Office of Learning & Organizational Development

Diminishing Behaviors in Leadership

“Yes, I said copy me on every email…Really…EVERY. SINGLE. EMAIL.” ~ A Former Diminishing Boss

According to Wiseman and McKeown’s work “Multipliers,” on the opposite end of the spectrum from those who increase intelligence and productivity are the leaders who diminish it. The behaviors that this type of leader exhibits tend to result in exerting power by force. Research reveals that the “Diminisher” mindset seems to credit intelligence with scarcity and elitism. These leaders may secretly or overtly think, “Really intelligent people are a rare breed, and I am one of the few really smart people… I get IT.”

When enacting with a leader who exhibits diminishing behaviors, you may notice these trends…

The 5 Disciplines of a Diminisher:

The Empire Builder – The opposite of Talent Magnet, this person hoards resources and underutilizes talent.

The Tyrant – The opposite of Liberator, this person creates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability.

The Know-it-All – The opposite of Challenger, this person gives directives that showcase how much they know.

The Decision Maker – The opposite of Debate Maker, this person makes centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organization.

The Micro-Manager – The opposite of Investor, this person drives results through personal involvement.

The diminisher mantra says, “They will never figure this out without me.” This can be taken both in arrogance and selflessness. What I would like for everyone to understand is that, according to Wiseman and McKeown, diminishing behaviors can actually be enacted with the “heart” of helpfulness and good intentions. But, when you tie your child’s shoe every time, you may never give them the opportunity to learn how to tie it themselves crippling their ability to do a very simple task on their own; hence, the same goes for you team at work.

I would say personally not one of us aims to actually diminish energy unless we are just overtly power hungry people; but, in the case of this study the authors framed “accident” as if it is not as much of a disturbing behavior as the outright extreme behaviors they list for “outright diminishers.”

Are there cases of individuals decreasing intelligence and team performance without really meaning too? Of course there is…

Here are a few Accidental Diminisher Behaviors to note:

  • The Idea Person – My ideas will spark creative thinking.
  • Always On Person – The more I explain the more others will get it.
  • The Rescuer – I need to make sure that people are successful.
  • The Pace Setter – I need to keep up the pace so that the group can be inspired to speed up; but, in reality, I just want to get ahead.
  • The Rapid Responder – The faster I respond and make decisions the faster my organization can work to enact them… for immediate results.
  • The Eternal Optimist – We can do anything!

Take a look at both of the above lists and think about your office behavior. Can you see times when you have intentionally or accidentally diminished the thinking and actions of those around you? Look at the behavior that sounds most like you and ask a trusted colleague if they agree? If so, resolve to stop this behavior immediately and intentionally for 30 days. After you begin to remove this behavior from your life, then you will hopefully think twice before you do it again. Your team will thank you for it in the end.

The 5 Disciplines of a Multiplier


Liz Wiseman, former VP for Global HR at Oracle, and Greg McKeown, Researcher, conducted a study of 150 senior executive leaders; and they found that the best leaders were not only geniuses themselves, but they were genius makers…

Multipliers are leaders that amplify the smarts of the people around them… As a result of their leadership, people in the organization get smarter and more capable; they invoke individuals to use their unique gifting; they create an atmosphere of genius – innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence.

Sound like you? I thought so. Let’s take a closer look at the 5 Disciplines of Multiplier Behavior:

Talent MagnetAttracts talented people and uses them at their highest point of contribution and the cycle repeats itself.

Liberator – Creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work with enough space to get the job done.

ChallengerDefines an opportunity that causes people to stretch to meet it.

Debate maker – Drives sound decisions through rigorous debate looking at all sides and all points of view to make the best decisions.

Investor – Gives other people the ownership for results and invests in their success; they believe that there is enough success for everyone.

In this way, “Multipliers” operate with a WE mindset that thrives on team performance. Each person is alive and contributing to the group dynamic, and people are in tune with each other’s needs. What types of behaviors do you exhibit that mirror the items on this list? What are your behaviors that don’t?

If you are not sure about the patterns in your own leaderly behaviors, ask someone on your team that you trust, and then be ready for their honest response! Make a game plan for yourself to become more like a Multiplier to gain twice the amount of productivity from your team.

The Mind of a Multiplier


Liz Wiseman, former VP for Global HR at Oracle, and Greg McKeown, Researcher, conducted a study of 150 senior executive leaders; and they found that the most effective leaders were not only geniuses themselves but they were genius makers… What does that mean? Wiseman and McKeown coined the phrase “Multipliers” to represent the types of leaders that multiply team intelligence…

The researchers found a continuum of behaviors of leaders that on one end – led to knowledge multiplication or receiving 2.1X the amount of intelligence and energy from the group. And, on the other end, diminished knowledge and energy and led to a transactional task management approach. Diminishers received about a 50% rating of the productivity in their employee base.

The study found that “Multipliers” are leaders that amplify the smarts of the people around them…They are genius makers. Everyone around this type of leader gets smarter and more capable; they invoke individuals unique intelligence; they create an atmosphere of genius – innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence.

Multipliers look at the world under the premise of these basic assumptions… All of their actions, reactions, and inactions come from this paradigm below:

  1. If I can find someone’s genius, I can put them to work.
  2. People’s best thinking is given, not taken.
  3. People get smarter by being challenged.
  4. With enough minds, we can figure this out.
  5. People are smart and will figure things out.

“Multipliers” live by the mantra, “They are smart and will figure it out.” Learning “how to” operate in every circumstance can be a stretch for their employees that they can manage themselves. These are the leaders that care, but give their folks enough resources, support, time and space to figure out how to get the job done.

Do you identify with the mind of a “Multiplier” or do you think differently? Which one of these statements above sounds the most like you? Which one sounds the least like you? Up next, we will discuss patterns in leader behavior that reinforce the “Multiplier” paradigm.

Addition by Subtraction: Removing “Diminishers” to Increase Group Productivity


“Anyone… anyone… anyone…”

All of us can relate to the feeling of being in a meeting room where the energy is so stagnant that breathing feels like a chore. Looking around at our colleagues, checking our email on our iPhone, drinking endless amounts of caffeine just to cope with the meeting agenda… Knowing that you will NEVER be called on by name allows for you to just sink further into you chair, not thinking, just “being”… Presence alone is enough to get you by in that meeting until you can get back to your office and do all of the work that is piled high on your plate.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of the workforce today can relate, as unengaged employees going through task-by-task in their job, not thinking, just being. Most of us understand that work-life can be transformational when you have an excellent supervisor; but these leaders often seem few and far between. As many as 35% of all managers are even labeled “unengaged” when it comes to workplace behavior.

Bosses that exhibit “Diminishing” behaviors, as referenced in Lis Wiseman’s book “Multipliers” can cause us to not only underperform, but downright make us want to leave our workplace. As many as 50% of workers leave jobs to get away from their managers and 58% of employees look around at least once a month (Gallup, 2016). A recent survey from Career Builder found that “1 in 5” people are determined to leave their employer this year.

But, when we remove people with diminishing behaviors from our teams we gain back tremendous amounts of productivity, group intelligence, and creativity. In the next series of blog posts, we will discuss behaviors that multiply intelligence and behaviors that diminish it as found by the work of Wiseman and her team.

Generations Unite!


With the various generational work preferences, it seems like getting everyone in your “lollipop guild” on the same page can be, in southerner speak, “bout near impossible.” As leaders, we must begin to understand those around us in order to flex and meet them where they are to create a positive team dynamic. Understanding who you are, and your generational preference, can allow for you to understand how others may view you as well. Johnson and Johnson in their book, “Generations, Inc” give four management principles (based on research of course) to be more effective across all generations. They say:

  1. Everyone’s Different.

Realize that personalty preferences, cultural influences, and upbringing (among other things) can have a role in how individuals interact at work. Just because a person grew up during a generational time period does not mean that they personify all of the preferences of their generational type. Get to know people and learn what makes them unique. Use the literature on generational preferences as a home base to start your understanding.

2. There is No Truth.

What is “true” and real to you as a Boomer (who likes face-to-face meetings once a week with your staff) may not be the same for other generations (like Millennials who would prefer you email that information). Begin to notice what you assume “truth” is in your office environment. Also, notice when you have expectations that are unmet; ask yourself if you articulated your expectations and provided enough constructive feedback.

3. The One with the Most Tools Wins.

When you can flex your leadership muscle for versatility providing the appropriate communication with your employees you can create expectations that fit within their preferred generational language; for example, ” Gen Xer, you have what it takes to get the job done. Here are the tools, now go for it! Let me know what you need from me. There is no need to check in.” Or “Millennial, yes, let’s schedule time to check in over a lunch meeting so that we can co-create feedback on your project. You are doing an excellent job. Keep it up.”

4. Mutual Reciprocity.

Developing a sense of mutual respect can really get your office moving on all cylinders. Boomers, begin to learn how to value education in addition to experience. Everyone, seek to understand that Millennials never really turn off their work; they just leave the office physically. Millennials, learn to be confident in your decisions, and don’t take things so personally. Figure out if you need more flexibility with work-life interaction and then ask for it up front in your job interview. Good managers respect each generation for what they bring to a project, and employ generations to work on something that suits their skillset.

In conclusion, leaders across all generations, we understand that sometimes simple rewards and celebrating happy moments can shine a light across any difference no matter the circumstance; so if all else fails, create a since of comradery by praising the good things. Let people know what they are doing well – give Boomers raises, Xers promotions and personal office space, and Millennials encouragement and specific tasks to complete…and hopefully your team will sound better singing from the same sheet of music than before these intentional strategies took place.

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