Liz Wiseman Transcript 2

Clint Betts

Liz, thank you so much for coming on. We've had you come speak at a number of Silicon Slopes events at Silicon Slopes Summit, and you're always the highest rated speaker, you've become this incredible keynote author, thought leader. Incredible, just a leader when it comes to leadership, which must be interesting to you. You're like a leader of leaders.

Liz Wiseman

Yeah, I don't really consider myself an expert on leadership. Sometimes people say that, but I think of myself as kind of a student of just trying to figure it out. And yeah, I think I have just a lot of questions about what makes a good leader, and why, and people who seem like good leaders, but actually do a lot of damage. I don't know, it's just something I've been curious about. So I see myself as kind of a postdoc grad student who just can't seem to leave college on this topic.

Clint Betts

And you had a number one New York Times bestseller, Multipliers. It was about how do the best leaders make everyone smarter? So maybe that would be a good place to start for this audience and for the CEO.com community, is how do the best leaders make everyone smarter?

Liz Wiseman

There's probably two short ways I can explain this. One is they make other people smarter by not needing to be the smartest person at the table. And don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being smart. And if you asked me to describe my ideal leader, someone I would want to work with or for, I want to work with someone who's brilliant, but someone who's confident enough in their own intelligence, they're comfortable inhabiting their intelligence, to the point where like, "Yeah, I'm brilliant. And I'm over it. So I can spend my time..." I want people on the other side, questioning their brilliance, like "I get it, I'm a bit of a genius, I have a lot of talent. Now what I can do is not need to prove that every day and spend my time trying to see and use and grow the intelligence of others." We make other people smarter by not having to focus entirely on our own intelligence.

And, boy, if I can sum up what I've learned from writing Multipliers and sharing Multipliers as a book, is that what these leaders do is bring out the best in others. When I look at all the practices and the mindsets, I can kind of boil it down to two and a half words. So it's like, you know what, skip the book, just two and a half words down and you've got it: is safety and stretch. And “is” that little half word, but what the best leaders do is they create a safe environment. And we've heard a lot about psychological safety and inclusion, belonging, and they create safe places for people to experiment and take risks and to speak up and speak truth to power, people feel appreciated. That's a great place to work.

But if you've ever worked for someone who's all safety, no stretch, you know that that is not a great place to work. Like "Hey, Liz, we appreciate you," and it's great to be appreciated, but if no one ever asked you to do anything hard or pushes you or challenges you, kind of kicks you out of your comfort zone, that's not really a place you're going to do great work.

And so they balance that with stretch, challenge, hard questions, holding people accountable, high expectations. There are leaders who are comfortable inviting other people to be uncomfortable. So it's like they create a comfortable work environment with the intention of making that an uncomfortable work environment. Yeah, because you can't be uncomfortable until you first feel comfortable. Yeah, so it's like getting this equilibrium between safety and stretch, like in the long arc, but also in a given meeting, how do you make it safe for people to speak up? But then how do you create enough stretch so that people don't just speak up with the old flat thinking?

Clint Betts

Let me ask you this. I'm sure you've been following the news around Basecamp, which is like a project management software company who banned political discussions from the workplace. Coinbase is actually probably a more prominent example of that actually, a really big cryptocurrency company. What are your thoughts on stuff like that? When you see something like that, do you see that as a failure of leadership that they couldn't control? They couldn't do this equilibrium that's needed that you're describing around safety and stretch, or is it just them punting? Or is it like, why would you talk about those things? I actually don't know.

Liz Wiseman

Well, it's one of these things that might seem smart on the surface, but may be misguided in the long run. And I think there's a whole set of these things we're doing at a societal level. Because in the name of inclusion and belonging and safety, we say things like, "Ooh, these are topics that we shouldn't... these are words we shouldn't use, these are topics that we shouldn't use." But the danger is if you don't give people a place to express themselves, that has to go somewhere, and it tends to go underground.

Let me just speak from my experience, not as a leader, not as a contributor, but as a parent. A school started to say, "Well, okay, here are some acceptable behaviors, here's acceptable topics, here's acceptable points of view." I've had an experience where I had a kid who said some things. In teenage years, where you're kind of like working it out and trying to figure out the world and who you are, and said some things. Suspended from school, not vilified, but kind of pariah-like.

And it's like, "Wait a minute, how do you help people work through their beliefs on things and learn how to be thoughtful and sensitive and see multiple perspectives if you never get to talk about what you're seeing or thinking?" And I think we end up pushing a lot of things underground. I think politically, we've seen a backlash that has happened in our nation where people feel like certain things are undiscussable, certain ideas are taboo, are unacceptable, are deplorable, whatever. Then it's like, "Well, that goes somewhere." It's going to go somewhere and—

Clint Betts

Yeah, it's not like we stopped talking about those things or people don't stop thinking. Yeah, I hear what you're saying. It kind of goes underground. Do you think it's stunting growth?

Liz Wiseman

And then it comes up.

Clint Betts

Yeah, is it stunting our growth as a society and our ability to learn and our ability to be comfortable with being uncomfortable?

Liz Wiseman

Well, I think it is, and let me go back to my experience as a parent, I'm like, "Wait a minute, if my kid has said something that made someone uncomfortable, can we not use this as a chance to educate about the consequences of that and explore it?" Which is what we did as a family. And it was a really positive outcome, but there was this knee jerk reaction of, "Okay, now we need to take legislative action and we need to file a police report," or whatever. And it's like, "Wait a minute, I'm so oriented towards like, 'Can we not just learn from these experiences?'"

And so I would want our workplace to be similar where I would want to work on a team where people could speak their mind. Not in a way like, "I think this..." But explore issues from multiple angles and debate and kind of prosecute issues and people can speak truth to power, and people can have diverse points of view. We do better work and we make better decisions, so sterilizing the work environment seems like what you do when you can't figure out how to create a place where people can talk intelligently about diverse opinions and perspectives. So it's like, "Yeah, okay, I guess that's what we do when we can't do what we really need to do." But surely there are consequences to this?

Clint Betts

Yeah, it felt to me like it was when these were coming out. And there's probably, I have no idea, right, I've never led a company like Coinbase, that growth, that number of employees, what's going on in their internal communications, that type of stuff. And they may like, "Hey, we just need to focus on building this product. This is getting out of hand." I don't know. But it did feel like it was a punt, like it was just punting. Like, "Let's just get rid of this," as though it's going to go away. Like you said, if we just say you can't talk about it, then no one's going to talk about it. But that's not true. It's just going to go underground.

Liz Wiseman

Okay, so now let me argue the other side of it, which is I understand the punt. Because in my mind, and my ideal space, we should be able to learn from everyone. So I study leadership, I write about leaders and good leadership. And I like to use a wide variety of examples when I do that, and I always think, "Oh, having a wide variety of examples is helpful." And I've seen comments from readers, which is, "I can't believe you used this person in your book." I think there's times I've included examples of like, Barack Obama, President Obama, President Bush, Mitt Romney, there're stories I've told about the Israeli military, and I've gotten people saying, like, "How dare you? That's a terrible person. That's a terrible organization. Those people are idiots. So why would you use him as an example of good leadership?"

And I was like, "Did they not read the part of the book that says, 'Hey, I've included some diverse things. I encourage you to learn from people, even those with whom you disagree.'" And that's all Susie Sunshine. And I remember there was this one in particular, it was from a country, and there were several people who were saying, like, "We hate this example, because we shut down instantly when we hear it." I faced a decision: do I leave that in, or do I change that? Because when people shut down instantly, then the learning can't occur. So those go back to Basecamp and the others. It's like, if you get people who are so entrenched and polarized that just the mere mention of certain ideas is triggering. Well, you need to create an environment where people can think and do good work. And if people get agitated, triggered, and when people shut down immediately, then learning stops.

So really, where does the onus sit? In some ways, it sits on all of us to not shut down. And so I don't know if the answer is companies should have this policy or that policy, it's like, how do we bring enough of an open mind to our work that we can learn, even when we hear things we disagree with? And that seems so simple, why can't we do that?

Clint Betts

I know, but it's—

Liz Wiseman

What do you think? What's going on?

Clint Betts

I don't know. When I look at what Basecamp has done and what Coinbase has done, I'm not sure what I would do in that situation, because we are more polarized now, that seems like a fact, right? And to me, it's odd to talk politics at work. But I don't talk about politics not at work, right? And so that's not—I don't do that. And so I would find it odd if somebody came to me with a political point of view or something at work, I'd be like, "Did you see the Bills game last night?” I just wouldn't feel comfortable talking about politics, mostly because I don't know anything about politics. But it seems like if you're building project management software, if we take Basecamp, for example, and you're trying to solve inside of Basecamp, with a team of like, 50 people, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I'm not sure that's useful use of everyone's time there, right? I'm not sure that anyone is looking to Basecamp to solve that problem. So I see when, I believe his name is Jason Fried, the CEO of Basecamp, when he puts out like, "Hey, we can't solve this problem. We build project management software." It's like, "Yeah, that makes sense. No one's looking to you to solve that problem, either."

But I wonder if that's true. It does seem like corporations are becoming more respected. There's polling on this, even. Corporations and corporate leaders are becoming more respected and more looked to to solve societal issues than they ever have previously. And politicians, people are not looking to them as much as they used to. Does that make sense?

Liz Wiseman

It does, and I think this is a solid observable trend in that corporations have become our de facto public policymakers that, for whatever reason, for a number of reasons, our lack of trust in our government institutions to be creating social policy. We've defaulted on that. It's defunct. So corporations have stepped into that space, and they've done it, I think, primarily, as a recruiting tool to say, "This is what we value, this is what we stand for." And often in the name of inclusivity, or policies. But what's happened now is our companies are becoming the policymakers, and the heads of these companies are becoming hostage to the activism of the employee base, which I think is a dangerous position to be in. In some ways, there's something really good when our biggest corporations are active in the social agenda and the political agenda and business policy.

But we have to remember they have an interest that they're serving. And what happens when you become hostage to the whims of your employee base? Let me go back to parenting. I don't know if I understand politics, but there are a couple things I understand. I understand being a parent. My husband is a lot nicer than I am. And we have four kids, and he would say to the kids, "Hey, what do you want for lunch?" Well, this one wants a BLT, and this one wants  this,  macaroni cheese. And I'm like, "No, no, no, when you start catering to the personal opinions of each child, you can't win that." I'm like, "Kids, we are having turkey sandwiches for lunch, come to lunch." What if I was, as a parent, trying to create a popularity contest, which is I am catering to the opinions of my kids, like, "Hey, kids, what do you want for dinner? Do you want ice cream? Or do you want lasagna?" So all of these things have consequences. And I think we have to be careful about catering to whims, like, "Oh, gee, that opinion hurt my feelings. Let's not have it in the workplace." And how do we—

Clint Betts

That's interesting. Let me give you a real-world example that's somewhere along the lines of what we're talking about here. And it's coming up, it's happening to me right now. So I'm going to get your advice on this. We're holding a big event through Silicon Slopes, which is a nonprofit that we run in the state of Utah, in October. And right now in the state of Utah, you don't have to wear a mask, you don't have to be vaccinated. In fact, they're one of the states that are actively passing laws so you can't do things like that, right? So ironically, and strangely, and I've been having this, I'm in the middle of this right now. So it's top of mind.

Liz Wiseman

Ever thought you would be dealing with this issue? Three years ago, you could have never imagined that this would be such an issue.

Clint Betts

Yeah, so we want to make a safe, obviously, healthy event. We want those who were vaccinated to be able to come, those who aren't vaccinated to show a negative COVID test, wear a mask, everyone safe, all this type of stuff. What blows my mind in this that I still can't wrap my head around is that I'm making that call. Isn't that odd? And that kind of goes back to this corporate leadership that we're looking for. Because the government has basically said, in the state of Utah, like, "Ooh..."

Liz Wiseman

Messy of an issue.

Clint Betts

Yeah, they're like, "We're not going to say you have to mandate, we're not going to do all this type of stuff." So now it's up to me, and what do I know about—

Liz Wiseman

How did I end up making this decision about public health?

Clint Betts

Yeah, I'm like, "I don't know anything about public health." So we're talking to the state health department, this county health department as much as we can, but we were like, "We want to follow your guidelines. What should we be doing? How do we do this so that it's safe? How do we do this so all the speakers who come in, the attendees, all this type of stuff is safe?" And a lot of the time, it's really like washing the hands. And so it's real. We were having a conversation as a board, and it's like, "Isn't it weird that we're deciding if people need maks."

Clint Betts

is deciding if people should wear masks at a place that they're at. That doesn't compute. That would never have computed three years ago, like you said.

Liz Wiseman

Yeah, I kind of hate the word trigger, but I think it's appropriate here is that we are becoming very easily triggered people, that we make a decision and that decision carries so much weight, like, "Well, if you make me wear a mask, then..." There's a whole set of things that go with it. Or if you don't wear a mask, then we just keep loading onto that truck, "Well, then you must be this and that and this." I think we need to start to back those away and treat decisions like this more in isolation, and not just load everything onto it. One of the principles that I've noticed in the best leaders in how they debate is they do it surgically. We're getting this in from public health here. They do it surgically in that they don't load other issues onto it, which if we're going to debate an issue, we're going to debate this issue.

So it's not like you go in for knee surgery, and then the surgical team says, "Oh, well you've got weak ankles, too. And by the way, you could probably use a little tuck and a tighten there. And we're going to do this, and we're going to tune up that." They treat one issue at a time. There's focus there, and I think there's a lot of places where we would benefit from that kind of focus, like, "Let's just look at this issue without loading so much onto it." Boy, I mean, it's a tough decision about what is that role, but as I think about what leaders are... the decisions people are having to make, and some of that triggering the fast associations that we tend to be laying on to things is what we can do is we can just create more transparency, because I think that other people, which is like, "Okay, I don't know what's going on there. So therefore, something nefarious, self-serving, there's some agenda there that I can't see. So I mistrust it." So what can we do? Transparency here, all the issues we looked at, here are the things we wrestled with, here were the pros, here the cons.

I think this can alleviate some of this, but it's the exact opposite of what we tend to do. When things are really confusing and critical, and they're high-stake decisions that have all these sensitivities, those are the things we should open up. But they tend to be the things that we keep closed, like "Ooh, I don't know what the right decision is here. And this is fraught with issues, so let's just sort of make it in a closet. And then let's announce it and then hide it and go back into the closet, because this is surely controversial." Whereas this is what we need to do the exact opposite, which is, "Here were the concerns, here are the people we brought in and why, here's my criteria we established, the issues we wrestled with. And then in the end after all of that, we felt like this was the best thing to do." But we tend to do the opposite.

Clint Betts

Yeah, we tend to... The hard ones—

Liz Wiseman

Because we're scared.

Clint Betts

Yeah, of course. I mean, no matter what we decide and ultimately put out for this event, for example, we're going to get backlash, there will be op-eds written in favor, against for sure, no matter what we do, right? But it makes sense to, I hear what you're saying, to be transparent about, "Here's everything that went into this decision. And our goal at the end of the day is just to have a safe and healthy event. And we're just trying to accomplish that." But the fear’s there, no matter what, anyone who says there isn't fear is lying, as far as I'm concerned, because there's real backlash to these decisions and consequences to the decisions that are high stakes like that.

Liz Wiseman

Clint, I'm going to just share a little observation that I've had as an executive coach, and I find that there's this universal fix to almost every problem. So when executives would tell me like, "Here's what I'm working on, here's what I'm worried about." Like, "Okay, I really need to move this person into this role. But if I move this person into this role, this person is going to feel like they're not a critical part of the team, and there's not a future for them in the organization." Or they're explaining a decision they have to make. And almost all of these, I would find that if I simply said to them—just a little coaching tip for those who might be listening who do some coaching—I'd be like, "Well, what would happen if you explained that to those people?" Like, "Okay, well, if we do this, I'm afraid that one is not going to feel like he's a critical member of the team." I'm like, "Well, have you explained that to him?" "No." "Well, what would happen if you just sat him down and explained your logic?" And he'd be like, "Oh, well, that wouldn't be a problem."

Or there's another executive like, "Okay, you know what, I've really tried to build bench strength, everyone wants me in the meetings, but I really got to build my team, I need to send them off to the meeting." This was at Apple, by the way, and it was a very senior person. And like, "Okay, but if I send this person, they're going to just slaughter him, and then they're going to push back, why weren't you there?" And I'm like, "Well, what would happen if you told them, 'Hey, I'm trying to build the bench strength on my team, and I'm going to be sending in some of the more junior people where I normally would come. And they're going to be a little weak on some things and like, you might be disappointed.'" And then when I checked, he's like, "Yeah, I'm doing that." Checked back, I don't know, two weeks later, I'm like, "How's that going?" He goes, "You know what? Not only did they not attack him, it invoked the mentoring gene. And now suddenly, these people are like, 'Oh, let me help bring up this next person. And let me teach them, let me coach them.'"

And the universal fix on so many of these things that just eat at us is explaining our intent. We're trying to create an environment where people feel safe, physically, but also not encumbered. This is what we are trying to do. This is our intent, and this is what we're considering. But when we explain our intent, because everyone can see the outcome, but no one gets to see our intent. Of course, there's this cliché that we judge others by their actions and we judge ourselves by our intent. This is human nature. That's part of that transparency, like, "Here's what I'm trying,here's what I want to happen for me, for you, for us."

Clint Betts

Yeah, I think transparency is the key in those high-stakes decisions, and it is fascinating that most leaders do the opposite. It really is, like, "We're going to make the announcement and then go hide in the closet and see what backlash we get and see what we have to explain.

Liz Wiseman

And just hope nobody notices. Maybe if I just stick my head down for a day or two it'll pass like a storm.

Clint Betts

You had one of the most fascinating talks I've ever heard at BYU a few years ago where you talked about is there actually more power in not knowing? You must get asked about that talk and I think they call it devotionals if I'm not mistaken, I'm not sure.

Liz Wiseman

Yeah, it was technically a forum, and devotionals I think is what they call for like the church authorities. Forums are for just civilians. People are like, "I listened to your devotional." That was not a devotional, that was a forum, but I think it's all lumped in as devotional, yeah.

Clint Betts

Is there actually more power in not knowing?

Liz Wiseman

I think there can be. I mean, not always, ignorance is not always power, like, "I have no idea what I'm doing." But when we're very aware that we don't know, something happens, and it happens to us, both as leaders and contributors. It's like for leaders, when we know, nobody else has to know. People just follow the boss, the boss has a plan, I'll do that. But when a leader is uncertain—I don't mean waffling, like, "I don't know what we should do." But like, "You know what, we have to decide what our mask policy is, or our vaccination policy is around this really large gathering that affects a lot of people. Here's what I know. But here's what I don't know. And we have to figure it out." When a leader can do that, and I think there's a lot of strength in just saying, "I do know this," so it's not like, "I don't know." It's, "I do know this, I know, A, B, C and D. But I don't know this. And that's what we have to figure it out."

One, it signals to the whole team, like, "Turn your brain on. We have an unsolved problem here. So we are operating without an answer, so we need to find an answer." And then it also signals, "As leader, I don't have the answer. So don't look at me. I just framed the problem. So all of you are going to be part of solving this answer." And it also signals just enough vulnerability and weakness in the leader that people are like, "Oh, you can't do this without me.” And we actually love working for people who can't do things without us. People love being valuable and indispensable. Who wants to work for someone who's got it all figured out? We don't want to work for the lackey leader who's like, "I don't know anything." We want to work for someone who's got a lot figured out, but not everything. Because that's where we get to come in, and we get to play big.

You think about the characters in a movie that you root for, who are the characters you're drawn to? It's not the invincible folks, it's usually people who have a crack somewhere, some hole, something that's just a little bit, I don't know, relatable, and we cheer for them. I think we cheer for leaders who need us. So as a leader, I think there's incredible power when you say, "I don't have all the answers." It puts us in the mode of asking questions and listening and bunch of goodness just follows. And then I think for ourselves, when we're convinced we know something, we go into little performance mode, dictator mode, like, "I got the answers," versus the person who says, like, "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know, for certain." And it just keeps us open. Like, what should the mask policy be for the state of Utah? I don't know. But I can convince myself on almost any issue I know. I'll be like, "Oh, I know what we should do. I know what Utah should do, what California should do. I know what we should do about this." Then I'm like, "I don't know that."

It creates this humility and curiosity and tolerance, and it propels us forward. We don't like staying in a state of not knowing. A state of not knowing is not inherently good. It's what happens. It's how we get out of our state that's valuable. Yeah, so I don't know, maybe it's because I'm just getting older. I'm old. But it's one of those... Maybe it's a cliché that as you get older, you're far more convinced about what you don't know. My youngest son, he's always like, "Mom, are you sure about that?" I'll say something like... He's, "Are you sure about that?" I'm like, "No, of course I'm not sure about it. I think this but I'm not sure." And I would say, like, "Josh, I'm not really sure about anything. Most things I'm not sure about." And he has asked me this so many times, and I'm like, "Josh, once again, no, I'm not sure. But I actually think it's not a bad way to stay."

Clint Betts

How detrimental is—

Liz Wiseman

Even my own research, the things I read about, I'm not so sure about them. I could be wrong.

Clint Betts

Yeah, isn't that interesting? And just the power in that is beautiful that you're not saying you have all the answers. At the beginning of this interview, you just talked about how I'm a student of leadership. I'm not a leader of leaders. I'm studying this, which actually makes you a leader of leaders, which is fascinating to me. But my question to you is, because what you were just describing there was ego, ego getting in the way of actually solving the problem, actually pressing forward, actually progressing. And I wonder if you've thought about how detrimental ego can be in the domain of leadership?

Liz Wiseman

Wow. Yeah, it is the big barrier. I don't know, I mean, I'm not an expert on ego, sort of the psychology of ego, but as a lay person on this, you need a healthy ego to be a leader, like, "Okay, I'm going to make a decision on our COVID mask-vaccination policy," whatever you want to call it for the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit. You need a fairly healthy ego to think that you can make that decision, and to be able to withstand whatever pushback. Whoever's listening to this, go easy on Clint, this is a tough position that he's in.

You know what, cut the man some slack. Whatever position you're in, this is a tough position to make a call on this. But it takes some ego to withstand it, and it's lonely. Serving as an executive coach, one of the things you learn is how lonely it is to be at the so-called top of an organization. You get no feedback, people are your friends, but no one really is your friend. You have to make tough decisions in isolation. You live in an echo chamber. There's so many things that make that a lonely job. And you need a healthy ego to withstand some of the challenges, the blows, the failures that you have to absorb. But yeah, what's too much ego?

Clint Betts

Yeah, this is the thing that's always fascinated me about—

Liz Wiseman

When does that become detrimental?

Clint Betts

Yeah. This is why I'm fascinated with the president of the United States or anyone who raises their hand, says, "I should be president of the United States. I should be the leader of the free world." Man, to get to that place in your head where that should be you is—the psychology of that is so fascinating to me. Where George W. Bush is like, "I'm the decider." Man, I don't know if I like that idea.

Liz Wiseman

Yeah, and because of today's climate, you are saying you want to be the most vilified, least popular person in the world. Like, "I want to be the most hated person," because it's kind of now become an untenable, unwinnable job.

Clint Betts

Oh, for sure.

Liz Wiseman

And I think we've seen the last few administrations, some people love you, other people hate you completely. I think we've changed our views on how we see our presidents and leaders. And I imagine you've seen the research on the jobs where you get the highest levels of like clinically narcissistic and sociopathic kinds of individuals. Did you know the list?

Clint Betts

Yeah.

Liz Wiseman

Very high on this list are CEOs, presidents, politicians, pastors.

Clint Betts

Really?

Liz Wiseman

Nurses and doctors.

Clint Betts

Interesting.

Liz Wiseman

Think about what's common in all of those jobs. I almost want to pull this up. I've seen this so many times in different articles and floating around the internet. What's common across all those jobs?

Clint Betts

It's authority, right?

Liz Wiseman

Yeah, and it's authority, but it's not authority as in a prison warden authority, it's saving, like, "I can fix things, I can save you." It's kind of like this power, but it's kind of this benevolent power of like, "I can show you the way. I can help you, I can save you, I can fix you." And I think we have to be careful about what happens when we go down that path.

Clint Betts

How have you done it? You wrote Multipliers which shot you up, and that must have been amazing to go through that big of a success. How have you managed your life since then? How do you manage what we're talking about here?

Liz Wiseman

Oh, this is so easy. I have four children. So whatever highfalutin’ feedback and praise I get from the world. My kids are like, in fact, my youngest, he's like, "Mom, it's so strange that I know people who think you're so smart. And why is that? I don't know. You're just my dumb mom." So your kids keep you pretty humble. They don't care. In fact, I just wrote this new book. I have four kids, and one of them was working for me for the summer, so she was forced to read it because she got paid to read it. And then I got the galley copies, and I gave one to my 22-year-old son. And he's like, "Yeah, I'd really like to read that." I don't think he's opened it. And then my other daughter, I take it and I leave it on her coffee table. And then I come back like two weeks later, she lives in Utah, I come back, I'm like, "I might have to sneak it to her bedroom, put that on her nightstand." I'm like, "Would you please read the book?"

Then my other kid, I send them off to college, and I'm like, send them off and I'm packing the suitcase. I just packed it right on top. And they're like, "No." It's taken them years to even read it. So it keeps you humble, which is like, you know what, none of that's important.

Clint Betts

Interesting.

Liz Wiseman

It's not the things that drive your most important relationships. And I joke about trying to get my kids to read my book, but not really, they're not going to, or eventually they will but probably when their boss says, "Oh, by the way, you should read this book now." And they're like, "Okay, I guess I have to now." But none of those things, the parts of our jobs that create status or whatever, none of your kids are impressed with that. Because there's a great... I don't know if you've read Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock, he's got an endorsement on the back of it. He's got a bunch of high powered endorsements, and on the bottom of it is an endorsement from... Was it Meredith? Meredith, who's five years old, who just said, "This is a boring book." It's his daughter.

Clint Betts

That's beautiful.

Liz Wiseman

I love that Laszlo put that on his book. Yeah.

Clint Betts

How did you get so good at speaking in front of people? Was that always natural for you? Or how did you develop that skill?

Liz Wiseman

Well, I was kind of born a little bossy, a little mouthy, from a young age. But I'm part of a lay church where you get opportunities to give talks, when you're like, I don't know, you can barely walk and you're given a chance, and so you'd learn to not be afraid of having something to say. You also learn to not be too worried if half of the congregation is sleeping while you're talking. I never went through any formal training, but in my management experience at Oracle, you had to have a point of view and you had to be able to argue it. I work for Oracle, you have to go in and meet with Larry Ellison. You better have your ideas sharpened, or he'll sharpen you, and then just lots of experience.

I'll give you a little tip. This is for anyone listening who has a fear of public speaking. It is so much easier to speak in front of a large group of people than a small group of people. Everyone says, like... In fact, I just heard someone on Tuesday night say, "Oh, I hate public speaking. I can talk in front of like eight people, but a group, that's terrifying." Okay, here's the dirty secret: when you speak in front of a large group of people, nobody is going to interrupt you. Nobody is going to yell, "That's dumb. I disagree. I think you're wrong." That's far more likely to happen in a room with eight people. But in some ways, it's so easy in a large group, there's no reason to be afraid of it. If someone's going to stand up and yell, "You're an idiot, and I disagree," security is probably going to take them out of the room.

Clint Betts

And the rest of the audience is going to come to your defense, just because no one wants to be a part of that.

Liz Wiseman

Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of things I've learned about speaking, and the best speakers aren't great speakers, they create an environment where everyone is thinking, and that's, I think, what I tried to do, is how do you create a discussion? You are the discussion leader, but you are not the only thinker in that room. And the goal is that every seat has thinking happening in it, that it's not a speech on a stage, it's an entire auditorium of people who are thinking hard about tough issues.

Clint Betts

Who are leaders you admire?

Liz Wiseman

Oh, it's such a hard question. There are so many people. One of my favorite leaders is Dow Wilson, who is just now retired as the CEO of Varian, a medical device company. He also happened to be one of my church leaders as a stake president, and in the LDS church, and he's incredibly smart and incredibly competent and talented and organized, but you never feel intimidated by him. He has his way of putting people at ease, but he's not loosey goosey. He's sharp and he runs a major organization. He's one of the people that I've always admired.

Clint Betts

What was Larry Ellison like?

Liz Wiseman

Larry Ellison is as advertised. I get asked a fair bit like, "Is Larry Ellison a diminisher?" And my observation is, yes, to some, and maybe to a lot, but one of my colleagues at Oracle who was also there fairly early on, Dennis Moore said, "With Larry, if he trusted you, there was no greater multiplier." So if you were in his inner circle, and he trusted you, so if he had access to you somehow, he was amazing. And this was my experience, I didn't work closely with him, because Larry spent most of his time on the technology side of the business. But I worked close enough with him that I felt trusted by him. And he gave me big jobs to do, and he created a culture where people like me, right out of school, were suddenly thrust into management roles and given big operations and mega multimillion dollar budgets to run, and he trusted us to do this. I was like, "Man, this is an adult job and what's wrong with him?" And the other people, do they not understand? I wouldn't let someone my age drive my car now. I was like, "Man, he entrusted his enterprise to a bunch of kids, and I was one of them."

And he had high expectations, and he'd show up prepared and he's smart, but he was an incredible learner. I would watch him go into meetings where he didn't know something, and he would come out of that meeting really having... I've watched and listened to people and learned from people. But if he didn't trust you, the roles were a bit flipped, as they said, and he could be very dismissive. It's one of the challenges of leaders who start a small company and then grow it big, like, "Okay, you started with your 10 smartest, most capable buddies, but then when you suddenly have 10,000 people, I don't know about them, where did they come from? What if they didn't graduate from MIT? Can they still write good code? Or are they a bozo?"

So I think it's easy for a leader to get pulled down this path of when you don't know something, you assume some lack of capability or some ill intent. And it's like, how do you hold that assumption, not just for the people you know well, but give everyone a chance to prove that they're smart and capable and well-intended. It's a challenge, because you get these exceptions that pop up to your office like, "Wow, that person did damage to our company, we have to exit them. Who else might be doing damage?"

Clint Betts

How do you deal with diminishers? I know that you've given a whole talk on that. But I only have one other question after this, because I know we're short on time.

Liz Wiseman

Well, how do you deal with diminishers? The short answer is, you do the exact opposite of what you want to do. Do you remember that Seinfeld episode where George Costanza who's constantly bumbling at work, he decides he's going to do the exact opposite of what he thinks he should do?

Clint Betts

Oh, yeah. That's a great episode.

Liz Wiseman

And he's wildly successful? That's what we do with diminishers. Let's say you've got someone who's micromanaging you. What do you want to do? Keep them out of your meetings, keep them out of your work, don't let them look at what you're doing. What happens when you try to keep a control freak out of what you're doing? They double down. What happens when you argue with a know-it-all? What we tend to do is we judge the diminishing leader as ineffective and we're like, "You're doing it wrong, your view of me is wrong. "And we tend to push them away in a pretty judgmental way. Like, "You're not a good leader. I'm keeping you out of my space." But then it just exacerbates the problem. We try to push them away, but what we really should do is pull them close. Not like hold your enemies close, but like, "You know what? You want to have control, come here, let me show you my work. You know what? Come to the meeting, but let me give you a job to do. Frame it, and then let me run it, then you can come in here." Or, "You know what? You're not listening to me, let me listen to you first."

When we do the exact opposite, we almost always get it right. But really the exact opposite is to be a multiplier to them, which doesn't turn them magically into a multiplier. What it does is it just simply changes the dynamic, it builds trust.

Clint Betts

Right. Tell us about this new book?

Liz Wiseman

Well, the new book is a book my children haven't read yet. Other than the one I paid to read it. So the book is called Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact. And what it's looking at is in some ways, it's the other side of the mountain from Multipliers. So Multipliers looks at what can leaders do to create an environment where people are contributing at their fullest? And what I looked at was, well, what's the contributor side of that relationship? And who are the people who are contributing at their fullest and having a major impact? What are they doing differently? Just like we looked at the leaders' mindsets and behaviors, what are the mindsets and behaviors of top contributors? And how are they thinking differently? What are their assumptions? What are some of the small differences in their mental game that caused them to make a big impact?

What I love about this kind of study and this piece of work is the way I was able to build this framework by interviewing managers. And it's like, "Tell me about someone who's having a major impact versus someone who's doing a great job, but both of them need to be smart, talented and hardworking?" So in a room full of equally smart, talented, hardworking, why do some people end up going through the motions and other people bring incredible value and have impact and really make a difference? I want to know, not based on their capability or work ethic, based on their thinking and behavior. I found some really interesting differences. And my hope is that people who are really hard working, but feel like they're not having an impact and feel maybe even exhausted might find some ideas, which is like, "I don't have to work any harder. I don't have to be any more talented. I can't be any smarter than I am. But I want more impact." That they might find a few ideas.

Clint Betts

When does it come out?

Liz Wiseman

October 19th.

Clint Betts

Awesome. Liz, thank you so much for coming on. It means a lot. I always enjoy talking to you, watching you speak, reading your books. You're a wonderful person. Thank you for everything you're doing in the world.

Liz Wiseman

Oh, well, thank you. Thanks for this opportunity to talk and for putting out this wrestle. How do we deal with hard, controversial issues where we feel like we can't win?

Clint Betts

Yeah. Well, we'll see. I'm living one right now.

Liz Wiseman

Yeah, you know what? Be transparent and you'll get it right. You and the team will get it right.

Clint Betts

Awesome. Thanks, my friend. Good seeing you.

Liz Wiseman

Okay, good talking to you.

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