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Multipliers - Book Review

1 October 2011
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

The book "Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter" was penned in 2010 by management consultant Liz Weitzman with assistance from Greg McOnline. Leveraging her extensive managerial experience, Weitzman engaged in over 150 conversations with executives in the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Israeli perspective in the book encompasses Better Place, and its founder, Shai Agassi, is showcased as an exemplar of effective leadership.

The central concept presented in the book distinguishes between two types of managers: those who lead by diminishing their subordinates and those who, as true leaders, enable and empower their teams to achieve success. Weitzman's writing style is highly accessible, featuring a well-structured and orderly presentation that effectively communicates ideas. The chapter summaries adeptly highlight the main points.

The book explores various topics, such as:
  • Defining a "multiplier" leader

  • Attracting talent

  • Encouraging releases

  • Presenting challenges

  • Facilitating discussions

  • Engaging investors

  • Strategies for becoming a "multiplier" leader

The book is engaging and thought-provoking, whether utilized as a coaching tool for organizations, a personal management guide, or a resource for navigating family dynamics. Enjoy your reading experience!

Defining a "multiplier" leader

The book introduces two distinct types of managers commonly found in organizations. The first category, "multipliers," comprises individuals skilled at activating and maximizing the potential of those under their leadership. They endorse the following principles:

  1. Many individuals in organizations are underutilized in terms of their mental capacity.

  2. Proper leadership can leverage any skill or ability.

  3. The combination of intelligence and competence can enhance employees and the organization without increasing input.

The second group, labeled "diminishers," includes managers, potentially possessing high personal abilities, who engage in detailed and controlling management, often resorting to micromanaging.

The remaining part of the book outlines the five essential qualities characterizing multiplier managers:

  1. Attracting talented individuals.

  2. Facilitating releases.

  3. Presenting challenges.

  4. Encouraging discussions.

  5. Investing in employees (not just financially).

According to Weitzman's research, multiplier managers can produce twice as much from their employees than downsizing managers. Additional noteworthy findings from the study include:

  • Employees working under multiplier managers express appreciation for the deep satisfaction derived from their work, not necessarily for the personal relationship.

  • Many multiplier managers exhibit a keen sense of humor.

  • Few downsizing managers comprehend the impact of their actions on employees and the organization. Some may even be deemed accidental diminishers, acting in ways they believe are expected of managers, with some mistakenly thinking they embody the traits of multipliers but failing to exhibit such behavior.

Crucially, the book emphasizes that any manager can develop into a multiplier manager, as these skills are acquired rather than innate. Most individuals likely fall somewhere in between, making it possible and potentially beneficial for many to understand and adopt these ideas.

Attracting talent

A leader operating as a multiplier can attract and successfully recruit talented employees. This doesn't imply having dedicated recruitment responsibilities; instead, individuals who interact with them express a desire to work under their leadership. These leaders create an environment that instills confidence in employees, assuring them of opportunities for growth and development for several reasons:

  1. Firstly, they actively seek out top-tier talent.

  2. They maximize the unique qualities of individuals, fostering their evolution into A+ players.

  3. Consequently, the organization thrives and evolves, generating new opportunities.

  4. The organization gains a reputation as a place where growth and development are achievable.

  5. Additionally, these leaders create additional job opportunities for more high-caliber players, perpetuating the cycle.

They expedite and sustain the employee attraction cycle through four essential practices:

  1. Actively seeking talent everywhere.

  2. Analyzing and identifying the innate qualities and abilities that lead to success in each employee, tapping into what comes naturally to them, even if they are unaware of these attributes.

  3. Tailoring roles to individuals based on their qualities and abilities, disregarding hierarchical or bureaucratic constraints. They seize opportunities to leverage these skills, ensuring employees understand why they were chosen for their positions. This communication extends to the organization and customers, further strengthening the employee's motivation and effectiveness.

  4. Addressing obstacles posed by employees who hinder progress, including their willingness to step aside, if necessary, to facilitate organizational and employee advancement.

It's essential to clarify that every manager aims to bring talented individuals to the organization. However, multiplier managers hold an advantage. By analyzing and maximizing an employee's abilities, they elevate these individuals to a higher level of talent compared to the starting point and the efforts of other managers.

To enhance talent attraction further, aspiring leaders can adopt the role of an "observer of geniuses" by:

  • Identifying the solid qualities and abilities (genius) of existing employees.

  • Conducting a thorough diagnosis and confirming these strengths.

  • Creating a list of roles that align with each employee's genius, initiating leveraging these strengths.

  • Clearing organizational obstacles under the manager's jurisdiction.

Remarkably, multiplier managers encourage employees to grow and explore opportunities outside the organization. They provide recommendations and celebrate their success, even when it occurs beyond the organizational boundaries.

Encouraging releases

The second characteristic of multiplier managers is their ability to relinquish control, liberating employees from hierarchy constraints and enabling them to think, speak, and act rationally. They establish an environment conducive to the emergence of good ideas and the optimal performance of individuals.

They achieve this liberation while empowering employees through three essential practices:

  1. Creating space for employees involves restraining their speech and actions, allowing employees to express themselves, and adjusting the balance between speaking and listening in conversations. Consistently, this is manifested in the granting of space.

  2. Setting high standards for employees: They establish demanding criteria for work, focusing on evaluating employees' efforts rather than just the outcomes and recognizing the influence of various factors on results.

  3. Establishing learning circles: According to Weizmann, forming learning circles is crucial for a liberating manager. These managers allow their employees to make mistakes while simultaneously insisting on learning from those mistakes for future improvement.

To enhance and become more liberating, several tools are suggested:

  1. Coin exercise: Managers use coins, potentially of varying values, to determine the number of times they can intervene during a discussion. Different coin values represent variable intervention times in seconds, making this seemingly easy yet non-trivial for managers striving to be more restrained in their communication.

  2. Better branding of manager's opinions: Managers are encouraged to distinguish clearly between their views and binding directives, challenging the perception that everything the manager says is inherently sacred.

  3. Externalization of manager's errors: Similar to practices in other fields, admitting and externalizing errors make it easier for others to do the same.

A liberating environment fosters the expression of ideas and allows intelligence to flourish, surpassing the potential of typical work environments.

Presenting challenges

Multiplier managers are leaders who embody the trait of being challenging. They push their employees to confront and overcome situations they may not have believed they could handle, urging them to take on roles that might seem more significant than their perceived capabilities.

Challenging managers don't spoon-feed all the answers to their employees; instead, they expect their team members to discover the solutions independently. Characteristics of demanding managers include:

  1. Cultivating opportunities for challenges: They demonstrate the necessity for challenges, challenge existing assumptions, and present problems from new perspectives. Additionally, they establish a starting point for employees to address these challenges. This task is far from trivial, as it is easier to provide answers than to create opportunities for others to face challenges.

  2. Posing challenges: Challenging managers set tasks that appear daunting or elevate the standard from the current level. They present concrete and practical difficulties, pose challenging questions, and step back, allowing employees to formulate their responses.

  3. Instilling hope and confidence in employees that they can indeed rise to the occasion.

To become a challenging manager, the following steps are recommended:

  • Develop a high level of curiosity.

  • Focus on asking questions rather than solely providing instructions.

  • Look beyond the organization by venturing outside its walls, recognizing that perspectives visible from external vantage points, such as visiting customers or collaborating with colleagues, may differ from those within.

It's advisable to begin with small steps when aspiring to become a challenging manager, as the transformation is difficult to achieve in one step.

Facilitating discussions

Multiplier managers foster discussions, providing a platform for their employees to express themselves. Their focus is not on showcasing their knowledge but on understanding what others know. The emphasis lies not only on their interactions with others but also on creating an environment where employees can engage in conversations and debates, with the manager primarily assuming the role of a listener and guide.

Moderators responsible for creating discussions are assigned three essential tasks:

  1. Define the issues to be addressed and establish a proper framework for discussion:

    a. Formulate the critical question.

    b. Assemble the team.

    c. Ensure that individuals are prepared and have gathered relevant data for the discussion.

  2. Ignite the discussion and cultivate positive passion:

    a. Positive enthusiasm is generated when managers:

    - Instill confidence in employees regarding their ability to express opinions.

    - Demand seriousness and rigor based on data.

  3. Guide the discussion towards well-founded decisions:

    a. Decisions are reached when managers:

    - Clearly explain the decision-making process, providing space for everyone and basing decisions on data.

    - Either make the decision themselves or delegate this authority to a specified individual. Everyone is informed that a decision will be made.

    - Communicate the decision and the reasoning behind it to the organization.

To transition into a discussion-making moderator, adhering to three rules is recommended:

  • Pose the core question, delving into the issue's crux and the decision's essence.

  • Request a data-based explanation from employees expressing their opinions.

  • Ensure active participation from everyone in the discussion.

A resolute manager can also be an effective discussion facilitator, leveraging data to enable diverse opinions, as long as those expressing opinions also ground their views in data. Notably, a manager who creates discussions does not necessarily make decisions through consensus; instead, democracy is manifested in the debate process, with the ultimate decision resting with the manager.

Engaging investors

One of the crucial qualities for any multiplier manager is the ability to create a situation where employees can function independently without constant reliance on the manager. This necessitates investing in employees' development to facilitate their growth and autonomy. The three primary actions that investment managers should undertake are:

  1. Establish ownership: Employees under the manager should recognize that they own their decisions and seek the manager's input only when necessary, not for the entire decision-making process. Managers are encouraged to augment employee responsibility, not just for their specific roles but as partners responsible for the organization's or unit's overall success. This approach encourages employees to consider the broader picture, expanding their roles and empowering themselves.

  2. Invest resources: Resource investment involves instructing and mentoring employees while offering support and backing. It encompasses providing the necessary tools for employees to develop and grow independently.

  3. Hold employees accountable for their actions: Managers should avoid taking responsibility away from employees. If managers avoid shouldering responsibility, employees will naturally assume accountability. While offering advice and assistance when employees seek help is appropriate, the ultimate responsibility for decision-making and execution should rest with the employee. Employees are expected to complete tasks on their own after receiving assistance.

Managers who embrace the responsibility of investing in their employees succeed in fostering independence and high performance, even in their absence.

To improve and become an investment-oriented manager, consider the following:

  • Communicate areas where employees have decision-making authority, emphasizing that the manager does not decide for them.

  • Allow employees to occasionally make mistakes and learn from them, ensuring that the cost of errors is reasonable and that there is a focus on learning.

  • Require employees to present problems and propose solutions.

  • Avoid immediately answering questions when asked for advice. Instead, guide the employee toward finding their solution.

It's essential to note that investment managers intervene in business operations but consistently remind employees that they are responsible for execution and decision-making.

Strategies for becoming a "multiplier" leader

Several chapters provide tips on how managers can enhance their abilities in five areas. But where does a manager begin? How does one initiate the entire process of change and improvement? As mentioned earlier, most managers fall somewhere in between, excelling in certain aspects and needing to improve in others. Improvement is required in various areas, so where should one start? Here are five steps to guide the implementation of change and improvement:

  1. Assess the Current Situation: Evaluate to gauge the extent to which the manager exhibits multiplier or diminisher tendencies across the different related aspects. A personal assessment questionnaire is available on the book's website:

  2. Select Two Areas for Action: Choose two areas—one where the manager is least effective and another where they are relatively more robust (to elevate it to an additional level of excellence).

  3. Behavioral Reflection and Analysis: Contemplate and analyze how a multiplier manager would behave in the selected areas and contrast that with the actions of a diminisher. Sharpen the behaviors you aspire to exhibit.

  4. 30-day Trial: Implement changes in these selected areas over a 30-day trial period, focusing on improvement and refinement.

  5. Sustain Improvement: Establish a plan for long-term preservation. Develop questions that should be revisited annually to ensure the sustained maintenance of improvement.

An additional tip is to create a team of several managers simultaneously working on improvement. Such a collaborative group can generate momentum, making it easier for individuals to succeed.

Remembering that being a genius maker is more valuable than being a genius yourself is crucial. It is a more efficient and effective approach, benefiting the manager and the organization.

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