Build a Team of Force Multipliers
Chris Desrochers
Jul 30, 2020
High above any modern battlefield, the Boeing KC-135 plays one of the most crucial roles in a combat scenario. Yet it isn’t a combat aircraft. It’s a fuel tanker. In mid-air, it refuels support and bombing aircraft like the A-10 Warthog, increasing its range and allowing it to carry more munitions for its close strikes. The KC-135 is what the military calls a
force multiplier
, allowing a
single
existing combat element, the A-10 in this case, to be more than twice as effective as
two
of that element. But though the term originated in the military, it’s just as relevant in the world of work. Here’s how you can build a team of force multipliers.
Large US Air Force Plane
You’ve seen that all-star team. They’re at the top of every list in your company. Perhaps they’re a certain store or location. Perhaps a certain department within your building. They’re just always winning. How do they do it? How do they win when you work just as hard as they do? Star teams
multiply
their work— their force. But in the business world, it’s not about aircraft carriers or flying fuel tankers. It’s about finding and cultivating the right people. Great leaders are also force multipliers.
How can you build a team like that? Here are a few tips from the experts.
Always be on the lookout for new talent
From an employee’s first day, you should look for natural capabilities to cultivate. Force multiplication is all about finding a laser focus for each worker. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train your people in every area, but encourage them to focus on what they’re best at.
Former Navy SEAL Jeff Boss (his real name), recounts seeing this process during BUD/S, the SEAL selection crucible:
“In the SEALs, the second a new guy showed up to the team he was under the watchful eyes of his teammates for signs of leadership, decision-making, ability to learn and adapt, and of course, performance. If he didn’t display the fundamental characteristics that underpin what it meant to be ‘elite,’ then he was immediately under the microscope… But he was always given the benefit of the doubt and always, always after having a simple conversation with his [superior]. Why? Because we needed to
maximize the talent
we had. We needed to force multiply under-optimized talent.”
Free up existing force
Imagine you have nine workers with hammers, pounding on a large bolt, trying to drive it home. Then the tenth worker shows up with a wrench and quickly tightens it. The nine can go back to pounding nails. The wrench operator becomes a force multiplier simply by freeing up the workers with hammers— and does a better job simply by using what she already has.
It’s a simplistic but effective illustration. Force multipliers are often effective at relieving
wasted
force that already existed. This doesn’t mean you should load them down with extra work just because they’re good at that one thing, but it does mean you should keep your people focused on the areas in which they excel, especially as they’re starting out.
Get past the comfortable and find connection
Finding out who has the “wrench” isn’t always easy. Jeff Boss again: “When you push the conversational envelope with your team past the surface-level conversation of, ‘How was everybody’s weekend?’... and into the depths of connection, you unearth talent that you never knew existed.” Mining for talent isn’t always easy. Sometimes you need to ask deeper questions. A few deeper questions, for instance, might reveal that your new employee spent the entire weekend replacing the clutch in his car. This tells you something about his patience, determination, or creative problem-solving. Traits that could translate to his ability to handle tough clients. Finding that out might mean sitting through a story about how one of his subframe bolts cross-threaded and he had to teach himself how to use a thread tap, but now you know that he’s self-motivated to learn new skills. Don’t see these conversations as a time expense, but rather a time
investment
. Everyone has strengths, which means your team probably has untapped potential. Find it and you have your force multiplier.
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Celebrate to motivate.
Author Tony Chatman cites celebration and recognition of employees’ achievements as one of the most effective ways to motivate your force multipliers. People like to know when they’re good at something, and when they’re making a difference. That’s where you come in.
Pretend for a moment that you’re a web programmer at a marketing agency. Your boss approaches you with the following three statements:
  • “I need you to handle the new website for X Brand. We have a tight deadline.”
  • “You absolutely nailed the Y Brand website in record time. You really impressed us all.”
  • “I’ve noticed that you’re really good at coding under pressure. It saves us a ton of time.”
Now think about how each sentence in the statement might have made you feel. After the first, you might feel pressure, maybe even a little exhausted or overworked. After the second, however, things start to change. You feel appreciated, understood. But after the third, after learning specifically that you have a natural skill set that benefits the entire team, you don’t just feel appreciated, you feel
integral
. You begin to understand that you are a force multiplier. Many workers are unaware of their talents. Bring them to light.
Keep it positive, even on bad days
Chatman quotes General Colin Powell: “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” This, Chatman says, is because emotions are contagious. That doesn’t just mean the good emotions, either. A bad attitude can infect your whole team. That’s where
you
must be a force multiplier by remaining positive.
Arcade facilitates all of this
Our customized gamification platform is all about creating a culture of recognition within your company. Each time one of your workers successfully completes a task, he or she earns virtual points that can be spent on real rewards in the Arcade store. More importantly, those successes are shared across the entire team, so every active employee is celebrated regularly.
This encourages your force multipliers and helps you to quickly identify them and their strengths. Arcade provides you with clear, solid employee performance data you can use to pick out your stars and help your entire team reach its full potential. In fact, Arcade is a force multiplier in itself.
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Chris Desrochers
Chrisd is part of the Product team at Arcade.