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Becoming a leader of impact

Impact is all about results. And results start with clearly written, actionable goals that help leaders build alignment and amplify output.

7 min read




We’ve talked about how to lead from integrity and become more influential. Now, let’s explore the final “I” leadership element: impact.

Integrity and influence are, without question, important components of leadership. But without results, leaders can hardly be deemed effective.

Impact is all about results. And results start with clearly written, actionable goals that help leaders build alignment and amplify output.

Goal-setting is a critical component of any growth process, personal or professional. There are many benefits of setting goals, including…

  • Clarity and Focus. Goals motivate us to cut through the weeds and get focused on what’s really important.
  • Planning. Goals help us map out the necessary steps to achieve our desired result.
  • Accountability. Goals force us to set and meet deadlines and be accountable to others.
  • Transparency. When shared, goals help others understand what we’re focused on.
  • Self-esteem. Goals raise our self-confidence as we see ourselves grow and progress.

And who wouldn’t want more motivation, better planning, increased accountability and more? But let’s try to make this more than a mental exercise. We need to infuse some emotion into this, too.

For goals to be effective in moving us forward, they need to be expressed in actionable terms that also detail how you would feel from achieving your objectives.

When we tie emotions to outcomes, we activate feelings within us that motivate us towards achievement.

A study by researcher James K. Harter and colleagues found that business-unit sales and profits at one point in time are predicted by employees’ feelings at earlier points in time. People’s emotions impact their performance, and if they’re healthy and happy, they perform better.

Goals should be simplistically written and should clearly define what you are going to do.

Say, for example, you seek to concentrate more deeply on a specific task, such as writing a proposal, for longer durations. To do that, set specific goals of what you would like to work on and for how long. Include elements that will keep you from becoming distracted and/or motivate you to stay on task.

It may read something like this:

“In order to complete the proposal (specific goal), I will set aside 30 minutes at the outset of each morning for the next four days for in-depth, uninterrupted work. (what)

“By completing this important task first thing in the morning, I can do it while my mind is freshest and still attend to many other tasks and responsibilities afterwards. (why important)

“During this time, I will not answer phone calls, respond to emails or texts, or engage in any form of web surfing. (how achieved)

“When the proposal is completed, I will feel as if a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders and that I am infinitely closer to closing this deal.” (how you’ll feel)

One of the best ways to achieve these goals is through coaching. The goal of coaching is to help people bring out their own abilities and find solutions that already lie within them. The coach achieves this through a series of questions that help the coachee to get beyond their mental blocks and limiting beliefs to achieve things that they may not otherwise have seen as possible or desirable.

Moreover, organizations that use coaching tend to adopt a far more optimistic view of their people. Instead of strictly measuring performance, leaders who coach are more likely to look beyond what people have done to what they can do and become.

Let’s look at an example. John has been working at the company for the past six years. During that entire time, he is tasked to jobs that fall into a tight range of responsibility. It is simply assumed, by John’s superiors and by John as well, that he is not able to complete tasks that are more complex and demanding or require different skills than what he has been doing until now.

Not surprisingly, John is never promoted and fails to live up to his potential.

But say, instead of accepting John’s limitations at face value, John’s superior was to give him a “growth exercise” and ask him to go beyond what he’s done in the past. Perhaps John would resist at the beginning and default to his own set of perceived limitations. However, with a healthy dose of encouragement and some coaching aimed at helping John succeed, the likelihood of him making a concerted effort to achieve the task would be greatly increased.

Building a coaching workplace encourages everyone to see opportunities rather than obstacles and to view each person as a source of limitless potential rather than possessing finite capacity. Leaders who train themselves and their leadership teams in the art of coaching will open new opportunities, build resilience, increase engagement and raise morale, all while maximizing effort and impact throughout their organizations.

In addition to setting clear goals and taking concrete action, leaders can amplify their impact by focusing on engagement.

It has been well-documented that one of the biggest challenges for leaders is to create and maintain the proper conditions for engagement and productivity. We know that if we are to maintain high levels of workplace output and morale, we need to ensure that our employees feel valued and challenged. We also recognize that if we want to be able to respond to — if not stay in front of — marketplace change, we need to develop workers who are comfortable thinking independently and contributing to the collective brain trust.

Too many leaders and managers fail to achieve this because they do not understand how to motivate today’s workers or how to empower them to think and act independently and more positively.

In generations past, employees would be given orders and were required to dutifully implement them if they wanted to hold their positions for any meaningful duration.

But times have changed. As younger workers make their way into the workplace, they expect to play by a different set of rules. They want to be given the freedom to experiment, a voice with which to weigh in at staff meetings and the ability to pursue what they view as meaningful, engaging work. Anything less they view as limiting, which spells dissatisfaction and, for the most part, underperformance (if not outside job seeking).

Leaders also would be wise to guide their teams in a way that offers them the sense that they figured things out on their own. Not only does this build deeper connections to the work, but it develops resiliency and fortitude. (While this may not be feasible at the beginning of an onboarding or job-transition process, it should become the normative assumption once folks have had opportunity to get their feet under them.)

When strong leadership based on the 3 I’s (integrity, influence, and impact) is in place in a company, it can be felt throughout the entire organization.

Leadership is driven by integrity and values, not power or greed. Corporate culture isn’t forced, it is developed. Communication is daily and open, rather that secretive and selective. People feel connected and engaged, because they understand the vision and goals of the organization and can safely offer input into how things can be improved. Employees feel that they are an important part of the whole and that every job matters within the company. Employees are encouraged to compete with their own best to get ahead and understand that helping their coworkers to succeed is the best way to get ahead themselves.

The result of good leadership is high morale, good employee retention, and sustainable long-term success.



Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss.” Read his blog, and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new e-book, “An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing.”

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