Are You Working With an Accidental Diminisher Leader?

Are you often frustrated at work? Are you unclear of your career path? Do you feel like someone or something is holding you back? Are you lacking motivation or engagement with your work? Well, it could be because you are working with an Accidental Diminisher leader.

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WHAT IS AN ACCIDENTAL DIMINISHER LEADER?

An 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. According to Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, “… Diminishers drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the people around them and always need to be the smartest person in the room.”

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 leader.

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.

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 successful 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

8 STRATEGIES TO HELP MITIGATE ACCIDENTAL DIMINISHER LEADER BEHAVIOR

Do any of those types sound like a leader that you work with? If so, you don’t have to start looking for another job! You can’t change someone else. But you can work on your own behavior, reactions, and leadership to make your job better. In no particular order, here are several strategies to help mitigate diminishing behavior and create a more productive and fulfilling work environment for you.

Strategy #1 – Get Curious About Your Executive’s Fears and Motivations

Remember, most Diminishers, are Accidental Diminishers. They may or may not even realize that they are causing frustration or stress for you at work. When you see diminishing behaviors from your boss, get curious. Ask yourself (or them!) why they may be acting that way. What are they afraid of losing if they give up control? Why are they micro-managing, putting extra pressure on you, or discarding your struggles? What might be going on with them at work or at home? How does their diminishing behavior (such as being a Pace-Setter or Always-On) fuel their ego and give them fulfillment at work? What motivates them? Once you have some clarity around why they are a Diminisher, you can set about working on your own leadership in order to create a better work environment for everyone.

Strategy #2 – Have a Fierce Conversation with Your Executive

Having a fierce conversation with your leader may be the most difficult strategy, but is also the one that should give you the fastest results. Hit your leader head-on with what you are seeing. Read Multipliers together and discuss how your individual leadership styles may be helping or hurting your team. Share articles about Diminisher behavior. Point out areas where they can improve and how their diminishing behavior effects you and the team. Give them specific examples. And take ownership over your own behavior. Ask them what you can do to help them feel more confident in your abilities. Or ask for their coaching on how you can move from Diminisher to Multiplier. You may be the only one who is willing to give them the tough feedback they need to be a better leader. It can be a burden or a privilege. You get to choose.

Strategy #3 – Focus on Your Leader’s Strengths

Take a good look at where your leader is providing value to you and the organization. What are their strengths? How can you lean into those qualities to help you with the work under your area of responsibility? Focusing on your leader’s strengths may help you reframe your mindset. The Optimist may help you see a problem from a different perspective and find a new solution. The Pace-Setter may push you to think bigger and accomplish more than you thought possible. Sometimes a shift in perspective is all you need to improve your working environment.

Strategy #4 – Take Ownership of Your Failures

Hiding your mistakes or downplaying failures may actually increase Diminisher leadership, and I know that’s not what you want. When mistakes are discovered (and you didn’t own up to them), the micromanaging may ramp up. The simple solution is to let your leader know as soon as you have made a mistake or missed a deadline. Let them know how you are going to fix it and what system you put in place so that it doesn’t happen again. This will also build trust – if you follow-through.

Strategy #5 – Create a User’s Manual to Share With Your Leadership Team

A User’s Manual is basically a cheat sheet of your idiosyncrasies, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Diminisher leaders may be operating under preconceived notions about your abilities and how you work best. Help your leader work better with you by providing them with a copy and encouraging them to fill one out too. By knowing where everyone on your team stands, you are able to move forward together, faster and more effectively, with less frustration. That’s a win for the whole team. Download a User’s Manual template here.

Strategy #6 – Communicate Your Role and Value to Key Stakeholders

Accidental Diminishers – particularly of The Rescuer variety – may need extra visibility into your role. They will need to know what you are truly capable of so that they aren’t always “rescuing” you. Communicating your role to your Executive and organization is an important step to having a better working relationship with your leader. But don’t stop there. Telling your leader what you are capable of is great, but you must show them to really start earning their trust.

Strategy #7 – Build Trust and Strengthen Communication with Your Leader

When working with Diminishers – particularly The Idea Type, The Rescuer, or The Rapid Responder – building trust can lesson their diminishing tendencies. The Idea Type may not be aware of what other projects and priorities you are working on, therefore their next big idea doesn’t seem like a big deal to them. Whether you implement weekly 1:1 meetings or create a regular reporting structure, visibility into your work will be key to working with these types of leaders.

With The Rapid Responder I would recommend setting clear expectations around how quickly they expect you to respond. You don’t want to try to “fix” a Rapid Responder by responding even faster. Perhaps you can suggest that they give you three hours to have the opportunity to respond before they jump in. After all, they may be looking to impress their own boss. But if you don’t ask, you’ll always be playing the game of who does it faster. And finally, you need to build trust with The Rescuer. Their intentions are usually good, but they need to also trust that you will do the job and do it well. Again, discussing expectations around specific tasks and responsibilities is a great place to start. Then just make sure you over-deliver.

Strategy #8 – Model the Behavior of a Multiplier

One of the best ways to work with a Diminisher is to be a Multiplier. Liz Wiseman says, “… 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’ heads; ideas flow and problems get solved.” Make sure you are not guilty of being an Accidental Diminisher yourself. If you are, be purposeful on making the small changes necessary to turn those behaviors around. Develop emotional intelligence, share what you are working on with your team and why, learn to ask powerful questions, give others the space to think and respond before you do, cultivate resilience, and keep a list of ideas and be conscious about which ones you share and when. When you work on YOU, you can’t help but elevate those around you.

Have you worked with an Accidental Diminisher before? Are you working with one now? What strategies have you tried? What other strategies would you add to this list to help others work better with Diminisher leaders?

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