our complete Impact Players summary. Meanwhile, here’s a quick overview of the 5 key practices:
1. Do The Job That Needs To Be Done
At work, we regularly encounter messy problems, i.e. complex, cross-functional issues that fall outside defined job boundaries. Impact Players don’t just do their assigned jobs; they do the job that’s required.
2. Step Up, Then Step Back
At the workplace, it’s common to find situations with unclear roles, i.e. a lack of leadership or clarity on who’s in charge. Impact Players don’t just wait passively for directions; they step up to take the lead, then step back to follow once things are in motion.
3. Finish Stronger
Every organization faces unforeseen obstacles, i.e. unexpected setbacks and unknown unknowns. You can’t predict such challenges, but you can handle them responsibly. Impact Players don’t escalate issues or simply pass them on to others; they finish strongly to deliver results reliably with an upside surprise.
4. Ask and Adjust
A dynamic environment often means fast-changing conditions and moving targets that make existing practices obsolete. By the time you figure things out, the situation could’ve changed again. In fact of uncertainty, Impact Players don’t stick to what they know; they ask for guidance and adjust their approach.
5. Make Work Light
We can get overwhelmed and stressed by unrelenting demands that seem to increase faster than our capacity. Impact Players don’t add to others’ burdens by asking for help or creating noise/drama; they make work easier and lighter for everyone.
In our full Impact Players summary, you can dive into the details for each of the 5 practices above, including:
- The specific behavioral differences between Impact Players and Typical Contributors;
- The high-impact habits exhibited by Impact Players;
- Steps and actionable tips to cultivate the associated mindset and habits; and
- Short examples of Impact Players @ work in real life.
Developing the Impact Player Mindset
Impact Player mindsets and behaviors aren’t inborn. They can be nurtured at both individual and team levels. In our complete Impact Player summary, you can also learn more about:
- How to increase your impact by (i) developing 2 foundational skills to help you master the 5 practices more easily, and (ii) gathering evidence of your progress, contribution and impact.
- How to build a high-impact team by recruiting and developing Impact Players, building a champion team and a winning culture.
Getting the Most from Impact Players
If you’d like to find out more about the key mindsets and behaviors of Impact Players, and how to apply/nurture them individually or as a team, do check out our full book summary bundle which includes an infographic, an 18-page text summary, and a 27-minute audio summary.
The book by Liz Wiseman also includes numerous examples from organizations like Oracle, NASA, Google, Salesforce and Target. If you’re interested in additional case studies, tips for coaches, frequently asked questions, and other tips (e.g. ways to build upward credibility), do purchase the book or visit ImpactPlayersBook.com for more information.
Loving Liz Wiseman’s books? Check out our Multipliers summary to learn how to multiply the results for your team!
About the Author of Impact Players
Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact is written by Liz Wiseman–a researcher and executive leadership advisor. She’s the CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm. Prior to that, she worked for Oracle Corporation from 1988-2005. Wiseman was listed on the Thinkers50 ranking. She was also recognized as the top leadership thinker in the world in 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.
Impact Players Quotes
“If you are doing today’s job, you are probably handling yesterday’s priorities.”
“Too often capable people miss opportunities to act nobly because they are waiting to be knighted.”
“When the world of work is changing fast, the critical skill isn’t what you know but how fast you can learn.”
“When we change our lens from threat to opportunity we can turn risky situations into rewarding experiences.”
“Don’t just change your ways; market those changes to key stakeholders.”
Play to your Full Potential and Multiply Your Impact!