Multipliers

Book Review: Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

Years ago, at the beginning of my career, I learned a simple but powerful idea – people come to work for a leader, not for a company. Talent development and retention is one of the most difficult parts of a people manager’s job. So, how do you “multiply” intelligence of your team?

Even if a company fully equipped with learning materials and encourages employees to develop themselves, if will not going to happen on a large scale without a leader who possesses right skills to help people to grow. But what are those skills? And how to measure them?

A one way to measure these skills is to check if people around a leader become smarter over time or they stall in professional development and degrade? The book uses this specific metric to group leaders into two categories “Multipliers” and “Diminishers”. And it makes a lot of sense – if people grow around a leader, they can contribute more and willing to do it. The book calls it “Multiplier Effect”. And vice versa, if people don’t grow, they will give less and less. They will “quit and stay”, as the author nicely put it.

5 chapters of the book analyze patterns and anti-patters of behavior that help a reader to identify are they a “Multiplier” or a “Diminisher”.

  • Talent Magnet vs Empire Builder
  • Liberator vs Tyrant
  • Challenger vs Know-It-All
  • Debate Maker vs Decision Maker
  • Investor vs Micromanager

The book describes how patterns above influence people productivity and collective intelligence . This part has helped to see my own flaws as a manager and a leader.

One interesting idea described in the Chapter 1 is “The Logic of Addition”. And I think, may organizations and individuals operate exactly as the book describes it:

Operational leaders entrenched in the logic of resource allocation and addition argue:

1. Our people are overworked.

2. Our best people are the most maxed out.

3. Therefore, accomplishing a bigger task requires the addition of more resources.

Wiseman, Liz; McKeown, Greg. Multipliers (p. 14).

If this logic applies in a growing market, it may work for a long time. But, inevitably, an organization will face a problem that cannot be solved by throwing in more bodies. And what to do when it happens? Increase productivity of an organization by getting more from its people. It is an obvious conclusion that is very difficult to implement in practice. First of all, why people should care about giving more?

The book gives perspective and recommendations how to run a team in a way that people will want to contribute more and will do it voluntarily. Out of all recommendations, one was specifically interesting for me – “Work The Extremes”. The research done by the authors showed it is not necessary have strengths in all Multiplier dimensions. The one can be great in one or two. What is important that there are no obvious weaknesses. I will use this idea in my development plans.

Overall, a great book – 5 out of 5. If you are a people manager, I highly recommend you to read it.


Check out my other book reviews!

Levers of Influence

Levers of Influence. Why do we comply?

Humanity social systems can exist because people can collaborate and align on common goals. Without our abilities to influence each other and comply to each others requests our civilization simply would not survive. It is not very important how exactly our ancestors evolved those abilities, probably, being social and collaborative gave significant advantage in Stone Age times. What is important – is to learn what exactly makes us comply. And why?

For sure, we are influenced by facts and rational explanations, but behavioral economics and great book Thinking Fast and Slow prove that people are irrational. There are other factors or levers that significantly impact our judgment and readiness to agree.

I have finished recently a book “Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion”. This book has detailed analysis of main behavioral models (we can call them biases as well) that force us to comply. These biases trigger embedded mechanisms in our brain – skip critical thinking part and jump directly to conclusions and actions. Click and run. Let’s dive deeper into them.

Reciprocation

If somebody gives us something, we feel urge to give something back. Favor, gift or our compliance with the next request. There is a deep psychological connection between reciprocity, gratitude and life satisfaction – we feel better when we are participating in exchange of goods and favors. We use this mechanism to influence others decisions and make others feel “much obliged”.

In Japan, normally people say “arigato gozaimasu,”  meaning “thank you”. However, people also say “sumimasen” when they want to express their appreciation or a feeling of regret, guilt, or another negative emotion. For example, when they receive unexpected gift or favor from others.

Practical implementations of reciprocation lever are everywhere. Free samples of products, small gifts after first purchase or a small concession made by one of the parties in negotiation process.

Liking

There is famous quote: “People buy from those who they like”. It is a golden rule for every salesperson – in the situation where competing products price and features are the same, people buy from whom they like more. Even if they know that it is just a compliance strategy.

But liking is a vague term. If we will try to decompose it, then we will see that we like people who:

  • Similar to us
  • Give us compliments
  • Easy to contact and ready to cooperate with us.

That is pretty simple to use in real life. Focus on commonalities rather than differences. Show others that you appreciate them and their actions. Be a “go-to-person” who is ready to work on a shared goal.

Liking is the reason why brands go to influencers for advertisements. Because thousands of people like them and inevitably extend their likeness to a brand too.

Social Proof

When I go to a new restaurant, I often ask for the most famous meal in the menu. Collective experience of other visitors cannot be wrong. The same logic applies to product reviews and ratings. We view an action as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.

Social proof lever is especially efficient in ambiguous situations. The more unknown environment we are at, the more we rely on others behaviour. I think this is the reason why in a new city I trust reviews at Google Maps completely and blindly.

So, if you need help, don’t rely on others reaction unless it is clear for them that there is an emergency. A lot of us witnessed situation when a person lies on the ground and people demonstrate zero actions to help the person. Why? Situation is ambiguous and everybody rely on each other reaction. And nobody takes a first step.

Another tip I learned – if you are delivering a webinar and want audience to ask questions, you have to break the ice yourself first. Come up with a couple of artificial questions, read them loud and give an answer. Social proof will do the rest for you.

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Reading List 2022

Reading List 2022

Welcome to year 2022!

Last year the list had a decent mix of professional, fiction and non-ficton books. In 2022 I am going to concentrate to learn more about following topics:

  • Psychology of decision making and influence. How we make decisions? What can persuade us and why? Answers on these questions help to understand how to build inter-personal communication and inspire people.
  • Organizations’ efficiency. It is quite astonishing to see how different can be efficiency of organizations. This year I continue to study this area and learn about mechanisms that creates “1+1=3” effect.
  • Visual story telling. Even I work today in a company that heavily relies on writing texts instead of creating slide decks, visually compelling content is a king. Structure, composition, color, size of picture and text are key components to keep audience’s always reducing span of attention on the topic.
  • Personal efficiency. Last year I was trying to implement several useful habits to my daily routine and was only partially successful. I have realized that I need to learn how to create habits more efficiently. And, of course, continue to train ability to concentrate.
  • Plus, some non-fiction titles as an entertainment.

Hereby I present you the Reading List 2022!

Leadership and communication skills

  1. Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion
  2. Social Architecture: Building On-line Communities
  3. Slideology
  4. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
  5. Atomic Habits
  6. Concentration: Maintain Laser Sharp Focus and Attention
  7. The Invincible Company: How to Constantly Reinvent Your Organization
  8. Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers
  9. The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability
  10. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
  11. Nudge: The Final Edition
  12. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

Non-fiction

  1. Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts
  2. New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You
  3. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Fiction

  1. Project Hail Mary

5 Key Mistakes

5 Key Mistakes in Communication with Management

The post from May 2021 had created a lot of traction, so I decided to convert it to a short article and translate to English.

Bad relationship with manager may be not a first reason why people quit their jobs, but it is definitely in top 5. And is in any human-to-human interactions, if communication is broken, most probably relationship are in bad state either. Let’s try to figure out what are the key mistakes in communication with management and how to avoid them.

Everyone has a management. A person or group of people with whom we discuss results of our work and who interested in positive outcomes of our efforts. A Software Engineer has a Product Owner, a Sales Rep has a regional VP and a CEO has Board of Directors and shareholders.

And (surprise!), they are all humans. Humans are biased, they have limited amount of memory, their physical and emotional capacity is not infinite and they have ingrained or adopted beliefs and preferences. What is more important – they have own challenges and goals because they have management as well. There is no ideal manager, like there is no ideal human. But it does not mean that you cannot build a successful communication.

Here is my definition of a good manager (if we will not take functional skills into consideration):

  • They listen and not only talk themselves
  • They delegate and inspect results
  • They give freedom of actions, but they give guidance and set expectations

Now, let’s move on to a first mistake.

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How to concentrate

How to Concentrate in the World of Distractions?

Time is a limited resource. It is the only resource we cannot reproduce. If we want to achieve more then we need to increase productivity. Individual productivity depends on how well a person can concentrate and manage distractions.

And our world is full of distractions (surprise!). Everything competes for our attention all the time. Ads, social media, Slack messages, emails. The list is infinite. The world is not going to change (in fact, it is going to be worse over the time). So, we have to adopt to stay focused and keep a steady course to our goals.

There are different opinions on what is happening with human attention span and how digitalization affects it. Some researchers are saying it decreases, others disagree with that. However, the trend to short everything from entertainment content (TikTok videos and Instagram stories) to educational content (“bite-sized” lessons 3-5 minutes each) is clear.

This article is a summary of mechanisms and habits how to manage distractions and improve concentration skills. Some of them I already adopted, others are in the backlog or in progress. I cannot guarantee they will work for you, so feel free to modify them to fit your personality and lifestyle. The mechanisms are not in the priority order and you can start to adopt any of them in any point of time.

Want to know more? Click “Read More” button.

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FailProject: 5 Key Mistakes in Communication with Management

I have participated as a speaker at FailProject workshop.

We spoke about key mistakes in communication with management, how to avoid them and what instruments exist to build successful communication with your manager.

Recording of the workshop is available here or here.


Book Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk

Humanity is a civilization of text. More precise – civilization of text written in English language. Good it or bad is another debate. The fact is 1 billion people use English as second language.

I have studied language at school and university. But education system was focusing more on speaking and reading skills than on writing skills. So, I never had opportunity to learn proper English writing style.

The more I progress in professional life, the more I see importance of writing. The greatest Zoom/Chime/Teams call will not have progress if minutes of meeting is not clear for participants. You cannot transfer context of a problem without clear definition what is the problem. Plus dozens of other examples – emails, feature requests, account plans and etc.

Amazon takes writing very serious. Narrative is one of the corner-stones of Amazon culture. Text does not rely on person presentation skills. Text allows to break borders of PowerPoint slide and transfer full context from a writer to readers. Well written text does not leave space for misinterpretation and confusion.

The Elements of Style is 100 year bestseller that teaches how to write in plain and clear English. The book has prescriptive guidance about punctuation, syntaxis and style. It also uses easy to comprehend examples of a good and bad style. It is short – around 100 pages.

Some of rules and examples were so subtle that I was unable to feel a difference between good and bad. Both examples were good enough for my non-native speaker eye 🙂

A lot of daily communication has moved to instant messengers, like Slack. IM communication is shorter, more frequent and has lower bar for writing skills. But average attention span time has drastically reduced over last decade. So, a writer should very concise and clear to make people read a text. And it requires practicing and skill development.

I highly recommend this book for every person who uses English language for professional communication.


Inside-out Products: A Trap for Product Manager

Let’s imagine a mid-size IT company. It was founded around a decade ago by group of smart engineers who are probably still around as executives.

Back in early days, the company built a highly successful and innovative product. The product allowed quickly expand worldwide, made company profitable and created foundation of today’s success.

A decade later, the company is not a start up any longer. Some processes are around, engineering is busy adding new features, marketing is creating nice slide decks and sales are sweating to deliver their quotas.

Everything looks great. But market became more competitive, customers are more demanding today than a year before and YoY growth is not that impressive as it used to be. The company wants continue to grow and it needs new products in portfolio that will rock the market.

What is inside-out product?

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The Fear of Silence or How to Start Listen

I have been in numerous amount of meetings with customers. Long, short, demos and roadmap discussions – you name it. And numerous amount of times I saw the same – some people just could not stop talking. I call it – The Fear of Silence.

Especially, this issue is blooming in sales calls, RFQ defense or roadmap related meetings. It is difficult to calculate how many man-hours are spent annually for useless slides like “Company Introduction”, “Our 100 offices around the globe” and etc. Bragging and pitching how great company or product is. And a lot of talking about a seller and very little about a customer.

Why it is like that? Everybody would agree that we should listen to a customer more, ask questions, collect information. But still, it does not happen often. My observation is that many customer facing people are afraid of silence. They are just simply scared that customer will not answer on a question, will not start talking and awkward silence will fill the space.

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Book Review: Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills by Michael Kallet

“If I am paid for my thinking and problem solving skills, how I can become better in this?” – this is a question that I ask myself from time to time.

A book “Think Smarter” provides clear definition of key stages of critical thinking process (clarity, conclusions and decisions) and gives step by step instructions what to do on each of the stages.

Some ideas and instruments can look pretty obvious and well-known but a value of the book in systematic process that author created.

Among multiple things taht I liked in the book are:

  • Visual representation of decision making process – how expiriences, observations, facts and assumptions form our conclusions and how to distinguish fact from observation
  • Definition of “outside the box” thinking. “What is “the box” in thinking?” is a first question to ask to understand
  • Explanation what is premise and why it can be weak or strong. This is important knowledge to measure confidence of the conclusion
  • Abductive thinking – how my conclusions will change if some of my assumptions are wrong? Or how would I think about it if I had not some of my expiriences?

My next step for the topic “Critical Thinking” is to write an article that will apply critical thinking to customer’s requests prioritization.

So, a lot of interesting ideas written in easy to read language. Totally recommend to read.

Check out series of my articles how critical thinking framework applies to prioritization.

Overall rating – 5 out of 5.