Magic is “an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.” Every individual has extraordinary power seemingly from a supernatural source. We see it manifest at times of crisis when we are often able to call upon resources within us that we didn’t know existed. Sometimes we have a brilliant intuitive insight and we don’t know where it came from. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew how to access this power at will? Or even better, if we had the key to elicit it from others? Well, we can access it in ourselves and we do have the key to unlock it in others.
The key to unlocking magical performance is trust. Trusting someone is different from relying on them. Reliability is data-driven: you rely on someone who has a track-record of delivery. Reliability is a static fact, whereas trust is a dynamic force; it is a powerful emotion, and like all emotions, it has ebbs and flows. Trust is a feeling you have about someone, even someone whose track-record might be unknown to you. You are trusting people every time you drive through a green light, arrange to meet someone, or accept a check. Most importantly, you can inspire others to feel trusted.
Artists—and we are all artists—can make others feel sad, happy, excited, inspired. In the same way, one can make another person feel trusted. Other than loved, trusted is perhaps the feeling people yearn for most. When someone feels truly trusted, they access that extraordinary power within that enables them to do what they were trusted to do no matter how difficult or challenging. Soldiers at war can do heroic things and overcome ridiculous odds when they know their commanders, subordinates, and the people back home trust them. Armies have been known to lose their courage when they have lost the trust of the people who sent them into battle.
In business, we are not very good at inspiring trust. Even though trust within organizations can increase performance by a factor of six, trust levels both of business and within business are abysmally low. The Edelman Trust Barometer last year showed that 63 percent of people surveyed believed that CEOs are not at all or only somewhat credible. Despite economic prosperity, “the United States is enduring an unprecedented crisis of trust,” says Richard Edelman, President and CEO of Edelman.
Trust is different from delegating or empowering others or holding them accountable. Trust is an emotion, not an activity on a checklist. Trust means surrendering all worry and concern in the full knowledge that the other (or oneself) will deliver on the expectation. Trust is about being able to relax totally when you have delegated a task or responsibility. But more than that, inspiring trust in others requires that you convey to the other how absolutely relaxed you are. Looking over their shoulder or micromanaging someone else undermines the feeling of being trusted, and deprives them of the extraordinary power to perform beyond the ordinary.
Trusting yourself has the same effect. If we trust ourselves to succeed in challenging circumstances, we will access the magic within and perform in extraordinary ways. The slightest doubt in ourselves, though, dissipates the magic and we can only accomplish the ordinary.
Trust is not a guarantee against disappointment, and of course we shouldn’t trust when our intuition or instinct is warning us against it. Sometimes we trust, and things don’t work out. In these cases, simply manage the damage when it occurs without anticipating it before it occurs. The upside of trust is so much higher than the downside. I have been taken for a ride by people I have trusted, but much, much more often I have gained unanticipated benefit, value, and joy. Over my lifetime, by trusting people I have gained far more than I have lost.
Elicit magical performance from your teams, your colleagues, your children, your partner, and yourself. Make them feel trusted and trust yourself. Let go of your worry and relax as you watch the magic unfold.