Are You an Accidental Diminisher?

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I first heard the term “accidental diminisher several years ago while reading Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman. Turns out, it was a concept that I was quite familiar with. I have been guilty in the past of showing up as a diminisher leader, accidentally, of course.

The Accidental Diminisher is a well-intentioned leader who subtlety, and usually, completely unintentionally, shuts down the intelligence of others and reduces their abilities. These Diminishers often are following popular management principles, but are somehow still missing the mark.

What stands out to me is that Diminishers are following management principles and not leadership principles. Yes, there is a difference. According to this Harvard Business Review article, “Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success.” Control vs. influence. Diminisher vs. Multiplier. Sure, they may both be able to get the job done. But one way will likely decrease morale, foster resentment, and stunt the growth of the organization. The other encourages contribution and fosters growth and trust. I bet you can guess which is which.

TWO TYPES OF LEADERSHIP STYLES

Liz Wiseman’s website explains that there are two main types of leaders:

“The first type, Diminishers, drains intelligence, energy, and capability from the people around them and always needs to be the smartest person in the room.

The second type, Multipliers, are the leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go off over people’s heads; ideas flow and problems get solved.

The world needs more Multipliers, especially now, when leaders are expected to do more with less.”

www.TheWisemanGroup.com

I couldn’t agree more. If you not getting the results you want with your team, if you feel like you’re carrying the burden of success for your team or division, if you are losing employees, or if you are hearing rumblings in the ranks, then you may be an Accidental Diminisher.

SIX TYPES OF ACCIDENTAL DIMINISHER LEADERS

There are six types of Accidental Diminishers. Each type can look like a positive leadership style at first glance. However, the outcome of the behavior is not always favorable for the team or the organization. Let’s take a look at each type of Accidental Diminisher and what small changes you can make to turn your leadership style from Diminisher to Multiplier.


The Optimist

  • The Optimist is a leader who believes that they and the team can tackle any problem with hard work and a positive attitude and mindset.
  • Why is this a problem? Because the team may feel like there is no room for failure. The leader can be viewed as lacking empathy to the struggles of their employees and that their effort is not valued.
  • From Diminisher to Multiplier – Focus on increasing your emotional intelligence and acknowledging your employees’ hard work. Work on cultivating resilience, not just a positive mindset with yourself and your team.


The Rapid Responder

  • The Rapid Responder leader values productivity and keeping the company moving forward at a fast pace. This leader quickly troubleshoots problems, makes fast micro-decisions, has a high sense of urgency and pushes the company to adopt this level of efficiency.
  • Why is this a problem? This leader may be moving faster than the organization can successfully handle. The fast response time may be causing organizational whiplash. Rapid responses may create roadblocks as emails, ideas, and decisions fly around faster than the organization can execute. The Rapid Responder may also be unintentionally diminishing their team’s ability to step-up and answer a question, provide a thoughtful idea, or ask for clarity, because they simply aren’t allowing the time or space for that to happen.
  • From Diminisher to Multiplier – Wait a certain number of hours before responding to an email that is under someone else’s area of responsibility. On an email or Slack chain, be the last one to share your ideas or provide solutions. In meetings, allow others to speak and problem solve before adding your ideas. Ask questions to get other people’s perspectives. Allow the time and space for others to exchange ideas and solve problems before you add your voice to the mix.


The Pace-Setter

  • The Pace-Setter leader is highly achievement oriented and leads from the front. They set the standard and the pace for the rest of the organization.
  • Why is this a problem? This leader can often leave others in the dust if/when they are not able to keep up. Team members may become frustrated with a lack of visibility on what the Pace-Setter is working on. They may even give up if they can’t keep up.
  • From Diminisher to Multiplier – Increase your visibility with your team or colleagues. Share what you are working on regularly. Ensure you have consistent 1:1 meetings with your direct reports. Ask questions and get input from other employees about your own work. Get your team’s buy-in for deadlines and prioritization of the projects they are working on.


The Rescuer

  • The Rescuer leader just wants to help their team members succeed. They don’t like to see their employees struggle or fail. So, at the first sign of an issue, they jump in to help. They want to help maintain their team member’s reputation.
  • Why is this a problem? The Rescuer ends up creating employees who are highly dependent on their leader, which actually hurts the employee’s professional reputation. They may not have the confidence or develop the right skills to solve problems on their own. This stunts the team member’s career growth. The sign of a great leader is someone who is able to develop other leaders. Rescuers are unintentionally doing the opposite.
  • From Diminisher to Multiplier – When employees come to you with a problem, remember that they may already have a solution. Don’t jump right into problem-solving mode. Listen, ask questions, and allow them to come up with a solution on their own. Invest in your team members growth so that their leadership and tactical skills continue to improve. Focus on teaching your employees how to fish, rather than simply giving them the fish.


The Idea Type

  • The Idea Type leader is a big thinker, a visionary, and has lots of ideas. They innovate and iterate constantly and always want to share their ideas with their team.
  • Why is this a problem? This can turn into the classic case of too many ideas and too little time to implement. The Idea Type leader can unconsciously overwhelm their employees with all of their ideas. The leader my not be setting clear priorities. Team members may end up shutting down or spending too much time chasing the next big idea of the day.
  • From Diminisher to Multiplier – Before you start sharing your next brilliant idea, ask yourself whether or not it is something you want your team to begin working on immediately. If the answer is no, it may be best to table it for later. One of the top three most important jobs of a leader is to provide clarity, focus, and direction. Many times, that means knowing when to get the team fired up and working on a new idea and when to press pause.


Always On

  • The Always On leader is charismatic, enthusiastic, high-energy, and influential. They have big personalities, are constantly engaged, and always have something to say or share with the group.
  • Why is this a problem? When leaders are “Always On” they take up a lot of time and space with their energy and exuberance. They may often repeat themselves or dominate the conversation. This type of energy may overwhelm the team, resulting in team members shutting down, tuning out, or ignoring what this leader has to say. When you’re always on and pushing for your agenda, you are going to dampen your team’s creativity, confidence, and engagement.
  • From Diminisher to Multiplier – This is another good time to focus on emotional intelligence and strong communication skills. There is nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about an idea. But share the idea, data points, and a convincing argument – once – and then pause. Allow space for questions, counter-arguments and iterations on your original idea.

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES OF BEING A DIMINISHER LEADER

I mentioned before that I have been a Diminisher in the past. I most frequently engaged in Rapid Responder and Rescuer behavior. As a Rapid Responder leader I felt insignificant and inadequate if I didn’t respond immediately (and faster) than other team members. I would be the first to share my thoughts or answer a question via email. No more! I have since flipped that around and usually let a full conversation play out, review the email thread, consider all angles of the conversation, see what new information came in from other team members, and then add my 2 cents (because at that point, it’s actually worth something!).

I have also been a Rescuer over the years, particularly when working side by side with a new Executive Assistant. Too often I would hold on too long to certain tasks or micromanage a project because I was so afraid of that individual failing or looking bad in front of Adam or a client (which in my mind meant that I failed). I mean, I was just trying to help and make them look good, right? But where I was really failing was by not properly training and leading the EA in the first place! It meant I became the answer instead of developing a resourceful team member. It meant I was always second-guessing what work got done, because I hadn’t given our EA the right tools and training to succeed.

When I became aware that this was my modus operandi, I started to lean more heavily into my Multiplier skill-set and most importantly, let go of the outcome. I could control how well I trained a new team member, but I could not control everything. Failing forward is the only way to truly learn. I had to do that for myself and for my team.

Does any of the above sound familiar? Are you an accidental diminisher? That’s okay. Awareness is the first step. Followed by acceptance. Then you can actually start doing something about it and turning your leadership around. It’s never to late to multiply your effectiveness as a leader. Get started today!

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