Forbes | To Get Ahead, Figure Out Your Boss’ Biggest Challenge, And Solve It

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Liz Wiseman delivering a keynote speech.

After the publication of the bestselling book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, and the launch of leadership research and development firm, The Wiseman Group, of which she is President, Liz Wiseman popped onto the scene as a leading management thinker, writer, speaker and trainer. She followed with Rookie Smarts: How Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work in 2014. Her leadership career follows 17 years of success at Oracle where she rose to become Vice President of Oracle University. How can we not love someone who is committed to ridding the world of bad bosses?

Pivotal Moment of Reinvention

My big pivot came when I left the comfort of a great corporate job (I was the VP of Oracle University) to go out on my own as a consultant and executive advisor.

Oracle has a true growth mindset – a belief that smart people can figure out hard things. As a result, I faced a steady stream of stretch assignments. I was 40 years old before I had a job that I was actually qualified for! I found the work as thrilling as it was challenging.

Rookie smarts: I was 40 before I had a job I was qualified for.

At the end of those seventeen years my colleagues and work conditions were still fantastic but I wasn’t being challenged and the exhilaration was gone. I stepped out of my comfort zone and set out to research and write a book on leadership.

My colleagues and friends couldn’t understand why I left a great gig at a great company to work solo and in obscurity. But, in venturing out, I’ve found greater impact and personal satisfaction.

Valuable mentor or sponsor

Ray Lane, former president of Oracle, gave me roles that were at least two sizes too big and then let me suffer a bit while I figured it out. Phil Wilson proactively advocated with the top execs for a sizeable raise for me. It was initially rejected. He felt so strongly that I should be paid at the level of my responsibility that he put his own job on the line. It was approved. This kind of sponsorship is particularly needed to support women willing to stretch themselves and take risks. CK Prahalad, the late, acclaimed professor from University of Michigan, taught me to ask hard questions and opened doors that allowed me to pursue my current work in research, writing, and teaching management.

My boss felt so strongly that I should get a raise, he put his job on the line.

Moonshot Goal

Developing a blueprint and toolkit to help companies build a Multiplier culture and a set of strategies to help people deal with the diminishing managers around them.


My husband and I love to travel to new countries with our four children. We travel at every opportunity, but in particular, we take two to three weeks each July and go with our children somewhere in the developing world. We don’t turn on our cell phones and typically have spotty Wi-Fi access.

30th Birthday

I was pregnant with my first child on my 30th birthday, so I felt as if I was making a major life shift. I had spent the first thirty years of my life focused on me (my education, my career, etc.). I realized that I would now spend the next thirty years putting many of my needs and goals on hold while I put my family first. But, ironically, in focusing on others in these last twenty years, I think I’ve learned more and achieved more professionally than in the first thirty.


I am not-so-secretly trying to rid the world of bad bosses. People come to work each day ready to give 100% of their capability. But many face a cement wall of management where their ideas aren’t heard and their true capability isn’t seen. We face many seemingly insurmountable challenges (in both the public and private sector), but I believe we have the collective intelligence to solve them. My mission is to develop leaders who can take on the world’s toughest challenges by using all the intelligence and human capability around them.

I'm on a mission to rid the world of bad bosses.

Accomplishment that Makes Me Smile

Writing a book as a novice and having it become a best seller.

What is the latest business book you read?

An Everyone Culture:  Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

Best Advice

I was contemplating an internal transfer and was interviewing for a job with Bob Shaver, an Oracle VP. I described the kind of work I wanted to do and what I hoped to accomplish in the job. Bob assured me that my intent was worthy but that it would be far more helpful to him and the company if I figured out my boss’s biggest challenge and helped her solve it. I reoriented my thinking which helped me build a reputation as someone who understood the strategy and got the most important stuff done. This has opened up many career opportunities to do work that I truly love.

This post originally published at Forbes

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