Jul 9 2010

Book Short: Multiplying Your Team’s Productivity

Book Short:  Multiplying Your Team’s Productivity

No matter how frustrated a kids’ soccer coach gets, he never, ever runs onto the field in the middle of a game to step in and play.  It’s not just against the rules, it isn’t his or her role.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown (book, Kindle) takes this concept and drives it home.  The book was a great read, one of the better business books I’ve read in a long time.  I read a preview of it via an article in a recent Harvard Business Review (walled garden alert – you can only get the first page of the article without buying it), then my colleague George Bilbrey got the book and suggested I read it.  George also has a good post up on his blog about it.

One of the things I love about the book is that unlike a lot of business books, it applies to big companies and small companies with equal relevance.  The book echoes a lot of other contemporary literature on leadership (Collins, Charan, Welch) but pulls it into a more accessible framework based on a more direct form of impact:  not long-term shareholder value, but staff productivity and intelligence.  The book’s thesis is that the best managers get more than 2x out of their people than the average – some of that comes from having people more motivated and stretching, but some comes from literally making people more intelligent by challenging them, investing in them, and leaving them room to grow and learn.

The thesis has similar roots to many successful sales philosophies – that asking value-based questions is more effective than presenting features and benefits (that’s probably a good subject for a whole other post sometime).  The method of selling we use at Return Path which I’ve written about before, SPIN Selling, based on the book by Neil Rackham, gets into that in good detail.  One colorful quote in the book around this came from someone who met two famous 19th century British Prime Ministers and noted that when he came back from a meeting with Gladstone, he was convinced that Gladstone was the smartest person in the world, but when he came back from a meeting with Disraeli, he was convinced that he (not Disraeli) was the smartest person in the world.

Anyway, the book creates archetypal good and bad leaders, called Multipliers and Diminishers, and discusses five traits of both:

  • Talent Magnet vs. Empire Builder (find people’s native genius and amplify it)
  • Liberator vs. Tyrant (create space, demand the best work, delineate your “hard opinions” from your “soft opinions”)
  • Challenger vs. Know-It-All (lay down challenges, ask hard questions)
  • Debate Maker vs. Decision Maker (ask for data, ask each person, limit your own participation in debates)
  • Investor vs. Micromanager (delegate, teach and coach, practice public accountability)

This was a great read.  Any manager who is trying to get more done with less (and who isn’t these days) can benefit from figuring out how to multiply the performance of his or her team by more than 2x.