One of the interesting aspects of de Crespigny’s account, is that whilst he describes himself as an "alpha male" and explains that he was both legally and practically in command of the aircraft throughout its flight, he also details the consultative approach that he took in dealing with the emergency. He invited input from the other four pilots on the flight deck, which sometimes was forthcoming and sometimes not. His decisions were informed by the feedback that he received. The evidence of the effectiveness of this approach was in the outcome.
It was with this background that I then read Steve Heathers blog, Mining People Matters, titled “The War on Talent…..” (refer to References at the end of this blog for the link)
In particular I was interested in Steve's comments under the heading “Greater collaboration/fewer silos”. In this section he details his thoughts on how the complexity of many modern mining operations has been dealt with by creating functional silos. He then goes on to talk about the need to break down these silos and concludes by stating that, “This includes breaking down the ”alpha male” culture and promoting greater teamwork and collaboration across the functions”. [I am sure that Steve was using the term in a non-gender specific way!]
Many of us will have experienced silos at some point in our careers. It can happen across the full spectrum of size and complexity of operation and in my opinion is always management driven, either by an individual or group of individuals. These individuals are normally the formal department/section heads intent on building an empire, but in some instances it can be their deputies who subvert the incumbent head.
Many of these could well be described as "alpha males", and would almost certainly wear the label as a badge of honour, but in fact I believe that this is a truly sweeping generalisation and the real root of the silo mentality is something more subtle but nonetheless devastating. However, gaining an understanding of the characteristics of this trait can also lead to the successful dismantling of these silos and an attendant boost in performance.
The characteristic to which I refer is a tendency towards being a Diminisher or a Multiplier.
In 2010 Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown, published a book called “Multipliers”, subtitled, "how the best leaders make everyone smarter”. The book was based both on Liz's personal experience during the course of her career, together with extensive research including analysing data on 150 leaders, as well as conducting many interviews. The book cites many real-world examples of both multiplier and diminisher behaviour.
If one was to précis the book to its core findings it would be to tabulate the five disciplines or characteristics that multipliers exhibit, and that diminishers exhibit the antithesis of. These disciplines are succinctly summarised in a table in the book that I have reproduced here.
Whilst the book expands upon all of these disciplines and provides examples of each, I think that the descriptions are incisive and even from this short summary it is easy to start to classifying the people who we have worked with or for, into each of the two classification. Of course the descriptions relate to the most extreme demonstration of those disciplines and in reality there will be a spectrum ranging from extreme diminisher to extreme multiplier. There will also be those who are marginal diminishers and marginal multipliers.
Through examples in the book Wiseman and McKeown show that diminishers weaken organisations, lose talent and result in underperformance, whilst multipliers strengthen organisations, attract talent and lead to exceptional performance.
Through the interviews conducted as part of their research the authors were able to demonstrate that multipliers got twice as much from their teams as did diminishers from theirs. They then pose the question "what could you accomplish if you can get twice as much from your people?" An interesting question indeed particularly with the industry in its current parlous state.
The good news is that even diminishers can learn to be multipliers and those who are marginal multipliers can learn to hone their skills to become master multipliers.
I strongly believe that this book should be compulsory reading for everyone in a supervisory and management position in the mining industry. They should read it with an open mind and at the conclusion of the book ask themselves whether they would rather be a multiplier or a diminisher. If they choose to be a multiplier; and I sincerely hope that they will, then they should set about cultivating the disciplines of a multiplier.
Just imagine if the management teams at every mining operation behaving as multipliers, just think what they could achieve.
So return to where I started, whilst Richard de Crespigny, may describe himself as an “alpha male”, he still appears to be able to exhibit the disciplines of a multiplier.
So I’ll finish with a call to action and suggest that everyone who reads this blog should go out and buy themselves a copy of multipliers, read it and when finished, if you agree with the concepts described, go out and spread the word.
E.Wiseman, G.McKeown, 2010. Multipliers, How the best leaders make everyone smarter, Harper Business, ISBN 978-0-06-196439-8