Do your employees need to know how you pulled the rabbit out of the hat?

June 29, 2008

A magician practices his craft for years and when he is ready, he shows it to his patrons in the hope of mesmerizing them with the art of pulling this cute little rabbit out of his hat and making it look easy. As leaders, we are often engaged in the difficult synthesis of complex situations, trying to determine a direction and vision for a project, department, or the organization as a whole. We spend many hours asking questions broadly inside and outside the organization to help create perspective and to begin to align the many different world views that typically exist in and around any organization among its stakeholders. Unlike the magician, the leader does not only have spectators they have followers who will need to pick up on the leaders vision and carry it through to fruition.

In my work as a coach, I have an opportunity to gain great insight into the many things a leader is considering at any given time. Some of those ideas, stories and concepts may last for many months or years before they feel they have a well considered approach to whatever they are dealing with in their organization. Many will craft, along with some on their team, a communication strategy laying out this chosen path. Some lay it out humbly while others sell the ideas, stories and concepts with great gravitas. Regardless of the way they do it, the one common denominator that seems to catch them off guard frequently is how long it takes for them to get buy in to what they consider is a well thought out plan.
That is, until they remember how long it took them to wrap their heads around the ideas, stories or concept. There seems to be such a gap in translating how long it takes an idea to gain weight in our own mind, and the time that you as a leader take to allow the idea to develop in your team or organization’s mind.
Questions you might ask your self are:

  • How long have you been developing the mental model that you have been contemplating?


  • How different is this idea from the current situation?



  • How much resistance is the idea going to have in the minds of those that you will need to gain alignment within your organization?



  • What can you do to eliminate the barriers to their resistance without loosing ground on the idea, story, or concept?



  • What will accelerate the acceptance of the idea, story, or concept?


If you agree that it is the leaders job to get your co-workers to do what you want them to do, and ethically they have to want to do it, then as a leader you will have to evaluate how to get them on board and bring reality of timing into the mix. If you don’t, you may lose personal strength on your goals because you inaccurately evaluated the time that it would take to close the gap.

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