Learning from Liz Wiseman and her Multipliers concept

Multipliers – How The Best Business Leaders Harness The Intelligence Of Their Teams

I had the privilege of seeing Liz Wiseman, author of the excellent leadership book “Multipliers”, as a keynote speaker at the Peak Performance Business Summit in Melbourne recently. Recognised as one of the top leadership thinkers in the world, Liz Wiseman has an unenviable job. Why? Because she shows us all how we inadvertently shut people down, turn giants into midgets and score cheap destructive shots. Ouch!

The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

In her book: Multipliers, a thought-provoking, accessible, and essential exploration of leadership, Liz explains why some leaders drain capability and intelligence from their teams. These people she calls “diminishers”. While others, called “multipliers”, elevate people to produce better results. Liz challenges us to sharpen up our act at work and at home.

Key Learnings From Seeing Liz Wiseman Live In Melbourne

At the summit, Liz Wiseman took a room full of ambitious and cutting edge business leaders and consultants through a process that had us admitting firstly that we were all “accidental diminishers”.

We don’t have to be a tyrannical director to be a diminisher sometimes. Think about it, when someone on your team brings an issue to you, do you take ownership of the problem without hesitation? Do you find yourself delegating to others and then retaking ownership at the first sign of trouble? Do you think that you can resolve issues more quickly than your team so that you can move your business forward at a quicker pace? These are diminishing behaviours and stop your team from learning and developing.

Multipliers – The Key Is To Ask, Not Tell

Liz explained the key to becoming Multipliers is a change in mindset to help those around you become more productive, engaged and successful. Here is an excerpt from her talk in Melbourne.

“Here’s a very simple but difficult thing. A simple but hard thing that I think propels people into multiplier mode. That is moving out of the mode of “telling” and operating in the mode of “asking”. I think the best leaders tell less, and they ask more. They ask more questions. They ask better questions. They ask more from the people around them, and it’s why they get more. It’s because they ask.

I’ve seen managers grow into this mode over their career through slow, gentle, real learning. But I would encourage you, if you’re listening right now, to take what I call “The Extreme Question Experience” which is a more radical shift. Ask yourself, could you lead a meeting, a conversation, troubleshoot an issue – and all you do is ask? You don’t say anything like “Oh, I agree. That’s a good idea.” All you do is just ask question after question after question.”

Liz explained that she stumbled into this when she was having trouble with the bedtime routine at home. She was in the ‘bossy’ mum mode. “Kids, go to bed. Put that away. Quit playing. Leave her alone. Get your pyjamas on. Go brush your teeth. Go to bed. Back to bed. No more stories.” It’s a tell-tell-tell mode that wasn’t working very well.

A colleague of hers gave her the challenge to ask questions instead. And it changed everything. Liz explains.

“This little exercise changed me forever as a parent and as a leader, because suddenly I can’t tell my children what to do. I’ve just got to ask the questions and help them figure out what has to get done. It shifted from utter chaos to a sort of challenge. I couldn’t believe how my kids actually knew what they had to do…without me telling them what to do!”

A Bias for Action

Liz encourages you to take this challenge at work. Maybe lead a staff meeting and all you do is ask. It’s hard, but done once or twice, it shifts the way we think about your role. You can see whether you lean towards telling, or toward asking people questions. When you understand your behaviour you can make the simplest shift: from telling to just saying, “Tell me more.”

It’s a Shift

Liz believes that this is probably the most profound shift that a leader can make: To not just rely on the intelligence in your own head, but on the true intelligence and capability of your team.

Think about how powerful that is.

I give you that challenge today.


Read Leigh Paulden’s review of Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers and other great business books that deal with people and leadership development here.

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