Tag Archives: leadership

Stanford University Podcast: The Power of Not Knowing


This interview was originally posted at Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner and published October 8, 2014.

Author and leadership educator Liz Wiseman shares why cultivating a “rookie mindset” is an advantage in a rapidly changing world. Wiseman presents insights from her books, Rookie Smarts and Multipliers, including frameworks and techniques for how entrepreneurs, leaders and employees can embrace a life of constant learning and build a passion for multiplying the genius of those around them.

To listen to the podcast, please visit the Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner.


Why You Need Rookies On Your Team

Big Sock Little Sock

By Liz Wiseman
This is an excerpt from the Harvard Business Review and was originally published October 2, 2014.

Hiring managers often view newcomers to their organizations as not only long-term assets but also short-term burdens: people who need to be inducted, trained, and given lighter loads as they get up to speed, inevitably slowing everyone else down.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. In my research studying how inexperienced people tackle tough challenges, I’ve consistently found that rookies (whether they are freshly minted university graduates or experienced professionals coming from other organizations or functions) are surprisingly strong performers.

Because they face significant knowledge or skill gaps, they are alert, move fast, and work smart. While they’re not well-suited for tasks that require technical mastery or where a single mistake is game-ending, they are particularly adept at knowledge work that is innovative in nature, when speed matters and the environment is quickly changing. Consider science and technology, fields in which information is doubling every nine months and decaying at a rate of 30% a year, thereby rendering as much as 85% of a person’s technical knowledge irrelevant in five years’ time. For many professionals today, the ability to learn is more valuable than accumulated knowledge.

Our study found three things rookies are especially good at…
(To be concluded on the Harvard Busines Review website.)


To read the rest of the article in it’s entirety, please visit the Harvard Business Review website.

Three Ways Smartwatch Upstarts Can Survive the Apple-anche

Apple unveils new gadgets

By Liz Wiseman
This is an excerpt from TIME Magazine and was originally published September 10, 2014.

The little guys who were on their way up the mountain now have to fight for air.

The wearables market is technology’s latest battleground with small upstarts like Pebble and Omate, as well as early entrances from big players like LG, Samsung, and Google. Today, with their announcement of the Apple Watch, Tim Cook officially entered the race and upped the ante with Apple Pay. With Apple in the game, can a young, upstart company like Pebble, maker of the popular Pebble Steel smart watch, go the distance? Or will the small players with early leads get trampled?

In the technology world, the winners are rarely those with the best product, but rather those who have created the most ubiquitous platform. However, established companies that offer the advantage of experience often operate from a defender mentality – protecting their market leadership and brand. Small companies like Pebble offer a challenger mindset. Less tethered to existing platforms, they are free to push boundaries and explore new possibilities.

Consider the differences in how newcomers vs. veterans tend to think and act. I studied over 400 workplace scenarios inside corporations, comparing how inexperienced versus experienced professionals approach a particular type of work. My research shows that being a rookie – facing a new problem or a challenge for the first time – can provoke top performance. In knowledge work, rookies often outperform experienced players, particularly in the realm of innovation and speed.

Rookies tend to be unencumbered, with no resources to burden them and no track record to limit their thinking or aspirations. Because they face a daunting challenge, a desperation-based learning kicks in, causing them to work both hungry and smart. They reach out seeking guidance and feedback. They operate in lean, agile cycles and learn through experimentation and improvisation. While veteran players are pacing themselves for a marathon—rookies are sprinting.

Pebble CEO, Eric Migicovsky exemplifies much of this mentality that I call “rookie smarts.” When venture funding fell short of their need in 2012, he launched a Kickstarter campaign securing a record-breaking $10-million in crowdfunded cash. Migicovsky quickly ventured out of his native Ontario to scout for talent and build a network of advisors across Silicon Valley. When the company faltered from an early bet on the Blackberry platform, he quickly course-corrected and rebuilt the device to pair with Android and iPhone handsets. Through scrappy, fast, but smart action, Pebble boasts over 400,000 users. (To be concluded at TIME.com.)


To read the rest of the article in it’s entirety, please visit TIME.com.

The Logic of Multiplication in Management


By Elise Foster and Liz Wiseman
This is an excerpt from AASA.org and was originally published August, 2014.

How does a school system leader tap into the latent talent that sits inside the district?

At a time when expectations are rising while funding is plummeting, doing more with less has become standard operating procedure. Administrators from all corners are feeling the burden — if not in navigating a complex funding formula, then addressing teacher quality or ensuring all students graduate college and career ready.

The natural responses from education leaders weighed down by enormous challenges and work demands include the following:
-We are already overworked.
-Our most effective staff are even more overworked.
-The only way we can make these changes is through the addition of more resources.

Instead of pinning one’s hopes on a cavalry of additional resources, a school or district leader might ask, “Are we getting the most out of our staff?” This is a very different question than “Can our staff work harder?” The former is the kind of question that confronts basic assumptions; it is a question of “multipliers,” leaders who use their own intelligence to grow others, literally making the people around them smarter and more capable.

In our book The Multiplier Effect, we contrast this type of leader with “diminishers,” leaders who drain intelligence and capability from those around them.

In our research, we found too many administrators across K-12 education, business and nonprofit organizations don’t capitalize on the first lesson of management: The job of an administrator is to flow work to the team and then keep it there. When administrators take back work, not only do they end up doing all the work (which they inevitably come to resent), they deny their team the natural learning and accountability needed for personal growth. Because these leaders don’t use the full complement of talent and intelligence available to them, capacity sits idle in their organizations, and they tend to become micromanagers. To counter this, they overwork themselves and continue to ask (or secretly hope) for more resources, wondering why people aren’t more productive and are always letting them down. (To be concluded at AASA.org.)


To read the rest of the article in it’s entirety, please visit AASA.org.

Smart Leaders Get More Out of the Employees They Have


By Liz Wiseman

This is an excerpt from VitalSmarts online magazine “Trainer Talk.

Where do you turn for the resources you need to fuel growth? Do you hire new talent, or ask for more from your existing employees?

In growing companies, the temptation to fuel growth by hiring new talent is almost irresistible. The hiring path is especially compelling for hot growth companies; they are inherently attractive employers and can afford new resources. But before calling the recruiter, perhaps you should consider how completely you are using the resources already inside of your organization. You probably know how productively your company is using your physical assets, but do you know how deeply you are using the intelligence and capability of your people?

Let’s look at an example from the heart of high-growth Silicon Valley. At Salesforce.com, Rajani Ramanathan is the chief operating officer across the products and technology division. As might be expected of a savvy engineering leader, Rajani began measuring how deeply her managers were tapping into the intelligence and capability of their teams. She then challenged her management team to raise this metric by 10 percent, with hopes to grow the business while also growing the people on her team. One year later, they re-measured and discovered that the subset of her management team that participated in the study collectively raised their score from 70 percent to 78 percent. Their eight-point gain is the rough equivalent of a headcount increase of twenty-five people.

Most companies are adept at bringing in smart, talented people but few companies put as much discipline into understanding how fully they are using the talent they’ve acquired. Many managers are so focused on their own ideas and capability that they shut down intelligence around them. I call these leaders “diminishers.” Yet other leaders seem to amplify the intelligence around them. These leaders are “multipliers.”

To determine the impact of these two types of leaders, my colleagues and I studied 150 leaders across four continents, asking their subordinates to quantify how much of their intelligence the leader was getting access to. We found that, on average, these diminishing leaders used only 48 percent of people’s intellectual capability. Multipliers used 95 percent, or twice that of the diminishing leaders. Now, two years after publishing this research and assessing hundreds of additional executives, we find that, on average, managers are utilizing just 66 percent of their people’s capability. In other words, the managers in our analysis pay a dollar for their resources but only extract 66 cents in capability — a 34 percent waste. (To be concluded in Trainer Talk.)


To read the rest of the article in it’s entirety, please visit VitalSmarts online magazine “Trainer Talk.

Liz Wiseman will be sharing more insights on this topic at REACH, July 29th-31st 2014.

The Accidental Diminisher Poster Download

Over the past several months we have received an incredible amount of interest surrounding the Accidental Diminisher Infographic. People want to know where they can get a copy to print and hang on their office wall!

Click the link below to download and print the 11×17 Accidental Diminisher Poster.


Download a PDF of the Accidental Diminisher Infographic Poster here.

Liz Wiseman Recognized By Thinkers50 As Top Leadership Thinker

Thinkers50-Logo-withLiz-Sidebar-268x400 copy

Based on the original thinking and rigorous research behind Multipliers and The Wiseman Group, Liz Wiseman has been listed on the Thinkers50 rankings and named one of the Top 10 Leadership Thinkers in the world!

We sincerely want to thank everyone who took the time to vote for Liz Wiseman and Multipliers. This would not have been made possible without your support and enthusiasm sharing these ideas.

The Wiseman Group would also like to congratulate Clay Christensen, who ranked as the #1 management thinker in 2011 and again in 2013. We are proud to have some of his great thinking captured in the foreword for The Multiplier Effect.

While attending the Thinkers50 gala in London, Wiseman was interviewed for the official Thinkers50 video: “Liz Wiseman’s Big Idea.”

Wiseman discusses how the latent intelligence all around us, is often underutilized in organizations.


Have you ever worked for a Multiplier that has inspired you and utilized all of your intelligence and capability? Or have you worked for a Diminisher that stifles your genius?

To learn more about the world class thinkers who attended the event, the Thinkers50 Rankings, and to view more video of the gala, please visit the Thinkers50 website.

How To Play To Others’ Intelligence

Liz Wiseman Speaks


Click this link to read ‘How To Play To Others’ Intelligence‘, an interview with Liz Wiseman featured in the Washington Post.

Liz Wiseman discusses her management theories with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.

Take a Job You Aren’t Qualified For

Growing Business

Have you ever turned down a job because you believed you may not be qualified for it?

Read Liz Wiseman’s new blog Take A Job You Aren’t Qualified For and add some tools to your job searching tool belt. Discover how stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to exhilarating growing opportunities.

Published on mariashriver.com, a place for inspirational stories from architects of change.

Shopping for Your Next (Multiplier) Boss

Worlds Best Boss

by Rob DeLange, September 2013

Have you ever been in a job interview at that critical point when the interviewer makes that timeless inquiry: “Do you have any questions for me?”  Some people use that opening to ask about team characteristics and more specifics about the job.  While those things are important, remember also that this is a perfect time to find out if the hiring manager tends to lead like a Diminisher or a Multiplier.

There’s a lot at stake—not only your future job satisfaction, but also the trajectory of your career.  You may recall from Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Multiplier leaders create a cycle of growth for those they lead, whereas Diminisher leaders create a cycle of dependency and decline, turning A players into A- or B players.

If you can detect diminishing leadership before you make the mistake of working in that environment, you will save yourself lots of stress and avoid career stagnation because your full capabilities are left on the sidelines.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with some great Multipliers in my professional life. Each has prepared me for more fulfilling and meaningful work later on—although I didn’t always recognize it at the time.  Diminishers have the opposite effect.  They slowly (and sometimes imperceptibly) drain your confidence, your passion for excellence, and your desire to stretch.  Staying in that cycle for a prolonged period of time can severely damage your career.

So how can you detect Multiplier or Diminisher leadership tendencies in an interview?  Here are a few questions oriented to your potential peer group that can reveal much about the mindset of the hiring manager.

1.  How are decisions made on this team?

If the answer is “The Big Cheese calls the shots” there’s a good chance that you are dealing with a Diminisher.  Responses like “it depends on the situation” may indicate Accidental Diminisher tendencies such as pace-setter or rescuing behaviors mentioned in The Multiplier Effect book by Liz Wiseman, Elise Foster, and Lois Allen.

One of the best answers I’ve heard is “we are consulted on issues of importance, and sometimes the team has heated debate about which way to go”.  That’s excellent evidence of Multipliers leadership in action.

Don’t forget to compare the answer you get from the boss with the perceptions of direct reports—and former employees.  Incongruent responses are a big red flag.

2.  What’s the greatest challenge that you’ve had to deal with on the job?

Find out how the scenario played out.  Was it an unforeseen crisis or was it actually orchestrated by the leader?  Did the boss ask them to do something hard to help the organization achieve a lofty goal, or was it a fire drill created by the whim of the leader?  Did the boss tell them how to go about overcoming the challenge?  How deeply was the leader involved in the resolution?

The best responses will point to the leader asking big questions or stretching people to go beyond what they might have done before.  Also, the boss will give coaching or guidance, but not rescue a person from failure.  Were others on the team willing and able to help?  That indicates people are free to contribute at their best.

Here’s a potential red flag: the challenge doesn’t seem like a substantive challenge to you, or the solution emerged along a “primrose path” rather than the person struggling a bit or making a mistake or two along the way.

You want to find evidence of real challenge, where mistakes happen within tolerance limits and people grow.  If time permits, ask them to share another challenge before or after the one they just related so you can see if there was increasing or diminishing complexity—or if the challenge was a one time event.

3.  How are your 1×1 meetings with your boss?

The key objective of this question is to find out who controls the agenda: the boss, or their direct reports. Multipliers will ask questions, set a standard of excellence, and share important information—but they won’t dictate the agenda.   This is a good place to seek evidence of micromanaging behaviors.   If in doubt, ask the person to give you a play-by-play of their most recent 1×1 conversation.

Red flags: “We don’t have them” or “I just give status on my projects”.

4.  How much turnover has there been on this team during the time you’ve been here? For those who have left, where have they gone?

Too much turnover might mean that people are getting burnt out or exhausted due to tyrannical or micromanaging behavior.   Too little turnover might indicate complacency, lack of challenge, or a protectionist leader who puts talent “behind the glass” for all the world to see but not touch.

The best responses will indicate that people leave to take challenging development opportunities in line with their career goals, or they get promoted and move up elsewhere in the business.   You want to see evidence that people are prepared to do bigger and better things as a result of working for this hiring manager.

5.  If you had all power and could change ONE thing about the leadership style of your boss, what would it be?

Watch body language and listen carefully to this response.  If you sense that the person isn’t being candid, you might be dealing with a boss that is working hard to create an environment that preserves their image or infallibility.  If the person genuinely doesn’t know, that could be a red flag too because the leader might not be fostering an environment where people can learn (make mistakes).

The best response is usually a smile or a laugh where the person exclaims: “Oh yes, she tends to get on her soapbox a lot and we sometimes have to call her out on that.”  Frank answers are also good, such as “his workaholic mentality – but we’ve talked about it and I’ve seen progress”.

It is always a good sign if elements of the leader’s personal development plan are brought forward in conversation because that’s an environment where you can also develop with the support of your boss and peers.


I’ve shared a few of my favorite interview questions to help you shop for your next boss.  I hope these have sparked deeper thinking that will enable you to add a few questions of your own to accurately assess whether or not a hiring manager leads like a Multiplier or a Diminisher.

If necessity dictates that you must accept employment for an interim period working for a Diminisher, you can still be proactive and reap the benefits of Multipliers leadership practices yourself.  Liz Wiseman gave good advice about that in this HBR blog: How To Bring Out The Best In Your Boss.

But, as Winston Churchill once said, never give up. Never, never, never give up! Don’t get discouraged and stay in Diminisher territory indefinitely. Be relentless and continue to rigorously interview until you get your chance to work for a genuine Multiplier.  It will make all the difference!


Rob DeLange is the Director of Training and Consulting at The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development center in Silicon Valley. Rob enables organizations to deeply implement the essential practices of the Multiplier, as documented in the book “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.”