Are you a Multiplier or a Diminisher? Before you start hyperventilating because you’ve just read two terms that sound suspiciously like MATH, take a deep breath…I’m actually talking about two terms coined by Liz Wiseman, President of the Wiseman Group and author of the book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. Ms. Wiseman was one of the speakers at the Leadership Conference I attended in October. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately – which will I choose to be?
A Mulitplier is a leader who uses their intelligence, skill, and/or capacity to amplify the intelligence of their volunteers/employees (“minions”) in order to increase the performance of their organization. The opposite is a Diminsher – someone who uses their intelligence to get their own ideas out and the “workers working” (usually their way). Multipliers believe people are smart and figure things out themselves. They share responsibility and create environments where minions want to use and share their best for their leader. Diminishers believe people won’t figure things out without them. They micromanage and create stress-filled environments where the minions are obliged to accept their leader’s ideas.
We all have multipliers and diminishers in our relationships – work, church, friends, sports teams, families, etc. During the conference, we were asked to write down the name of one Multiplier in our life and jot down what they had done. I immediately thought of a very creative young man at our church. He has an incredible ability to place and encourage people in positions and then challenge them to grow in them. He has done it with others, and he has done it for me.
A few year ago, he invited me to come out to a worship team practice. I was terrified – what could I possibly have to contribute to this group? They had already been working together for months; they had established relationships and rapport, not to mention developed their own sound. I could play the flute or piano, but with a structured, classical background, not a contemporary one.
I showed up; he sat me down at the piano and explained how he played with the group using chord structures, but encouraged me to make mistakes discover how to play in a way that worked for me. Then he handed me sheet music – typed lyrics with letters penciled in over top. No notes. No chords. I spent most of the night listening, making notes, and playing approximately 2 notes…at the wrong time. At the end of practice, he asked me what I thought…choking back tears, I told him I didn’t know if I could do this. He encouraged me to take the music home, play with it, make mistakes…
My stubbornness kicked in and I worked at it and the next practice was slightly less disturbing. Slightly. My technical ability stretched quickly in a “trial by fire” kind of way, and in the process, I rediscovered something important that I hadn’t realized I was missing – joy in music.
Within a year, we lost 3 key band members and I found myself in the position of trying to continue with 1 other member. Suddenly my responsibilities extended beyond practices – I was being called upon to choose the music and to coordinate with the leadership. I felt the responsibility deeply; I often felt overwhelmed by insecurity. But my multiplier was still encouraging in the background.
We started evening worship services – and my multiplier started to push me encourage me to lead, not hide behind the piano. I am an introvert by nature, happier in the shadows. I couldn’t stand in front of people to speak and sing. I thought he was nuts! But after much prayer and conversation, I took that leap of faith, and it was an amazing experience.
My confidence (and amazement) continue to grow (not to mention my piano skills). None of that would have been possible without his willingness to inspire me to try new things and to discover how to do it in a way that worked for me. I will be forever grateful to him. At times, I have been a diminisher to others, so I am praying for opportunities to follow his example. I want to support others and encourage their growth. I want to be a multiplier too.