Living the MAGIC® Standard as a Leader

by Jean Marie Johnson

When we choose to “Make a Great Impression on the Customer,” to “be MAGIC,” we are really choosing to set a standard for ourselves. We refer to this as “The MAGIC Standard.” When an organization adopts this as their standard, it means “Every contact needs to be so appropriate that the customer chooses to have another contact with you.”

In our work with clients from a diverse cross-section of industries, we’ve seen leaders practice our MAGIC Standard, using The Five MAGIC Steps, in two critical ways:  to evolve soft skill metrics, and to connect with their direct reports and peers in a way that strengthens internal relationships and bolsters the bottom line. That’s powerful.

The Standard as Vision Accountability

According to the Gallup Q12 Poll for Employee Engagement, 80% of engaged workers believe their leader cares about them as a person. “A culture of inclusiveness is rooted in trust and respect, but it is much more than that. It's making sure that employees know that their contributions and opinions are noticed.” 

The MAGIC standard is much like a litmus test for formal, informal, top, middle, and frontline leaders. It provides concrete and tangible direction and a means for holding one’s self accountable. The result is that the vision is not just abstract and aspirational, it’s truly the customers’ and the employees’ experience.

Herb Kelleher, founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines reflected this assertion. He said, “The way our people provide customer service to each other within the company, eventually manifests and reflects itself in the service provided to the public. Your employees are your most important customers.” 

The Standard as Direction from Leadership

Leaders are charged with shaping the relationship between their employees and their customers based on a clear set of cultural core values that always include respect and accountability. And, listening is the first step in showing respect. 

Glenn Llopis, reflected in a article, “Memorable leaders always use the right tone. They go out of their way to make their employees feel secure. They embrace two-way communication and are active listeners.” When a leader truly listens, he or she can then respond with sincere empathy as appropriate, thus inspiring trust.  

We’re often asked why empathy is such a vital part of the MAGIC Standard.  Ernest J. Wilson III, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism said it perfectly, “Empathy remains an emotional foundation—it’s the ‘attribute-prime’ of successful leaders.”  

During a recent MAGIC program at a large client hospital, a group of managing nurses reflected on the notion that empathy needs to be expressed not just felt. One commented, “Here we are in a vocation that demands compassion and empathy. Yet, we’re not always expressing empathy with our patients, and certainly not with each other! It seems we’re too focused on the task.” The team decided to post the MAGIC Standard at every nurse’s station throughout the hospital as one reminder of what they strive for in every interaction.

Leadership goes beyond setting goals and monitoring the bottom line. It is a unique accountability that needs to mirror the vision and mission of the organization. This of course means that leaders are accountable for what they do, what they say and how they behave.  

Modeling the Standard is more than walking the talk – it’s becoming the talk

Not too long ago, a CEO of one of our major financial services clients modeled this attribute of the MAGIC Standard at a meeting with his team. In wrapping up, he responded to his direct report’s question, “I will try to get back to you with an answer to your question by week’s end.”  This came on the heels of an intensive, companywide MAGIC initiative and the new standard regarding word choice. Quickly realizing that he said a tragic word, there was a pause. He then reworded his response, “I will get back to you Jim by 2:00 p.m. Friday. Will that work for you?”  Everyone laughed and a few applauded. With good humor and bit of humility, this leader proved that everyone is learning. He modeled the Standard and reinforced the very skills this organization was working to master. It went beyond knowing and understanding the standard. This executive moved the organization by putting the standard on display in a human way. He became a manifestation of the standard.

The most successful leaders do not lead organizations, they lead people—they lead with integrity and enthusiasm to inspire confidence and trust. Using the MAGIC Standard engages and fortifies all associates to bring their best to every customer interaction and deliver service with respect and accountability.
Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.

Sources: Neff, T. &. Citrin J. (1999) Lessons from the Top HBR: Empathy is Still Lacking in the Leaders Who Need It Most; Ernest J. Wilson III, September 2015 Gallup Blog, Q12 Poll; Jane Miller, 10/19/17; 8 Qualities That Make Leader Memorable; Glenn Llopis 1/13/14

Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.