Nearly 300 participants turned out for “How the Best Leaders Make Everyone More Innovative” organized by Energy Development Corporation (EDC) on Sept. 16, 2022.
The deep dive into the need to innovate and improve ways of working was led by Board of Innovation senior innovation consultants Darren Lim and Bryan Joseph Santiago who was formerly innovation officer at ABS-CBN and special projects head at Sky Cable. EDC human resource management group’s Jacklyn Elazegui hosted the event.
Lim started off by asking the participants to think about the behavior of a leader who made them feel less energized. According to the respondents, this person “micromanaged, did not walk the talk, showed favoritism, did not focus and did not collaborate.” Instead of coaching them, the leader would blame the team when things did not go as expected. The participants said this leader elicited about 61% capability from them.
On the other hand, a more engaged leader was someone who “inspired, motivated, recognized and rewarded, appreciated and challenged” them, the participants indicated. Employees were more productive under this type of leader, who drew as much as 90% capability from the team, according to the attendees who took part in the Menti survey.
Multiplier vs. diminisher
Liz Wiseman, who wrote “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter,” found there are essentially two kinds of leaders: the diminisher and the multiplier.
The author, a former vice president at Oracle who studied leaders at 35 companies in the Fortune 100, described the diminisher as someone who drains people’s energy and ideas. The multiplier, on the other hand, inspires creativity and innovation in the people around them.
The diminisher believes their team will not be able to solve problems without them, while the multiplier is the opposite—they think people are smart and will figure things out for themselves.
Where the diminisher is a tyrant and micromanager, the multiplier is a liberator and investor; where the diminisher is a decision maker who decides unilaterally and then asks others for their input, the multiplier is a debate maker who discusses first before arriving at a decision. Where the diminisher is a know-it-all, the multiplier is a challenger who wants to see their team extend themselves and think out of the box.
A closer look
In the second half of the webinar, Santiago gave a snapshot of what diminisher and multiplier behaviors look like by presenting different workplace situations.
In one scenario, a project lead is confused by a deluge of suggestions from the team and asks a colleague for advice.
Santiago asked the participants: do they “share the wisdom” (discuss what worked for them in the past), “clarify” the lead’s thoughts (by letting them explain what they’ve done), boost their confidence (assure them the project will turn out well) or issue a challenge (instruct the lead to ask the other stakeholders what their critical outcomes are)?
In this case, the multiplier behavior (“challenge”) motivated the lead to capitalize on the discussions they had with the stakeholders and keep them focused on the outcomes.
One of the best things a multiplier could do is to step back and let people deal with an obstacle in their own way. Give them space to struggle with a problem and don’t make them feel that they have to do exactly as you did.
Four coaching styles
Santiago shared four coaching styles leaders adopt to move their teams forward: expert (role model, able to tell people what to do), challenger (gives constructive feedback, helps people see their blind spots), counselor (people talk to them about personal issues, are comfortable when others express emotion) and supporter (empowers the people around them, builds their confidence).
He pointed out that there is no one best coaching style; rather, one can try combinations of the four different approaches.
In the second scenario, the team is set to make a presentation to the company’s VP, but they encounter issues with making the transition to the new system. Do they postpone the meeting so they can fix everything and present a “perfect” project? Or, do they go ahead with the meeting in hopes that the VP would provide feedback?
The consequences of postponing: they iron out the kinks in the project and pull off the presentation. But the VP reveals another division has started using a new system—which means a part of the team’s plan is now obsolete.
When the team chooses to go ahead with the meeting: the VP offers some helpful comments that allow them to tweak their plan accordingly and even launch the project ahead of schedule.
Here, the multiplier behavior (“liberate”) creates an environment where it’s all right to make mistakes and learn from them—no need to be perfect right out of the gate. More importantly, it’s better to get feedback as early as possible, as the second scenario with the VP illustrates.
Even if they want the best for their team, people may end up becoming what Wiseman called “accidental diminishers,” which has nine types: “Idea Guy,” “Always On,” “Rescuer,” “Pace Setter,” “Rapid Responder,” “Optimist,” “Protector,” “Strategist” and “Perfectionist.”
Lim, who took over the last portion of the webinar, outlined why the accidental diminishers do what they do, what the results of their actions are and steps one can take to avoid these tendencies.
Despite the good intentions behind them, accidental diminishers’ tendencies—such as micromanaging or being perfectionists—could in fact end up having the opposite effect.
A silver lining, however, is this key learning from Wiseman as underscored by Lim: “No leader diminishes intentionally.”
No leader wakes up in the morning and says, “Today I am going to diminish my team. Today I want to make sure my team is less creative and less motivated and less innovative,” Lim stressed.