04th Oct 2023
Does “Magic” Exist in Business?
I often hear the word “magic” to describe how someone desires a situation to be in the world of work. I heard it so often that I felt that I needed to take it upon myself to set people straight and take a stance on the yes/no question – Does magic really exist in business? I opted for the negative position, FYI – my default tendency is to defer to the logic of the statement. No, Virginia, there is no magic in business.
I found myself saying, “There’s no such thing as ‘magic’,” so often, I began to feel offput by my own statement. Why is this position so important to me? As I have grown in my career and have spent more time looking at the possibilities of things, I felt it was time for me to take a step back and evaluate whether I needed to remove my challenge hat. My intention with exploring these thoughts is to encourage you to pause, reflect and look at things with a new perspective, question assumptions and belief systems.
What Does “Magic” Really Mean?
I love looking up the definition of words to ground myself in the intended meaning as a beginning reference point. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, my preferred definition source, magic is defined as “the use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces” or “an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.”
When I think of magic in the practical sense, I think of a magician’s work. Whether novice or seasoned, they seek to create experiences that suspend our belief around what is possible. Behind the scenes, in preparation to “wow” us with their charms and spells, they spend a significant amount of time preparing and practicing their craft until they are ready and able to effortlessly execute the trick or illusion. It is the knowledge of the time on task that made me push back on the notion of magic in business. Nothing is actually supernatural. Intentionality lives at the center of each outcome the magician creates. Their success is measured with applause, “ooohs” and “aaahs” at the completion of each sequence. Those who ascend to the top of their craft have demonstrated deep mastery. No easy feat.
The “Magic” People Really Want
When people say they want to experience “magic” in the realm of business, what do they really mean? My interpretation of the sentiment is that they want an experience with their manager, team or customer/client to be easy, frictionless and enjoyable. Yes, I want that too. So where was the disconnect? I realized that while I was focusing deeply on the process, people were attempting to describe the outcome that they wanted to feel.
They were using the word “magic” to emphasize the feelings that come when they reach their desired future state. When there is enhanced team communication and collaboration to get work done. Feelings of ease that are generated when people feel confident, inspired, hopeful, free to act and be, respected and valued. They are describing engagement, which exists when people are doing meaningful work, have psychological safety and have space to nurture their personal wellbeing.
Well, duh. That’s the focus of all of the work that I do. So there gets to be another possibility for how I view the question – Does “magic” exist in business? Yes, it does! When we collectively do the work of supporting our colleagues to do their best work in service of clients and customers and our other stakeholders, we are creating magic. Magic is what we want to experience. It is the result of intentional work. And we can get there if we care about the “how”. The question is – Are we creating the work environment for the magic to exist? You get to think about that and determine the actions you can take to move to create the magic you seek.
There are always opportunities to evaluate how we are framing questions, problems and solutions. I used “magic” as an opportunity to probe my own thinking. My borderline righteousness about my particular worldview began creating a fixed way of interpreting what my clients were sharing with me. I noticed a pattern and asked myself some probing questions and got to the root of my assumptions that opened up a new way of thinking. As business leaders, this is a helpful capability to build and flex as we move forward each and every day.