Book Summary of ‘Multipliers’​ by Liz Wiseman

Through their style of management some leaders seem to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. They focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room. This in turn has a diminishing effect on everyone else. Other leaders use their intelligence as a tool rather than a weapon. They apply their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capability of people around them.

The second group of leaders Wiseman calls Multipliers. Multipliers are genius makers. Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort and collective intelligence. 

Wiseman uses Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. as an example. When Cook was COO and opened a budget review in one sales division, he reminded the management team that the strategic imperative was revenue growth. Everyone expected this, but they were astounded when he asked for the growth without providing additional headcount. The Apple leaders entrenched in the logic of resource allocation and addition argued: 

  1. Our people are overworked. 
  2. Our best people are the most maxed out. 
  3. Therefore, accomplishing a bigger task requires the addition of more resources: the Logic of Addition. 

Cook, on the other hand, was speaking the logic of multiplication  

  1. Most people in organisations are underutilised. 
  2. All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership. 
  3. Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment. 

Multipliers apply the logic of multiplication.

Multipliers are hard edged.  

Multipliers expect great things from their people and drive them to achieve extraordinary results. They are beyond results-driven; they are tough and exacting. Indeed, Multipliers make people feel smart and capable, but they don’t do it by being “feel-good” managers. They look into people and find capability, and they want to access all of it and utilise people to their fullest. They see a lot, so they expect a lot. 

The Five Disciplines of the Multiplier 

Discipline 1. Attracting and Optimising Talent 

Multipliers are Talent Magnets; they attract and deploy talent to its fullest, regardless of who owns the resource and people flock to work with them because they know they will grow and be successful. The Four Practices of the Talent Magnet:

  1. Look for Talent Everywhere 

Talent Magnets are always looking for new talent and they look far beyond their own backyard. Multipliers cast a wide net and find talent in many settings and diverse forms, knowing that intelligence has many facets. In their quest to assemble the finest talent, Talent Magnets are blind to organisational boundaries. They see multiple forms of intelligence everywhere. Talent Magnets live in a world without hierarchical or lateral restrictions. Instead, they see talent networks. 

2. Find People’s Native Genius 

People’s first reaction to hearing someone describe a genius of theirs can often be bemusement. You know you’ve hit a genius nerve when they say, “Really? Can’t everyone do this?” or “But this is no big deal!” Finding people’s native genius and then labeling it is a direct approach to drawing more intelligence from them. 

3. Connect People with Opportunities 

When leaders connect people’s natural passions and native genius to big opportunities, those people are used at their highest point of contribution. Are there people on your team who could lead a revolution if they were unleashed on the right opportunity? Are there people on your team who aren’t being used at their highest? 

4. Remove the Blockers 

You only need to pause temporarily to see the high cost of destructive genius. Leaders most often know who the blockers are, even if it is themselves. The most common mistake they make is waiting too long to remove them. Is it possible that your smartest people are impeding the smarts of your organisation? And is it possible you are waiting too long to remove the blockers? 

Discipline 2. Creating Intensity that Requires Best Thinking.

Multipliers establish a unique and highly motivating work environment where everyone has permission to think and the space to do their best work. Multipliers create the conditions where intelligence is engaged, grown, and transformed into concrete successes. They liberate staff from the shackles of restrictive practices. Multipliers are liberators. Key Practices of the Liberator:

  1. Create Space and the Right Environment

Everyone needs space. We need space to contribute and to work. Liberators don’t take it for granted that people have the space they need. They deliberately carve out space for others to be able to contribute. But space isn’t just a spatial concept. Liberators create space for others to contribute and share ideas.  They do this using their ears. Liberators are more than just good listeners; they are ferocious listeners. They listen to feed their hunger for knowledge, to learn what other people know and use it to the organisation’s knowledge and benefit.

2. Demand People’s Best Work 

Liberators make sure a standard is set.  They make sure everyone knows what good is and at the same time make sure that nothing else is acceptable.  They defend the standard. Setting the bar at the right level encourages best efforts from the teams and a common and understood goal to attain. Liberators distinguish between best work and outcomes.  Best work can be performed yet outcomes not achieved. To a Liberator this is not failure this is a catalyst to learn from mistakes or sub-optimal performance. A change to admit and share mistakes in open, blame free lessons learned sessions.

Discipline 3. Extending Challenges. 

Multipliers act as Challengers, continually challenging themselves and others to push beyond what they know. How do they do this? They seed opportunities, lay down challenges that stretch the organisation, and, in doing so, generate belief that it can be done and enthusiasm about the process. The Three Practices of the Challenger:

  1. Seed the Opportunity 

Multipliers understand that people grow through challenge. They understand that intelligence grows by being stretched and tested. So, even if the leader has a clear vision of the direction, he or she doesn’t just give it to people. Multipliers don’t give answers. Instead they begin a process of discovery: they provide just enough information to provoke thinking and to help people discover and see the opportunity for themselves. One of the best ways to seed an opportunity is to allow someone else to discover it themselves. When people can see the need for themselves, they develop a deep understanding of the issues, and quite often, all the leader needs to do is get out of their way and let them solve the problem. 

2. Lay Down a Challenge 

Once an opportunity is seeded and intellectual energy is created, Multipliers establish the challenge at hand in such a way that it creates a huge stretch for an organisation. They extend a clear and concrete challenge. Then they ask the hard questions that need to be answered to achieve the challenge, but—most important—they don’t answer them. They let others fill in the blanks. 

3. Generate Belief 

By seeding the opportunity and laying down a challenge, people are interested in what is possible. But this isn’t enough to create movement. Multipliers generate belief—the belief that the impossible is possible. It isn’t enough that people see and understand the stretch; they need to stretch themselves. Multipliers make people believe in themselves. Like the best sports coaches they can pump up people to believe they “are the greatest”.

Discipline 4 Debating Decisions 

Multipliers operate as Debate Makers, driving sound decisions through rigorous debate. The decision-making process they foster contains all the information the organisation needs to be ready to execute those decisions. The Three Practices of the Debate Maker:

  1. Frame the Issue 

There are four parts to a well-crafted frame:  

  1. THE QUESTION: What is the decision to be made? What are we choosing between?  
  2. THE WHY: Why is this an important question to answer? Why does the decision warrant collective input and debate? What happens if it is not addressed?  
  3. THE WHO: Who will be involved in making the decision? Who will give input?  
  4. THE HOW: How will the final decision be made? Will it be made by majority rule? Consensus? Or will you (or someone else) make the final decision after others provide input and recommendations? 

When a leader has framed the issues well, the rest of the team knows where to focus. 

2. Spark the Debate 

After framing of the issue, Multipliers spark the debate. Wiseman suggests there are four elements of a great debate. A great debate is:  

  1. ENGAGING: The question is compelling and important to everyone in attendance.  
  2. COMPREHENSIVE: The right information is shared to generate a holistic and collective understanding of the issues at hand. 
  3. FACT-BASED: The debate is deeply rooted in fact, not opinion.  
  4. EDUCATIONAL: People leave the debate more focused on what they learned than on who won or lost. 

In facilitating debate, Multipliers create a safe climate for people’s best thinking. They do it by removing fear. They remove the factors that cause people to doubt themselves or their ideas and the fear that causes people to hold back. Yet they continue to press for advancement. They ask the questions that challenge conventional thinking. They ask the questions that unearth the assumptions that are holding the organisation back. 

3. Drive a Sound Decision 

Multipliers may relish a great debate, but they pursue debate with a clear end: a sound decision. They ensure this in three ways. First, they reclarify the decision-making process. Second, they make the decision or explicitly delegate it to someone else to decide. And third, they communicate the decision and the rationale behind it. 

Discipline 5. Instilling Ownership and Accountability.

Multipliers deliver and sustain superior results by setting high expectations across the organisation. They serve as Investors who provide the necessary resources for success. In addition, they hold people accountable for their commitments. The Three Practices of the Investor:

  1. Defining Ownership 

Investors begin this cycle by establishing ownership up front. They see intelligence and capability in the people around them and they put them in charge.  Clarifying the role that the staffer will play as owner actually gives them more ownership, not less. When people are given ownership for only a piece of something larger, they tend to optimise that portion, limiting their thinking to this immediate domain. When people are given ownership for the whole, they stretch their thinking and challenge themselves to go beyond their scope. The staffer then understands the nature of their involvement and when and how you the leader will invest in their success. 

2. Investing Resources -Teach and Coach 

When leaders teach, they invest in their people’s ability to solve and avoid problems in the future. This is one of the most powerful ways that Multipliers build intelligence around them. Instead of jumping in, the Investor provides a backup. When leaders define clear ownership and invest in others, they have sown the seeds of success and earned the right to hold people accountable. Multipliers believe the best way to learn is through experience.  They perform the role of sensei – the organisational Mr. Miyagi – building and using intellectual muscle memory to organisational advantage,

3. Holding People Accountable 

A Multiplier leader knows how to keep accountability with his people. He is fully engaged, but he does not take over. He lets people be self-determining but retains a tight rein. He expects complete work and won’t tolerate omissions or shortfalls.  That said, a multiplier respects natural consequence. The multiplier is aware of the wider influences and constraints and is sympathetic to outcomes if these detractors have an effect.  Through their multiplying abilities, the feeling of care and trust arising creates an increased desire for the staffer go the extra mile and push harder to succeed.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

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