Why Force Multipliers Thrive in a Changing World

I’ve never really been “great” at anything. Good? Sure. At a variety of things. But never really great. I have a wide array of interests, know a little about a lot, and enjoy researching, reading, and collecting information on many different subjects. A subject expert, I am not. Unless, that subject is as broad as “helping a Visionary create, build, and grow people and things.”

Over the years, as I’ve honed my skills as an Executive Assistant and Chief of Staff, I’m still just good. With my hands in everything from podcasting to benefits administration to recruiting to writing to consulting and more, I’m constantly searching for that one thing I can be great at and continuously falling short of my own expectations.

So, I was thrilled to read Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein because it was exactly the validation I needed.

This book is about more than just generalized knowledge vs. specialization. It also digs into late bloomers who didn’t find their true passion or create their best work until much later in life. And along the way? Yup. They were just “good” at a variety of things. Testing, experimenting, and all the while discovering what they didn’t want or didn’t excel at until they finally did. And, perhaps those personal and professional experiments were exactly what eventually led them to their genius.

For all of you, who, like me, have felt like we don’t know what we want at times or haven’t found that one thing that we are great at, here’s a helpful excerpt from the book:

“Approach your own personal voyage and projects like Michelangelo approached a block of marble, willing to learn and adjust as you go, and even to abandon a previous goal and change directions entirely should the need arise. Research on creators in domains from technological innovation to comic books shows that a diverse group of specialist cannot fully replace the contributions of broad individuals. Even when you move on from an area of work or an entire domain, that experience is not wasted.”

I’ve done a lot of personal development work over the past couple of years and have begun to realize – and more importantly – accept who I am. I am a generalist, a Jill of all trades, a Swiss Army knife, a Force Multiplier. Turns out, having this sort of generalized experience and knowledge is exactly why I have enjoyed and thrived in both an EA and Chief of Staff position. If anything, my “specialty” lies in putting the pieces of a puzzle together with only a partial picture on the box cover to guide me (that inevitably changes half way through the project) while under a tight deadline. This requires the ability to connect the dots from seemingly disparate information sources. It also requires adaptability, flexibility, and resourcefulness to get things done.

 “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

This next decade’s business buzzword, Adaptability Quotient (AQ), is replacing Emotional Intelligence (EQ), as the next key skill needed for leaders to thrive in this quickly changing business world. AQ is the ability to adapt to and thrive in an environment of change. Force Multipliers are already one step ahead (naturally). Generalists by nature, experience, and practice, they are some of the most adaptable and resourceful employees in your organization.

Executive Assistant perhaps more aptly stands for “Everything And,” which often means it is an uphill battle to explain the role and the exact value the position brings. This is a barrier Adam and I are committed to breaking down with our book and blog! Over the years, I have come to believe that this (our ability to handle anything and everything) is actually our secret weapon. In turn, this means Force Multipliers are naturally the visionary’s and CEO’s weapon of choice when it comes time to battle. Business and leadership are hard. This is a question that you should ask yourself from time to time, “Who do you want next to you when you go to war?” Nine times out of ten, the answer is a Force Multiplier.

Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff – own your position as generalists. It is what will set you apart. Those skills and varied interests will continue to help you navigate the business landscape, bringing ideas and teams together to help your organization and Exec grow. Visionaries – go find your Force Multiplier. Or, if you already have one, take a closer look at their vast knowledge and skill set and bring them to the table. Their unique perspective and insights may just be the thing you need to come out on top where adaptability and change is not only needed, but required.

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