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Authors: Liz Wiseman,Greg McKeown

Tags: #Business & Economics, #Management

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (9 page)

BOOK: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
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The Starting Block

Todd Paletta, a retailing executive and aspiring Multiplier, had just finished an exhausting business meeting in New York and settled into his business class seat, headed for home on the West Coast. As the plane took off, he heard the cry of a baby. He hoped it would stop after the plane settled into the standard cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. It didn’t. He then realized the sound was right behind him—right there in business class. A baby in business class! The mother stood up in the aisle, trying to console the child. Now the jarring sound was right next to his ear. Todd was annoyed at first. But as his attention became focused on the mother, he started genius watching. He found himself studying her actions closely and appreciating her efforts to soothe the child. He observed the way she juggled the demands of the child and the silent frustrations of the other passengers. He watched longer and noticed her patience. He began talking with her, learning more about her, her efforts, and her interests. He started forming hypotheses about her talents and perhaps even a source of her genius. He then started to wonder, “If she worked on my team, how would I put these capabilities to use? Where would she excel?”

No, Todd didn’t make a job offer to this mother during the flight, or after. The point is that Todd was learning to genius watch and was practicing it in even the most unusual of places and circumstances. He had spent the last two weeks studying the capabilities of the people in his organization, looking to identify their native genius and how he might best utilize it in his business. He was in genius-watching
mode and he couldn’t help but see it everywhere—even in the efforts of a mother with an inconsolable child and a plane full of aggravated passengers.

Here are three steps to help you begin genius watching:

Identify it.
Make a list of eight to ten people you work with closely. Start to note the things they do both easily and freely. Go beyond surface-level skills like “she is an Excel spreadsheet wizard.” If you need help finding the underlying capabilities, ask “why” about three times until you find the underlying capability that allows someone to do some activity well. For example, Susan may appear to be an Excel wizard on the surface, but perhaps it is because she is good at modeling data. And perhaps she is good at modeling data because she has a genius for critical thinking.

Test it.
Once you’ve developed a hypothesis about each person, test out your thinking and refine your views. Ask a colleague if he thinks critical thinking is one of Susan’s geniuses. Test the idea with Susan herself. Ask her what she is good at and what she wants to further excel at.

Work it.
Once you’ve found a native genius for someone, make a list of five different roles you could put this person in that would utilize and expand this genius. If Susan is a financial analyst, what other roles could you put her in that would draw upon her intelligence for critical thinking? Perhaps she’d be good in a strategy role or on the marketing competitive intelligence team. Go beyond formal jobs and identify ad hoc roles. Perhaps Susan would be good at reviewing an important presentation that you are making to the board of directors to find holes or inconsistencies. Or maybe she should be assigned to a task force to pick the location of the next offshore R&D center. Just as the Talent Magnet looks for talent beyond
organizational boundaries, look for jobs and roles both inside and outside of your organization.

Individual genius can be deceptive. At first look, it would appear costly to remove one supersmart player, even if she has a diminishing effect on a team. But one needs only to do the math to see the high cost of destructive genius. Our research consistently confirmed that Diminishers cause people to operate at about 50 percent of their full intelligence and capability. Removing a highly intelligent employee or leader can be difficult, but it can have huge payoffs. On a work team of eleven people, removing a Diminisher can give back the equivalent of five full-time people, with ten people operating at 100 percent. You may lose one mind, but you gain back five. It is a law of numbers.

Leaders most often know who the blockers are. The most common mistake they make is waiting too long to remove them. If you want to unleash the talent that is latent in your organization, find the weeds and pull them out. Don’t do it quietly. Like K.R. Sridhar and the CEO described earlier, huddle the team immediately, and let them know that you’ve removed someone because he or she was holding back the team. Give people permission to think fully again.

Each of the above is a starting point that can create a proof point for the power of the Talent Magnet. Once successful, you will be one step further along the path of the Multiplier.


Sue Siegel, former president of Affymetrix and an extraordinary Multiplier, reflected on her pillar experiences as a leader. She said, “My best moments were when team members would call me after accomplishing some tough goal or overcoming a huge hurdle. They were usually tired, but they were brimming with enthusiasm, having grown
through the challenge. These moments were exhilarating for them and me.” The people who worked for Sue indeed describe the time as a highlight of their career.

Talent Magnets encourage people to grow and leave. They write letters of recommendation and they help people find their next stage to perform on. And when people leave their group, they celebrate their departures and shout their success to everyone. You see, these celebrations become their best recruiting tool.

Jack and Suzy Welch wrote, “The best thing about being a preferred employer is that it gets you good people, and this launches a virtuous cycle. The best team attracts the best team, and winning often leads to more winning. That’s a ride that you and your employees will never want to get off.”

Talent Magnets create a cycle of attraction that is exhilarating for employer and employee alike. Their organizations are coveted places of employment, and people flock to work for them knowing the Talent Magnet will stretch them, grow them, and accelerate their careers. It is a thrill ride with the speed and exhilaration of a roller coaster but one that, like the revenue chart of every CFO’s dreams, moves constantly “up and to the right.”





bring in great talent, but they underutilize it because they hoard resources and use them only for their own gain.

get access to the best talent because people flock to work for them knowing they will be fully utilized and developed to be ready for the next stage.

The Four Practices of the Talent Magnet

  • 1.
    Look for Talent Everywhere
  • Appreciate all types of genius
  • Ignore boundaries
  • 2.
    Find People’s Native Genius
  • Look for what is native
  • Label it
  • 3.
    Utilize People to Their Fullest
  • Connect people with opportunities
  • Shine a spotlight
  • 4.
    Remove the Blockers
  • Get rid of prima donnas
  • Get out of the way

Becoming a Talent Magnet

  • 1.
    Become a genius watcher
  • 2.
    Pull some weeds

Unexpected Findings

Both Talent Magnets and Empire Builders attract A talent. What differentiates them is what they do with the talent once it’s in the door.

Talent Magnets don’t run out of talent by moving their people on to bigger, better opportunities, because there is a steady stream of talent wanting to get into their organization.

BOOK: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
4.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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