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How to multiply your talent’s potential

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Expounding on Liz Wiseman’s theory of Multipliers, Linda Lee, CEO of Acewood Group, shares the five practices bosses can employ to optimise staff’s brain intelligence.

Can you elaborate a little more on the theory of Multipliers, and the role it has to play in today’s corporate landscape?

The book Multipliers was written by Liz Wiseman and was released in 2010. She focused the whole book on answering one question – why we are focused and smart when we are around certain leaders, but not around others.

All of us have experienced working under certain bosses who actually diminish our own intelligence. These are called diminishers. On the other hand, there are also bosses whom we feel have made us smarter.

On the other hand, multipliers describes how some leaders used to own intelligence to multiply the intelligence of others.

These type of leaders are not just making their employees work harder, but are multiplying the amount of brain power they get out of their employees willingly.

Both multipliers and diminishers are great leaders in their own right.

How can you tell the difference between multipliers and diminishers?

There are five areas where they lead very differently and therefore bring out very different results.

The first is how they use talent. Both diminishers and multipliers hire smart people. But it is what they do with them after they hire them that differentiates them.

Diminishers are empire builders. This means they hire a lot of talent and display them – almost like in trophies in a glass case. They hoard talent and put them in the background very quickly.

Multipliers, on the other hand, see talent very differently. They don’t see their talent in an attempt to box them or display them.

They see the brilliance of each person and how they put that into use. They see talent everywhere and then put it to work.

Both diminishers and multipliers hire smart people. But it is what they do with them after they hire them that differentiates them.

Do people enjoy working for multipliers?

Yes, people flock to work for multipliers because they know if they work for a multiplier leader, they will grow and prosper under their leadership.

This is also because the kind of environment that multipliers set is very different from those cultivated by diminishers – which is the second type of distinction between the two..

Diminishers are tyrants – they make people stressed, nervous, and very anxious. This actually stops people from thinking.

Essentially, they set an environment which makes people very jumpy and very anxious all the time – prohibiting them from thinking.

A multiplier is, however, a liberator. They give people a lot of pressure but not a lot of stress. The kind of atmosphere a multiplier creates gives people a lot of space to think – allowing people to think to their best of their ability.

A third difference between the two types of leaders is the kind of direction that they set.

A diminisher would be a kind of know-it-all. A lot of these leaders get to their position because they are smart and they know a lot. However, when you become a know-it-all, you become the smartest person in the room. But if you have all the answers already, how do you and your staff grow?

A multiplier, however, is a challenger.

What does this mean?

This means multipliers are able to challenge the organisation and the team to overcome challenges – even when they don’t have the answers themselves.

That takes a lot of courage. But in this way the organisation is encouraged to do great things – things which lie beyond the capabilities of the leaders themselves.

The fourth area is in decision making.

Multipliers give people a lot of pressure but not a lot of stress.

Diminishers typically would believe decision making is more efficient if it is concentrated within a small group of people – either because only an elite group of people are capable of making decisions, or because a small group of people make decisions faster.

However, if your company makes some huge decisions without telling you – the decision will be debated within employees eventually.

People will end up talking about it behind the backs of their bosses.

In such instances, it is easier to execute those decisions which employees agree with, or at least understand.

And when it comes to decision-making, what do multipliers do?

A multiplier is a debate-maker. They get people to debate first, and then they make decisions.

These leaders still may make those decisions which they themselves want to make, but they do it in a way which makes people understand that decision a little bit more.

They may take a little more time to debate this decision, but the implementation process becomes quicker – because everyone knows what the decision is all about.

The fifth area of distinction lies in the way multipliers and diminishers get things done.

A diminisher would probably be a micro-manager – where they follow each and every little thing which employees are doing.

The problem with being a micro-manager is that they end up making employees totally dependant on them. After a while, staff can’t do anything without their bosses breathing down their necks.

Multipliers are investors – they are investing in growing the capability of their team members using what they are best at. They don’t give their team a task, but a whole project.

Sometimes, they purposely give their staff a project a size bigger than their capabilities – so they can grow in them.

In conclusion then, it definitely seems as if being a multiplier can lead to several potential advantages.

The Wiseman research asked employees how much intelligence their leaders actively leverage on.

Those working for a diminisher said their boss utilises an average of 48% of their bran power – which means bosses are only accessing half of their intelligence.

For bosses, that is something very expensive. That means you are paying two people for a job which actually one person can do.

It is sometimes all about changing your mindset – that is the first and key step involved in becoming a multiplier.

Those who worked for multipliers, employees said their bosses use 96% of their intelligence – almost twice. They said their work experience was exhausting, but exhilarating

Is it possible to build the skills of a multiplier leader? 

Yes, I don’t think people are born multipliers or diminishers. Sometimes i think it is just the work which we do which shapes our leadership styles. It is something which is trainable.

It doesn’t take extra time to be a multiplier. It is not like you have to buy another software or anything expensive.

There are things which you can learn, such as the art of asking the right questions, in order to be the multiplier.  It is not costing you extra – but just changing the way you behave when leading your staff.

It is sometimes all about changing your mindset – that is the first and key step involved in becoming a multiplier.

Why is it especially important for HR leaders to be multipliers?

A lot of HR personnel tend to work on talent development and succession planning. And in the process, they are sometimes coaches to the leaders. As such, they can use the Multiplier process to coach them successfully and create an impact that way.

This works for even within the HR department.

If HR leaders lead their own department using the Multiplier principle, I think they can impress other function leaders to take notice and view the HR function in a different and very impressive light.

 Image: Shutterstock

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