5 Ways Difference Makers Make a Difference During Times of Upheaval


By Maria Geokezas, VP of Client Services

It is a simple concept.  Difference Makers make a difference.  In times of upheaval, such as the current health scare, social justice and political situations, the difference between teams that emerge as victors and others that seem stuck comes down to the Difference Maker.

What, Exactly is a Difference Maker?

In his 2006 book The Difference Maker, John C Maxwell says attitude is the difference maker.  He professes that two people with the same skills and abilities achieve totally different outcomes because of attitude.

Call me skeptical, but I think there’s more to it than that.  Different people can be difference makers in different situations.  The environment or circumstances that allow some people to thrive and affect change in their organizations can cause others to wither away.

In normal times, let’s say before March 2020, Difference Makers were defined by:

  • Big picture focus on driving meaningful results
  • Curiosity
  • Taking ownership, accountability
  • Embracing change, getting bored with the status quo
  • Action-orientation
  • High work ethic


When Difference Makers Thrive

These traits typically result in positive impact on teams and organizations.  But what happens when situations aren’t typical?  Difference Makers, in order to thrive, must have an environment that supports their natural curiosity and empowers them to take risks.  They need to operate in an environment that values:

  • Data and insights to drive decisions
  • Trying something new, are not adverse to taking risks
  • Continuous learning environments
  • Testing new ideas big and small
  • Competitive edge – want to stay on top of their game
  • Innovation


5 Ways Difference Makers Lead Through Upheaval

During times of upheaval, these characteristics may no longer be valued.  That means Difference Makers need to adjust their approach to achieve their goals.  The last thing a team needs is more uncertainty and more risk.  Instead, the Difference Maker must be able to read the situation, take in the data but also understand the human element to identify how to lead during a crisis.

  1. Maintain a sincere positive attitude. Keep positive momentum going by providing resources, removing roadblocks and alerting other of potential barriers or pitfalls.  Create visibility for the team so they see the same roadmap and can learn from it to apply to the next situation.
  2. Keep the focus on results but do so as a Servant Leader. A Servant Leader accomplishes their goals by empowering others.  They share power, put the needs of other team members first, and help people develop and perform as highly as possible.
  3. Focus on smaller, incremental improvements instead of a big, systemic change. The sense of accomplishment gained will have significant positive impact and aid in maintaining a sincere positive attitude among the team.
  4. More frequent and more detailed communication practices will ensure that through the upheaval and continued uncertainty, team members understand what is expected and how to perform.
  5. Continue learning and exposing team members to new and different solutions and approaches. Fresh perspectives can trigger curiosity and innovation when needed the most.