Magical Bosses

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Dan's a mechanic most of the time, but right then he was an entertainer. I could see him across the lawn. He was pulling a long silk scarf from the ear of one little girl, to the astonishment of the children who were gathered around 

A few years ago, Dan hurt his hand pretty badly in an accident at work. Part of his therapy was supposed to be finger exercises. When he balked at doing them, a wise physical therapist suggested that he learn card tricks and what Dan calls "prestidigitation." 

Dan's hand got better and he found a hobby. He loved to do magic.

I watched as Dan extended a deck of cards to a very serious looking little boy. I couldn't hear what he said from where I was sitting, but I knew it was some version of, "Pick a card." A moment later he was pulling the card from the astonished young man's pocket.

Dan was like many of the great bosses I've met. What they do looks like magic, too. Their teams produce great results. Team members enjoy the work and many go on to greater things. And the great bosses make it all look effortless, magical.

When Dan finished his performance, he picked a beer out of the cooler and plopped down in a lawn chair near me. Soon after that, the serious young man approached him.

"Can you show me how you did that?"

Dan smiled a big smile, said, "Sure," and set about showing the boy how the trick worked. When it didn't seem to work for the boy, Dan encouraged him and told him to try again.

"You have to practice," Dan said, "that's how you learn. Don't worry. It's never easy the first time. It takes a while to learn."

He took my pen and one of my ever-present index cards. He wrote out instructions for the trick and the address of a magic shop, where the boy could buy the cards to make it work. He handed the card to the boy.

"Don't forget to practice."

Learning to do magic is a lot like learning to be a boss. It's not easy in the beginning and you have to practice to get it right. After a while, things that used to take concentration happen automatically. A while after that it all looks effortless and natural.

Great bosses may look like they do magic, but it's learned and practiced behavior. It's what they do that makes them a great boss. They learned how to do it and you can learn it, too. That's how you become a great boss.

You observe. You adapt. You try. You reflect. You try again. And again. It's little things tried and adapted and practiced for years. Then, suddenly it seems, you're the boss that everyone says makes it look easy.

Boss's Bottom Line

It's never magic to the magician. You can learn to be the magician.

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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  • 4/20/2012 1:48 PM Dan in Philly wrote:
    Just like magic, good management is so easy once you know how, but so mysterious when you don't!
    Reply to this
    1. 4/20/2012 2:00 PM Wally Bock wrote:
      It sure is, Dan. You reminded me of Arthur Clarke's quote about technology (in its broadest sense): "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

      Reply to this
  • 1/7/2013 10:13 AM Chery Gegelman wrote:
    Wally, I love that you emphasized that great bosses can make things look like magic! I also appreciate the part of your story where Dan encourages the boy to keep practicing, reminding him that it takes awhile to learn.

    Jon Mertz recently shared the quote below, emphasizing how easy it is for many of us to focus only on the magic, and forget the work that goes on behind the scenes before the magic is created.

    "The reason we struggle with insecurity is that we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." Steve Furtick
    Reply to this
    1. 1/7/2013 4:17 PM Wally Bock wrote:
      Thanks for the kind words, Chery. And thanks for sharing that great quote.

      Reply to this
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