The MAGIC formula:
I have been working as a close-up magician for the last 25 years. I have entertained at thousands of events – hundreds of tables at weddings, corporate parties and significant birthdays.
At the same time, in the other half of my life, I have led and been a member of several teams. Recently, I have been interviewing many other team leaders about their experiences and challenges. Many thanks if you are one of them!
I have observed that many of the challenges facing a close-up magician approaching a table of guests are very similar to those facing team leaders. I have also realised that the MAGIC formula may be applied in both situations.
We have been around our imaginary wedding table and met all the characters. We have seen each personality’s unique challenges and how a magician might react in each case.
In these few posts, I make some general observations from working with the table as a whole to gain some valuable insights for team leaders.
Happy, Nuts and Indifferent
At a typical banqueting gig, be it a wedding, Christmas party or corporate event, there will be 15 tables. There will typically be 11 tables that really enjoy the magic performance; two that go absolutely nuts and shout, scream and cheer; and one that doesn’t want to see any magic at all.
Human nature being what it is, it is all too easy to focus on the one that doesn’t work, the one that doesn’t engage, the one that rejects what you have to offer.
Team Not Playing
It can be the same with a team. If you have been a leader in multiple different settings, or been a member of many teams, it can be galling to find yourself leading a team that isn’t working, despite your best efforts. I had an experience like this fairly recently. I took on the leadership role thinking that, with my experience and character, mine would be a successful term, and everyone would love me and applaud what I did. As it happened, largely due to factors beyond my control, it turned out to be a bit of a disaster.
What do you do in such situations?
When designing a trick as a magician, it is always wise to think about everything that could possibly go wrong and plan accordingly. That way, most of the time, the audience won’t be any the wiser if something doesn’t go the way you had initially planned.
You can do the same as a team leader. Spend some time imagining how each individual might react to a given proposal or situation and how you can handle each response. The more you do this, and the more experienced you get, the less you will be wondering what to do on the spur of the moment.
Time and Management
Sometimes, probably most times, things are beyond our control. We are in charge of our own reactions to situations, but we can’t control the reactions of others. We can do our best to influence them, but we can’t control them.
And influencing others takes time and attention.
What could I do if a wedding table is not responding to my offer of magic, or if the chemistry is just not there for that group? In theory, I could spend time with each individual and the whole table to build rapport and dispel their objections to watching magic tricks at that particular moment.
But, the thing is, I don’t have time to do that. I have 14 other tables to entertain. In the moment, I have to recognise that at that time, the jigsaw pieces just don’t fit together, and I need to move on politely. There may or may not be a chance to work with the table later. They may hear the enthusiastic applause of another table, or have finished their in-depth discussion about something serious, and invite me back to perform. Or I might get a chance to show some tricks to individuals from that table when the meal is over, and they have started mingling.
The same is true with teams. Sometimes you just don’t have the time available to build rapport with each member. You haven’t got the resources to sort out all the issues, or your position means that you are not the appropriate person to do it. You can’t control the reactions of others, and you can’t change their personalities. Your powers of influence will increase with reflection and experience, but they will not work all the time in every situation. That is OK; you are only human, don’t give yourself a hard time about it. Learn from the experience and move on.
Next Table, Please
Walking away from a table is difficult. My ego wants me to think that I can handle any situation, but I can’t. I have to remind myself that these things happen and that there are many more tables who will love what I do.
It can be very tough to walk away from a team. It is a dent to our pride to admit that something isn’t working. We have to make a realistic assessment about whether we have the time, resources and team members to make it work better. If we don’t, we need to face up to that, and walk away to another position where we will have a better fit.
Sometimes you just have to move on to the next table.
I am writing a book about using The MAGIC Formula to manage yourself, particularly if you work from home.
If you are a freelancer, self-employed, or work from home in another capacity, I would love to talk to you.If you would like to help, please get in touch: