Multiply Your Team’s Capacity

We’ve all had a boss who seemed to suck the air out of the room. They made us feel both overworked and underutilized – busy carrying out their plans, not able to make the significant contributions we felt capable of. On the other hand, we’ve probably also all had great leaders who got more out of us than we even knew was possible.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter argues that the difference between a Multiplier leader and a Diminisher leader comes down to a handful of key assumptions and the behaviors that each mindset produces.

Who Is This?

Liz Wiseman, the primary author, is a leadership researcher and teacher and is the president of Wiseman Group. Greg McKeown, her collaborator, is a time management specialist and researcher who runs a company called THIS. (He also has written other books, including previously-reviewed-by-me Essentialism.)

What’s the Big Idea?

Wiseman and McKeown argue that leaders fall on a spectrum from Diminishers – whose behavior lead to less engaged, less capable work from their employees – to Multipliers, who bring out the best in everyone they impact. After doing intensive research on both Multiplier and Diminisher leaders from a variety of countries and industries (as well as non-business “leaders” like teachers and coaches), they have concluded that being a Multiplier is based on a very basic principle:

Multipliers believe that almost everyone is smart, that there are multiple kind of “genius”, and that intelligence and capability is constantly growing. “People are smart and will figure it out.”

Diminishers believe that most people are not smart, that their own way of being smart is the only kind (or the only real kind), and that every person’s intelligence and capability are fixed and will not change. “People need me to tell them what to do.”

Wiseman and McKeown point to five key types of behaviors, all of which stem from these basic Multiplier/Diminisher assumptions, that lead to dramatically different work environments:

  1. Multipliers, because they recognize different kinds of intelligence and believe that talent can be developed, gain a reputation for being a leader who helps their employees grow. This reputation in turn creates a virtuous cycle where they naturally attract top talent – they are talent magnets.
  2. Multipliers are not afraid to move in bold new directions and don’t expect perfection. They encourage taking significant actions, while requiring that their team learn from mistakes. This makes Multipliers liberators.
  3. Multipliers question assumptions, including their own, and aren’t afraid to ask their teams to solve big problems. In other words, they are challengers.
  4. Multipliers work to unleash the combined intelligence of their teams by framing thoughtful questions rather than trying to be the smartest person in the room. They are debate makers.
  5. Multipliers ultimately empower their teams to take responsibility by being a coach and a sounding board rather than a micromanager. They are investors in their teams.

My Take

I really love this book.

The ideas speak for themselves, frankly; I found myself nodding at some of the descriptions of good and bad managers, recognizing my own experiences, and getting excited at how intuitive and straightforward the concepts were.

The language is only slightly jargon-y, which is impressive since it’s written by two business coaches who spend their time working with upper management. The writing is clear and readable.

I like that this book is based on research – and especially that they focused on looking at both what good and bad managers did differently. As they point out, looking only at successful people is like analyzing only Olympic gold medalists and concluding that they succeeded because they had coaches.

Multipliers has an impressive scope of purpose; the authors move gracefully from the abstract (abundance versus scarcity and fixed versus growth intelligence mindsets) to specific pointers on how to become a Multiplier yourself. I also appreciated the many examples of real-life multipliers and diminishers. Apparently some reviewers felt these descriptions padded the book unnecessarily, but I felt that they kept things grounded, demonstrating how these principles play out in the real world.

Oh, and I liked that while they primarily focused on business, they also highlighted stories from other types of leadership. It brought home the point that these practices can benefit any kind of leader, from a charity project organizer to a coach or teacher.

I truthfully don’t have a single complaint. This is one of my all-time favorite personal development books, and I suspect I’ll be returning to these ideas again and again in years to come.

Meant For

Leaders or people who want to be leaders. Anyone who’s ever had a bad boss.

Bottom Line

Read it, y’all. Find it at your library, borrow it from a friend, buy it, whatever – but read it.

Multipliers: Why The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown – 288 pages – Published 2010 by HarperCollins

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