How to win over your staff with the magic of enchantment

19 February 2015 -


Your organisation will be more productive and innovative if your leadership style beguiles your workers into wanting to do things, rather than making them

Tom Peck

“There was no screaming, no shouting, no clenching of fists or wild exhortation. He simply walked in, picked up the ball, and said, ‘Let’s go’. He had buckled on the breast plate for the fight to come.” So said Sir Alf Ramsey of his captain Bobby Moore, in the rarefied moments in the Wembley dressing room before the 1966 World Cup final.

In their leadership styles, both men – it is commonly agreed by all who met them – knew a thing about what Prospero in The Tempest called the “art to enchant”; to inspire people to do what they might not think themselves capable of. Prospero commanded the elements to wreck a passing ship and deliver him his destiny – impressive stuff, but a comparatively straightforward task when compared with Sir Alf and Mr Moore’s achievements – getting England not just past the quarter-finals, but to actually win the World Cup.

Today, with finances tight in both the public and private sectors, managers are increasingly finding that if they want to stay afloat, they have to deliver more than before. In an age of austerity, when there is no money to spare, how can they motivate their teams towards better results?

Sir Alf and Mr Moore were natural leaders, possessing an air of assurance and authority from as early an age as any of their contemporaries can recall. The magician Prospero was different, though: his tricks came straight out of a book. And key figures in the world of behavioural psychology and insight think that all managers can do the same. In fact, it’s all rather easy.

In the late 1990s, the now-legendary Silicon Valley figure Guy Kawasaki was the “chief evangelist” at Apple. It was his job to inspire people not just to buy Apple products, but to love them. No company has ever come close to achieving this to the degree that Apple has. Today, when even the most minor update to an Apple product is released, the world looks on with bated breath – then rushes to the shops. In his latest book, Enchantment, The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, Kawasaki tells us how to charm customers, colleagues and partners, as well as inspire ourselves to a level higher than we’ve thought possible.

Although famous for making machines enchanting, Kawasaki says: “Enchantment should be easier on a person-to-person basis. People can see the expressions and reactions of others. They can change their approaches and do many other things to make themselves more enchanting. With a physical object such as an iPhone, you have much less control of the initial experience: for example, the circumstances of opening the box, setting it up, picking the carrier, transferring data, and setting up an Apple account to buy apps. It’s a sad world if machines are more enchanting than people.”

For managers, he says, enchantment is a three-stage process. “The most important thing they can do is to provide a MAP,” he says. “M stands for mastery – the ability for people to master new skills and improve themselves at work. A is for autonomy – the ability to work independently and not have someone breathing down your neck. P is for purpose – people are working on a higher calling than simply making money; they are making the world a better place.

“If you enable people to master new skills while working autonomously on meaningful goals, you will enchant them. If money is the primary mechanism for influence, the magic won’t last very long. Employees need to embrace the goals and values of an organisation – so much so that they need less direction and supervision. They ‘know’ what to do because they know what the organisation stands for. They are empowered.”

Though the art of enchantment can be learned, it is often counterintuitive, says Steve Martin, author of bestselling book Yes! and a leading expert in the “science of influence”. For the past 12 years, he has been the head of a consulting organisation called Influence at Work. He says: “One of the things we find when we conduct research is that people believe that some people are born with this ability to engage people, to lead people, to get people on-side. To a certain extent, it’s true. But there’s a significant body of evidence that says any manager can learn those skills. There are fundamental principles.

“First, there’s reciprocation. People will be more likely to engage in a message or a proposal if they see that doing so is in return for something that’s been done for them first. Rather than demand compliance, the most engaging people will invest in others in advance and then trade on those social obligations. Often, managers think, ‘If I have a challenge, who can help me? Who can help me deliver?’ That’s the wrong question. It is better to be asking themselves, all the time, ‘Who can I help? Whose cause can I further? Who can I support?’ That means when they do need to deliver something difficult, they’ve already built a social obligation. We are more engaged and we comply with people we are already socially obliged to.

“Second, many leadership courses and managerial courses say that people need to be told of the benefits they will gain if they move in a new direction. But people are significantly more moved if they are presented with what they will stand to lose if they don’t. Saying, ‘do this and you’ll save a million’, doesn’t work. Say: ‘don’t do this and you’ll lose a million’.”

Most important, managers should not think that leading change is a one-man job. “Often leaders will believe that the responsibility for getting people to follow a certain course of action is solely down to them,” says Martin. “That’s not true. The evidence shows the much bigger influence on people’s decision-making is what people immediately similar to them and those around them are doing.

“Don’t feel you have to rely on your own influence to enchant others. Shine a light on those who are already doing what you want to see done. Most people say they aren’t influenced by others’ behaviour. But the reality is that they are.”

The silicon sorcerer: Steve Jobs

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. It is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you havesomething to lose,” announced the founder and CEO of Apple to the assembled graduates on commencement day at Stanford University in 2005, a year after he had been diagnosed with cancer.

“You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Since then, Jobs has revolutionised the way the world works, with the iPhone and the iPad. His company, Apple, has been rescued from relative obscurity to become a worldwide industry leader.

The potion peddler: Jamie Oliver

Few people remember how roundly mocked the iconic chef-cumteacher- cum-healthcampaigner was when he first appeared on television as the Naked Chef more than a decade ago. He was mocked, too, when he put up his house as collateral without telling his wife, to found the Fifteen Foundation in 2002, training 15 young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds or with a history of crime or drugs. Some of the earlier recruits are now television chefs themselves and, in the meantime, Oliver has transformed public attitudes to the quality of school dinners throughout the country, seeing him voted the “Most Inspiring Political Figure of 2005” in Channel 4’s annual poll.

The sport spellbinder: Brian Clough

The master motivator, Clough has taken two unfashionable Midlands clubs – Derby County and Nottingham Forest – to levels of success that neither would have thought possible. One of his players, Martin O’Neill, now a successful manager himself, said the entire team would have done anything, just to receive a thumbs-up from the manager. When the Forest players walked into the dressing room before the 1979 European Cup Final in Munich, they found their kit laid out as normal, but on top of each little pile, a glass of champagne that Cloughie told them to drink. “Now you’ve got a taste for it, go out and earn it,” he told them. They won 1-0.

Image courtesy of Mark Grenier / Shutterstock.

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