Becoming a Leader Who Multiplies the Abilities of Your People

In: BlogDate: Aug 27, 2020By: Billy Burgess

Have you ever worked for someone whose leadership made you feel smarter and more capable? Happy’s Cathy Busani understands the advantages of leaders who’re able multiply the abilities of their people.

Speaking at the 2018 Happy Workplaces conference, Cathy draws from Liz Wiseman’s book, Multipliers: How the Best leaders Make Everyone Smarter, to illustrate how to become a multiplier of others. Watch the complete talk below. 

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Becoming a Leader Who Multiplies the Abilities of Your People

Welcome everybody. It's great to see so many smiling faces. As Maureen said, very much I see my role at Happy as helping internally people to experience joy in their role, but also externally as a facilitator and coach to do the same. So that's very much what my talk is going to be about, but actually it’s going to be very interactive which means that we're going to start off by thinking about what are our own management behaviours currently and are they ones that multiply others? So if I can get you to open your packs, if you haven't already, and at the very back you should see there's a sheet of paper that's titled Management Behaviours. So we're going to start off by getting you to do a bit of self-reflection. If I can get you to honestly answer that questionnaire; the only tricky bit is when you get to the scoring it will involve a tiny bit of multiplication, so do feel free to check with your neighbour if you are a bit stuck, or call out and we’ll help. Just to start you off just take a moment to reflect on your own management behaviours, complete the questionnaire and then we'll look at what it all means. So a few minutes just to do that… 

You need to add up the entries in each column, and then multiply them by the number in that column and then add up those scores to give yourself a total; and then you'll be done.

I'm going to ask you to watch a short video which hopefully will give a bit of explanation around what we've been doing:

Video begins...

“What is the fate of the smart and the talented? The corporate world finds smart, talented people and promotes them into management but many of these leaders never look beyond their own capability to see the full genius on their team. Have you ever worked around someone who made you feel smarter and more capable? We call these leaders ‘Multipliers’. Have you ever worked around someone who made you question your own intelligence? We call these leaders ‘Diminishers’. They may hire smart people but they quickly put other people in the background. They are smart leaders but they shut down the smarts of others. Diminishers come at such a high cost: they waste talent and intellect that sits right in front of them. Organisations can't afford Diminishers.

(Liz Wiseman, author of ‘Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everybody Smarter’ speaks:) “I worked in senior management at Oracle for seventeen years and I worked around a lot of really smart executives.  I saw how some leaders literally shut down brain power in the people around them. Yet other leaders seem to amplify the intelligence of the people around them; these leaders were Multipliers, Intelligence Multipliers. I saw this pattern with other executives and I was determined to research this to find out why? My first discovery was my research partner:  Greg McKeown at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Together we studied 150 leaders, in 35 companies, over 4 continents, in pursuit of one really big question: ‘Why do some leaders drain intelligence while others amplify it?’”

(Greg McKeown, co-author of ‘Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everybody Smarter’ speaks:) “So what did we find? We found that Diminishers and Multipliers did many things alike but a small number of things differently, 5 in particular: Multipliers act as talent magnets, liberators, challengers, debate makers and investors. Multipliers get so much brain power from their people that the workforce is essentially doubled for free.”

Multipliers come from all walks of life: from corporate boardrooms to our schools classrooms. They are leaders like Lutz Ziob, Bill Campbell, Wangari Maathai and many more. These people are real and the way they lead can be learned, and it can be developed. What would happen in your organisation if you operated more like a Multiplier? Imagine what is possible with access to all the intelligence that sits in your organisation.”

(End of video).

I just love that question: What would happen if you were to operate more as a Multiplier? And this is something that we came across a couple of years ago at Happy, and for us it's been a really exciting journey to think about what that means and what that might look like. That's really what I want to share with you.

We called the questionnaire you just completed ‘Management Behaviours’ but actually the real name of it is ‘Are you an Accidental Diminisher?’ Because, actually, the things that you have listed there as management behaviours are things that can actually diminish the people on your team -shock horror- So let's look at what the scores mean. Now, just before I reveal take a breath, because be prepared to notice that in all the time we've been sharing this across our training programmes I've only ever come across one person who scored as a Multiplier.  I had previously worked with them on 4 days of training and I did encourage them to get some feedback from their team becauses I thought perhaps they had scored themselves rather more favourably than their team may well have. So, be prepared, you may end up being an Accidental Diminisher because the scoring is quite tough on this.

So, this is how it looks: if you scored between 10 and 20 then you're probably not accidentally diminishing, if it's between 21 and 30 then you likely are, and if it's above 30 then you most certainly are. And certainly the title is really important, this word accidental, it's not that you've been purposely doing this. One of the challenges that people often say to me is “But no, isn't it really helpful when I see my team failing if I support them? And help make it happen?” Yes, but it depends how much you step in and to what degree. And how much dependence you create as a result of that. 

So, what I'd like you to do is just take a moment, in pairs at your table, so just pair up with someone or if it's odd numbers in threes, but just a discussion in small groups: reflecting on the video and your questionnaire results. What insights do you get so far? Then I'll explain a little bit more about the diminishing behaviours and why they're diminishing. But just take a moment to reflect in your pairs.

Just before we look at why some of those things may be diminishing, in case you hadn't sort of spotted it,  just interested if anyone wanted to share some of their reflections from watching the video, from doing the questionnaire?

If I can get you to turn in your yellow books to the appendix at the back, page 27, one of the things I'd encourage you to do is to have a glance of your questionnaire and notice which were the questions where you scored yourself the highest? And what I'd like you to do is to find why that is a diminishing habit? So for example, just to help you up here, if you scored high in question five you need to turn in here to the ‘Know-it-all’ section. I know! Be prepared! The words for Diminishers will not help you feel any better. We're looking at ‘Empire Builders’, ‘Tyrants’, ‘Know-it-alls’, ‘Decision Makers’, and ‘Micro-managers’. But in a moment we will look at how you can turn those into something a bit more multiplying. Pick a couple of the questions you scored yourself highest in and have a look at why that might be a diminishing behaviour, and then have another chat with your neighbour about extra reflections and learnings as a result. Once again I’ll wander round if you want to ask me questions or if you want to just share anything with me. Take a couple of moments just to reflect on two of your highest scores, the question, and what the related diminishing habit means.

Has that given us a bit more information? A bit more understanding? I did promise this would challenge you, and I think it's always a good way to start a day like this. Hopefully I have already got you challenged, and thinking and reflecting, and I'm sure we're going to hear lots from other speakers around things you can do around this; but again any comments? Anything anyone wants to share at this stage, before I move on?

Ok so let's move on then, let's help you by looking at what would be some multiplying behaviours to counter this with. And the first thing that I think is really important here is that you do need to have a mindset of a Multiplier. So I'm actually going to read out the ‘Mindsets of Multipliers’, because for me it's not just something you can read to yourself; and there will be, I promise you, at least one or two again that are likely to challenge you. Here we go, if you turn in your handouts to page 31 so you can follow along.

The mindset and beliefs of Multipliers: There are smart people everywhere. People are smart and will figure it out -get over yourself- without me. People's intelligence is continually developing. Most people in organisations are underutilized; now, that does not mean they do not have enough to do, it means they're not using their smarts. You are not asking them to bring their smarts to the table and, if you are somebody who is making all the decisions, it's a bit like saying to somebody: “Could you just pop your brain on the floor as you walk through the door? I'll just tell you everything we're going to do and then do feel free to pick it up on the way back out.” Now we would never do that, would we? My job is to create the environment, bring the right people to it, and get out of the way. I am confident that even if it's not done like I would do it -gasp- take a breath, it will be fine. And the direction needs to be set but not generally by me. So again, on your tables: which of these do you naturally agree with, and which might you struggle to adopt?

Ok so let's help us understand then a little bit more about: if those are our diminishing habits, how do we turn them into something that's a bit more multiplying? So again, in your handouts, if you haven't already discovered it, page 32-33 you've got your Multiplier role with your Diminisher opposite; and I thought I'd just share a couple of examples with you, we’re also going to be popping some handouts on the table now, which will get you to reflect on in a moment. But I just wanted to share with you a couple of really practical examples of how you might do something like this. So one of the things we talk quite a lot about, certainly when we’re training leaders and managers, is how to delegate successfully. And there's many steps in which to do, that but one of the things we don't often think about is actually ‘who do we delegate to?’ And for most of us, as leaders, we have that person who always gets it right and we find ourselves being drawn to delegating there. Or that person we can rely on, or maybe that person who feels like they are up and coming, and they're really motivated, and they’d surely be right for it? But actually one of the things that I've been doing over the last year is delegating a task to the team, and letting the team decide who does it. So that's a really simple thing to do, you set the framework, you say what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, to what you're looking for as the outcomes, and then you just wait to hear who the team have nominated to actually do the work. That's one really great thing that’s made a huge difference in our team. One of the other things that we've been doing at Happy, which has been hugely successful, is many of us spend too much time worrying about job descriptions; when you have this job title you should be doing these tasks. And instead of looking at it like that, we look instead: if you work in this team as a team you need to deliver on these tasks, and as a team you need to decide who is good at what, and therefore who should do which task. As Maureen said in the intro : for me, my aim is to have the teams at Happy be doing 80% of their job that gives them joy. And the only way to do that, is to make sure they are working to their strengths; that they are doing the things that get them up in the morning, that motivate them, that make them want to give you the extra mile. That's how we multiply peoples smarts. It's not by working them harder, because actually when you work to your strengths it's effortless, it’s stress-free. And the third example I wanted to share with you is to encourage Debate Makers: so, a couple of years ago myself and a senior facilitator had been asked by the Customer Service Team to look at some of the courses we ran, and decide which ones we wanted to continue with. And there was one particular course that we felt we didn't need to run anymore. It was ‘How to be a Great First Time Manager’ and I presented back to the Customer Service Team, and I said “we've decided we're not going to run that anymore” and the team were up in arms. They were like “we don't agree, and we need to do this, and this is why we need to do it, and we think it's the wrong decision” - I can see Suzy smiling over there, she was leading that parade- and one of the things that I was so proud of when I looked around the room, was that they felt they had a voice. And guess what? We still run that course and they were absolutely right and we were very happy to be persuaded. And I remember at the time saying to the team: that had been one of my favourite meetings and that I wanted to encourage them always to challenge the things that I'm saying, and that actually I do want a team of Debate Makers, and I don't want a team of people who will just say yes.

So, we've given you a handout: it's broken down into the five Multiplier habits, what we would like you to do again is find what was your highest Diminisher? Go to your opposite Multiplier, have a little read of some of the tips there, and you've got a couple of minutes to see if you can spot one that you might action as soon as you possibly can. So self reflection, take a moment, choose an action that you're going to take from tomorrow to become more of a Multiplier. Just one action.

So, final little wrap up: did we all managed to find at least one thing that we were going to do? Can we have some samples from around the room of things that you're going to commit to this audience, that you're going to make every attempt to do, as soon as you possibly can.  Who would be happy to share?

(audience member) “I am a Micro Manager.”

I like how we start with the “I am a self confessed”, I often say that “I'm a sort of recovering perfectionist” and I think it's a bit along those lines: let's be ‘recovering’ things of these. Brilliant, well done.

Hopefully I have given you lots of things to think about, lots of things to self reflect on. Please do not be hard on yourself, remember as I said that even myself,  having worked on this for a really long time, even before we discovered Multipliers, the first time I did it  I did not score as a Multiplier and I'm still hovering somewhere there on the borders. So I think it’s for me, it's a life journey, but one that I'm very happy for to take; because what I do absolutely know for sure is that everybody that works for us at Happy is absolutely bloody brilliant. And if we can allow that brilliance to shine everyday then we will be truly, truly happy.

Well done everyone. Thank you.

Multipliers bring out the intelligence and unique abilities of the entire workforce. They expect great things from their people and drive them to achieve extraordinary results through investment, teaching, and coaching. Multipliers are defined in contrast to diminishers – leaders who sap workplace energy and scare employees from expressing themselves.

The Happy leadership team has been on a journey towards operating more as multipliers, while also introducing the concept into their training programmes. Over a couple of years they’ve discovered that – shocking as it may sound – the majority of leaders and managers are accidental diminishers. Even if their intentions are pure and micromanagement is anathema to them, leaders can still create dependence and diminish the unique abilities of their people.

There’s no hand holding in multiplying leadership. Multipliers encourage innovation and the use of each individual’s imagination. To be a multiplier, you need to have the mindset of a multiplier. Cathy elaborates on the principles of this mindset:

“People are smart and will figure it out without me. People's intelligence is continually developing. Most people in organisations are underutilised; they're not using their smarts. My job is to create the environment, bring the right people to it, and get out of the way. I am confident that, even if it's not done like I would do it, it will be fine.”

What You Will Learn in This Video

  • How the best leaders make everyone smarter
  • What the difference is between a multiplier and a diminisher
  • Why most leaders are accidental diminishers
  • What allows multipliers to bring out the intelligence and unique abilities of the entire workforce
  • Even when the intentions are pure, leaders can create dependence and diminish the unique abilities of their people

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