3 Affirmations of Managers who Multiply

Multipliers Post 5

In a previous blog post, How Adding Value to People Could Multiply Your Results, I shared 2 Multiplier Questions and 4 Multiplier Domains:

How consistently am I getting the very best from my team?

How can I make the people around me better?

I’ve developed a simple multiplier strategy I can use in four domains (meals, meetings, mentoring, management) to increase the likelihood of answering these two multiplier questions in the affirmative.

In my last post, I outlined my strategy to become a multiplier through mentoring. In this post, I’ll share three affirmations of a manager who multiplies.

 Diminishers Cost You Money

If you are not a multiplier you are a “diminisher.” And diminishers cost your organization real money, every day, because they don’t get the best out of their team. “Under the influence of a diminisher, the organization pays full price for the [human] resource but only receives about 50% of the value.”[1]

You would never allow a member of your team to make a mission critical order of supplies, pay full price, but only receive half of the shipment. Why allow managers to relate to direct reports in ways that produce only half of what they have to offer? This hidden value evaporates from poorly managed teams every day.

Becoming a multiplying manager is a much bigger topic than one blog post, which is why I so strongly recommend the book Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown. But here’s three simple but powerful affirmations that will get you started.

 Three Affirmations of Managers that Multiply

  1. I will give you space, you will give me your best work. Managers that multiply expect their direct reports to strive toward excellence every day. They see hidden potential and call it out. They provide opportunities for team members to sharpen their skills. And in return, they expect everyone to give their best.

There is a classic multiplier story of Henry Kissinger, while serving as Secretary of State in the Nixon White House. He received a foreign policy report from his chief of staff and responded by asking, “Is this your best work?” Upon hearing the question, his chief of staff began to worry that perhaps what he had written might not live up to demanding standards. So he asked Secretary Kissinger to give it back so he could have another go.

The chief of staff revised the report and handed it off a second time. Kissinger kept it for a week, then passed it back with a note attached, saying, “Are you sure this is your best work?”

Reading the note, the chief of staff doubled down on the project, and hand delivered it, saying, “Mr. Kissinger, this is my best work.” In response, Henry Kissinger said, “OK, this time I will actually read your report.”[2]

  1. I will give you permission to fail, you will always learn from your mistakes. A critical component in every leader’s philosophy is how you define success. A critical factor in every organization’s culture is how you respond to failure. In my experience business leaders are much better than ministry leaders at creating an organizational culture that views failure as an essential ingredient of success.

A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, in an interview with Harvard Business Review, said, “I think of my failures as a gift.” He went on to say, “It’s not enough to take responsibility for your failures. It’s important to create a culture that turns failures into learning and leads to continual improvement.”[3]

You can’t expect people to give you their best work every day if they are afraid of how you will respond when they try something that doesn’t work. Multipliers foster a “rapid learning cycle” as it relates to failure, helping team members harvest the best information and move on.

It has been said, if you are unwilling to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.[4] Multipliers stimulate a determination to learn, especially from failure.

  1. I will not impose an anxiety tax, you will take responsibility for full engagement. Expecting people to give you their best work while providing a safe place to learn from failure creates a positive environment. This is a stark contrast to diminishers, who set unrealistic standards and then punish people for not measuring up.

If you have ever worked for this kind of manager, you understand what it’s like to pay an anxiety tax, where the stress and pressure goes up at every point of interaction. The natural survival instinct in the high stress environment of the anxiety tax is to disengage, to hide, to mitigate risk, to avoid standing out. It is the workplace equivalent of that feeling you had in grade school when the teacher was looking for an answer to homework you didn’t find time to complete. Keep your head down, don’t make eye contact, lay low.

The Gallup organization has been measuring workplace engagement using their Q12 survey for decades. According to their most recent research, only 30% of the 100 million people with fulltime jobs in the US are engaged at work.

Marshal Goldsmith posits the reason Gallup has not been able to move the needle on the percentage of workplace engagement is because the questions used to measure it are passive in nature. For example, one of the Q12 asks, “Do you have a best friend at work?” People with solid relationships at work are more likely to be engaged.

But negative responses to passive questions are much more easily rationalized by blaming others. Flip the question over, and imagine an active question that says, “Did you do your best to make a best friend at work?” Answering no to an active question like this cannot be blamed on someone else.

Managers who multiply, free their people to do their best work, even at the risk of failure, without levying an anxiety tax on the team. In return, team members own the responsibility for their own engagement. In workplaces like this, everybody wins.

[1] Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman, and Greg McKeown, pg 88

[2] Ibid, pg 81

[3] Harvard Business Review, April 2011, Failure: Learn From It

[4] I first heard this from Cobie Langerak, president of Triaxa Partners.