How Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff Become Impact Players

If there was one book I wish I had written, it is Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact by Liz Wiseman. Wiseman wrote another of my favorites too, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. However, with Impact Players, I felt like she was writing directly to the Force Multiplier (Executive Assistant and Chief of Staff) community. Great Force Multipliers are Impact Players.

Impact Players are those individuals who make a significant contribution individually, but who also have an enormously positive effect on the team. What really differentiates them for their colleagues is that Impact Players believe that opportunity exists even amidst challenges and ambiguity. They see the world through a lens of opportunity, rather than a threat lens. They see these challenges as an opportunity to step up, add value, and take action.

So, what does it take to become an Impact Player? Let’s use Wiseman’s framework to explain what an Impact Player looks like and how those characteristics and actions directly relate to the roles that Force Multipliers fulfill. Here are the five differentiators that separate Impact Players from the rest of their colleagues, and how Force Multipliers can learn and adopt these behaviors to make the most impact.

1) DO THE JOB THAT’S NEEDED

“While others do their job, Impact Players figure out the real job that needs to be done.”

Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff are uniquely positioned to be pinch hitters in their organization. They typically have a wide breadth of knowledge, a strong network, and the drive to make things happen. Yes, they know their role inside and out and what must be done; however, they also are able to use their experience and judgement to figure out the real job that needs to be done. Staying curious and asking great questions will help get to the heart of the issues, so that everyone can move forward faster and with more, well, impact.

For example: Let’s say your Executive tasked you with hosting an employee event to boost morale. You have a budget and free reign to create the best experience. You could do this in your sleep! However, you dive into “doing” mode, you take a step back and ask, “Is that the real issue? And if morale is in fact down, is throwing an employee event the best solution?” Maybe, maybe not. After further investigation, you realize that the employees don’t need a day of fun, they need a day off. Instead, you propose that the following Friday is a impromptu paid day off. You create a proposal, get the buy-in of the Executive team, and then work with your HR department and other team members to communicate and implement this throughout the company. You figured out the real job that needed to be done.

2) STEP UP, STEP BACK

“While others wait for direction, Impact Players step up and lead.”

Impact Players are willing to step up and lead, especially when it’s unclear who is in charge. They rely on influential leadership, rather than position leadership to get things done. And Force Multipliers are very familiar with that. It’s a core part of being an Executive Assistant or Chief of Staff!

There are many opportunities for Force Multipliers to develop their leadership skills within their division or company – whether it’s offering to lead a new committee, taking the lead on a project, or bringing a new idea to the table for the team to implement. Great Force Multipliers do not wait around to be given tasks, assignments, and projects. Instead, like Impact Players, they are constantly building their business acumen and scanning the organization for ways to add value and help keep the company moving forward. They step up. And, they also know when to step back. Just because a Force Multiplier has taken the lead on a project, doesn’t mean that is now part of their full-time job. They also understand when it’s time to pass the baton and give someone else an opportunity to lead or when it’s time to turn the project over to another team member. They step up and lead and then they step back and look for the next opportunity to make an impact. They know when to lead and when to follow.

For example: As you’re working on implementing a company-wide paid day off, you will need to work with finance, human resources, various leadership team members, and more to ensure it goes off without a hitch. You want employees to understand the “why” behind the initiative, but also ensure they have their work covered and they’ve communicate to external stakeholders and clients as needed. You stepped up to lead. And, you will need to know when to step back and turn the project over to HR and individual leadership members.

3) FINISH STRONGER

“While others escalate problems, Impact Players move things across the finish line and build strength along the way.”

Impact Players and Force Multipliers are fighters. They will get creative, get scrappy, and do whatever needs to be done in order to complete a project, even when the going gets tough and many others would have given up. They take ownership over their roles and assignments and do not shift the responsibility to other team members or push it back up to leadership. Successful Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff do this too. They are able to creatively solve problems, work autonomously when needed, research, devise a plan of action, and then bring other team members in as needed to get it done. They do not avoid the hard work and, instead, are accountable to the end result.

For example: As you are working on rolling out the impromptu paid day off across your organization, you begin to get push-back from many of the directors who are concerned with decreased productivity for their division. You also have one HR team member (who is not an Impact Player) who isn’t really interested in the extra work required to successfully communicate and document the extra paid day off.

This is where all of your Force Multiplier/Impact Player abilities will have to come into play. You may need to schedule additional meetings with those individuals to hear their concerns, explain the benefits, and offer to help out where you can. But the CEO had said it’s a go, which means you’ll have to bring your influence to the table and help make it happen. The key here will be to build stronger relationships with those leadership members and HR who have reservations. Even better if you can shift their perspective and get them to step up their leadership during the process. You do not go back to your CEO to have them “tell” the other team members what to do. As a Force Multiplier and Impact Player you work through this challenge and bring it across the finish line, earning respect, and developing better leaders along the way.

4) ASK AND ADJUST

“While others attempt to manage and minimize changes, Impact Players are learning and adapting to change.”

Impact Players and Force Multipliers must be learning-based and growth-minded to operate at the highest level. They see challenges and face them head-on. Asking questions, researching, and learning to figure out how to adapt and overcome. They can handle change and moving targets. And since they are always learning, studying leadership and industry, and working on their own personal growth, they are ready to handle whatever comes their way. They do not avoid change. Instead, Impact Players/Force Multipliers welcome change and see it as an opportunity to learn, innovate, and improve.

For example: When the roadblocks in you company-wide paid-day off project began to emerge, it didn’t deter you. Instead, you started to ask questions and figure out a way to successfully move forward. There was some significant push-back, because it would require people to change a process or change the way their prepared their team for the week ahead, but it was nothing you couldn’t handle. You used this challenge as a way to learn more about the various divisions in the organization, as well as practicing your leadership skills so you were even better equipped to handle a special project or initiative from your Executive in the future. While doing your due diligence, you realized that the Friday you had proposed was not the ideal day for the company. So, you adjusted. You chose a different date, got approval from the CEO, and again, worked with your team to make it happen. Successful Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff are flexible, adaptable, and able to find a solution to whatever challenges comes their way.

5) MAKE WORK LIGHT

“While others add to the load, Impact Players make heavy demands feel lighter.”

While it is often an Executive Assistant’s or Chief of Staff’s first instinct to just jump in, help out, and do the work themselves, that isn’t necessarily the only, or best, way to make work light. In fact, I would challenge you not to think of it that way at all! Instead, Impact Players make work light by being someone who is easy to work with, encouraging the team or boosting morale, providing resources, or connecting stakeholders to help solve problems. This is actually a big part of a Force Multipliers role. They don’t have to be the one to do the work, but they do have to help facilitate and ensure the work is done. And, if you can have a little fun or help someone grow along the way, even better! Furthermore, successful Force Multipliers and Impact Players are highly accountable individuals. It’s easy to work with them because they do what they are going to do, meet deadlines, and often go above and beyond. This certainly makes challenges, competing priorities, and high-stakes projects feel lighter.

For example: You know your HR generalist is having a difficult time wanting to shift her process and deal with the extra administrative work. You get it. Everyone is at max capacity and now you and your CEO threw a new project into the mix. So, you do what any great Impact Player would do and make her work lighter! You schedule a meeting with her to go over the project plan and work with her to get clarity on the pieces she is responsible for. At that meeting, you bring information and pieces from the other divisions that you’ve already gathered, so she doesn’t have to spend time tracking it down and waiting on others to get it to her. Oh, and you also bring a couple of coffees and some homemade pumpkin protein muffins with you. The conversation goes well, everyone knows what needs to get done, and you bonded with your colleague over you shared love of pumpkin spice lattes.

As you can see, Impact Players have a lot in common with highly successful Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff. While you can find Impact Players throughout your organization serving many different roles, I do think Force Multipliers are uniquely positioned to become some of the stand out Impact Players in their organizations.

Who are the Impact Players in your organization? Are you one of them? Which of the 5 key areas above do you do really well? Which area could you improve in? Take some time to reflect and then get to work making an impact! Check out some of the resources below to help you get a head start.

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