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Perhaps You Need a New McGuffin

Thanks to the filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, we know the recipe for many thrillers is something called a “McGuffin.” A McGuffin is an object or device that serves as a trigger for the plot. The McGuffin, often cloaked in mystique, is a motivating force for the storyline and the actors’ behavior. 

Objects like the Maltese Falcon, The Holy Grail, a rare coin, a stolen painting, or a treasure map are examples of McGuffins used by storytellers. Other examples: An unread letter, a Bible passage, a secret algorithm, a decrypted code, the identity of a spy. All have been used in films and books. By itself, a McGuffin is insignificant. But when expertly revealed as a motivation for the players in a story, a McGuffin becomes an essential key to drive the story forward and to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Everything in the story is weighed against the McGuffin as if it IS the central issue underpinning what goes on and why. 

So, why should leaders care about this arcane theatrical device? Simply, all great teams need a McGuffin to foster cohesiveness and to rally tireless effort. For teams, a McGuffin might be a challenge, a competitor, a deadline, a value, a process map, a reward, a critical decision, an innovation, a new service or product, a measurement or a contest. In the storyline of a team, McGuffins are used by leaders to drive the team forward to stunning achievement. 

What is your team’s McGuffin? What is driving your team toward greatness? Perhaps, you need a new McGuffin. 

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