Why is it that we are smart and capable under some leaders, and not others?
Leaders face enormous challenges. Managing remote teams, change/transformation fatigue, hiring and retaining staff (then keeping them accountable), and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in tough times.
We all lead (or parent!) with the best of intentions, but most of us have a mix of “Multiplier” and "Diminisher" traits.
And those Diminisher traits won't keep your employees happy, engaged and productive.
Research shows 'engaged' employees are 44% more productive than workers who merely feel 'satisfied', and an employee who feels 'engaged and inspired' is 125% more productive than the unsatisfied staffer. (1)
Given we've just had Liz Wiseman herself as our Global Headline speaker recently, let's look at her famous leadership concept "Multipliers".
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Multipliers lift intelligence
It should be challenging but exhilarating to work for a Multiplier.
In our Multipliers masterclass, master practitioner Deborah Keep cited Liz Wiseman's research showing employees use 90% of their intelligence (or more) when working for a “Multiplier” leader but only around 40% (or less) when working for a “Diminisher”.
You might remember one of Jim Collins's best quotes is that leaders must have the "right people on the bus". To grow a successful business, your bus shouldn't drive anywhere without first piling aboard a good number of Multiplier leaders and impact players .
To sum up, a Multiplier is a big part of what makes a good leader. So let's look at what traits are connected with Multipliers and Diminishers, and how you might be an Accidental Diminisher without realising it.
Multiplier Traits In Action
Delegates to our Multipliers masterclass said Multiplier leaders they’d worked under: encouraged them, assumed good intent, gave 100% trust and empowerment, assumed they were capable, named their strengths and their growth opportunities, coached rather than helped, provided specific feedback, believed in them, invested in their learning, asked them for ideas and listened. Because Multipliers assume intelligence, our delegates said they believed their past Multiplier leaders got up to 100% more intelligence from them.
Diminisher Traits in Action
Contrast this to Diminishers leaders. These are the leaders we don’t want to be working under. They’re the micromanagers, tyrants and know-it-alls.
Delegates said diminisher leaders they’d worked for didn't listen with empathy, owned others' ideas, talked behind their backs, micromanaged, had no interest in their ideas, talked more than asking questions, ignored positives but never missed a negative, didn’t share openly, and blamed the team.
It’s plain exhausting to work for a Diminisher and they reduce intelligence on the team. At our masterclass, 37% of delegates shared that as a result of working under a Diminisher leader, they contributed only 21% to 40% of their intelligence potential. 17% said it was under 20%. Only one in 10 delegates was using over 60% of their intelligence working for a Diminisher.
Delegates said it drove them to look for another job, vent about their boss, start side hustles, end their contract, or check out (i.e. disengage) from work.
So, what are Diminisher behaviours?
· Empire builder – they hoard and underutilise talent.
· Tyrant – they create stress that stops thinking.
· Know-it-all – they tell people what to do.
· Decision Maker – they decide (then ask for debate).
· Micromanager - they're always over your shoulder.
Good intentions but poor results
But Diminishers are often unaware of their impact on others, who probably assume they're doing the best they can.
They are, then, “Accidental Diminisher” leaders, leading with the best of intentions but in a way that accidentally shuts down intelligence.
Their people feel stifled, depleted, toxic, or overworked but underutilised.
It's just one way leaders can destroy teams.
Read on for these Accidental Diminisher traits, and see if you can recognise your behaviours in the list.....
9 traits of an Accidental Diminisher
You are trying to be a good leader, but any of these Accidental Diminisher traits will have a detrimental effect on those who work with you.
· Idea fountain – Leader shares new ideas all the time. No-one knows what idea to work on. Team members stop executing ideas or coming up new ideas of their own. (Solution: Create a holding tank for your ideas, or share in an ideas meeting).
· Always on – Leader is gregarious and energetic, sharing stories, leading the parade. It’s exhausting because the leader takes up all the space. (Solution: Just say it once).
· Rescuer – Leader fixes things and solve problems. Individuals feel helpless and they stop fixing their own problems. (Solution: Ask others for their 'fix', ideas, input).
· Pacesetter – Leader rolls up their sleeves and sets a cracking pace. People can’t keep up. Employees lose momentum. (Solution: Lead, but stay within sight).
· Rapid responder – Leader jumps to immediate response. Team members wait and let the boss respond and stop offering their intelligence. (Solution: Set a mandatory waiting period for yourself before jumping in with response).
· Optimist – Leader is all “ra, ra, we can do this.” Team sees the leader as out of touch and with rose-coloured glasses. (Solution: Acknowledge the struggle).
· Protector – Leader over-focused on making a safe, nice experience at work. Employees don’t grow. They don’t use their intelligence muscles. (Solution: Expose others to difficulties to build up their resilience).
· Strategist – Leader builds a compelling vision, and expects the team to follow. But the team is excluded from the big thinking. (Solution: Give the Why and the What, but not the How).
· Perfectionist – Leader wants everything to be perfect. Employees feel they’re never good enough. (Solution: Define the standards).
"Rescuer" was chosen by more delegates at Growth Faculty's masterclass who self-assessed their own main Accidental Diminisher trait.
5 Multiplier Behaviours
Multiplier traits and behaviours in a team leader have the opposite effect to those of the Diminisher and Accidental Diminisher. Here are 5 Multiplier traits to try to maximise in your team leadership.
· Talent magnet – Attract and optimise talent.
· Liberator – Create space for best thinking and demand best work.
· Challenger – Extend stretch challenges.
· Debate maker – Drive sound sound decisions through rigorous debate.
· Investor – Instill ownership and accountability.
To become a better leader, it’s about shifting the balance to create more multiplier moments, and fewer diminishing moments.
6 behaviour shifts to move towards being a Multiplier
So we've established you want to become a Multiplier leader, or perhaps improve on the Multiplier skills you already have. Here, Liz Wiseman's suggests you switch out one Diminisher behaviour for a Multiplier one.
· From giving answers – to asking better questions.
· From taking responsibility – to giving your people 51% of the vote.
· From taking over entirely – to giving the pen back (assist, don’t take over).
· From encouraging innovation – to making space for mistakes.
· From hiring smart people – to using the native genius already in the team (see below).
· From delegating work – to offering stretch challenges.
To identify native genius in your employee
We just saw the term 'native genius' and with the War on Talent, it's important to find 'native genius' in your team. This is the skill or trait that comes naturally to that person, or that they are particularly happy utilising in the course of their day. To find the 'native genius' in others, start with these suggestions:
· Observation – be intellectually curious.
· Having conversations, and notice. What do they volunteer for? Where do they really excel? What do they naturally gravitate to?
· Read about Patrick Lencioni’s 6 Type of Working Genius diagnostic tool.
Building a multiplier habit
You can read more about this in Liz Wiseman's book 'Multipliers' but each behaviour of a leader is prompted by a trigger (someone's struggling), and reinforced by a reward (ie. peer recognition). By understanding why we act as we do, we can shape our behaviour.
The habit chain: Trigger – Behaviour – Surface Result – Hidden Reward – Consequence.
If you have a Diminisher behaviour, try to work through the habit chain to understand what's behind your behaviour.
Here's a Diminisher example:
· Someone starts to miss milestones.
· Diminisher behaviour: I want to jump in and take the lead on the project.
· On the surface, things start moving to completion.
· Diminisher reward: I feel important as a contributor and problem solver.
· Diminisher consequence: They stop taking ownership in future challenges.
Here's a Multiplier example:
· Someone starts to miss milestones.
· Multiplier behaviour: I contribute but make sure I give the pen back.
· On the surface, things start moving to completion.
· Multiplier reward: They feel empowered and confident.
· Multiplier consequence: They grow and trust they can share their struggles.
Self-awareness will unlock whether you're a Multiplier or Diminisher.
Like most of us, you're probably a bit of each on most days. But by being aware of your triggers, your behaviours and your habits, you can lift the intelligence of your team and give them the great leadership they want and deserve.
- Increasing the number of Multiplier moments in your day, and reducing the number of Diminisher ones.
- Changing your assumptions about people. "Change our assumptions and it will change our behaviour."
- Try the extreme question challenge - only ask questions in a meeting/session/one-to-one.
- Bain & Company, from Instride's 2021 article: 10 Employment Engagement Statistics You Need to Know in 2022.
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