Liz Wiseman wants us to multiply

Liz Wiseman is closing ASTD2013. At this point in the day, the audience is tough. Most, like me, have already followed about 16 intense sessions with learning leaders from around the world on a variety of topics. Many have listening, tweeted and taken other notes, all at the same time. (And they partied all night. Every night.) Some are leaving for the flight home now. Others are actually sleeping.

But the message is important and its simple: We need to stop adding and start multiplying.

Why do some leaders drain talent, while others multiple it? Why do some leaders drive their people to burnout, whilst others release passion and turn Rick Lozano into a training rock-star?

Many people approach leadership (and human resource management) from an “addition” point-of-view. If I need to add more results, I need to add more people. If I want to add more revenue, it will add more costs. This is not going to work in today’s environment, says Liz Wiseman. today, resources are scarce, costs and being cut and more and more people are heading toward burnout. So we need to get a “multiplying” mindset. Or as my good friend and colleague Oisin Varian says ( whenever he can 🙂 “It’s not working harder, it’s working smarter.”

According to Liz Wiseman, effective leaders today function within a “logic of multiplication”. Instead of adding more, then try to create more connections. Like my friend at KPMG told me, managers try to help people function better in networks, providing access to new opportunities for development and more flow. Rather than trying to add (unavailable) resources, the focus is on utilisation of available resources. And not squeezing more out, but igniting more passion, creativity and collaboration.

Being a multiplier starts with how you see your workforce: Some leaders see highly productive people, working like crazy and immediately think: “Good.” Others look at those people trying to find ways to be smarter, more agile and more innovative.

Wiseman quoted CK Prahalad for saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s how quickly you access what other people know.” We live in the collaboration era. It’s all about mobility, connectivity, sharing and crowd-creation.

So what do multipliers actually do?

In her book “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter”, Liz Wiseman outlines 5 main activities:

  • Talent identification and management. Managers who multiply work on identifying the core talents of people and try to find ways to put them to work. They extract all of the capability from all of the people. They become talent magnets.
  • They liberate the worker. From constraints, administration, micro-management. They give people space to breathe, work and grow. Think of the Google 20% and how other companies are adopting it.
  • To multiple results in a workforce, managers must create more debate. The power of “team-spirit” is in putting people together to create something new. Debate and conflict around traditions, processes and problems lead to something new. Consider De Bono’s 6 hats… By creating debate, managers get more buy-in and accountability for decisions.
  • In addition to challenging the status quo, managers who multiply create challenges for their people in order to stretch and grow them.
  • Multiplying managers give their people responsibility and invest in their success. This in turn, leads to more investment from the employee.
  • If you are interested in Liz’s ideas, read the book or watch the video:

  • Video trailer
  • …and this additional resource (PDF) gives a synopsis of the core ideas presented
  • About Dan Steer

    Wandering corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, conference speaker and professional El-Magico. I help people get better at stuff by creating and facilitating Infinite Learning © opportunities. The world would be a better place if everyone was doing what he loved and doing it well. I am working to bring out the "El Magico" in everybody. Training in presentation and communication skills, leadership, social media for learning and marketing, learning and development management + personal effectiveness.

    Posted on May 29, 2013, in Leadership and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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