Multipliers

By Liz Wiseman

 

Introduction

In this revised and updated edition of Multipliers, first published in 2010, leadership expert Liz Wiseman adds two new chapters to her established five disciplines that set Multipliers apart from Diminishers. Multipliers are leaders who amplify the intelligence and capabilities of everyone around them, and when they walk into a room, ideas flow and problems get solved. Diminishers, on the other hand, are leaders who drain the intelligence and capabilities of everyone around them, and they always need to be the smartest person in the room. In the pages of the book, Liz explores the two styles of leadership and asserts her belief that the world needs more Multipliers, especially in current times of leaders being expected to do more with less. She sets out evidence of the positive and profitable effect Multipliers have on organisations, showing the reader that the five disciplines are skills that everyone can learn to use, thereby learning to harness the intelligence and energy of everyone around them. 

My Top 3 Takes from the Summary

 

  • Multiplier leaders get the best out of everyone in their organisation; Diminisher leaders deplete the organisation’s intelligence and capability.

  • Many leaders are Accidental Diminishers.

  • Multiplier disciplines can be learned and developed, leading to becoming a leader that makes everyone around them smarter.

 

 

How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

The key point made by the author is that some leaders bring out the best in those around them, making everyone work better and smarter, while other leaders have the opposite effect, depleting an organisation of crucial intelligence and capability. The question she then answers is what makes the difference between the two; what is it that Multipliers do differently to Diminishers?

Multipliers promote collective, viral intelligence in their organisations by looking beyond their own genius. They focus their energy on extracting and extending the genius of others, a practice that yields far greater capability in return because people working with Multiplier leaders hold nothing back. The author states that in interviews, people identified that working with Multipliers led to between 70 to 100 per cent of their capabilities being utilised, whereas working with Diminishers led to only 20 to 50 per cent. She points out that this equates to almost a two-fold increase when Multipliers lead in a way that encourages everyone to offer the very best of their thinking, creativity, and ideas. People working with Multipliers actively look for opportunities to contribute more, leading to giving more than their jobs require by volunteering their effort, energy, and resourcefulness to add value.

The Mind of the Multiplier  

The logic of multiplication is that most people in organisations are underutilised, and with the right kind of leadership, all capabilities can be leveraged. This means intelligence and capability can be multiplied without the need for a bigger investment. Leaders rooted in this logic believe that it’s possible to skyrocket growth by multiplying the power of the resources you already have.

 

However, the author believes that addition is the dominant logic that prevails in corporate planning. With this logic, new resources will be added when requests are made, and leaders rooted in it think in terms of, “Our people are overworked; our best people are the most maxed out; therefore, accomplishing a bigger task requires the addition of more resources.” The logic of addition creates overworked, underutilised people, and completely ignores the opportunity to leverage existing resources.

The message conveyed by the author is that assumptions made by Multipliers and Diminishers about the intelligence of the people they work with are radically different. Multipliers look at the opportunities and challenges around them and think, “There are smart people everywhere who will figure this out and get even smarter in the process.” As they see it, their job is to bring the right people together in an environment of freedom that lets everyone apply their best thinking – and then get out of the way of that thinking and let them get on with it! Diminishers adopt a different view. They see intelligence as a rarity, believing really intelligent people to be a rare, elite breed, and seemingly assuming themselves to be of that breed. From this assumption, it’s apparent to them that other people will never have the ability to figure things out without them.

 

 

The Five Disciplines

 

The five author-identified disciplines that differentiate Multipliers from Diminishers are the Talent Magnet, the Liberator, the Challenger, the Debate Maker, and the Investor.

 

The Talent Magnet: Multipliers attract the best talent, not necessarily because they’re expert recruiters, but because people actively choose to work for them. The reason for this is that Talent Magnets use the people they hire to their fullest capacity, thereby allowing them to make a full contribution in their role. By contrast, Diminishers hoard resources and underutilise talent, generally bringing in top talent with the lure of big promises, but then failing to fully utilise their capabilities, leaving them disenchanted in their role. The author describes Diminishers as Empire Builders, accumulating talent for show rather than extracting and extending the genius people bring – they accumulate rather than multiply. Multipliers look for talent everywhere, and this is one of four practices revealed by research to help them not only attract talent but also sustain the cycle of attraction.

The four practices of the Talent Magnet:

  1. They cast a wide net and look far beyond their own backyard, knowing that genius has many facets.

  2. They uncover native genius. This is a talent shown in not only doing something exceptionally well, but completely naturally, and it’s found through observing people in action and seeing authentic energy and enthusiasm.  

  3. They fully utilise people. Once a person’s true genius has been identified, they look for opportunities requiring that ability and then shine a spotlight on genius in action.

  4. They remove blockers. Talent Magnets give people the resources they need, and they remove any impediments preventing them from utilising them fully – this may be other people in the organisation, or it may be the leader themselves.  

 

The Liberator

The example of Michael Chang is used. He became the CEO of a thriving start-up company, but when he began his career as a manager in a small consulting company, he admits to being brutally honest and forceful with his opinions. A mentor then taught him that a leader’s job is to put other people on the stage, not to think of themselves as the centre of gravity, and armed with this advice he became less controlling, giving people the space they needed to do what they did best. In so doing, he discovered that people not only step up, they surprise you by producing more than you could have. The author comments that Michael’s shift is a significant accomplishment when the path of least resistance for many smart, driven leaders is to become a tyrant.

 

Research has revealed three practices of the Liberator Multiplier:

  1. They create space, effectively liberating others by restraining themselves. This means learning to resist the temptation to jump back into the space themselves and to make a positive shift in the ratio of listening to talking.

  2. They demand people’s best work. People feel positive pressure when they’re held to their best work, and asking them if they’re offering their best gives people the opportunity to push themselves. This is very different to demanding a desired outcome.

  3. They give people permission to make mistakes, along with the obligation to learn from them. This generates rapid learning cycles.

The Challenger

The author describes Diminishers as know-it-alls, working under the assumption that it’s their role to know more than anyone else and tell everyone else in the organisation what to do. Because of this, their focus only extends to what they know, so they limit what the organisation can achieve to what they know how to do themselves.

Multipliers take a fundamentally different approach by playing the role of Challenger. Instead of knowing the answer, they use their intelligence to find the right opportunities for their organisations and then challenge everyone to stretch to get there. In this way, they’re not limited by what they know themselves, they push their people to grow beyond their own knowledge, and this results in an organisation that understands challenges and has the focus and energy to take them on.

Research has revealed three common practices of Challengers:

  1. They seed the opportunity. Challenger Multipliers provide a starting point but not a complete solution; they understand that intelligence grows by being tested and stretched, so they allow others to discover solutions for themselves.

  2. They lay down a challenge. Multipliers establish a compelling challenge that both stretches and intrigues people, creating a space between what they know and what they will need to know to overcome it, whereas Diminishers maintain a huge gap between what they know themselves and what others know.   

  3. They generate belief. Challengers know that understanding the challenge and the stretch is not enough unless people believe they can actually make the stretch and meet the challenge. When people create the plan, their belief that it’s possible is boosted.

 

 

The Debate Maker

Multipliers make decisions by engaging people in debate and gathering collective intelligence, whereas Diminishers tend to make unilateral decisions or within only a small inner circle. Research has shown that Multipliers do three things differently to Diminishers in decision making.

The three practices of the Debate Maker:

  1. They frame the issue. Before the debate starts, they prepare for the discussion by forming the right team and the right questions, then they frame the issue so that everyone can contribute. A well-prepared frame will answer four key questions: What is the decision to be made? Why is it an important question to answer? Who will be involved in making the decision? How will the final decision be made?

  2. Spark the debate. If it’s engaging, comprehensive, fact-based, and educational, it’s a great debate. Multipliers ensure a great debate by creating safety and demanding rigour. In a safe climate, factors that may cause people to doubt their ideas are removed, and best thinking is encouraged by asking questions that challenge conventional thinking.

  3. They drive a sound decision. A great debate needs a clear end, and this is something Multipliers ensure by reclarifying the decision-making process, making the decision themselves or explicitly delegating it to someone else, and clearly communicating the decision and the rationale behind it.

 

 

The Investor

Multipliers invest in others, and they expect results. They invest by ensuring people have the resources and

ownership needed to produce results independently.

Research has revealed three common practices of Investors:

  1. They define ownership. Investors invest in the genius of others, letting people know what’s within their charge and then backing them up with the resources needed to succeed.

  2. They protect their investment by investing in resources that help people learn what they need to know. By contrast, Diminishers only tell you what they know.

  3. They hold people accountable. Investors encourage people to stretch in their thinking, and by providing the possibility to fail, they give people the freedom and motivation to grow and ultimately succeed.

 

 

Could You Be an Accidental Diminisher?

The author asks the reader to consider if they might be an Accidental Diminisher, meaning a manager with the best of intentions who ends up having a diminishing impact on those around them. Ways that this might happen include: always being on; being a rescuer; being an optimist, or being a perfectionist.

Always being on – this leader is dynamic and charismatic. They exude energy which they assume is contagious, but it can in fact be draining.

Being a rescuer – this leader doesn’t like to see anyone struggling, failing, or making avoidable mistakes, so at the first sign of trouble they leap in to help. They are being a good person, but they are in fact preventing people from going through the vital learning they need to succeed.

Being an optimist – this leader has a can-do “glass half full” attitude, but in always (and only) seeing the upside, people will begin to wonder if they actually have a good grip on reality.

Being a perfectionist – this leader offers ongoing critiques and points out little mistakes that they assume to be helpful and motivational, but in fact, people become disheartened and disengaged.    

 

 

Becoming a Multiplier

Multiplier practices can be learned and developed. The author details five accelerators that are proven fast-

track practices for getting there sooner, and staying there.

  1. Adopt a Multiplier mindset, starting with a look at the assumptions you make.

  2. Assess your leadership practices and then work the two extremes – neutralise a weakness; top off a strength.

  3. Run an experiment – test new behaviour, analyse feedback, adjust, and repeat in a process of small, successive experimentation.

  4. Be prepared for setbacks, and give yourself permission to stumble as you transform old habits and cultivate new Multiplier behaviours.

  5. Ask a colleague – accelerate your development as a Multiplier leader by letting a colleague choose an experiment for you.

Conclusion

The insights provided by the author show the reader just how much can be accomplished by a leader who learns to harness all the energy and intelligence around them. The five disciplines of established Multipliers are skills that can be developed with practice, and tips on accelerating the learning process are clearly set out, along with pointers on how to avoid Diminisher habits.  

Highlights

Real-world examples are used to clearly illustrate the key points being made, and the two additional chapters on ‘The Accidental Diminisher’ and ‘Dealing with Diminishers’ provide practical strategies and tactics to help break diminishing cycles of behaviour.   

Bio of the Author

Liz Wiseman is a researcher, executive advisor, and CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm.

Multipliers, Updated and Revised: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-062-66307-8 is available to buy at Amazon.

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