Can You Learn To Multiply?

My most popular blog entry in 2010 was “The No Asshole Rule” which was inspired by a class I took from Professor Robert Sutton.  Sutton encourages companies to get rid of workplace assholes who deliberately make co-workers feel bad about themselves and who are openly aggressive to others with less power.  While there’s an on-line self-assessment with 24 questions, I’ve found that the simple question ‘Do people feel more or less energized after talking to you?’ is a good proxy for your affect on others.

It turns out that I’m not the only one who thinks someone’s impact on others’ energy level is a good assessment of their style.  In the book “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter”, Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown analyzed data from 150 leaders and categorized them into Diminishers and Multipliers.   Diminishers drain energy from everyone around them, reducing commitment and focus. They need to be the smartest ones in the room, (inadvertently) killing off ideas and innovation.  Multipliers, on the other hand, amplify others’ intelligence and abilities. They inspire people to overcome obstacles, to generate new ideas, and to deliver results that surpass expectation.

Not surprisingly, Wiseman and McKeown found that Multipliers have a positive and profitable effect on organizations.  They get more done with less, they’re better at attracting people and developing talent, and their groups are viewed as more innovative.  Here’s a video from the authors talking more about the book:

When recruiting people, the book suggests two interview questions to help distinguish Diminishers from Multipliers:

1. Tell me about your current team?
A Diminisher might start by talking about their team, but the conversation will quickly shift back to themselves. A Multiplier will extol the contributions of the people on their team, often providing details on individual employees.

2. Who is at your current job because of you?
Multipliers have the reputation as “the boss to work for” and people follow them company to company. Multipliers recruit people out of their personal network, while Diminishers rely much more heavily on recruiters and job posts.

While I haven’t had a chance to try these out yet, I suspect that they will be quite effective.  And since we can’t use these questions to analyze our own behavior, the authors also provide a short quiz to determine whether we are an accidental diminisher.  I would encourage you to take the quiz; the results might surprise you.

Are you an accidental diminisher?

5 Responses to Can You Learn To Multiply?

  1. Timo Elliott says:

    Might some of the success of social media be due to the multiplier effect? For example, I find most links provided on Twitter and Facebook are positive recommendations, and it’s generally a much more upbeat place than “the real corporate world”…

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Timo Elliott, Jonathan Becher. Jonathan Becher said: My latest blog post asks "Can you learn to multiply?" http://bit.ly/guKw9r Or are you an accidental diminisher? […]

  3. Robert E says:

    I wonder how Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison fit into Sutton’s rule?

    Both have reputations as difficult people that would seem to be poster children for Sutton, and yet both head very successful companies.

    Does Sutton’s Rule need to be modified to One A-Hole per company? 😉

  4. Mark Finnern says:

    Hi Johnathan,

    I think the question: “Do people feel more or less energized after talking to you?” is essential.

    These studies align with Shawn Achor’s research regarding Happiness. He wrote the book happiness factor. Your mood is contagious. Check out his videos:
    http://www.futuresalon.org/2010/11/happiness-advantage-talk-by-shawn-achor.html

    Very cool, Mark.

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