Tricks of the Trade: Tips for Facilitators - Explaining Locus of Control and Delivering MAGIC® in Alternate Formats

By Gregg Barratt

It is great to be back after conducting our first Tricks of the Trade Workshop for MAGIC facilitators at Fairfield University in CT. What a terrific turn out and an outstanding day.

In this issue of Tricks of the Trade: Tips for Facilitators, I will share questions and responses that arose during the workshop. If you you have additional questions or topics you would like more information on, Communico will be glad to respond with some fresh new ways to address your challenges. Send your email to

Gregg, sometimes I have a hard time introducing the Locus of Control concept in the class. The participants seem to get the concept eventually, but at times I struggle with it.  Have any ideas?

Here's what works for me:

Remember the illustration in the participant book of the thermostat? I ask participants, “What is the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer?” The typical response, “The thermostat maintains or sets the temperature in the room, and the thermometer merely reads or reacts to the temperature in the room.”

I then ask the group to think about dealing with a difficult customer and I ask, “Which one would you rather be – a thermostat or a thermometer?” Clearly, most want to be the one who can influence others and not just react.

I then give a real life example of how MAGIC and the five steps allow you to be the thermostat in customer interactions. I emphasize that we can reduce our own stress if we can be the ones setting the temperature rather than letting the irate customers do it for us.

Here is a real life example you can share (or come up with your own):

Imagine this scenario: you go to check-in to a hotel after a tiring flight and a long drive. Once you finally find your hotel, you enter the lobby to discover a customer yelling at the front desk clerk. After listening for a few moments, you learn that the guest went to check-in to his/her hotel room only to find that there was someone already in it! The guest is now complaining loudly in the lobby. You further discover that the front desk employee is not MAGICAL and is not displaying any empathy towards the guest. In fact, the employee is providing nothing but a real attitude of indifference.

What are your choices?

  • You could choose to be the thermometer. Stomp around, mumble under your breath, call the hotel a few choice names, complain that there is only one staff person on, and pace around like an expectant father. All of which will get you nowhere.

    This will only increase your stress level and blood pressure, but it certainly will not get you a room any faster.
  • You could choose to be the thermostat. Begin by softly interrupting the customer and expressing empathy, “Excuse me sir, it sounds like this has been a frustrating experience for you. I believe I can help here, would you mind if I briefly interrupt?” 

    Then make a connection with the hotel personnel, “Excuse me Paul, I am Mr. Barratt and I realize you are busy, but I can help you. I am interested in checking in and I see that you are in the middle of an awkward situation. If I may, I'd like to suggest that you inform this guest that you would be glad to help and that you apologize for the inconvenience. You can then say that you would be more than happy to correct the situation by providing him/her with a room that has no one in it.” Lastly, turn to the guest and apologize for the interruption and step back.

End Result: The chances of you getting a room faster are greatly enhanced and you have acted as the thermostat and influenced the situation to create a great impression on the customer!

Gregg, we have been doing the traditional two-day MAGIC program for quite a while in our organization. Recently, the head of operations has said he cannot free up 10 people for two full days as it really impacts his service levels. Do you have any suggestions on how I could alter the two-day program but not lose the effect?

I understand that time is tight and it can be very difficult for associates to leave their desks for two full days. I recommend focusing on the key content deliverables of MAGIC (33 points, five MAGIC steps, Locus of Control, etc) and look at how you can deliver these pieces effectively in a different format.

Some clients have turned from the two-day format to a three, half-day model where six participants come in from 8:00am to 12:00pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings. You can also have a second wave of six new associates in the afternoon, thereby making it a full day of training for the facilitator. I personally have found this to be a very effective model, especially when I get push back from the business units on time and resources.

Additionally, the half-day approach allows participants to digest the material in “chunks” and apply their learning to their jobs that same day. Participants come back each day with stories of either how they have used MAGIC on the job or how they have observed others not using MAGIC. One participant in Chicago recently said, “When I went to XYZ store in the mall, I was amazed at how many 'tragic' phrases the salesperson used. It was almost like she didn't want to make the sale because she used terms like ‘hopefully,' ‘maybe,' and ‘I'll try' in relation to product availability.” 

Many participants have also shared that they used the MAGIC techniques and heard an immediate difference in their customers' responses – and they were delighted with what they heard!
I can provide a three, half-day outline to anyone who might be interested. I recommend that you use a smaller class size to ensure that everyone gets through two full role plays.

Once again, thanks so much for your questions and I look forward to hearing from you if I can be of any help!

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.