Impact: Such a big word, so often used by leaders, teams and organizations. But what does making an impact at work look like in tangible ways? Is it driving results? Inspiring others with your positive attitude?
“The concept of making an impact can be defined in many ways, but at its core, it is about going above and beyond what is expected of you in order to make a positive difference. It is about taking initiative, being proactive, and putting your best foot forward,” says Linda Shaffer, Chief People Operations Officer at Checkr.
According to her, some tangible examples of making an impact at work include:
- Taking on additional responsibilities or projects that are outside of your usual scope of work
- Going above and beyond to help a colleague or team member with a task or project
- Proactively offering suggestions or feedback to improve a process or workflow
- Volunteering for assignments or tasks that are outside of your comfort zone
- Being a positive and upbeat presence in the workplace, even during challenging times
“Making an impact at work isn’t dependent on your age or your title. Anyone can be a leader in the workplace and inspire those around them through what they are doing. It’s about making your time count,” according to Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, who has dedicated her career to enhancing workplace equality.
If you’re feeling inspired to take your impact to the next level, below are some great tips and guiding principles to keep in mind to leave a positive mark at work – regardless of your position or industry.
1. Take initiative and take action
“I wish all professionals knew that great leaders, managers or CEOs don’t want order-takers. This is because leaders can’t have all the answers. They set a vision and rely on other professionals to work out the plan and execute,” says Mike Gardon, executive editor and host of the Careercloud Radio podcast. “So, to make an impact, professionals need to focus more on taking initiative and ownership by speaking up, taking risks and taking action.”
Worried about taking a risk and failing? If you’re in an environment where impact is valued in the first place, failing forward is usually a better move than playing it too safe. “Great leaders give room for mistakes,” says Gardon. Zalis agrees: “Failing means you’re trying new things and new ways of thinking.
2. Focus on service
If you don’t know where to start as far as taking initiative, focus on service. What would make your boss’ life easier? Are there decisions that can easily be removed from their plate? What does your team need the most?
“If you see an opportunity to improve a process or make a difference, speak up and take action,” says Shaffer.
“Let people be able to count on you: be a team member that takes action and is transparent through every step of the way. The more people who can rely on you at work, the more people you can impact with your work,” adds Zalis.
3. Treat your bosses like a client or business partner
Another mindset shift is to treat your bosses like a client or business partners. “My favorite tip on making an impact is to treat your boss like she is your client. I have both worked as an employee and as an outside freelance consultant so I’ve seen this difference first-hand,” says Gardon. “Approaching your boss this way gives you a subtle but distinct mindset shift from ‘my boss will tell me what to do’ to ‘my client needs my help and expertise to figure out a problem.’ The second is the mindset bosses actually want but rarely articulate it that way.”
4. Be a change-maker
Perhaps people don’t realize it, but when they are talking about impact, what they are talking about is change and transformation.
“Impact is changing. Making an impact at work is improving and progressing the team and your projects forward. The progress could be in big steps or in little steps, but making an impact is always helping the work move forward and never back,” according to Zalis.
Don’t forget the small things
Making an impact is also about how you treat everyone on a daily basis. And the small things make a difference. “Sometimes the smallest gestures can make the biggest impact. Something as simple as offering to help a colleague with a task, or going out of your way to thank someone for their hard work, can go a long way in making a positive impression,” says Shaffer.
5. Be a team player
“Making an impact at work is not just about individual achievement – it’s about working together as a team to move your company or organization forward. Whether it’s offering help when someone is struggling, or celebrating collective successes, being a good team player is essential to making an impact,” she adds.
6. Stay engaged
Staying engaged can also go a long way as far as elevating your impact in the workplace. Globally, only 20% of employees are engaged at work, and 15% of US employees are actively disengaged, according to Gallup data. Forbes defines employee engagement as “the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”
You can’t fake caring. One of the best ways to make an impact is to find a job you care about – or reconnect with the deeper reasons you show up to work every day. Your enthusiasm and heart can make a bigger difference than you think.