The way we live and communicate and work is evolving, so how do leaders guide their organization in this new world of work? According to Liz Wiseman, researcher and executive advisor who trains leaders around the world, successful leadership involves building an intelligent team to make smart decisions and take smart risks. It’s better to be a disrupter than to be disrupted.
In her keynote address at the 2018 Entrata Summit, Wiseman led attendees through a series of exercises to help identify techniques for getting access to all of the intelligence and talent of their teams. Her message was based on her best-selling book “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.”
Many workers find themselves very busy, but secretly bored — simultaneously overworked and underutilized — according to Wiseman. This status quo can be very demoralizing, inefficient, and exhausting. Leaders, often with the best of intentions, can find themselves playing the role of a “diminisher”, i.e., someone who “operates so big that the people around them have to play small.”
Instead, Wiseman suggests that leaders look for unused intelligence and put it to work, growing the talent of their teams to keep them agile and faster than competitors.
“People all over the world come to work desperately wanting to give 100% of their capability,” said Wiseman, “for our own self-respect. But we run into leaders who only want or need a fraction of that.”
Wiseman identified multiplier mindsets that drive behaviors that benefit their teams and organizations.
“Multipliers search out strengths and encourage ideas,” she said. “They ask hard questions, tolerate failure, create opportunities, and they trust.”
Trusting your team to be smart enough to figure out a solution is a multiplier mindset. As is creating a culture of intellectual safety where people can make smart mistakes, come up with big ideas, and even disagree with the boss. Multipliers also ask hard questions and challenge their teams to explore new possibilities.
But Wiseman warned that the line between diminishers and multipliers isn’t always easy to determine. Diminishers aren’t all toxic jerks, for example. In fact, many leaders find themselves in the role of the accidental diminisher, thinking they’re doing the right thing for their team but acting in ways that have diminishing impacts.
If you’re the idea guy, rescuer, pacesetter, rapid-responder, or perfectionist, you may be an accidental diminisher. And if you’re an accidental diminisher, according to Wiseman, you’ll probably be the last to know.
“Your team knows, but you won’t,” she warned.
Leaders who ask teams how their behaviors may be shutting down ideas and capabilities, if they ask with honest intent, can begin to identify tendencies and triggers that diminish team participation. And then they can get back on the multiplier path.
Practical ways to be a multiplier, according to Wiseman, include:
Ask More Questions: Try taking the extreme question challenge: lead a whole meeting by only asking (intelligent) questions.
Play Fewer Chips: If you tend to over contribute, give yourself a time limit then leave space for others to step up.
Name the Genius: Start with a problem you don’t understand and look for the person who does it easily. Let them use their strengths.
Offer Bigger Challenges: Instead of tasks or work to do, give people better challenges.
Multipliers are rare, are hard to miss.
“Magic Johnson decided to use his god-given talent to make everyone on the team a better player,” she explained. “He raised the level of play on every team he plays on. He played big in a way that invited others to play big.”