How to Empower Others with Minimal Effort

In the last post, we introduced the five types of leaders that negatively impact their organisations without knowing it. Even with the best of intentions in mind, good-hearted, nice people shut others down without knowing it. They have no clue they’re creating a diminishing impact on their organisation — they are accidental diminishers.

To fix this, we don’t need to change our entire personality or leadership style. That’s unrealistic.

To make a significant change and start to multiply the positive impact we have on our organisations, we need to string together as many multiplier moments as possible. That usually involves doing something quite small.

Here’s my challenge to you: How can you create more multiplier moments each day? Each week? Each year?

Let me share a few ideas:

The Extreme Question Challenge

If you’re an Idea Guy, take The Extreme Question Challenge. I didn’t find this challenge on my own. The extreme question challenge found me.

About 12 years ago, I was running a corporate university. It was a big job, but nothing compared to my job at home.

At home, I had three small children — ages six, four, and two. In other words, bedtime equals chaos.

Complaining at work one day, I told my friend, “I don’t feel like a good parent. I feel like I’m constantly telling my kids what to do. I’m always barking orders. I’m like a dictator in my own home.”

I wasn’t looking for coaching, but he offered it.

He said, “Why don’t you try asking your children questions? In fact, do nothing but ask questions.”

“Impossible! I get home at 6:00. They go to bed at 8:30. That’s two and a half hours! That’s ridiculous!”

He shrugged, “I know.”

His response was just enough to annoy me into taking the challenge. But I decided that if I took this challenge, I would go big. Not a single statement would come out of my mouth that night.

Dinner was interesting. Playtime was more interesting.

And at bedtime, the impossible happened.

At 8:30, I asked, “What time is it?”

They knew it was bedtime.

Then came the string of Q&A.

“What happens first at bedtime? Who needs help putting on pyjamas? Who’s going to be the first to brush their teeth? Is your toothbrush wet? (The real test to see if they did it!) What story are we going to read tonight? Who’s going to read the story?

At the end of story time, I asked, “What happens after storytime?”

The little angels replied, “We say prayers, Mom.”

Finally, I asked, “Who’s ready for bed?”

“Me!!!!!” they said.

It was as if they had waited all day for this moment.

They got in their beds, stayed in their beds, and went to sleep.

I was in shock.

I stood in the hallway, alone, with nothing to do except wonder, “How long have they known how to do this? Last night, they seemed like little bedtime idiots! Tonight they’re sleep-geniuses!”

When I shifted into the mode of asking the questions, my kids knew the answers.

I kept this up for three nights. On the last night, a work epiphany struck me: Perhaps the people who work for me don’t really need me telling them what to do either. What would happen if I asked the questions and let the people around me find the answers?

It completely changed the way I led.

There are several other challenges you could take too.

The Poker Chip Challenge

The poker chip challenge is where you contribute your opinions in small but intense doses. You’ll notice that when you play your chips sparingly, not only do others become more vocal, but when you speak, your voice is heard more clearly.

The Supersize Challenge

Maybe you supersize someone’s job. Think about it like buying kids’ shoes. We don’t buy them to fit, we buy big enough so the kids have room to grow.

An friend of mine used to tell his little girl when she complained about her feet flopping around in shoes that were too big, “Suck it up, Princess.”

I’ve had bosses tell me the same thing. They gave me a big job, told me to suck up the frustrations, and I grew into my role.

Making The Shift

In 1974, Philippe Petit famously strung a cable between the then standing World Trade Towers. He crossed 150 feet of wire, 1500 feet in the air. The photo I like the most isn’t Petit standing in the middle of wire — it’s the photo of him taking his first step.

He described his first step onto the cable, saying, “Both feet were on the cable. My back foot was still over the building and my front foot was over the expanse — and all my weight was on my back foot. I had to make a decision. Do I shift my weight? Something called me out on that cable and I just shifted my weight forward. That’s all.”

With his weight on the front foot, the rest of was easy. It was more play than work. The hard part was making the shift.

What shift might you make that would allow you to be more of a multiplier? When you shift your weight, you invite others to shift their weight too. That’s where we truly get the multiplier effect.

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