Why do teams function differently under different leaders? Why is it that under one leader, a team's effectiveness might significantly increase whereas, under another leader, the same team's efficiency may drop alarmingly? The answer obviously resides in the kind of leadership the team is under. Since leadership does not come in one size and shape; how can leaders get the best of their talent and at the same time build a culture which accelerates business results? How can they become the kind of leaders who multiply the effectiveness of their team rather than diminish it?
This is what a recent round table discussion in collaboration with BTS, a global professional services firm which partners with Global Fortune 500 companies to execute their key strategic priorities, aimed to answer. The topic of discussion was "Talent Multipliers: Driving Sustainable Culture Change.”
Ambrish Rastogi, Head, BTS India and his colleague Srikanth Nishtala anchored the session. They started by raising the question as to why people are smarter and more capable around some leaders compared to others.
What do these leaders do which allows us to be more committed to the cause and bring a higher level of our capability to the table? Alternatively, what do some leaders unknowingly (accidental diminishers) do which shuts us down?
This was the topic which Liz Wiseman, a former executive at Oracle, was also struggling with. She spent two years pondering and researching this question. She went around the world, met scores of leaders including in India and compiled her research which she titled ‘Multipliers’. Her research took shape in the form of the best-selling book Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Mke Everyone Smarter.
BTS has partnered with Liz Wiseman to create a powerful simulation learning experience that helps leaders unlock the intelligence of their teams by focusing on some of their own behaviors and actions. The experience focuses on multiplying and diminishing leaders and their impact on alignment, culture and business performance. To drive a workplace where teams feel empowered, leaders need to first identify diminishing traits in oneself and remodel those behaviors with an aim to bring about a greater commitment from their teams. This self-introspection and discussion was conducted at the round table among the various delegates.
Manifested behaviors of Diminishers and Multipliers
Liz contrasted the manifested behaviors of the leaders in several ways. For instance, while one leader hoards talent, the other becomes a magnet for talent. While one micromanages, the other delegates. While these are visible manifestations, there is also an underlying belief which people see as - I think they need my help versus my team's capable of doing this on its own. Essentially, while diminishers think people won’t be able to figure it out without me, multipliers think people are smart enough and will figure it out on their own. Diminishers create a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability while multipliers create an environment that promotes people’s best work.
When comparing the capability of individuals under a multiplier versus a diminisher, Liz found almost a 2x difference. This simply means that under a diminisher, we have brought only half of our actual capability to the table. For an organization which can extract the maximum intellect of its employees, the result is sure to be more fruitful.
While one may argue that even a diminisher's behavior stems from the best of intentions, Liz points out that overusing these behaviors lends itself to becoming an accidental diminisher. The BTS experience provides the platform for accidental diminishers to sit together, learn from each other and think about workarounds. Through experiments, the diminishers get to practice behaviors that would set them on the path of becoming multipliers, slowly but eventually. For instance, ‘idea guys’ are encouraged to keep three poker chips in their pockets, to remind them that they will use those three poker chips each time they speak. Which means they must be mindful about where do they really want to chime in, and is what they are saying really adding value?
Creating a multiplier mindset: Not a one-time intervention but a journey
Taking the discussion further, Gayatri Das Sharma, Managing Director at BTS Coach, spoke about how when we are talking about multipliers, it is essentially about creating a multiplier mindset and a certain culture within the organization. The onus is on each leader in the organization to cultivate that mindset. The question then arises is how does a leader cascade this mindset through the organization and make this behavior sustainable.
What Gayatri here suggests is a journey to bridge the knowing-doing gap. The approach is taking the awareness about the mindset into acceptance and then doing the experimentation around it. Once you begin to incorporate the learning, you create a new culture within the organization. In order to create this culture and to make it sticky, organizations must invest time and energy into it simply because a one-off intervention is not going to change mindsets for the long haul.
A journey-based approach is the need of the hour. Since mindsets drive behaviors, organizations need to question the kinds of mindsets they want to create, so that people will start behaving in a way they want them to.
In line with this direction, BTS has identified a set of 34 leadership mindsets which have an impact on effectiveness. These mindsets are all about choosing and displaying the right attitude so that leaders do not become accidental diminishers and the journey is there to help create the right mindset. In order to cascade this down, what BTS has found that one on one coaching or group interventions work well. This pod coaching approach (group interventions), in facilitation by a coach, provides opportunities for people to learn from each other and talk about their own specific challenges. This also ensures that the journey of developing this mindset is scalable and sticky.
The leaders present enjoyed the experience and going by the discussions on different tables, one could see many of them carrying back these simple ‘to execute’ experiments in their own organizations.
(The session is based on the roundtable session organized by People Matters and BTS on the theme, ‘Talent Multipliers: Driving Sustainable Culture Change’ at Mumbai.)