Be a Multiplier

This post is a transcription of a session I led as part of a corporate mentorship program. The session discussed how to increase your impact by being a multiplier. 

Multipliers vs. Diminishers

Many of the ideas in this session come from the book Multipliers by Liz Wiseman, who explored why some leaders create genius all around them while other leaders drain intelligence and capability from an organization.

The research outlined the five key differentiators between Diminishers and Multipliers. A multiplier is someone who uses his or her intelligence to amplify and bring out the smarts and capabilities of those around them. A diminished is the multiplier’s evil counterpart who always needs to be the smartest guy in the room and shuts everyone else down.

There is a big difference in how each of these types sets the direction. Diminishers tend to be know-it-alls in how they set direction. They base strategy on their insight. They only see what they know and then never ask their company to do something other than that. In this way, they limit what’s possible in an organization because their business can only take on something they have an answer to or know how to do.

In contrast, multipliers play the role of challenger. They ask big strategic questions and contribute what they know about the markets and trends to frame the organization’s challenge. They ask questions that make the organization stretch and take on something that seems impossible but frame it in a way that makes it possible.

Take a second to reflect on your own experience with Multipliers – those leaders who made you feel smart – and with Diminishers – those leaders who drained your intelligence. How did their actions, assumptions, and results differ?

So what makes a multiplier?

  • Know How You Show Up
    Multipliers have a strong sense of self-awareness. They act in line with the organizational culture and values. They develop high levels of emotional intelligence, create psychologically safe environments, use tools like 360-degree feedback instruments, and recognize when they are falling into Accidental Diminisher traps.
  • Know Your Business
    Multipliers are strong business people in addition to strong leaders. They understand their markets, their customers (and their realities), the global stage in which they operate, and how we keep score (financial acumen).
  • Liberate Talent
    Talent liberators attract, engage, and inspire others while creating an intense environment that requires their team’s best thinking and work. They use systems and processes to set clear expectations, manage performance, and provide the proper resources for their team’s success.
  • Develop Talent
    Multipliers understand the native genius of each team member. They coach, influence, and provide feedback to maximize performance and growth. They also create opportunities that cause people to stretch.
  • Make Quality Decisions
    Multiplier leaders understand the situational nature of decisions and know the tools and traps that are inherent to a successful resolution. They align with the priorities of the organization and, when appropriate, empower others and encourage rigorous debate.
  • Navigate Complexity
    Multipliers see the “big picture,” and they can create a line of sight for their teams. They adeptly lead and manage others through organizational change. They foster and inspire others to innovate while staying agile.

So, I’m saying that technical acumen alone does not make you a multiplier. Take a critical look at your own actions and try to identify where you are on the Multiplier / Diminisher spectrum. How can you move more towards being a multiplier?

The next couple of sections are intended to be a bit of activity. I picked four areas (technical, collaboration, communication, flexibility/adaptability), and I want to hear from you – which of these do you think is most critical? What qualities are missing from each?


Important technical qualities include:

  • Writing good quality code
  • Writing reusable code
  • Giving meaningful code reviews
  • Having a strong understanding of the tech stack
  • Resolving bugs
  • Breaking down complex work
  • Using good architectural practices and patterns
  • Learning new technologies quickly
  • Writing clear documentation


Important collaboration qualities include:

  • Resolving conflicts within a team
  • Resolving conflicts across teams
  • Creating healthy feedback loops
  • Brainstorming and knowledge sharing
  • Sharing wins
  • Building trust
  • Asking for assistance
  • Efficient delegation


Important communication qualities include:

  • Clear documentation
  • Bringing up blockers early
  • Responding to customers
  • Asking why and understanding context
  • Informing stakeholders
  • Stating ideas clearly
  • Resolving conflicts peacefully
  • Sharing knowledge


Important flexibility qualities include:

  • Staying calm
  • Accomodating new requirements
  • Planning for interruptions
  • Solving challenging problems
  • Considering other options
  • Accepting feedback
  • Accepting change

How to be a multiplier

  • Be proactive:
    • Anticipate blockers – This can be challenging to figure out. It involves fleshing out the problem space quite a bit and being aware of the surroundings. Do a spike, dig into the code or the problem space.
    • Leave it better than you found it – Something annoying you? Are old feature flags hanging around? Some refactoring that needs to be done? How can you solve these issues now instead of continuing to kick the can down the road?
  • Know your team:
    • What are your team members’ skills? What do they “own”? Who wants to grow, and in what areas? What are they working on? What scares them, and what are they confident in? What motivates them?
    • Knowing this and keeping it in your mind can help unblock other team members and other teams. It lets you bridge gaps and can help you become recognized as a point of contact for your area of the organization. It can also help you to delegate tasks.
    • For example, I worked with someone at my last company who was scared of taking the initiative to make decisions. If you give them a clear directive, they can take action and knock it out of the park. But they don’t trust their own decision-making process. Helping them build their confidence in their thought process and ability to make decisions is key to helping them be as productive as they can be. Sometimes this is just giving them a thumbs up on a suggested approach; sometimes, it’s digging into why they’re concerned or scared to help them build or find contingency plans.
  • Improve processes in and around your team:
    • It’s easy to complain about things that aren’t useful or aren’t working – but you’re also allowed to change them!
    • Your team – is there something not working well in standup, planning, or the way you are working together?Your department – are you aware of what’s happening across the department? Are the department rituals working, eg demos? How could your team work better with other teams?
  • Get shit done (as a team):
    • Diminishers are the decision-maker. They are quick to determine what should happen and isolate themselves within an inner circle of trusted advisers. Their point of view is that the smart people in the know should make the decisions, and the rest of the company should execute them. The problem with this is that the diminisher thinks they are being effective and agile because they are making rapid decisions. But the rest of the company is struggling to understand why these decisions were made, so they are slow to execute.
    • Multipliers tend to be debate makers. They frame a decision with, “Here are the key questions,” and then assemble brainpower and key players to weigh in on the topic. It may take longer to make the decisions, but because everyone has had their voice heard and has insight into why something is being implemented, the decisions are executed more intelligently and rapidly.


Reflect on what it means to be a multiplier and complete the following exercise.

  1. Identify one thing that you can do in the next week or month to be a multiplier.
  2. Come up with a concrete next step.
  3. Share this with someone on your team and hold yourself accountable.

The Importance of Mentorship: Building the Mentoring Relationship (Part IV)

Previously discussed topics were the importance of mentoring and leadership, as well as the roles of a mentor and roles of a mentee. To view the entire series:

This post will dive into what is required to build the mentoring relationship. I’m going to take a different approach this time; instead of writing a bunch of paragraphs, I am going to summarize the phases of the mentoring relationship by using an outline. Let’s see how this goes!

At the beginning of the mentoring relationship, the mentor and mentee should discuss how the partnership should be structured. Regardless of whether the mentoring relationship takes a formal structure, there are typically a few phases that take place:


  • Building rapport
    • In this phase the mentor and mentee are exploring whether or not they can work together.
    • Simply get acquainted with one another (number of years in the industry, technical skillset, common skills, similar career paths, etc.)
    • Determine purpose of relationship and establish expectations.
    • Active listening, being respectful, being open and honest help build reciprocal trust in this stage.
  • Setting direction
    • This phase is all about setting goals. Once there is rapport and the relationship has established its sense of purpose, then determine what should be achieved.
    • Discuss the overall mentoring goals; for example, the following questions could be asked:
      • What are your visions and career aspirations?
      • Where is your career right now?
      • What are your strengths, weaknesses?
      • What is your behavioral style?
      • What is your leadership style?
      • What are your top three goals?
      • How can the mentoring relationship help to build new technical skills, explore new ideas, forge a new career path, expand your network, etc.?
    • If this is a formal mentoring process, a “Mentoring Partnership Agreement” could be established to determine clear goals, roles, and responsibilities, as well as setting a schedule.
  • Recap and progress
    • Recap the mentoring sessions at the end of each session. Also consider reviewing the progress between sessions at the beginning of the session.
    • The progression piece is typically the longest of all the phases. This phase can be perpetual depending on the length of the mentoring relationship.
    • Work together to accomplish the established goals.

Qualities of a successful mentoring relationship:

  • Articulation – the mentor should be able to help the mentee articulate their feelings, thoughts and ideas. The mentee may still be learning this skill.
  • Listening – both the mentee and the mentor should exhibit active listening skills.
  • Respect – without respect, the relationship will not achieve a level of openness required for successful mentoring.
  • Goal clarity – both the mentee and mentor need to have a clear understanding of the mentee’s objectives. It would also be good for the mentee to know the mentor’s goals in order for the relationship to be more reciprocal.
  • Challenging – the mentee and mentor should both be challenged during this relationship.
  • Self-awareness – the mentor should be proactive and insightful in order to appropriately guide the mentee using his or her own experience. The mentee should be self-aware in order to be able learn from the mentor’s example and advice.
  • Commitment to learning – both the mentor and the mentee should be learning and growing as a part of this relationship.
  • Reflection / preparation – a common reason why mentoring relationships fail is because one party or both fails to invest time preparing for or carrying through with the time investment.


The Importance of Mentoring: The Roles of the Mentee (Part III)

Previously discussed was the importance of mentoring and leadership, as well as the roles of a mentor. This post will cover the various responsibilities of the mentee. To view the entire series:

Studies have shown that mentors typically select their protégés based on performance and potential. Mentors will continue to invest in the relationship when mentees use their time well and are truly open to feedback.

Often when we think of a mentor/mentee relationship, it is associated with a senior/subordinate relationship. This does not need to be the case. I have learned as much from my peers as I have those in a higher position than me. Do not hesitate to reach out to a peer! It may be easier to establish a mutual mentorship relationship between peers than with a superior.


Last week’s post covered the roles of a mentor. There are also responsibilities relegated to the mentee as well. A few include:

  • Continuous Learner: take advantage of this opportunity to learn. Be inquisitive; ask questions! But also look for ways to give back to your mento It’s not impossible to think that a mentor may also learn from the mentee. Learning can be a mutual experience and the mentor/mentee relationship can and should be symbiotic.
  • Be Timely: very few mentors have time for excessive hand-holding. Most are dealing with their own high stress jobs and long hours. A mentee that is positive and uses their precious time wisely working to solve problems (rather than complain about work) can be a bright spot in the day. Do your research before reaching out to your mentor. Do not waste their time with something that could have been easily googled.
  • Be Open: mentees have a lot more than just career advice to gain in a mentorship relationship. Mentors can also speak about education, motivation, and work-life balance. Find out from your mentor what he/she sees as the key points to long-term success and happiness.
  • Be Serious: demonstrate that you are eager for counsel by implementing the advice your mentor gave, showing the result, and then going back for more. So, if your mentor suggests you get on project X, get yourself on that project, and do a good job. Then report back to your mentor that you are grateful for the advice because you were able to learn a lot. Your mentor will be much more willing to give you their time and energy after you have proven yourself to be a quick and eager study.
  • Synergizer: a benefit of mentorship, or really any great conversation, with a trusted colleague is that new ideas are forged. Capture those ideas and capitalize on them!
  • Initiator/Relationship Driver: in the military, many times you are officially assigned a mentor, however, this is typically not the case in a corporate work environment. If you feel like you need help, it is your responsibility to reach out and get assistance! Identify the skills, knowledge, and goals that you are seeking to achieve and discuss with your mentor. Walking up and asking a stranger to be your mentor will rarely work. However, approaching a stranger will a pointed, well thought out question can yield results. Initiate with a superior in your office or someone familiar in the community or even a peer.

As mentioned earlier, mentorship is typically more reciprocal than it may appear. The mentee may receive a more direct type of assistance but the mentor benefits as well. There is a stronger sense of purpose, a sense of pride, and useful information exchanged. When mentorship is done correctly, everybody flourishes.

The Importance of Mentoring: The Many Roles of the Mentor (Part II)

Previously discussed was the importance of mentoring, as well as how mentoring and leadership are intertwined. This post will cover the many roles of the mentor. To view the entire series:

I have been fortunate to be on the receiving end of more than one great mentor and have served as a formal and informal mentor to others. The long-term impact of mentoring can be career changing, perhaps even life changing.

My mentors never “coached” me, but instead challenged me, encouraged me, and acted as a source of wisdom when I needed it most. I carry their impact through my work today. When I’m faced with difficult questions or decisions, I think back on the lessons learned through the years and then take action.


There are several roles and/or responsibilities that a mentor can assume. The role(s) the mentor will assume depends on the needs of the mentee and the type of relationship established. These roles can be combined and potentially evolve as the association between mentor and mentee develops. Your mentor may not assume all of these roles. Some roles include:

  • Teacher – the mentor teaches skills and knowledge required to perform a job successfully.
  • Guide – the mentor helps the mentee to understand how to navigate and understand the inner workings of an organization. Sometimes this may include passing on information about any unwritten expectations or rules for success.
  • Counselor – this definitely requires establishment of trust in the mentoring relationship. The mentor listens to work situations and provides guidance to help the mentee find his/her own solutions and improve his/her own problem solving skills.
  • Motivator – a mentor shows support and encouragement to help a mentee through the tough times and keeps the mentee focused on developing job skills to improve performance, self-respect, and an improved sense of self-worth.
  • Advisor – a mentor helps the mentee to develop professional interests and set realistic career goals. Goals should be specific, have a time frame, and be results oriented, relevant, and reachable.
  • Referral Agent – once a career plan is developed, the mentor assists the mentee in approaching others who can provide training, information, and assistance. The mentor also points the mentee to relevant career-enhancing schools, courses, books, reading, professional organizations, and self-improvement activities.
  • Role Model – the mentor is a living example for the mentee to emulate. A mentor must lead and teach by example. To me, this is the most important role.
  • Door Opener – the mentor opens doors of opportunity by helping establish a network of professional contacts both within and outside an organization. The mentor also helps the mentee understand the importance of networking with seniors, peers, and juniors to exchange information, ideas, and concerns.

A mentor can be a difference maker in your life and career. It’s important to approach the relationship with an open mind and to set proper expectations.

The next post will cover the roles of a mentee.

The Importance of Mentorship: Interlacing Leadership and Mentoring (Part I)

Today’s young employees are tomorrow’s future leaders. As a leader, there is an obligation to help the future by training and mentoring tomorrow’s leader.

The benefits of mentorship are well known: those less experienced receive feedback, insight, and support from someone more experienced. The mentor acts as a guide who can offer impartial support and advice.


Leadership and mentoring go hand-in-hand. Effective leadership guides and provides an example for those subordinate. Additionally, a leader should be spending one-on-one time with subordinates to guide to the next level in their career…beyond just semi-yearly performance reviews.

Leadership skills develop over time; it is not something that people are born with. Leadership is action, not a billet or position. An effective leader knows his or her strengths and weaknesses, and is capable of maximizing all of them. A leader knows how to manage conflict and understands the political culture and how to navigate it for best results. Leaders and mentors share many of the same qualities; all the aforementioned qualities also apply to a mentor.

Mentoring is the link between a junior and someone more experienced for the purpose of career development and personal growth. This is accomplished through sharing knowledge and insights learned over the years. Mentoring is more personal and is relationship-based; the mentor shares his or her own experiences, insight, and knowledge with the mentee. Effective mentorship isn’t about focusing on a specific skill and how to improve it —it’s about the mentee’s overall growth.

Too often there is a difference between someone who holds a leadership position and that of an effective leader. Leadership is a topic about which I deeply care. My time in the military allowed me to experience different styles of leadership as I developed my own skills and styles. In my opinion, leadership is not about the leader, but rather it is about those being led. The success of a leader is reflected in the morale and welfare of the subordinates: whether or not those you lead are better off as a result of your leadership. If you assume a leadership role, you automatically inherit the responsibility for the care, well-being, career growth and supervision of those in your charge. This is not a burden of leadership– this is your privilege. To be blunt, if you cannot or will not become a good mentor then you do not have any business being a leader or in a leadership position.

With that being said, the onus of mentorship is just as much on the mentee as it is the mentor. The mentee can initiate the beginning of a mentorship relationship! Sometimes, you just have to reach out to someone and say something similar to:

  • “I listened to your presentation during the VMUG and I think that you are a good public speaker. I’d like to do that one day, what do I need to do to get there?”
  • “I want to transition my career into IT security, can you give me some advice?”

Though, truthfully, the strongest mentorship relationships spring out of a real and typically earned connection between a leader and a subordinate.

This is the first post of a series that I will be posting regarding mentorship. Be prepared! I’ll be posting once a week for four weeks (along with some regularly scheduled technical content) until the blog series is finished.