WHAT DO JUGGLING, magic, and $2 bills have in common? They're all ways that senior execs have found to relate to their employees — to humanize themselves when they come face to face at meetings.

My own senior VP, a magic buff (he carries his cards everywhere he goes), is the perfect example. At a recent company meeting, he pulled out his deck and a hardcover book and did an elaborate magic trick to illustrate how magazines and e-media need to work together. He involved several people at once: One chose a card, another chose a word from a book, and others were asked to find the answers in unlikely places, such as under a pitcher of water and via the text messaging on his cell phone. As he wrapped up his talk, people were clearly not only amused but immersed. He had made his point — and a valuable connection.

I have a senior exec friend who does the same kind of thing with juggling. He has even juggled batons on fire to bring home a point. “They're not going to forget my presentation, or the fact that I stuck my neck out and could have made a fool of myself,” he told me. (“Or set the place on fire,” I thought.)

Another example I love is Craig Tysdal, former CEO of NetSolve, who stuffed $2 bills in his pocket wherever he went. (I happen to think $2 bills are fun.) When leading meetings, he would hand a bill to an employee if he liked his or her answer to a question. He figured that if they put them in their wallets, they would remember that meeting — and him — every time they opened it.

The days of the CEO as rock star or larger-than-life icon are long gone. What employees crave in their leaders is honesty, humanness, and a feeling of connection. Just look at how CEO blogs, where they speak openly and directly to their employees and customers, have taken off. Finding that talent, that twist — which can be as simple as a magic trick — and playing off of it is a way to create that connection at your meeting.
Barbara Scofidio

CMI: an award winner!

Congratulations to Art Director Scott Raymond and the rest of the CMI staff for winning a silver ASBPE Northeast Region award for the cover of the September 2004 issue of Corporate Meetings & Incentives.