Liz Wiseman's Multipliers a summary

I use a lot of models and frameworks in my work and out of the thousands of books written about organisation or leader development, I am selective about the books I rely on. Liz Wiseman's Multipliers has been valuable and I recommend it as an important part of any coach or manager's intellectual arsenal!


Most of us can spot a bad boss when we see one. But surprisingly few of us have ever worked with or even truly experienced a great boss. Liz Wiseman studied the actions of different types of bosses and categorised them as Diminishers and Multipliers. Whereas Diminishers erode their people’s energy and motivation a Multiplier can make a good employee two or even 100 times better than they would be on their own.Diminishers are the managers that drain their employees’ intelligence and energy. While a Diminisher is often a smart person, it’s usually true that they’re more focused on their own intelligence than they are on taking advantage of the intelligence within their team. In fact, Diminishers tend to stifle ideas, which can result in employees harbouring feelings of unfulfillment and inferiority. Multipliers, on the other hand, do the opposite: they increase the intelligence and achievements of their team. Most leaders aren’t an extreme Diminisher or Multiplier, but rather fall somewhere in between.This summary outlines the effective habits and principles of Multipliers. By following their lead, you’ll be able to turn your own workplace into a more productive and healthier environment.MULTIPLIERS KEY IDEA #1: TALENT MAGNETS EXCEL AT BRINGING TEAMS TOGETHER AND MAXIMIZING THEIR TALENTS.In the early twentieth century, British explorer Ernest Shackleton was preparing to launch a ground-breaking but dangerous journey to Antarctica. He knew needed a skilled crew. Surprisingly, Shackleton didn’t pull any punches in his recruitment ad – it was honest and stated that danger and death were extremely likely. Even so, the ad attracted hundreds of applications. Shackleton knew he had every option possible to put together a talented team, which, in turn, helped him to ensure that every man came home alive.Shackleton is a great example of a specific kind of Multiplier, the Talent Magnet. This type of Multiplier has the ability to build an effective team, thanks to four key practices:The first is to look everywhere for talent, regardless of traditional boundaries or hierarchies.Second is that they ascertain an individual’s instinctive capabilities, which are generally what they do naturally without thinking about it. This usually means that they won’t need any special conditions orcircumstances to excel.Third is to engage that skill where it’s best suited. Make sure that you’re not building a team of people whoall have the same talent. Instead, a Talent Magnet knows how to identify where to place people to enablethem to excel.Finally, the fourth practice is to remove the obstacles that are keeping your team from performing optimally. MULTIPLIERS KEY IDEA #2: TYRANTS CREATE A STIFLING TENSION, WHILE LIBERATORS CREATE AN INTENSE BUT INSPIRING WORKPLACE. Now that we’ve seen a special type of Multiplier, let’s look at a special type of Diminisher. If you’ve ever worked for a boss who likes to create a tense atmosphere by throwing their weight around and pointing out everyone’s mistakes, then you’ve known them to be a Tyrant. But there’s a flip side to the Tyrant personality, which is that of the Liberator.You can start being a Liberator by following three key practices: 1

  1. First of all, give people room to work. Make sure that you take a step back, allowing your team to do its job instead of constantly pressuring them with your own input. Stephen Spielberg, for example, knows every job his crew does backward and forward, but rather than persistently offering suggestions, he gives everyone the space they need and trusts in their expertise.Second is to ask for a team’s best work, without fearing failure. K.R. Sridhar is the CEO of Bloom Energy. He always encourages experimentation. As long as his teams do the best work possible, he never punishes them for a bad outcome. Thanks to this healthy environment, Bloom Energy has been able to innovate across multiple complex technologies.This leads us to the third practice, which is to make sure your team knows that they can make mistakes, so long as they learn from them. Former general manager of education business at Microsoft, Lutz Ziob, would never avoid owning up to his mistakes. So much so, that he even made a point of demonstrating how much he’d learned from them, encouraging others to take their own risks. Similarly, he also encouraged feedback. For example, when an employee took Ziob aside to tell him he was overbearing during certain meetings, he appreciated the feedback. This means that, in order to embrace your inner Liberator, it might help to give space by offering fewer opinions. When you do, make sure they’re received as suggestions and not orders, and always be sure to acknowledge your mistakes.MULTIPLIERS KEY IDEA #3: THE CHALLENGER PUSHES THEIR TEAM TO NEW LIMITS WITHOUT BARKING ORDERS. A Challenger avoids telling someone where to go or what to do. Rather, they point people in a specific direction, where they can develop their own ideas.Second, help your team define challenges. Rather than barking orders, Challengers like to ask questions and pose challenges to help people set appropriate goals.The final and most important practice is to inspire belief in the possibility of goal achievement. Although a target might seem impossible, Challengers can make it seem probable by showing their team that it’s within reach, pointing them in the right direction and finding ways to use small early wins to inspire belief in being able to meet the greater challenges ahead. MULTIPLIERS KEY IDEA #4: THE DEBATE MAKER CREATES SPACE FOR OPEN AND INCLUSIVE DECISION MAKING.George W. Bush was described as leading a “book summary presidency” based on his habit of making snap decisions instead of taking his time consulting research and weighing alternative options.This is typical behaviour of another type of Diminisher, the Decision Maker. This type of Diminisher doesn’t solve problems through analytical thinking, but rather, they’ll bring up issues seemingly at random, while forcing their own decisions upon the team and ignoring other opinions. The other side of this coin is the far better manager: the Debate Maker. Debate Makers ask the hard questions rather than being the one with all the answers.This model is seen in Dutch police chief Arjan Mengerink. Fed up with the traditional top-down hierarchy that had led to numerous failed initiatives, Mengerink reorganized his police force by following three key Debate Maker practices. • First, he was sure to carefully prepare the issues at hand to be debated so that they’d be able to be clearly presented to the staff.The second practice is known as sparking an engaging and thorough debate that offers a wide varietyof voices and opinions. Mengerink was able to do this by inviting members of the police force from every department and level within the organization to take part in the debate. This included police agents, secretaries, lawyers, and captains. He was also sure to make it clear that he welcomed both agreements and disagreements.The third practice is to make sure that a strong decision is reached in the end. After the details of the debate or discussion are recorded, a decision has to be made by the leadership or through delegation 2

  2. in a way that makes the outcome clear to everyone. This way, it is readily apparent how the process led to a definitive conclusion. Mengerink’s reorganization was a success because all these steps were taken and, as a result, everyone throughout the organization felt that they’d been well represented. They had a stake and belief in the process and thus understood the result. So, to take on the role of the Debate Maker, you need to set the scene for informed and robust debate.MULTIPLIERS KEY IDEA #5: DIMINISHERS MICROMANAGE PEOPLE, WHILE INVESTORS EMPOWER THEM WITH OWNERSHIP AND RESOURCES.Many managers and coaches are Diminishers because of the ways they micromanage their teams to the point that they become wholly dependent on leadership. The better method is to be an Investor by following these five key practices: First, clearly define ownership and who is responsible for what.Second, make sure those with responsibilities have the resources they need to succeed. If someone needs to learn something, coach and guide them understand what they need to know instead ofsimply telling them how it is. You can assist if necessary.Third is to hold people accountable. Expect complete work: Multipliers don’t do anything for theirpeople that their people can do for themselves. If you put someone in charge of a project, make sure they are aware that the results are in their hands. Another example could be a situation where someone is presenting information at a meeting. If you feel that you need to make a correction, don’t take this as an opportunity to take over the meeting.Make the scoreboard visible by ensuring people are clear about what they need to achieve and how progress will be measured.Don’t jump in and fix too quickly: let the person experience a degree of failure but be available to help them to learn from it. Ask great questions. Give them a way out and a path forward. Conversely, when people succeed, step out of the way, give credit and boost their confidence for the next step. MULTIPLIERS KEY IDEA #6: EVEN WELL-MEANING BOSSES CAN BE ACCIDENTALLY DIMINISHING, SO IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE SELF-AWARENESS.Throughout her research, the author discovered tons of Accidental Diminishers. They come in many different forms and often from a place of good intentions. It can be all too easy to slip into an Accidental Diminisher role. One of the best ways to avoid this is to ask for regular feedback from a trusted source. Good leadership requires being aware of how you’re perceived by the people you lead.MULTIPLIERS KEY IDEA #7: THERE ARE DEFENSIVE PRACTICES FOR ANYONE WHO’S DEALING WITH A DIMINISHER BOSS.We’ve looked at the different ways a boss can try to change their methods and be the best they can be, but now, let’s look at things from a worker’s perspective: what should you do if your boss is a Diminisher and makes you feel underutilised and overly criticised?According to the author, the five most common strategies are confrontation, avoidance, quitting, lying low, and ignoring. Yet these are also the five least effective strategies! So, what is the right thing to do? Instead of making snap judgments or rash decisions, think about regrouping and figuring out what the problem actually is, formulating how you might make a suggestion that might defuse the conflict. An executive at Apple recalls a time when she was criticized by Steve Jobs. Instead of countering what he’d said and starting an argument, she took time to regroup and cool off, allowing Jobs to soften his position as well. She was then able to approach him with a new solution that combined both their ideas – and they were both happy with it.If the problem is being micromanaged, try to find a friendly way to remind your boss that you’re qualified to work without constant oversight. One of the author’s colleagues would often defuse a situation like this by 3

  3. making a joke about “loosening the choke chain.” This made the message clear and no one had their authority challenged.Another method is to be your own Multiplier and use the key practices on your boss. For example, you can use their skills to your advantage. Another executive at Apple would keep Steve Jobs from exerting too much control during development by asking for his insight at key moments. This would both take advantage of his insight and keep him from feeling like he needed to butt in.MULTIPLIERS KEY IDEA #8: THERE ARE A NUMBER OF QUICK PRACTICES THAT CAN HELP TO CREATE A MULTIPLIER CULTURE.Bill Campbell was CEO of the software manufacturer Intuit, and he has leadership experience as both a Diminisher and a Multiplier. Several times, Campbell’s team has had to tell him to step back and stop smothering them, and on plenty of occasions, he’s snapped at a silly question. Campbell has since learned from these mistakes and gone on to serve as a board member who nurtures other up-and-coming Multipliers. A great lesson we can take from Campbell’s story is that anyone can reset their leadership role – all it takes is recognising this need and a willingness to change. If you’re the one with Diminisher tendencies, the first step is the awareness of the need to make changes, followed by having the resolve to follow through on that change. The good news is, there are fast-track practices to becoming a Multiplier.The first thing to understand is that Multipliers aren’t perfect at everything. Focus on one skill that you can maximise and one weakness that you can neutralise. If you’re able to accomplish this, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a multiplier who supports and believes in people rather than assuming they can’t figure things out without you.