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
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,
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
“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.