06 April 2012

An MBA Book Club, Part 5

Liz Wiseman and Greg Mckeown


Effective leaders—“Mulitpliers”—can double the output of underutilized and uninspired employees through a set of practices designed to recognize, liberate, and challenge them.  “Diminishers,” on the other hand, reduce otherwise successful and talented people into fractions of their potential selves.  The difference, then, becomes the difference between excellent and mediocre companies.

Favorite Quotes

·         “It has been said that after meeting with the great British Prime Minister William Ewert Gladstone, you left feeling he was the smartest person in the world, but after meeting with his rival Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking you were the smartest person.” Bono
·         The Five Disciplines of the Multipliers (and their opposites):
1.      The Talent Magnet (Empire Builder)
2.      The Liberator (Tyrant)
3.      The Challenger (Know-It-All)
4.      The Debate Maker (Decision Maker)
5.      The Investor (Micro Manager)
·         “Look for talent everywhere, find people’s native genius, utilize people to their fullest, and remove the blockers” (p 64).
·         Using five meeting poker chips—for 120, 90, and 30 second comments (p 91).
·         “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders.  Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” - St. Exupery
·         Why this matters:
1.      People will give you more (and be more fulfilled)
2.      Organizations cannot rely on additive resources—they need multiplicative ones
3.      What if we could access twice as much of the world’s available intelligence and channel it to the perennial problems we face? (p 219)
·         “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” –Albert Einstein


I struggled a little bit with this read—it seemed that the points that the author was making were self-evident and redundant, but without the added benefit of being pithy or memorable.  This certainly comes across harsher than I intend to be, but for me this book fits squarely between a better-than-average article in a management magazine and an inferior version of First, Break All the Rules.

Part of the problem may lie in the fundamental comparison between Multipliers and Diminishers—although the author notes up front that there is a continuum between the two, the contrast were drawn so starkly that it is hard to read the book and identify oneself as anything approaching the Tyrant, Know-It-All, or Micro Manager described in the pages.  Without a nuanced perspective on where we might be failing, I fear that most readers will never see themselves as needing reform (but the Boss sure could use this book!).  In this, the book fails to live up to its admonition to “spot yourself at times in the anatomy of a Diminisher.”

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