Tag Archives: multipliers

Mojo – I Think We’re In Need of Finding Our Mojo (Ron Washington, & “Multiplier” Leadership)

Ron Washington (Brent Jennings) & Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)

David Justice: Scotty H.
Scott Hatteberg: Yo, what’s up, D.J.?
David Justice: Pickin’ machine.
[Scott laughs]
David Justice: How you likin’ first base, man?
Scott Hatteberg: It’s, uh… it’s coming along. Picking it up. You know, tough transition, but I’m starting to feel better with it.
David Justice: Yeah?
Scott Hatteberg: Yeah.
David Justice: What’s your biggest fear?
Scott Hatteberg: A baseball being hit in my general direction
[Hatteberg and Justice share a laugh]
David Justice: That’s funny. Seriously, what is it?
Scott Hatteberg: No, seriously, that is.
[uncomfortable pause; Hatteberg leaves]
David Justice: Well, hey, good luck with that.
(From the movie, Moneyball)


We have a shortage in this country.  Let’s call it a “Mojo” shortage.  We’re just not quite sure about our future.  We’re seeming a little unsure that we are up to the task.  And it is draining our energy, all around us.

The reasons are plentiful.  This morning, Research in Motion (BlackBerry) announced their first round of layoffs.  Hewlitt Packard has recently implemented a major round of layoffs.  JCPenney has just gotten rid of its President – the turn around is going a little slower than hoped, and things look a little shaky.  American Airlines; well, the very name kind of just makes you sad at the moment.  And that list is just off the top of my head from what I remember the last few days.

But we still have well over 150 million folks showing up to work in this country every day.  And they need to be at their best.  And then, they need to get better in the days to come – better, more capable, smarter.  Liz Wiseman, in her book Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, writes that the best leaders are Multipliers, not diminishers.  From the book:

“People actually get smarter and more capable around Multipliers.  That is, people don’t just feel smarter; they actually become smarter.  They can solve harder problems, adapt more quickly, and take more intelligent action.”

I’m not sure we have enough Multiplier leaders to go around at the moment.    I think we’ve got a Mojo deficiency, a Mojo shortage that must be addressed.

And I think we all need to be Mojo strengtheners, not Mojo stealers, Mojo diminishers.

Consider Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers.  The Texas Rangers are currently on a roll, but his strengths were evident much earlier.  His Multiplier abilities are described really well by Michael Lewis in Moneyball – The Art of Winning an Unfair Game:

Ron Washington was the infield coach because he had a gift for making players want to be better than they were — though he would never allow himself such a pretentious thought.

Billy Beane, with little money to work with, had to turn ball players with little potential in critical aspects of their job into functioning big leaguers.  Now, by definition, “big leaguers” are the true “A players.”  But even those good enough to get to the big leagues are not “A” players in every aspect of the game.  One case was Scott Hatteberg, a former catcher whose body would no longer perform the catcher’s role, had to be turned into a first baseman.  He was terrified at the challenge.  (see the dialogue from the movie, above).  But a first baseman has to be able to perform, play after play after play.  So the infield coach, Ron Washington, had to turn him into a big league first baseman.  Fast.

From the book, Moneyball:

The more he (Scott Hatteberg) went out to play first base, the more comfortable he felt there.  By late June, he could say with a smile that “the difference between spring training and now is that when a ground ball comes at me now, my blood pressure doesn’t go through the roof.”  A large part of the change was due to Wash.  Wash got inside your head because  — well, because you wanted Wash inside your head.  Every play Hatty made, including throws he took from other infielders, he came back to the dugout and discussed with Wash.  His coach was creating an alternative scale on which Hatty could judge his performance.  He might be an absolute D but on Wash’s curve, he felt like a B, and rising.  “He knew what looked like a routine play wasn’t a routine play for me,” said Hatty.  Wash was helping him fool himself, to make him feel better than he was, until he actually became better than he was.  At the Coliseum it was a long way from the A’s dugout to first base, but every time Hatty picked a throw out of the dirt – a play most first basemen made with their eyes closed – he’d hear Wash shout out from the dugout:  “Pickin’ Machine!”  He’d look over and see Wash with his fighting face on.  “Pickin’ Machine!”  He began to relax.  He began to want the ball to be hit to him.

“He began to want the ball to be hit to him.”  He found his Mojo.  He was ready for work.  He was ready for his work.  He was up to the task.  And much of the credit was due to a Multiplier leader like Ron Washington.

The books are filled with the advice.  Look for the good.  Build on strengths.  Praise often.  Tell the stories of success far and wide.  They all boil down to this:  don’t steal anyone’s MojoStrengthen it.  Because until a person “begins to want the ball hit to him,” there is little chance of the success we all want, and need.

So, are you in a leadership position?  Consider the people around you – are you stealing their Mojo, or strengthening it?  This may be the ultimate test, the ultimate trait, of good leadership.

Twyla Tharp and Steve Jobs – (There are Good Tough Bosses and Bad Tough Bosses…)

Everybody probably has a bad boss horror story or two.  And there are some genuine horror stories out there.

But, there are good bad tough bosses and bad tough bosses.  What is the difference?  One difference may be this:  is the boss tough because the end result is worth all the coaching, coaxing, demonstrating, demanding, until the people get it right?

I think Steve Jobs and Twyla Tharp are two great exemplars of this kind of tough boss.

Twyla Tharp:

I recently ran across this wonderful 2006 article about the Kennedy Center Honoree Twyla Tharp, To Dance Beneath the Diamond Skies by Alex Witchel.  Here are some key excerpts:

But it is probably time to say this: There was not a person in that theater, including the 19 performers, musicians and production staff, who did not admire Tharp. Those new to her are scared of her, those used to her are over her, because they know that behind the barking lies a devotion to them, to the work — always, always the work — that is religious in its fervor. Yes, she is a control freak, a perfectionist, a zealot in forming a vision and stopping at nothing to see it realized. But when it is realized, when her dances are good-better-best, flying off the stage like some biblical fire on a mountaintop, there is nothing in the world like them. Twenty-three years ago, Robert Joffrey said that Tharp’s work “didn’t look like anyone else’s.” It still doesn’t.

“There is nothing in the world like them.”  The end result may just be worth the cost it took to get there.  She simply made the best better.  And she also made the “average” much better than ever before.  In her book, The Collaborative Habit, Tharp wrote:

As a choreographer, my task is to make the best possible work with the dancers I find in the room on any given day. 

This is simply the greatest description of the day-to-day work of being the boss I have ever read.  It is the job of the boss (manager, supervisor) to make the best possible work with the people in the room, on the team, at any given time.

By the way, there is a wonderful story in the article about the time Twyla Tharp had to show Baryshnikov how it needed to be done:

Huot sat at one of the computers and played footage of Baryshnikov in rehearsal.  “What’s that?” Tharp asked shortly.  “This is the one where he can’t do what you do,” Huot said, his tone gently teasing. “It’s your favorite thing in the world, which is why I kept it for you.” On the tape, Baryshnikov held a cigarette, shirtless, as Tharp demonstrated the steps. Hers were vivid, crisp. His were blurry, indistinct. Impatiently, she showed him again. He turned away.

“That’s right, go pout,” Tharp said mockingly to the screen. The next shots were of him in performance, his steps breathtaking. “Yeah, he got it,” Tharp said.

She knew how to do the steps; she demonstrated the steps, and she pushed Baryshnikov until he “got it.”

…To be a Tharp dancer is to master complex, intricate movements and steps that can defy gravity — in 1975 Baryshnikov told The Times: “It is very difficult to learn her steps.. . .One variation alone took me three weeks to learn, working a few hours every day.”

Steve Jobs:

Regarding Jobs, the stories are endless, and somewhat legendary.  He certainly could be something of a world-class pain to work with.  But, he too could bring out the very best in people – more than they knew they had in them.  Consider these revealing excerpts from the Walter Isaacson book, Steve Jobs:

For all of his obnoxious behavior, Jobs also had the ability to instill in his team an esprit de corps. After tearing people down, he would find ways to lift them up and make them feel that being part of the Macintosh project was an amazing mission. Every six months he would take most of his team on a two-day retreat at a nearby resort.

Jobs had latched onto what he believed was a key management lesson from his Macintosh experience: You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. “It’s too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and they then attract a few more B players, and soon you will even have some C players,” he recalled. “The Macintosh experience taught me that A players like to work only with other A players, which means you can’t indulge B players.”

“What I’m best at doing is finding a group of talented people and making things with them,” he told the magazine.

Business Week asked him why he treated employees so harshly, Jobs said it made the company better.

…and his great talent, Jobs said, was to “get A performances out of B players.” At Apple, Jobs told him, he would get to work with A players.

The literature about leadership is pretty unanimous about this key role a leader plays.  In Liz Wiseman’s book, Multipliers, she writes that the leader has to “multiply” the good effects of the workers, and never diminish them.  A good leader “multiplies’ the results of the workers he/she leads.  In Kouzes and Pozner’s Encouraging the Heart, they argue that for people to be their best, they must be encouraged, in their hearts, by the one who leads them.  And when they are so encouraged, they become more productive, actually better at their jobs.

Whatever Twyla Tharp and Steve Jobs had, or did, it worked.  They both developed quite a track record of bringing out the very best in the people who worked for them.  (Of course, Twyla Tharp is still at it…).

If you are a leader, this is the test, isn’t it?  Are you making your people better?  Are you pushing them to do more than they even knew they could do?  Are you making the average much better, and the best even better still?

If not, you’ve got some leadership skills to develop.

Multipliers – Multiple Good & Useful Ideas; Now the Trailer!

Some books are filled with multiple key thoughts and concepts — many important and useful teachings and concepts and ideas.  Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman (with Greg McKeown) is one such book.  The book is good.  The over-all concept is great.  And the implications just keep coming.

A Multiplier is a leader who actually makes people smarter, more effective.  A Diminsher is a person in a leadership position, but is not a true leader at all.  In fact, a Diminisher is the opposite of a leader.  Such a person shrinks the person’s, and the organization’s, capacity.

Bob Morris and I have both posted about ideas in, or prompted by, this book, in the following posts:

Good Multipliers and Diminishers…Bad Multipliers and Diminishers
Self-Deprecating – Good! Other-Deprecating – Not So Good!
Here It Is — The Number One Barrier to Personal Success at Work (and in Life)
Can A Diminisher Become A Multiplier?
and Bob’s review of the book:
Book Review: Multipliers.

But I just discovered the book’s trailer on youtube.  (No, I have never seen a trailer for a book before.  Cool!).  It is quite creative, and absolutely worth a look.  In fact, the trailer is almost as good as the book!  So – take a look.

Self-Deprecating – Good! Other-Deprecating – Not So Good!

self-deprecating, self-depreciating
having a tendency to disparage oneself

People can be energized, or absolutely drained, by what a boss/supervisor/”leader” does.  Some leaders, the folks that Liz Wiseman calls “Multipliers,” energize the people around them.  Others, the folks that Liz Wiseman calls “Diminishers,” drain the very life out of those around them.

In case you can’t figure this out, it is better to work with/for a Multiplier than a Diminisher.  And it is better to be a Mulitplier than to be a Diminisher.

Here is a specific clue:  is your leader one who uses “self-deprecating” humor or “other-deprecating” humor?  If “self-deprecating” means “having a tendency to disparage oneself,” then “other-deprecating” would mean “having a tendency to disparage others.”

Call it what you will — criticism, mean-spirited slamming, competition run amuck — but whatever you call it, it is energy draining with a very negative outcome.

Consider these two quotes from Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter:

On a whim we added “Great Sense of Humor” to our leadership survey.  Our suspicions proved right.  The humor of the Multiplier is very George Clooney-esque – a self-deprecating wit and an ability to put others at ease, allowing people to be themselves.  As one journalist wrote of Clooney, “After fifteen minutes, he made me feel comfortable in my own house.”  A Clooney costar said, “He has a way of daring you…which can be irresistible.”


Some leaders seemed to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them.  Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else.  For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb…  They create a vortex that sucks energy out of everyone and everything around them…  these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers.

For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb. It is almost as though these “diminishers” in a leadership position view those they “lead” as their competitors – “I’ve got to show that I’m better than/smarter than/more successful than those I lead.”  Which means, of course, that they are not leading at all – they are driving away:  driving away initiative, driving away cooperation, driving away ambition, driving away their team.

Self-Deprecating – Good!  Other-Deprecating – Not So Good!

Here It Is — The Number One Barrier to Personal Success at Work (and in Life)

Let’s say that you are not as effective as you would like to be.  It does not matter what your deficiency is, but let’s say that you know what your area of weakness, need, deficiency is.  If you know where you are weak, if you know what you need to work on, then consider yourself ahead of the pack.  Way ahead.  Because, I am now convinced that I know the number one problem that can derail you on your path to success.  Here’s that number one problem:

A lack of awareness of your weak areas – your ignorance, your incompetence, your growth areas.

Here’s a quote from Peter Senge that points this out rather vividly:  “People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, and their growth areas.” And I wrote along a similar vein in this blog post, Michael Jordan, Defensive All-Star — A Business Lesson For Us All, describing how Michael Jordan recognized his defensive weaknesses, and how he tackled that challenge with such focus and resolve.  After describing how he developed great defensive skills, I asked: But what should you add?

So what prompted this blog post, and spurred me on to state the “number one problem” with such certainty?  It was this passage in the book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.

Perhaps one of our biggest surprises was realizing how few Diminishers understood the respective impact they were having in others.  Most of the Diminishers had gown up praised for their personal intelligence and had moved up the management ranks on account of personal – and often intellectual – merit.  When they became the “boss,” they assumed it was their job to be the smartest and to manage a set of “subordinates.”  …As one executive put it, “When I read your findings, I realized that I have been living in Diminisher land so long that I have gone native.”

In other words, a Diminisher does not know that he or she is a Diminisher.

I think if I had a chance to visit with Liz Wiseman, I would ask her, “why in the world were you surprised?” Because, if we have learned anything by now, it ought to be this – very, very few people know their own weakness(es) well enough to even identify and acknowledge such weakness, much less to develop a strategy and then follow that  strategy to actually make the needed changes.

If you want another word for this, you can call it laziness, thinking of the word the way Scott Peck used it.   Laziness is not “doing nothing,” it is “avoiding what you need to focus on” (my paraphrase of his idea, as I remember it, from his book The Road Less Traveled).

Think of the beginning of the 12 Steps, the one that prompts this introduction, “Hello, my name is ___, and I am an alcoholic.” You know, the first step: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable..

Maybe we need many more groups, which all begin with a parallel “first step,” like:

I admitted I was a Diminisher – and this derailed me on my path to success.
I admitted I was a:
poor team player
poor time manager
poor money manager
poor encourager of others…

The list could be rather long.  But the solution for any and every weakness/deficiency goes back to that first step:  I saw my weakness/deficiency, I acknowledged my weakness/deficiency, and then, and only then, could I design a path to overcome that weakness/deficiency.

To Wiseman, she focuses on a specific failure:  the failure to become a leader who is a Multiplier.  And that failure is exacerbated by an individual’s own blindness to his or her own tendency to be a Diminisher.

Let me quote again Senge’s wisdom: “People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, and their growth areas.”

Do you know yours?  If you do, you are ahead of the pack – now get to work on it.

If you don’t know yours, then discovering it, identifying it, is definitely the new item on your to do list!

Can A Diminisher Become A Multiplier?

Can a person really change? Can a diminisher become a multiplier?

I know of no question more difficult than this one.  And, to quote again from Cecil Eager, the owner of The Gruene Mansion Inn in New Braunfels, “you can teach someone how to check someone in – but you can’t teach friendly.”  If a person is not friendly to begin with, you can’t teach friendly, and such a person seldom becomes “friendly.”

I keep thinking about this as I read business books.  So many books describe the way the world could be/should be.  But to actually move from here to there is one tough assignment.

At the moment, I am reading through Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.  (Read Bob Morris’ review of this book, on our blog, here).  The book has this great narrative about the difference between a leader who is a diminisher, (thus, in reality, not a leader at all), and a leader who is a multiplier.  It is a graphic depiction, a really clear image; one that makes sense.  A person in a leadership position either has the ability to help people become more than they would be without such a leader, or they can diminish someone, literally de-motivating people, squeezing life right out of them.  This is the very essence of leadership

Liz Wiseman quotes Bono at that the beginning of her book:

“It has been said that after meeting with the great British Prime Minister William Ewart 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.”

Wiseman defines a leader who is a multiplier:

Some leaders make us better and smarter.  They bring out our intelligence.  This book is about those leaders, who access and revitalize the intelligence in the people around then.  We call them Multipliers.

The Multiplier is the exact opposite of the diminisher.  From her opening story, about an Israeli Tank Commander candidate who flourished under one leader, but was practically paralyzed by a leader who was a diminisher, we get the clear impression that leaders really do fall into one of these two categories.  I think I agree.

But here is the question:  can a true “diminisher” become a true “multiplier?”  Though she has a final chapter tilted “Becoming a Multiplier,” and though this chapter provides some encouragement on this question, I’m just not sure.  Maybe I would say it this way – if someone wants to become a “multiplier,” that is a signal that there’s a good chance that they already have that spark in them to begin with.  But I’m not sure a true diminisher can ever become a full-blown multiplier.  I’m just not sure people can really change.

But, I hope I’m wrong.


By the way, the real mystery from reading this book is this:  how do some of these diminishers ever get promoted to leadership positions to begin with?  Maybe the fastest way to fix this problem is this approach:

#1 — don’t promote any diminishers.

#2 – find those with a spark of multiplier ability, and nurture/cultivate/train/encourage such a spark in the people who have the best chance of becoming multipliers.