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Liz Wiseman, founder/president of The Wiseman Group, delivered the Forum address Tuesday in the Marriott Center. Wiseman spoke on leadership and knowledge and how we can put the two together to be the best asset in the work field.  

Wiseman began by addressing and discussing two questions she has spent many years studying and writing about:

Why do some leaders seem to shut down intelligence while others amplify it?

Wiseman narrowed leaders in the working field into two main categories: Diminishers and Multipliers. While intelligence can be used as a powerful tool of growth, it can also be used as a weapon. Diminishers are leaders that are smart, but shut down the smarts of others around them. Multipliers, on the other hand, are leaders who seem to make those around them smarter and more capable. The main difference between the two is tied to how the leaders use their own intelligence and their know how.

"Becoming a great leader requires us to understand how our most noble intentions can have a diminishing effect, sometimes deeply so," she said.

Liz Wiseman gesturing
Photo credit: Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

When does what we know get in the way of what we don't know but need to learn?

Throughout her career, Wiseman found that when she has taken on jobs she wasn't fully qualified for, she learned much more than jobs she already knew how to do. 

"Who wants a job they are qualified for? There'd be nothing to learn," she said.

Wiseman appreciated her experiences in jobs she was unqualified for and had to learn her way through. When we are in positions where we know a lot, we tend to get blindsided to learning more, she said.

"When we are familiar with a subject, we tend to see what we expect to see. Sometimes we fill in the blanks, but sometimes we fail to see things altogether," Wiseman said. "When we are in rookie mode, we approach work in some simple, but powerful way.... In many ways we are actually at our best when we know the least."


Photo credit: Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

Wiseman ended with four practices to help everyone escape the trap of our own knowledge in the professional world. 

1. Learn to ask questions

"One of the most powerful shifts a leader can make is to operate from a place of inquiry rather than a place of knowing," Wiseman said. "Most people don't need you to tell them what to do. They need you to ask an intelligent question. We can tell less and ask more."

2. Admit what you don't know

Instead of simply reiterating the problem, help others learn how do fix the problem, said Wiseman. If you don't know how to fix the problem, then admit that you don't and then proceed to figure it out together. 

"If you are the new hire, relax, you don't have to pretend either...your value will come from the know-how you build, not the know-how you bring," she said.

3. Throw away your notes

"If we want to inject some fresh thinking into our work we can toss out our notes or the tools that we've become dependent on," Wiseman said. 

4. Learn to see the genius of others

It might be easier to assume that others need to be told how to carry out tasks, but by stepping back and looking for the genius of each individual, it's possible to help them excel at who they really are. 

"Instead of dispensing knowledge, discover the genius in others," Wiseman said. 


Photo credit: Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

Following the Forum, Wiseman answered questions from students. 

Q: What would you change about BYU?

A: I would like it to be a place where people ask each other hard questions; a place where thinking and questioning is in a public space where there can be debate. An institution where we push hard.

Q: How do you balance work and being a good parent?

A: Our children come to us how they are. Parenting is where we learn the art of leadership. Our job isn't to instill as much as it is to help remove clutter and to help them not wreck. For those of you wanting to work and be a parent, it is not a path that I would recommend. If you do want to pursue it, make sure you have a spouse that is willing to co-parent, that you know that it is God's plan for you and that you have a complete sense of peace that you could do both. 

Next Week's Devotional: Elder Marcus B. Nash

The next Devotional address will be held on Tuesday, February 2, at 11:05 a.m., in the Marriott Center.

Elder Marcus B. Nash, of the Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will give the Devotional address.

His remarks will be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org, KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYU Radio.

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