Managing a Homeschool experience requires many of the same skills as managing a business.  In her book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Business management guru Liz Wiseman coined a term to describe effective managers.  She calls them “multipliers.” Simply put, multipliers multiply the intelligence of others around them, enabling people to become smarter and more capable.  The multiplier mindset can be a valuable addition to your homeschooling toolkit.

Multipliers believe, “people are smart and will figure this out.” As leaders, they develop the talent around them.  They follow-up on mistakes with exploration and compassion.  When it comes to setting a new direction, they consult thoughtfully and support the task to completion.  The opposite of a multiplier is a “diminisher”.  Diminishers believe, “they will never figure this out without me.”  They expend the talent around them without increasing it; they approach mistakes with blame; they dictate the direction, make all the decisions, and tightly control how things get done.

People aren’t starkly one or the other.  In fact, Wiseman generously creates another term: the “accidental diminisher”.  This refers to those of us who realize with dismay we have become the wrong kind of manager (or homeschooling parent).  Rather than synergistically increasing the education and enthusiasm, we may unintentionally begin to micro-manage and negatively control the learning experience.  Reading this book will add a new level of self-awareness, helping you understand where you may have flaws in your leadership, but it won’t leave you discouraged, since there are tips and hints for small steps of improvement all along the way.

Why is it so important to become a multiplier? In Wiseman’s words, “Leading like a multiplier matters because people will give you more.  They give all of their discretionary effort and mental energy.  They dig deep and access reserves of brainpower that they alone know exist.  They apply the full measure of their intelligence.  They reason more clearly, comprehend more completely, and learn more quickly.  In the process they get smarter and more capable.”  Does this not describe all that we could hope for in the education of our children?

The core beliefs of a multiplier are, according to Wiseman, “1. Most people in organizations are underutilized. 2. All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership. 3. Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.”  She encourages business leaders to make do with their current head counts and not ask for more employees.  Maximize what you already have, she suggests.  Applying this to homeschooling, is there something you can do it increase your effectiveness in the education of your children without buying or adding any new curriculum or devices or classes?  What can you do to improve the learning with what you already have?

Here are three things you can do now to get started leading like a multiplier:

1. Ask Questions: the Really Hard Questions

The most important assumption of a multiplier is that “the job of the leader is to draw out the intelligence of others.”  With this beginning, leaders begin to listen more carefully. Then they start asking more questions.  They don’t ask questions to quiz, nor do they ask questions simply to verify other’s knowledge.  They “ask questions so immense that people can’t answer them based on their current knowledge or where they currently stand.”  They ask questions that create momentum.
• What would cause other people to become smarter and more capable around me?
• What could my child figure out on their own if I just gave them more space?
• How can I get the full brainpower of my child?

2. Find the Native Genius Within Your Child

Become a “genius watcher”.  Step back and observe what your child does “not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally.”  Then begin to connect your child with opportunities.  Next step: get out of the way.  When intrinsically motivated, you will be surprised at how quickly your child can take off.  Tell your child, “ignore me as needed to get your job done.”  A multiplier demands the individual’s best effort and keeps a high standard without fixating on outcomes, making it safe to make mistakes.
• What does my child do better than anything else they do?
• What does my child do better than the people around them?
• What does my child do without effort?
• What does my child do without being asked?

3. Extend a Challenge

Multipliers understand that people grow when challenged.  Multipliers don’t just hand out answers. They provide just enough information to provoke thinking and to help people discover and see the opportunity for themselves.  “As a manager you know when someone is below his or her usual performance.”  Wiseman continues, “What is harder to know is whether people are giving everything they have to give.  Asking whether people are giving their best gives them the opportunity to push themselves beyond their previous limits.”
• Start with reframing problems.  Think about this quote: “the most powerful work is done in response to an opportunity not in response to a problem.”
• Make it concrete.  When a challenge become tangible and measurable, you and your child will be better able to assess their performance.

“Are you a genius or a genius maker?”  The business examples Wiseman shares in this book will spark your interest in changing your methods at home in a way that is refreshingly different from parenting or education self-help books.
Reading this book will help you better understand the impact of your leadership in your family’s education.

For more learning:
Quiz, assessment and an online community

originally published in the March-May 2016 issue of VOICE

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