Learning to Value Your Impact
What makes you stand out from the crowd?
What impact do you have when you go to work every day? Can you see the impact that you’re having on the people you work with? Why should you even care?
In the age of the internet, there’s a lot of advice out there about building your personal brand and accomplishing your career ambitions. You’ll likely have read plenty of articles about how to manage your time, build an audience, develop your skills and so on. There’s nothing bad about any of this, of course, but being productive, etc is all a box ticking exercise. What really makes you stand out from the crowd?
One of the great things about working in a small team is how it forces you to consider the value you’re adding. What is the impact you’re having? How can you enhance your impact? How can you leverage this to be successful?
A Short Story
During the summer, I spent six months working for a small entrepreneurial competition which has a huge impact in Scotland, the Scottish EDGE. During my initial interview, I was asked what impact I felt I could have by joining the team. It was an interesting question — nowadays, many companies go through that checklist we talked about in such a rush that they fail to consider what an employee might actually add to the organisation beyond accomplishing their day-to-day duties — which forced me to think about what I might change and why.
As the summer progressed, I went about changing things which I felt would add the greatest value. We launched a new website, rebranded the organisation, changed the way we told our story and those of the individuals we supported. All the way through, my colleagues would challenge what was happening and question whether our approach would really generate the biggest change possible. These challenges were an unconscious way of reviewing not only the impact a change would have on the company, but also the impact you, as an individual, were having.
At the end of the summer, as I prepared to leave Scottish EDGE, we asked the same question about impact to the three individuals we interviewed for my role. It made me think; if I was to stay on in my role for another six months, what impact could I have? Would anything I might have done match up to the impact of the work I had already accomplished?
Considering Your Impact
The answers to those questions were ‘I don’t know’ and ‘no, probably not.’ Three months since I left Scottish EDGE, I’m still stumped to think of what I might have done had I not embarked on a new adventure. But that doesn’t matter. The most valuable lesson I learnt from spending a short time with this fantastic team is that you must consider your impact. What, after all, is the point in doing a job if you can’t see the impact you’re having?
The answer to that, by the way, is ‘there isn’t one!’
So, how can we consider our impact in practice? Here are a few questions to ask yourself on a daily basis.
- What am I going to do today to have an impact? It doesn’t have to be anything big, just spend a minute or two considering how you can change someone’s life or part of your company for the better by the end of the working day.
- What impact do I want to have within the next two to three months? Think big here. No impact is too large. You can do anything you want to make things better as long as you have the passion and drive to make it happen. You’ll find that plenty of support is available along the way to make it happen (more on that later).
- How will my impact today affect my longer-term ambitions? It doesn’t have to be part of your bigger picture — after all, there are opportunities for good deeds everywhere you look and they’re not always going to be related — however your mini-impact today will, ideally, play a part in advancing your much larger impact plan.
- Could I be having a greater impact elsewhere? Always be aware of the impact that you’re having and the impact that you could be having elsewhere. Would the potential impact you’re not pursuing make you a happier individual? Is there someone likeminded who could easily fill your current shoes? You don’t always have to choose the bigger impact (in fact, there are lots of times when you shouldn’t), but you should always be mindful of your potential and challenge yourself.
If, of course, you struggle to answer some of these questions, there’s a good chance that you’re not in the right place. After all, there’s no point in putting in lots of effort if you can’t see the goalposts ahead of you.
Boosting Your Impact
So, the last hurdle. We know why it is important to consider the impact we’re having, and we know how to think about our impact. How, then, can we have the biggest impact? After all, we’re just individuals.
Let’s return to the Scottish EDGE for a moment. Thinking logically, one would assume that a team of one hundred could accomplish more than our small team of four. I’m not sure I agree. Small teams — and indeed, individuals — are just as able to create significant value as much larger collectives thanks to the power of the network.
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to be surrounded by a network of thousands of like-minded individuals. In the age of LinkedIn, everyone has access to a network of creatives, thought leaders and passionate supporters. With sites like LinkedIn, there’s always the temptation to let it sit idle until you desperately need it, most often when searching for a job. Such networks should never sit idle. If one is to have an impact, one must harness these networks for all they’re worth.
Did you really think that I could design a website, rebrand a company, put together some killer new case study videos and fulfil my regular job responsibilities while working three days a week over six months? Of course I didn’t. I was able to have that impact by calling up my network; people like Andrew Dobbie over at MadeBrave or Lewis Phillips at Campfire, Scottish EDGE alumni like Leah Hutcheon and Callum Russell, colleagues over at Converge Challenge and Entrepreneurial Spark, and the list goes on. Scottish EDGE, like so many in the entrepreneurial space, is a perfect example of harnessing the power of our networks to club together and generate a much bigger impact, and it is a model we can all adopt in our own lives when considering our next impact.
It’s Time to Value Your Impact
Ready to get started? There’s no time like the present to consider the impact you’ve had, are having and are going to have in the future and all it takes is a few minutes of careful thought, once a day. Reconnecting with your network should also be high on your priority list right now, as they’ll be key to helping you drive the change you want to create, no matter how big or small.
Next time you think about applying for a job, consider the impact that you could have and emphasise that when you sit down for your interview. If you’ve got to that stage, we know you’re likely to tick most of the boxes and showing that you’ve put in the time to think about how you could change the company for the better is always going to catch a manager’s attention.
If, on the other hand, you’re already in a job, return to question four and ask yourself, am I having the impact I could be? If the answer is a resounding ‘yes,’ then keep at it! Otherwise, maybe it’s time you considered your options. After all, you’ve kept reading up to here so you’re obviously keen to value your impact and stick out from the crowd.
If you enjoyed this post, then please recommend it on Medium and social media (you’ll be having an impact!) You can also follow me on Medium for further articles about business, entrepreneurship, and more.
Oh, and if you just happen to be an innovative and ambitious Scottish entrepreneur, then I’d strongly encourage you to apply to the Scottish EDGE fund. Take a look at their beautiful (I may be biased) website to find out more.