You always have an impact on people and the world around you, whether you pay attention to it or not. Ultimately, everyone is responsible for the impact they have and the impact they want to have. And the more senior you become as a leader, the more people you impact, and therefore the more responsibility you have for making sure you get it right. That’s how important your impact becomes.
To have impact is closely linked to the ability to influence. The difference between influence and impact, even if they overlap at times, can be described like this – “If you can influence you have an impact”. To influence someone is to make them take onboard our ideas, suggestions or directions. This can happen through logic, facts, behaviours, emotions and peer pressure – to mention a few. When you have influenced someone to take on a new thought, argument, action or behaviour, you have had an impact on them.
It’s HOW you do business that creates your impact
B2B: Business to Business.
B2C: Business to Consumer.
These are common ways of describing if a business is providing products and services to another business or directly to the consumer, the end user.
This is to some degree an important distinction as it impacts or even dictates how an organization is organised and how it needs to operate.
But ultimately all business is H2H – it’s Human to Human. It’s people who make decisions to buy or not buy, to stay loyal to a brand or not, to recommend a company or not.
We may for example think that we have a contract with an organization to deliver service, but that’s only part of the truth – it will always be people who decide to sign that contract or not. If that person or those people don’t have a great experience with us, they may choose to sign a new contract with someone else instead of signing or re-signing with us.
But don’t underestimate the power of the human aspect of ALL contacts an organization and its people have. It’s all about people. People make decisions. Connections happen between humans.
And this is why HOW we conduct business; HOW we behave in interaction with others, HOW we make others feel, is so important – and if anything, is only becoming more and more important. Every interaction matters and the impact you have in each interaction. You are not just representing yourself, you are also representing the whole organization and what it stands for.
Throughout the history of mankind, the ability to create relationships with others, to connect and collaborate with others has been a key success factor. The concept and power of impact has always existed.
Impact starts from within
How you feel about yourself affects how you think about yourself, and how you think about yourself affects how you feel about yourself. So the most important factor to consider when assessing your current impact or planning for your desired impact is how effectively you are leading yourself and taking control of your “inner self”. This inner system consists of your beliefs about yourself, your self-esteem and level of self-confidence, driven by your thoughts and feelings. It’s your whole mental and emotional self and a big driver of everything you do and what the world experiences with you. If you want to have a great impact on the world around, start first within. Get to know and understand yourself so well that you recognize and can take control of the impact you have.
Effective leadership impact comes down to this: what state (of mind/emotion) do you want to elicit in others? Therefore, what state do you first need to elicit in yourself? If you want to be inspiring, you need to be inspired.
Your impact is about the ripple effect you create
Impact happens on a one to one basis, with individuals, and on a one to many basis, with teams and groups.
Negative impact may for example be as simple as checking emails on your phone when in a one to one situation. How do you think that makes the other person feel? What impact are you having on them? Will they want to go that extra mile for you? And who are they meeting next? How may they affect that person as result?
Equally, if you’re presenting to a room full of people, handing out awards and getting the recipients names wrong, your personal brand will be negatively affected. People will feel that they are not important enough to be remembered, or that you didn’t care enough to pay attention to the details. And people tend to remember those situations, so you will now have to work harder to reclaim some lost credibility and achieve the impact you want.
Positive impact can be as simple as saying thanks to someone who helped. It doesn’t matter how small or large, just taking the time to stop and say thanks can have a huge impact on people. In the busy world that we live in we can easily forget this important and impactful effort.
Creating an Impact Strategy
Given that impact is that important, you need to challenge yourself to become aware of the impact you have or maybe lack. You may have a lot of strategies, for the business, for change initiatives and more, but you also need to have a strategy for your impact and therefore what that will do for the business. What all leaders have in common is that they always operate through others, they need to enable employees to do a great job. This is why your impact becomes your most important strategy in order to deliver the desired and expected results.
Your impact is and should be bigger than you. And as a senior leader in particular, it’s not about raising your own profile, your focus on impact is for the good of the business, the greater good. You need to recognise that creating impact is a positive, powerful and respectful commitment to excellence. And most importantly you need to do it in an authentic way, a way that suits you.
Whatever leadership role you’re in, it’s your duty to ensure you have a strategy for your impact.
Things move fast, we’re all surrounded by constant change. Leaders need to create impact in the moment, to not lose the power of that moment. No one is perfect and no one will get it right all the time, but they need to at least seize their most important moments and create the impact that will help them connect with others in a respectful way, to create trust, get others to listen to them, to influence effectively, and to drive results.
Going into the future, our ability to have a good or even great impact is becoming more and more important. We all need to think about the effect we have on others and what effect we want to have. ”How” we operate rather than simply ”what” we do is becoming more critical to success. In fact, it is fast becoming the differentiating factor for successful executives, leaders and organisations overall.
By actively CREATING THE IMPACT they want, leaders are demonstrating they are more in charge of, and can better predict the outcomes they get. We all need to manage our personal impact, and the effect our impact has on all our stakeholders, both in the short- and the long-term.
Whatever your impact ambition is, you need to build a tailored IMPACT STRATEGY for yourself. Sustainable, long-term impact comes down to behaviours, what you intentionally create, how you react and respond.
Understanding your audience
Every single person is different to the next and therefore needs to be approached differently, the Platinum Rule comes into play here – ”treat others as they want to be treated” – as opposed to the more commonly known Golden Rule – ”treat others as you want to be treated”. With the Platinum Rule you don’t assume that everyone is the same as you.
Great communication, great influence and great impact always comes down to how well you understand your ’audience’ and how well you adapt your style to match them. You are having your people/situation ’radar’ on to tell you what’s going on around you, what’s coming up, what’s around the corner, so that you can act and behave with integrity and presence and relevance.
Think about it. If you’re treated as if you’re unique, as if you’re understood, you more likely to feel as if the person treating you in this unique way is having a positive impact on you. Right? So, to create the positive impact you want, you need to think about how you can treat others in a unique way, while still being authentic. Being authentic makes you feel comfortable and the effect is that it makes the other person at ease too.
Being Authentic and using your ULP
Just as every person is different from the next, so are you. You bring something that is unique and that differentiates you. You need to know what that is, so that you can tap into it and use it actively to bring out the best of you. And that in turn brings out the best in others. Powerful impact is fueled by your Unique Leadership Points, the combination of personality, background, experience, strengths and characteristics that you alone have. This is rarely fully understood, as most people don’t have a comprehensive grasp of their strengths and what makes them unique. No one can be best at everything, but everyone is best at something.
The best impact you can have is when you are ’being you’. It’s good to be aware of when that works for you and when it doesn’t. There are times when you need to adapt your style to connect with another person while still being authentic, to have an impact. So it’s a fine balancing act between being attuned to yourself and others at the same time
How actions and behaviours drive impact
Our days at work are full of what we do and how we are. Our actions make up the what while our behaviours make up the how.
Having an impact is your job as a leader. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a necessity. It is the job.
Mandy Flint and Elisabet Vinberg Hearn are leadership strategists with a focus on future trends for leadership. They are multi award-winning authors, their 3rd Book for FT publishing The Leader’s Guide to Impact is out now.