The Magic of Kindness 4 – Giving

How do you apply kindness in business? 



Let’s focus on Giving.

Please Give them a Round of Applause!

When I was a student I used to go down to London and sit in Covent Garden for hours, watching and learning from the jugglers, magicians and breakdancers.

Have you ever seen a street show? If so, you have probably noticed that the biggest round of applause always goes to the volunteer, brought out of the crowd to get involved with the routine. The entertainer has been generous, giving the helper the limelight.

The crowd love it, therefore they love the performer even more.

Less experienced acts might want the biggest round of applause for themselves, the more experienced know that the best show happens when someone else is given the glory.

Exceed to Succeed

I know from my magic business that, if I can give something to the client, everything runs more smoothly. 

If I can be helpful and friendly with the booking process; if I can give ample information so they can make a good decision; if I can help them to plan a better event than they had in their imagination. And then, when I get there, exceed expectations and over-deliver. 

The result? A very happy client who will recommend me again and again.

Emotional Bank Accounts

Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (#ad), introduces the concept of emotional bank accounts. Every time we meet someone we open an emotional bank account with them. Every time we do something good for them, we make a deposit. Every time we mess up, make a mistake, need forgiveness, then we make a withdrawal. 

Life runs smoothly if we can maintain healthy positive emotional bank balances. We do that by giving to people.

The whole premise of giving is that we don’t expect anything back, but the wonderful thing is, we will probably get something in return.

It may or may not be something tangible, but it will almost certainly lead to an enhanced relationship.

Service Mindset

How does this apply in sales and leadership?

In sales you can shift your motivation from “profit, profit, profit” to “service, service, service” – from making the most money for yourself to giving the best solution to the customer. If you put the extra effort in, with a genuine desire to help to solve their problem and get them a better solution, then you will become a better and more effective salesperson.

In leadership, you can give your time, your effort, your understanding. You can listen to people, understand them. You can stand by your team member when they are facing opposition. You can take risks in delegation: delegation is a  giving of control, an act of generosity so that someone else may grow. How can you best serve those you lead?

There’s Better Business if it’s like Show Business

You might be the headline act, but make your helper look fantastic. Let them have the most applause and the show will be better for everyone.

The Magic of Kindness 3 – Attuning

How do you apply kindness in business? 



Today I will look at attuning.

Last Christmas I Gave You My Art

Last Christmas, I had a gig at Arlingtons a wonderful venue in Ipswich run by the top chap that is Peter Gwizdala. It was a corporate party:  ten tables, I was going around doing close-up magic. I had already done some effects at the drinks beforehand down in the bar. 

I went to one table after the starter. I offered to show them something and they said, “No thanks, we’ve had enough magic fort his evening.”  When I was younger I would have tried to persuade them, but I have since learned that this is doesn’t work well. 

I moved on to another table where there was a couple of women having, shall we say, a fantastic time due to the quality of the refreshment. They loved the magic and provided very loud and enthusiastic reactions. The result was that they lifted the energy of the room. This impressed the client who had booked me. And it also improved the atmosphere for all the other guests, including the table that had refused the magic. 

It is important to listen, observe and then modify your behaviour accordingly. Because then you will get better results. This is the art of attunement.

Why is attuning at act of kindness? Because it is all about prioritising the needs of the other person.

Push it, Push it Real Good

Think about a swing in a playground.

If you push someone in time with the swing, they will swing higher.

If you push out of time, they will eventually stop.

Sale Away, Sale Away, Sale Away

How does attunement apply in sales? 

Daniel Pink talks about attunement in his book “To Sell is Human” (#ad). He points out that we have to ask diagnostic questions of those to whom we are selling. They will present with a certain need, they might think they know the solution. But the good salesperson will talk to them, and listen to them, and work out what their real problem is. 

It may be that the solution they think they want is not the best solution and you could provide something better. If you can attune yourself to their real need and provide them with a better solution then you will have a happy customer.

Leader of the Pack

In leadership, attunement can be dynamite.

Talk to those you lead. Phone them up, have a video call. When it is again possible, meet them face to face. 

Listen to them. That is the most important bit. Let them talk to you. And listen properly. 

Work out what will help them grow. One size doesn’t fit all. Work out what is the best way to communicate with them. What kind of language? What kind of style? What medium?

I heard a great talk last year from Michelle Mills Porter about the way she uses the DiSC method to assess people quickly, so that she can attune to them and work out the best communication style for that individual and situation. I thoroughly recommend her work and her insights.

If you push in time with a swing, they will swing high.

Be kind. Give them the magic they need, when they need it.

The Magic of Kindness 2 – Moving People

How do you apply kindness in business? 



Today I focus on moving people.

Maya Angelou said
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I have heard this quoted many times in the fields of both magic and professional speaking.

It is so true. 

A Kind Magic

I know very well that my magic tricks will be more effective if I can find a way to engage with my spectators emotions:

  • If I can get them to lay their hand on another spectator’s hand – I have seen an old married couple almost start weeping when they did this, they obviously hadn’t touched for years.
  • If I can get them to use a personal item – a ring, for example.
  • If the trick involves a personal secret – even if I never get to know what it is.

It is even better if I can empower them to feel like they are doing the magic themselves; there’s nothing quite like the astonished exclamation when a pack of cards transforms between a guest’s hands, or the look on a child’s face when they make little red balls multiply using their own magic.

Enriching Life

But how is moving people an act of kindness?

Well, whenever you enable them to feel something that enriches their life, makes them feel more alive, then you’re giving them a gift. Think about good theatre, good fiction, good film. These are gifts to us from writers, directors and actors. They make us feel something – excitement, passion, humour, fear, anger – they make us feel engaged with a story.

Emotional Buy-in

How does this apply to sales and leadership?

Well, in sales you might tap into feelings of excitement, of relief, of satisfaction. If you help someone to make a good buying choice then you are improving the story of their life. How can you paint a picture of this when you are selling? Can you get them to imagine how they will feel if they go ahead and buy from you?

In leadership you might make people feel encouraged, safe, supported. You build them up,  reminding them of their significance, making them feel like they’re part of a story. 

Everyone is a Volunteer

Michael Hyatt says, “Everyone is a volunteer.”

Obviously everyone who decides to buy something has volunteered to buy it.

But even in leadership, everyone who works for you, or follows you, is a volunteer. They may or may not be paid, but the decision to follow you with their heart is voluntary. Do you make them feel trusted, valuable, significant?

Enable, Give

Enable them to do the magic themselves. Give them the gift. Be kind.

Remember, they will never forget how you made them feel.

The Magic of Kindness – 1

The first President of The Magic Circle was a splendid chap called David Devant. He had a well known saying:

“All done by kindness”

There is a wonderful Devant poster featuring this quote on display at The Magic Circle headquarters in London. If you ever get a chance to visit, I thoroughly recommend it. Obviously you will have to wait until after the lockdown…

The Best Business Attitude

Devant was talking about show business, the magic business in particular, but “All done by kindness” is a fantastic mantra for business in general.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that kindness is the most valuable attitude you can have in business.

It feels appropriate that this is the week I start my mini-series on kindness in business. This is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and the Mental Health Foundation have chosen kindness as the theme for the week.

Practical Magic

To my mind, kindness is not an airy-fairy concept. It is intensely practical. Kindness is an attitude, kindness is a choice, it is a determination to put yourself out for the good of others.

How does this translate into a business context?

It might seem a bit “soft” – surely business is hard-nosed, cut-throat, winner takes all.

Maybe it was, once? Or maybe that is just a myth? 

It’s a Kind Magic

What is important is that business is all about relationships, and kindness supercharges relationships. 

In this series I will explore what kindness might look like specifically in the areas of Sales and Leadership.

I will explore the Magic of Kindness:

Moving people
Attuning to people
Giving to people
Inspiring people
Connecting to people

The More You Do It…

I can tell you from experience that the more you practice magic performance, the better you get.

The same is true of the Magic of Kindness.

Focus in Confusing Times

Tricks in a Bucket

When I was younger I had a magic and circus tricks bucket list. Tricks that I loved and wanted to be able to perform one day. When I first saw others doing them, they looked impossible.

One of them was a straitjacket escape. I used to go down to Covent Garden and watch the street performers thinking, “I could never do that.” And now I do, I learned it in my 20’s.

Another is a one-handed riffle shuffle. I had seen several magicians do it at The Magic Circle over the last couple of years and thought that it looked knuckle-crunchingly impossible. However, after three weeks of lockdown, I could do it.

However, there are other tricks that I could never do.  At one point I dreamed of becoming an aerial artist with Cirque du Soleil. That was never going to happen and certainly isn’t now!

Some things we can achieve, some we can’t. Sometimes it is not obvious which is which, but it is worth spending some time thinking about what is and isn’t possible for us.

All Change

I was reminded recently by Antoinette Dale Henderson at a PSA event of the Kübler-Ross Change Curve. We’re all solidly on this curve at the moment because we have all faced a significant recent change. My guess is that most of us are oscillating between the bottom of the curve and the beginning of the ascent out of it, between Depression/ Confusion through Experiment to Decision. I doubt that many of us have reached Integration yet.

This is fine, this is natural, don’t beat yourself up about it. We all have to find a way up the curve that suits us. 

“I can’t change world, but I can change the world in me” (Bono, U2 in “Rejoice” )

I have long been a fan of Stephen Covey, ever since I read 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (#ad)  years ago.

One of my favourite concepts in that book is the “Circles of Concern and Influence”. You may find this easier to visualise if you picture a toilet roll that you may or may not have hoarded a few weeks ago.

The outer diameter of the toilet roll is your circle of concern. The stuff that worries you. If you spend a lot of time on social media and/ or watching the news, that circle will be quite big. 

The inside circle is your circle of influence. The stuff you can do something about. Areas where you can make a difference. This will be smaller than the circle of concern. 

Find your Inner Space, Man

Whenever we focus on anything, it takes time, energy and mental space.

Covey’s brilliant insight is that we benefit from focussing on our circle of influence and not our circle of concern. Watch the news less, spend less time on social media. This will reduce the size of our circle of concern. Focus on the things we can change. If we focus on our circle of influence we will find that it grows bigger and starts to eat up the inside bit of the circle of concern.

As we do this we should feel more energised and less stressed. Yes, we will have bad days and good days. But we will be starting to climb the curve.

Work out which tricks you might be able to do and focus on learning those.

Predicting the Future

Psst, I can predict the future…

OK, I can only predict the future in certain situations.

One of my favourite magic routines to perform involves predicting the wording of a randomly selected line from a newspaper. Sadly, I don’t get to perform it much at moment, although I did manage to adapt it successfully to perform over Zoom for a business meeting, using a couple of pdf’s emailed to spectators.

But none of can predict the future when it comes to the end of the lockdown. All we can do is guess and hope for the best.

Or is it?

Ready for Anything

One thing is certain in magic – you can never be completely certain about how a trick will work in front of a live audience. Something might go wrong with a prop, you might mess up a move or forget a line, the audience may not react as expected. A skilled magician will imagine possible outcomes and plan for as many of them as is feasible. That way they will be prepared and can carry on seamlessly as if nothing unusual had happened. Most of the time, the audience will not even notice.

Scenario Planning

Big organisations and governments do the same thing. They have whole departments devoted to scenario planning. 

Most of us have probably got through life and work with a plan A and a plan B. But maybe, in the face of uncertainty, it may be useful for all of us to do a little more extensive intentional scenario planning?

I was on business networking call with the wonderful Kate Trafford last week and she voiced a very useful question: “When I look back, what would I have done differently if I had known that this would last 18 months?”

Kate was anxious to point out that this is imagining a worst-case scenario – hopefully the lockdown will be over much sooner, but some businesses may take longer to recover, eg, live entertainment, conferences, sporting events.

Crystal Balls of Steel

At first the idea of scenario planning is scary. You have to imagine worst-case scenarios. Often it is tempting to bury our heads in the sand. Or Netflix. 

However, like taking foul-tasting medicine, it can only be good for us. It will reduce nasty shocks and surprises down the road. Better to face reality, take stock and then begin the next step of the journey from where we actually are, having a realistic guess at what might possibly lie ahead.

The Next Step is Thinking About the Next Step

Have a think about your work and life.

What might it look like if the lockdown ends in a week’s time or a month’s time? What if it is a staggered ending, eg, with social distancing. What would those scenarios mean for my work life and my personal life? And then do the same exercise for different time frames – 3 months, 6 months, a year.

Then, if the trick doesn’t work like you planned it, you have something up your sleeve. The audience probably won’t even notice.

Productivity-Boosting Wardrobe Strategy

In the last couple of posts we have considered the usefulness of routine, habit and locations. Now, let’s look at how clothes can boost your productivity.

Give me the shoes…

My old mime and physical theatre teacher Desmond Jones was fond of quoting the theatrical adage, “Give me the shoes and I will give you the performance!”

This extends to more than shoes. Hats, jackets, trousers all enable you to get into character.

It is much easier to perform in a certain way if you are wearing the right costume.

As a performer, it dawned on me some time ago that this applies beyond magic performance, it is relevant for the rest of life as well. I am not the first to realise this. In 1975 John T. Molloy published his manual “Dress for Success”, developing the work of sociologist Erving Goffman, who described all the world as a stage. 

But does this apply to working from home?

I certainly think so.

Respect Yourself

What you wear has a huge effect on your self-image, self-worth and self-motivation. Changing your clothes changes your mindset.

This is why the army are so hot on ironing, boot polishing and button shining. It’s about self-respect. And, as the Kane Gang sang in the ‘80s, “If you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody gonna give two hoots…” 

“Because I’m worth it” has never been so powerful.

Change Your Shirt, Change Your Mind

During lockdown, it can be a real challenge to maintain routine and establish focus.

I have found that changing into different outfits at different times of the day not only changes my attitude and focus, it helps to structure the day. The act of changing clothes also acts as a substitute for travelling between activities, time to mentally re-adjust.

Personally I wake up, exercise at home, change into dog walking clothes.
Walk the dog, come back and shower, change into work shirt, trousers, waistcoat and proper shoes.
At some point around 4pm I might switch the waistcoat for a smart sweater.
Between 5-6pm I decide that the working day is over and I change into jeans, t-shirt and trainers.

It works for me – could it work for you?

Even if no-one else can see your shoes on a Zoom call, polish them anyway.
You can see them.
And you’re worth it.

Location, Location, Location

Who, Where, Why?

When I walk on to a stage as a magician and juggler, I adopt a certain persona. When I walk up to to a small group at a posh reception to perform close-up magic I will adopt a similar, but scaled-down version of that persona. When I am at a church hall for a kids party I will shift character again.

The location of the performance helps the adoption of the persona. Travel time to gigs gives the opportunity to shift from one to another.

All the World’s a Stage

Outside of performing and outside of lockdown this was equally true. In my office my mind switched into admin mode. I walked to the library to switch on my writing setting. I would kayak down the river to become contemplative. And so it went on, different mindsets were associated with trains, coffee shops and club meeting places.

The location of the activity really helps me to adopt the right mindset for the activity in hand.

And now, in lockdown, most of those locations are not available. And there is no travel time to switch modes.

I felt comfortable and safe with my designated locations. Having them snatched away is unsettling.

What to do?

Location Improvisation

All is not lost. Like a magician when a trick goes wrong, you can improvise.

Depending on where you live and the space you have available, you may be able to create a number of different locations at home. You can then establish specific places for certain types of activity and new routines for switching between them.

For example, I have designated our sitting room as a stand-in library. It’s fine as long as I get there earlier than our teenagers in the morning! I have positioned a table and chair facing a bookcase and I go there at the same time each day to write. My mind has been successfully tricked into thinking that I am in the library.

Within my office, I still have my desk for admin in the same place.

However, for business reading, which I used to do in coffee shops, I now turn my chair to face a different direction, get myself a cup of herbal tea and, bingo!, my mind has again been tricked into a different mode.

A friend of mine suggested that another option might be rearranging your office so that you could sit on the other side of your desk for certain activities.

Travelling Without Moving

And what about substituting for the mental shift-time that came with travelling? 

I have found it important to be kind to myself, to give myself space between activities. It would be all-too-easy to rush from one video meeting to another with no break. I have to give myself time to go down tho the kitchen and make a cup of tea, sit in a chair for a few minutes and let my mind reset to the next thing. 

For bigger transitions there are your essential shopping trips and daily exercise outings.

How can you play with different locations to aid your different focus points during the day?

Muscle Memory

Many performers depend on muscle memory: dancers, musicians and certainly magicians.

They have to practice the moves again and again until they can do them automatically, without thinking. This gives them confidence when they are distracted and freedom to focus on the audience and the prevailing conditions.

However, when the unexpected happens, a magician has to be ready to adapt on the spur of the moment. Maybe they will have an alternative ending to the trick up their sleeve. Maybe they will have another trick on standby, just in case. Once the unexpected is dealt with, they can return to their normal routine and the audience will be none the wiser.

Rinse and Repeat, Avoid Defeat

The same is true in life and work. There is immense value in developing habits and routines that then get hard-baked into your mind. They become your muscle memory, your auto-pilot to carry you through when you get distracted, they will allow you to continue to get important things done whilst allowing you the freedom to focus on those around you and the prevailing conditions. 

However, when the unexpected happens, eg, a lockdown, you may need to flex some of your routines. 

But, whatever you do, don’t get rid of them all. They are too valuable for that.

Be Like Grass, Not a Tree

In a strong wind, long grass bends for a while and then returns to upright. A rigid tree risks being blown over.  Flex like grass, don’t be rigid like a tree.

Habit Audit

Have a think about your habits and routines. Which ones can you continue through the lockdown? Which ones could continue in a modified way?

Pre-lockdown, my morning routine was:

Wake up
Put the coffee in the cafétiere
7 minute workout in the front room while the coffee brews
Plunge the coffee
Get changed into walking clothes
Do my bullet-point journal and triage emails and to-do list
Walk the dog Have breakfast
Change into smarter clothes and go to the library to write for an hour or two
Home for lunch

Since then lockdown, most of it has continued, although I can no longer go the library. I have had to flex that bit of my routine but I still write at the same time each day, I just pretend that my front room is the library. It is fine as long as get there early enough, before our teenagers colonise it for their own screen-based activities!  I will write more about the usefulness of different locations in my next post.

What parts of your life/ work routine can carry on and what parts can be adapted?

Think about how you can adapt your existing tricks and routines for your new performing environment.

Let’s Get This Show Off the Road

Maybe you are a little like a magician when it comes to work and productivity?

When the Trick Doesn’t Work Any More

You learn a new trick. You practice it by yourself. You practice it in front of a mirror.

You video yourself doing it. You know you have the moves down. No-one will be able to see how it’s done.

Then you take it out and start performing it real people. You do it again and again. Each time you learn a bit more about how to time it, when to put the pauses in, where you are likely to get reactions.

You’ve got it nailed, it has become one of your signature tricks, something you do really well.

And then you perform it to a different audience and it falls flat. It just doesn’t work, they don’t react, it has lost it’s magic.

Do you give up? No, you flex, you pivot, you try something else: a different trick for that audience, the same trick with a different presentation, or you go and find a different audience.

Lockdown Shakedown

I have spent the last couple of years figuring out how I work best. I have worked out that I am most effective when I have set routines and different locations for different activities and I that there are different times of day when I am more creative.

A lot of that has been challenged because of the lockdown. I can no longer go to the library to write, I am shut in with my family so routines have to dove-tail, I can no longer go out to perform shows.

Maybe you are in a similar position?

What to do?

Do you give up? No you flex, you pivot, you try something else. 

It is worth taking some time to examine your existing habits, routines and work methods. Which of them can you carry through to the new normal and which must be parked for the time-being?

Over the next three posts I will look at how you can stay productive and sane during the lockdown by paying attention to:

  • Habits and routines
  • Locations and journeys
  • Clothing

A lot of it is about tricking yourself into different mind-sets by using the stimuli available to you.

You can find new tricks, you can find new presentations and you can find new audiences.

The magic can continue…