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Being a Leader of Impact and Influence

Three strategies for stepping into leadership, defining success in a way that resonates with us, and living each day creating impact and influence.

By Amy Franko

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30,000 days to play the game of life.

At the time I came across that number while reading Arianna’s book on the third metric, I was celebrating a milestone birthday, having turned 40. I did a quick calculation. With that number, that means I’ve used about 15,000 of my 30,000 days. (I’m hoping if I play my cards right, I might squeeze in a few more beyond that 30,000 number.)

It made me stop and think. As I move through the 30,000 days that make up my life, how often have I stopped (or at least slowed down) to consider my impact? And am I making an impact with the people and in the ways I truly want?

Conversations about impact and legacy often come later in life, as we look back at what we’ve accomplished and contributed. What if we looked forward instead? What if we looked forward and consciously designed our path of impact and influence?

I had the opportunity to talk on this topic of creating a life and career of impact and influence to about 200 future leaders. I’m sharing with you a few of the key points from that talk on how we can all step into leadership, define success in a way that resonates with us, and live each day creating impact and influence.

1. Commit to finding your bold vision. (It’s OK if you don’t have one today.)

You might not be aware of Roya Mahboob. Roya is a rare force and what I call a woman of impact. I discovered Roya’s work a number of years ago while writing a piece on women in technology, and her story is nothing short of amazing.

Having been a refugee in Iran until 2003, Roya is now an entrepreneur in Afghanistan, as the founder and leader of a top software development company in the city of Herat. What makes this so amazing is that she does this despite deep cultural resistance and even threats to her life. In addition to employing many women in her firm as software engineers, she also runs an NGO that empowers women by providing them work weaving carpets. (You can watch this NATO video to learn more about Roya.) Today, she is the recipient of a number of leadership honors, one being named to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2013.

What does it take to become someone as extraordinary as Roya? She has chosen a bold vision and has chosen to live a bold life; she has chosen to be a leader who creates opportunity where most would see none, and to pioneer the way for women in technology. She has taught me that to be someone of impact and influence I have to be willing to choose differently, to commit to finding and living that bold vision. Some of us are born with that certainty of vision, but I think the vast majority of us need time and experience to help us uncover what we’re most passionate about.

When I reflect on my vision and where I want to be a leader of impact and influence, I am most passionate in my work of developing future leaders in various capacities. I’m in my element, time stands still, and the work comes very naturally to me. Growing up the oldest of 5 daughters, I’m also extremely passionate about mentoring young women and girls into leadership roles. I wish I could say these things came to me overnight, or that I was born knowing them, but it wasn’t the case at all. These things came to me over time, and usually started with the kernel of idea, someone pointing me in a direction, or providing an opportunity that was perfect at the time.

I would encourage you to take those kernels of ideas that speak to you, spend time with them, and see where you can grow them into a bigger and bolder vision, a vision that you can turn into a cornerstone of impact and influence.

2. Trade in the traditional to-do list.

People of impact and influence invest their time differently. I’ve found that they have a way of getting laser focused on what is truly most important, and they can delegate, delete, or delay the smaller things in life. I’ve also learned that people of impact and influence trade in the traditional to-do list for some more significant lists.

Most of us have a bunch of to-do lists – professional, personal, the bucket list, the lists we keep in our head, the lists we keep on post-it notes, the lists we keep on our mobile devices. I’m not saying those lists go away entirely, but if we can trade in the traditional to-do list for some lists of more significance, it would make a huge difference in our ability to be impactful and influential. Below are five lists that I encourage people to reflect on; they typically have only a few things on them, but they take much longer to create:

• To Be: What kind of person do I want to be in the world?
• To Have: What (non-material) things do I want to have?
• To Achieve: What do I want to achieve that is significant to my vision?
• To Serve: Who do I want to serve, and how do I want to serve them?
• To Stretch: How can I push myself out of my comfort zone?

3. Ask yourself some important questions (and keep asking them).

The work of living a life of impact and influence takes time, space, and the willingness to sit with a lot of questions. Some of them uncomfortable, some of them difficult to answer, some that take a lot of introspection or the courage to ask your trusted circle for their input. Below are some of the questions that I sit with – I often journal about them, and keep them somewhere that I can reflect on them over longer periods of time:

To become someone of IMPACT:
• Where do I INVEST my time, talent and treasure?
• Do I embrace a MINDSET of impact and influence?
• Am I pursuing my PATH with PASSION, personally and professionally?
• Am I asking for ACCESS and am I ACCESSIBLE?
• Am I living by CHOICE and not chance?
• Am I allowing TIME for space and silence?

And INFLUENCE:
• Am I willing to INSPIRE others?
• Do I cultivate and share my NETWORK?
• Am I FUTURE focused?
• How do I want my LEADERSHIP to be remembered?
• How am I creating my UNIQUE vision and bringing others along with me?
• Do I ELEVATE those around me?
• Do I NEGOTIATE?
• Am I creating a CULTURE I can be proud of?
• Do I EXPECT more?

If there’s one thing I try to keep in mind at all times, it’s this:

There may be someone in this world right now, in this moment, looking to me and watching what I do. I may be a role model or in some small way help them along their path. I may never have the opportunity to interact with that person, but I have the opportunity to make an impact without even knowing the outcome.

When I consciously try to live with that reminder, it helps me to continue looking forward on that journey to being a leader of impact and influence.

Dealing Well with Conflict: Don’t Avoid this One!

By Amy Franko

conflictAt almost every keynote or workshop I give on women in leadership, I usually talk with at least one woman afterwards on how to manage conflict with grace. This is never an easy topic, especially for many women.

We’ve been conditioned to avoid conflict or controversy, and find compromise. Let’s face it. We want to be liked! We don’t want to hurt another’s feelings. We want to live in a collaborative environment where everyone plays nicely in the sandbox.

A few areas that this seems to rear its ugly head the most are when:
We’re faced with providing any kind of negative feedback.
We have a difference of opinion, and we’re concerned with offending others by sharing it.

And when we’re faced with these situations, more often than not, we back down, find ways to soften our message, or we walk away altogether, hoping the situation will just disappear.

The result? Those actions leave us deflated and not the leaders we want to be. (And six months later we’re still rehashing it!)

So how do we manage conflict in ways that allow us to step into our best leadership light?

These tips on developing grace under fire are adapted from Dr. Lois Frankel, my mentor and author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.

1. Build your feedback account. We’re taught at a young age that to build a positive, healthy bank account, that we have to make more deposits than withdrawals. This same philosophy applies to giving feedback. It’s important to build the habit of giving plenty of positive, sincere feedback to those you lead or who work on projects. So when the time does come for you to provide critical feedback, it’s viewed as constructive and developmental (and not construed as you being overly critical).

2. Use a formula. Dr. Frankel recommends using a formula called DESCript. This allows you to structure your comments, keeping the focus on behaviors and future outcomes. It also gives you a way to open the conversation.
D = Describe why you’re having the conversation.
E = Explain your perspective in behavioral terms, and elicit feedback from the other person on how he/she views the situation.
S = Show that you’ve heard the other person, and be specific about future behaviors you expect.
C = Align the expected behaviors to the future consequences you want to achieve.
Always thank the other person for listening and working through this with you.

3. Prepare a few key phrases. It always helps to have a key phrase you can rely on to start a conversation that might get a little sticky.
When offering a counter viewpoint: “I’d like to share a different way to look at the situation, based on my experience/research.”
When faced with an especially difficult conversation where it will be challenging to get the words out: “This is a bit difficult for me to say. I have a few important points to share on this situation, and I’d like to give you my perspective.”

Much of our ability to communicate well in potentially rocky situations comes down to being prepared and exercising strong emotional intelligence. These philosophies, formulas, and phrases will help!

© 2015 Impact Instruction Group
You are welcome to reprint this article. Please include the article in its entirety along with the bio and copyright.

Setting Realistic Deadlines

Tips on ensuring your project doesn’t go off task and over budget

Deadlines are a critical component to any project – and a major source of stress if not set and managed correctly. I recently listened to a colleague share about how her company’s deadline to launch a new software system was pushed up – again – for the fourth time, and it’s nearly 10 months behind schedule. Their entire department was literally scrambling to make changes to make it all work. A delay at this level causes blocks in the production system, extreme pressure on the project team, and ultimately increases the cost of the project substantially.

This situation made me think about how many times we don’t set realistic project deadlines. Although setting deadlines is only one component of an overall project management plan, there are ways to prevent major deadline disasters with proper planning and anticipation of what may come ahead. Below are a few ways to ensure your plan starts off right and finishes on time.
[Read more…]

View Your Career as a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder

by Amy Franko

A woman will average 10.7 jobs in her lifetime, according to Fast Company.

I decided that the “.7” could be attributed to those of you out there doing the work of at least two people, or a job we’d rather forget!

Let’s say your career spans 30 years (and for many women, careers will be longer).  That calculates, on average, a move to a new job every 2.8 years. My own career path reflects this.  In 15 years, I’ve grown my career with six companies and have had seven unique job descriptions.

For many of us, our beliefs around how our careers will unfold were hatched by watching our parents work at the same place for their entire career, and perhaps in only a couple of jobs that entire time. To a large extent their careers were planned.  And if they were designated as “management material” they were swooped up, placed on the “management track” and away they went.

Our experience is now entirely different.  This notion of the “planned career” is as outdated as the phone I bought six months ago.

Today, when you walk in the door of a company there’s really no step-by-step formula or well-worn path to follow to your dream career or your leadership aspirations.   You design your path; you own it and are responsible for creating opportunities.

Pattie Sellers, Editor-at-Large of Fortune Magazine, captures it perfectly:

“The most successful people I know don’t think of their career as a ladder, but rather a jungle gym.”

[Read more…]

Your Leadership Identity: What Are Your Leadership Habits?

This is the final article in our series on creating your leadership identity, based upon principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D.  Be sure to read the full series, available on our Emerging Women Leaders blog.

It was Aristotle who said that we are what we repeatedly do.  Our seemingly small actions, done day in and day out, eventually create who we are.

Our small actions, done day in and day out are also known as habits.

Who you are as a person is reflected in who you are as a leader, so it makes sense then that your habits have a big stake in your leadership path and ultimate success.  With the right habits you stay on course.  With the wrong ones, it’s easy to end up off the path and in the weeds!

A focus on habits seemed to me a perfect way to close this series and help set you up for success moving forward.   Each article in our Leadership Identity series laid out actions you can take to build a certain aspect of your leadership identity.  To help you take the next steps in creating lasting habits, I’ll share this simple plan you can practice and put into place.

[Read more…]

Your Leadership Identity: Do You Think Like a Leader?

This article is part of our women’s leadership series on creating leadership identity, based on principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D.  Be sure to refer back to the previous article of this series, on how your responses to workplace situations and people shape your leadership identity.

With the building blocks of your leadership identity, you have learned how to market, act, look, respond and sound like a leader. You have learned how to play the game of business. Now it’s time to complete the puzzle with this last building block — you must THINK like a leader.

Since starting Impact Instruction, I’m often asked about the lessons I’ve learned, not just in being an entrepreneur but also in becoming a better leader.

A big lesson I’ve learned is the power of how I think.  Mindsetaffects every decision I make, from company strategy, to my leadership style, to team building and culture.  Mindset is what creates an environment where I (and my team) can grow and succeed.

This same lesson applies to you on your leadership path.  Your mindset will put into motion the actions that create your ultimate success.  To smooth the path, your beliefs about what will help you succeed at that next level may need a little fine tuning.

Here are 3 big mindset shifts to make on your leadership path: [Read more…]

Your Leadership Identity: Do You Respond Like a Leader?

This article is part of our women’s leadership series on creating leadership identity, based on principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D. Be sure to refer back to the previous article of this series, on how playing to win shapes your leadership identity.

We have hundreds of interactions and situations we encounter in a day. They’re virtual and live; written and spoken. They take place via email, social media, phone calls, or in meetings and presentations. Your responses in any given interaction broadcast your leadership potential.

With this leadership identity trait, Dr. Frankel points out that many women are socialized to respond to situations in ways that are docile, polite, or acquiescent. Women are not typically taught to stand their ground or respond in powerful, assertive ways.

Think for a moment about how you respond to what’s happening around you. Many times you probably don’t give a conscious thought to your responses. Below are some of the ways your responses can communicate the wrong leadership message:

  • Believing that what got you here will get you there.
  • Allowing others’ opinions to have far too much leverage over your decisions.
  • Routinely putting the needs of others before your own.

We’ve all had these happen at one time or another. One of these on its own isn’t a deal breaker. But if any of these are responses you regularly engage in, it’s time to take a closer look at why it’s happening and what you can do to change it.

[Read more…]

Your Leadership Identity: Do You Play the Game to Win?

This article is part of our women’s leadership series on creating leadership identity, based on principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D. Be sure to refer back to the previous article of this series, on the power of verbal presence in shaping your leadership identity.


What comes to mind when you think of the word “business?”

a) A chess match or sport where people are playing to win

b) An event where people come together and collaborate

c) Both a and b

d) I don’t really think about it, I’m too busy

If you answered C, you’re correct. Business and the workplace in general, are both a grounds for collaboration and teamwork, but also competition.

According to Dr. Lois Frankel, “the workplace is a game. It has rules, boundaries, winners, and losers. Not only is it a game, but the rules of the game change from organization to organization and from department to department within an organization.”

Many women don’t view business or the workplace in this way. Instead they view it as a collaborative set of events, where people are coming together for a big goal or a great cause. While this may very well be the case in your organization or department – it’s not the only thing going on.

[Read more…]

Your Leadership Identity: Leading Through Your Verbal Presence

This article is part of our women’s leadership series on creating leadership identity, based on principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D. Be sure to refer back to the previous article of this series, on the power of visual presence in shaping your leadership identity.

Think about last week at the office.  If you’re like most, you probably:

  • Sent and received a minimum of 100 emails per day.
  • Sent and received dozens of voicemails.
  • Took many calls in your car or from your cell phone.
  • Were on multiple conference calls and webinars, plus daily meetings.
  • Commented on various social and professional sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Instant messaged, texted, Skyped, and Google Voiced.  (If you have children, you were probably checking on their social media, texting, and Skype activities.)

In today’s business world, the methods, the speed, and the sheer volume of communication can be overwhelming. The one thing all of these communications have in common?  They are completely second nature.  And because they’re second nature, we rarely see them for what they are – opportunities to be strategic and showcase our leadership identity through our verbal presence. [Read more…]

Your Leadership Identity: Leading Through Visual Presence

This article is the fourth of our 7-part women’s leadership series on creating leadership identity, based on principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D. Be sure to refer back to the third article of this series, on how our actions speak loudly when it comes to assertiveness, decisiveness, and confidence – all traits of a strong, effective leader.


“Research shows that about 55 percent of your credibility comes from how you look.  How you sound accounts for an additional 38 percent. Only 7 percent of your credibility is based on what you say.” – Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office

On the surface, those numbers are a little intimidating.  It’s humbling to think that before someone even evaluates the substance of our message, that they are making quick judgments about us based on our visual and verbal presence.

Even if you’re a healthy skeptic on statistics, it’s smart to pay attention because this part of human nature – the continual evaluation our environment and the people around us – can help us to become better leaders.  We subconsciously filter information – we accept what we perceive as credible and release the rest – and yes, that “credibility filtering” mechanism initially includes paying close attention to how others look and how they sound.

When it comes to visual presence, a little fine tuning can go a long way in making an immediate impact on your leadership identity, and pave the way for others to truly value the substance of your message.  I’ve found that working on these “outside” attributes can give us momentum for the work that we’re doing on the “inside.”

[Read more…]