THE BLOG

Leaders Light Fires Under Backsides and in Bellies in Equal Measure

12/05/2015 11:42 BST | Updated 11/05/2016 10:59 BST

We all know the promises that technology has made. An easier life. A more productive life. A balanced one. But the truth is, the modern working environment is tougher than ever. And not just for employees. Leaders are under constant pressure to take what they've got and make it go further for longer. And that's no small feat.

As ever, the solution lies in communication - with colleagues and with staff. But even that is trickier in today's modern world, when many of us can barely get through a meeting, never mind a day, without checking our device of choice. When speaking with Halley Bock, President and CEO of Fierce, Inc., the company behind the best-selling book Fierce Conversations, she stressed that the importance of meaningful communication is even greater in modern workplaces - where employees may not even speak face-to-face.

"New leaders are entering a work environment that can often be impersonal, with employees working remotely, primarily communicating electronically, and rarely meeting with co-workers," said Bock. "A leader's ability to connect can be seriously compromised. Constant, dedicated development of interpersonal skills, such as soliciting perspectives, building teams, and actively listening is crucial in the modern working world."

The effort is well worth it. It is through communication that we can bring out the best in our teams. But many of us are failing to do that. In her book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman found that managers draw on only 66% of their employees' capabilities, leaving a staggering 34% of energy and intelligence untapped. Using data from over 150 leaders, she challenges leaders to go beyond themselves. Good leadership is not about demonstrating your own strengths, she argues, it is about bringing out the strengths in others. It is not about being a genius, it is about being a "genius maker".

And here's where it gets really interesting. Imagine a spectrum. "Multipliers", who motivate others to operate at their fullest capacity, are at one end. "Diminishers," who drain energy and ideas, are at the other. Most people fall somewhere around the middle. Where we want to be is multiplying. This doesn't mean being overly nice. Not at all. Multipliers push. They stretch. They interrogate. And in doing so, they risk being disliked for the greater good - to light fires under backsides and in bellies in equal measure.

No matter what challenges we face, making the most of our greatest assets always comes down to strong leadership. In other words, we've got no one to blame but ourselves. The value you get from your team is more than the abilities they collectively possess, but how much you access and use them. Refreshingly, Wiseman promises her readers that leaders should settle for nothing less than 100%. Best of all, she makes it sound easy.