It’s no secret at Crema that we are big fans of Liz Wiseman’s book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. In it, she breaks down multiple traits of what defines a “multiplier;” someone who is able to lead in an effective way to multiply output and business value to produce amazing results. As a product manager, the trait I value most is being “The Liberator.” According to Wiseman:
“Liberators create an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work. As a result, people offer their best and boldest thinking and give their best effort.”
Liberators do three things: create space, demand best work, and generate rapid learning cycles.
Reading this chapter, I couldn’t help but think back to my own article I wrote a few years ago, “The ONE Thing Holding your Management Team Back”. In it, I make the pitch that there is significant value in managers getting out of their team’s way. So often, we feel our value is on how we visibly manage work; yet, I’ve found that if you sidestep that approach and focus on empowering your team, both results and your team will flourish in ways you couldn’t previously imagine. I think this is pretty in tune with the value liberators bring to their teams.
It’s not easy though. Stepping back and strategically creating space for your team is incredibly difficult to do. Marty Cagan writes in “Empowered Product Teams,” that “moving to truly empowered teams does require moving away from the command and control model of management, but this does not mean you need fewer leaders and managers, it means you need stronger leaders and managers.”
Stronger leaders, as in, those who are able to handle the loss of “on paper” control being a liberator entails. From a product management perspective, this means less reporting and trading in a focus on inflexible milestones for a spotlight on empowering the team to create results. This is a step up to servant leadership, with a focus on serving as a peer-level coach who can help each individual thrive and motivate the team to become an organism that, left to its own devices and a product vision, will not disappoint business needs.
At Crema, we look for ways within our Product and Craft teams to systemize an organic environment that demands best work and generates rapid learning cycles. Our agile product development frameworks, such as scrum and kanban, naturally have these opportunities built in. This empowers liberators to focus on the individuals that make up each team and leverage our systems-based learnings to retrospect, level-set with mistakes, and continuously grow. There is no condescending blame, team politics or frequent nights and weekends with this; instead, the focus is on liberating team members from old traditions to be empowered to do and create their best work.