In this episode, I consider the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter,  by Liz Wiseman, co-authored with Greg McKeown about the various types of leaders. They focus two different types of leaders, Diminishers and Multipliers. Multipliers are leaders who encourage growth and creativity from their workers, while Diminishers are those who hinder and otherwise keep their employees’ productivity at a minimum. The authors give what they consider to be solutions and guidance to the issues they bring up in the book.

The book’s basic thesis is that multipliers increase, often exponentially, the intelligence of the people around them. They lead organizations or groups that are able to understand and solve hard problems rapidly, achieve their goals, and adapt and increase their capacity over time. On the other hand, diminishers literally drain the intelligence, energy and capability from the employees or team members around them. They lead groups that operate in silos, find it hard to get things done, seem unable to do what’s needed to reach their goals.

Wiseman breaks multipliers into five disciplines in which they differentiate themselves from diminishers. The first is the Talent Magnet, who attracts and optimizes talent; the second is the Liberator, who creates intensity that requires an employee’s best thinking; next is the Challenger who extends challenges by having others do the hard lifting so that they can stretch themselves; next is the Debate Maker who facilitates a debate between his or her team which leads to a decision improving a process or issue; and finally is the Investor, who instills ownership and accountability with his/her employee base. Interestingly Wiseman believes that multipliers increase efficiency and productivity by two times.

Diminishers also break down into five different prototypes. They are the Empire Builder, who is only interested in collecting very talented people around themselves so that they look good; next is the Tyrant, whose name is almost self-disclosing but ruins all those around them with their insistent criticisms; next is the Know-it-all who give directives simply to showcase how much they know limiting what their teams can achieve to what they themselves know how to do. This means the team must try to deduce, literally in the dark, the soundness of the decision instead of executing it; and finally, there is Micromanager, who generally believes they are only person who can figure something out and approach execution by maintaining ownership, jumping in and out of a project and reclaiming responsibility for problems which they have delegated. Diminishers usually reduce efficiencies by up to 50%.

Some of the specific techniques Wiseman discussed were to identify not only what the skills are for those on your team but also what comes easily and natural to them. By doing so you can more effectively utilize their talents in implementing a compliance regime. Interestingly you can get employees to stretch through a technique Wiseman calls ‘supersizing’ which is the situation where you give someone a task that may be “one size too big” but allows them to grow into it.

Mistakes are going to happen in any implementation. The same is true when you are operationalizing your compliance program. To overcome this Wiseman suggests a couple of leadership strategies. The first is to talk up your mistakes within the team for debriefing and analysis. The second is to actually make room for mistakes (think of a sandbox) where your team can experiment, take some risks and recover from the mistakes.

I found her next point fascinating, which was to lead by asking questions. As a law student I was drilled by the Socratic method so asking questions is something I am quite comfortable with going forward. Basically, every question is answered by another question. Her technique of leading with questions works with all five categories of multipliers. The reason it is so successful is that people are smart, the not only want to get things right but they want to build and eventually they will figure out how to do it. It is not simply a case of getting out of their way. It is about guiding them with your expertise to come up with not only the right answer but a solution which will work. If you take this approach of leading by asking questions, you not only guidance the functional unit but you get greater buy-in to the entire concept and process as it becomes their process.

I heartily recommend Wiseman’s techniques to you and her book for your library on leadership. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter,  can be purchased from a variety of online sites, including Amazon.com.

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