Most leaders like to believe their success is a result of their fantastic work ethic, flawless execution, and drive. And that's often true!
Unfortunately, individual success does not always translate to success at working with and directing others.
While high performers often excel at the task of leading teams, some leaders actually diminish the abilities and drive of those around them, absorbing energy rather than creating it. It is hard to come to terms with the possibility that their style may actually harm their direct reports instead of helping them. This kind of awareness is essential to company survival and growth.
Liz Wiseman, author and leadership expert, calls these individuals "Diminishers."
As the author of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz has found that there are essentially two types of leaders: Multipliers and Diminishers.
Multipliers amplify the intelligence and talent of those around them. Teams working for multipliers often feel more empowered, with the autonomy needed to achieve goals using the full breadth of their intelligence and resourcefulness.
Diminishers, on the other hand, have the opposite effect. They stifle the abilities of their employees and foster a sense of dissatisfaction within the team. Instead of feeling empowered, people under Diminishers feel “stuck” and feel like they’re being micromanaged.
The effect that these approaches have on productivity goes without saying. But it should still be said. Liz’s research has found that Diminishers require twice the amount of resources to create the same amount of work as Multipliers.
What’s interesting about these two leadership types is that, in large part, they are very much alike. They care about the success of their teams and they are high-performers themselves. What sets them apart is in the little things that they do differently - 5 in particular. Let’s dive into them.
Here are the 5 signs that separate workplace Diminishers from the Multipliers.
The 5 Signs of the Diminisher
1. You are an Empire Builder
Great leaders build a great team.
You pride yourself on recruiting the best talent out there. And you’re quite good at it. You know how to spot them, approach them, and recruit them into your organization. Once there though, these people come to feel more like a trophy on a shelf than an active contributor. They report to you and not much else.
You may find that your high-performing team isn’t all that productive at creating results as it grows. You may become so preoccupied with adding more people to your team that you forget to lead and coach the people you already have.
These leaders don't give their people enough space, liberty, and time to elicit the best performance. Under these circumstances, top performers feel stifled and untapped. They may feel that they have no more room to grow and lose their motivation for their role.
2. You are a Tyrant
Capable leaders motivate their employees to perform at their best.
Your emotions tend to run high in times of stress at the company - which are often. You may be raising your voice or reprimanding others often. You tell yourself (and others) that this is totally justified, as people give you constant cause for irritation. But you start to notice that people are hesitant to come to you with problems. Workers often seem tired, irritated, or tense. No one really challenges you anymore and your ideas don’t get any more pushback.
This behavior creates even more stress within your team that filters throughout the company. And this environment actually makes people more likely to make the mistakes that you’re trying to avoid. Under these conditions, your workers' capabilities are diminished to how far they’re willing to go to avoid your wrath.
No one wants to work for a leader that stresses them out. Even more so, no one wants to stand out in the eyes of the leader who doesn’t create that safe space they need to perform at their best.
3. You Know It All
Leaders need to be knowledgeable and aware to run high-performing teams.
Without a doubt, you have an impressive amount of experience to offer. You’re proud of these accomplishments and you want your own skill set to rub off on your employees.
But does this experience and knowledge make you doubt the competence of others? Do you find yourself giving directives because you think you are the only one who really understands the situation? If so, you may be the know-it-all.
You have all the ideas. The strategy is clear in your mind - and you need to repeat it as much as possible.
You may find yourself often telling others how to do their jobs. You may even be asking your team for their input. But how often are you really considering it?
Employees under this type of manager don’t see any room for their own thinking. Even more, they may feel overwhelmed by your stream of ideas and solutions.
4. You Make All the Decisions
Effective leaders are decisive. They understand that to keep things moving forward, every minute used for deliberation instead of taking action is a minute wasted.
When a great idea strikes, you get very excited and feel it must be implemented immediately. In your haste, you end up making key decisions all by yourself, or with input from only a small group within the organization. While the idea may be great, acting alone and in haste creates confusion within your company. No one else was privy to this process.
Your employees may start to see their own perspectives as irrelevant. They see this lack of transparency as a lack of trust and won’t feel as motivated to contribute their own ideas and thoughts in the future. As a result, you’ll be leading a team of smart people who don’t use their talents.
5. You Are a Micromanager
This question may be the most painful to ask yourself. After all, no one wants to carry the label of micromanager.
You pride yourself on your personal connection with your employees. You try to spend one-on-one time with as many people as you can each day. In each conversation, you spend plenty of time giving advice and direction. Your counsel is probably quite good, but what's missing is listening and support. Employees end up with a lot of direction on how they should handle their projects, but little autonomy to experiment and learn on their own.
These people won’t feel empowered to rely on their resourcefulness and creativity to create results for goals of the team. Even worse, they may start to believe that the end result is far less important than the specific methods used to get there.
Turning the Ship Around
Perspective is incredibly important for how these 5 traits come up differently in both types of leaders. In most cases, Multipliers and Diminishers just want to help their team perform at their best. The just have a very different mindset for how to achieve that.
Diminishers see more potential in their own vision than they do in their employees. This manager believes that their team needs to be corrected and protected, so they don’t stray from the path of their specific vision. Think of a very protective guardian. They make decisions for their team, fuss about the details, and create pressure to align themselves with single-minded goals.
Multipliers, on the other hand, see only opportunity for their team, and make every effort to accelerate their growth. They challenge them to come up with solutions, push them to use their talents, give them the freedom to use their own ideas, and hold them accountable for their evolution.
To really understand how important it is to build the multiplier mindset, you can find Liz Wiseman’s insights summed up in her video seminar via our Scaling Up Club.
For now, here is a brief of how you can enhance your teams with the habits of a Multiplier.
Don’t Build Empires, Build Talent
Take a hard look at what your team can accomplish before you consider adding more people and resources to your department.
By taking the time to learn about your own employees, you gain a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. You better understand which projects are best suited to their talents and which projects are better off in someone else’s hands.
Once you understand these things, your people will be in the best position to provide the most value for the company.
Create Accountability Without Pressure
Don’t let your team believe that imperfections and failure will not be tolerated in your department.
Yes, it is still important to communicate high expectations for quality and success. But you can still do that while leaving room for mistakes. What results is a team that works intensely to achieve high goals, but feels comfortable enough to experiment and add their own mark to their work.
Don’t Bring Up Ideas, Ask For Them
If you’re the only one with ideas and solutions, your team is not operating at their full potential.
Resist the urge to bring in your own thoughts, and ask your employees what they think first. What ideas do they have? Have they figured out a solution already?
Don’t take up all the space with your ideas. You have a team to inform and support you as much as you do for them.
Seek Counsel Before Making Decisions
Great leaders understand that their decisions need to be informed from a variety of perspectives.
Instead of acting hastily to make decisions, approach your team first and ask for their perspective. What do they think about the situation? What would they do and why?
Only then are you in the best position to make a better, informed decision.
Manage Scope, Not the Details
Give your people ownership of the projects you assign to them.
Ask them for what resources they need to turn in a successful product. Make sure they understand the importance of the finished product and how it contributes to larger company goals. Don’t fret about the details.
Adopt the Multiplier Mindset
Leadership and management are difficult roles to succeed in. Most of the work and skills you built up to get to that position won’t help you very much. That’s because many of them no longer apply!
It takes a willingness to unlearn most of what brought you here so you can adopt the traits and soft skills that set great managers apart: the ability to communicate and set expectations clearly, nurture a high-performing team, and work with stakeholders to ensure everyone has the resources they need to do their job well.
After all, you have to continue evolving if you are going to help push your company to the next level.