Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman – book review

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone SmarterMultipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Like too many of these books, this could have been a tri-fold tract, or a ten page pamphlet and conveyed the message quite adequately. It’s a short, actually sound treatise unfortunately blown up with sensationalist repetition (sadly, not in a reinforcing way.) I saw “thought-provoking” in a reference, and was intrigued enough to read it, but really, it isn’t. I don’t know why books like these are presented as something that “makes us rethink many of our old assumptions.” Use your talents to help bring the better product out of others…no brainer, right? Of course, the counter examples are those we all know…the ones who think (consciously or not) they are the smartest ones in the room, to the never ending detriment of the team…

I’ll summarize:
“Multipliers” multiply the capabilities of others by being Talent Magnets, Liberators, Challengers, Debate Makers, and Investors (typo in a chart late in the book had “Inventor”…odd it hadn’t been caught)

“Diminishers” diminish the capabilities of others by being Empire Builders, Tyrants, Know-It-Alls, Decision Makers (not in a good way), and Micro managers.

A frustrating part of the repetition is not just similar stories over and over, but actual repetition. I had a few quibbling points with Ms. Wiseman’s narrative. She said many, many times throughout that Multipliers “extract” capability and intelligence of people, while trying to demonstrate that the good ones are not trying to be the “smartest in the room”. Semantics maybe, but the pervasive use of that word “extract” implied to me that she was saying these Multipliers are the smartest in the room, because they have to “extract” those capabilities and intelligences from the lesser minions. Better word choices – and better mental model – would be nudge, tease, prod, cajole, encourage… “Extract” means the Multipliers have to pull out of others what they need. I prefer to encourage open thought.

She asks “How would you: Manage talent?” Poor word choice. A common fallacy. People aren’t managed, they are led.

But my real heartburn was over this:

Not only do Multipliers extract capability and intelligence from people, they do it in a way that extends and grows that intelligence. In our interviews people often said Multipliers accessed more than 100 percent capability. They would say, “Oh, they got 120 percent from me.” Initially, I pushed back, citing that getting more than 100 percent is mathematically impossible. But we continued to hear people claim Multipliers got more than 100 percent from them. Greg pushed this issue, suggesting this pattern was an important data point. We began to ask: Why would people insist that intelligence Multipliers got more out of them than they actually had?

This could have undermined their entire premise, and did make me question more of what they said. How can anyone with a critical mind present this, and follow on with more of the same? You can never get more than people can do. You might be able to help people get more than they think can do, but clearly they are already capable of doing whatever it is that the Multipliers take or are given credit for else they wouldn’t be able to do it. I found that assertion disturbing.

Regardless, take the nuggets of value and put them to use. And there are some nuggets of value.

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