Working for a Genius-Maker:
5 Ways to Inspire Best Work

best-workYou recognize it when you’re working for a great boss: you’ll go the extra mile and come up with your best work.

There’s a story about how a famous statesman used his influence to bring out the best in people, sometimes causing them to stretch beyond their usual efforts.

Henry Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State under President Richard M. Nixon, was a master at extracting people’s best work.

When his chief of staff once handed in a foreign-policy report, Kissinger asked, “Is this your best work?”

His chief became worried and said he thought he could do better. Two weeks later, he turned in the report again. Kissinger repeated, “Are you sure this is your best work?”

Realizing something must have been missing, the chief rewrote the report yet again. When he handed it in, he said, “Mr. Kissinger, this is my best work.”

Upon hearing this, Kissinger replied, “Then this time I will read your report.”

Requiring people’s best work is different from insisting on desired outcomes. People become stressed when they’re expected to produce results beyond their control. They do, however, respond well to positive pressure to do their best work.

Becoming a Genius-Maker

In the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (HarperBusiness, 2010), authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown identify five principles leaders can use to inspire the best in people. Each principle allows workers to stretch so they can contribute greater effort and productivity:

  1. Attract and Optimize Talent: Be a Talent Manager
  2. Create Intensity that Requires Best Thinking: Be a Liberator
  3. Extend Challenges: Be a Challenger
  4. Debate Decisions: Be a Debate Maker
  5. Instill Ownership and Accountability: Be an Investor

You needn’t excel in all five disciplines to be considered a multiplier who brings out the best in your people. You must, however, master two or three disciplines and be “good enough” in the remaining ones.

Instead of trying to perfect all five disciplines, create a development plan with your executive coach. Pick one key area of strength and develop it to a higher level.

Next, choose an area of weakness and strive to make improvements. View your leadership effectiveness on a continuum so it can be realistically achieved.

This is straight-forward but not necessarily easy to do. Most people aren’t really good at seeing their own strengths and weaknesses. We become masters of self-deception. That’s why I highly recommend working with a trusted mentor or executive coach. Give me a call if this makes sense to you: 704-827-4474.

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