Posted by: malstott | October 5, 2014

Dance in the Workplace

hot partyWarning: This blog post compares business to dance. You have heard football, dating, airplane flying and war analogies to business.  Let’s put our pink on and dance outside of the box.

I love to dance. I like to exercise. Dancing for fitness is a great combination for me.  It is also a window into humanity. I enjoy the music, movement and I like to note the myriad of “types” in a dance workout class. My family doesn’t necessarily like my crazy dance style. I’m a wonderful dancer, in my imagination. I probably should have been a Broadway star because in my imagination I am very good. That says something about me and that is my point.

Dancing styles seem to mirror personality types and tell us something about our fellow humans. Understanding those around us is part of the challenge of building a successful business. Who is out there on the dance floor?

  • Reflection focused, exacting: There are some serious dancers in the front of the room. They are looking into the mirrors because they wanted to get it right. Perhaps they also want to be seen but that is unclear. It doesn’t look like they are enjoying themselves and I suppose that is why they aren’t superstars. They have the technique but not the finesse. They execute but fail to mesmerize
  • Can’t catch the beat, and they know it: In every class there is someone who marches to a different beat. They just can’t get the rhythm of the music and things are moving too fast. They would rather be in a class that doesn’t require anticipation and interpretation. They would shine in a weight lifting class where sheer strength and stamina is on order. Usually these folks don’t stick around. It just isn’t for them. If they do stay through until the end, they clearly don’t enjoy what they do and they do more harm than good.
  • Can’t catch the beat, and they don’t know it: Frankly, these types are my favorites to watch on the dance floor and in the office. They create their own moves. They knock a few people over with their enthusiasm. Sometimes they show up with crazy outfits and the room clears around them. They inspire smiles and sometimes others join in more enthusiastically because of their bold approach. They are flawed leaders with heart.
  • How do they move like that?: There are a few dancers who just have what it takes.  They are superstars and are pulled up front by the instructors. They are naturals but it is true also that they show up at most of the classes offered and they work hard to get the moves right. Most of us are trying to emulate the ways they move hips, head, shoulders. They are charismatic leaders.
  • Moving for the fun of it, in the pack: These dancers enjoy what they are doing and are good enough that they don’t stick out. They fake it until they figure it out. They don’t have the flair of the superstar and are likely not going to be pulled to the front of the room but they will be there until the end and others do watch and follow.
  • Watching with amusement: There are always those who watch from the sidelines. Sometimes they are in the room and hang in the back but don’t jump in. They critique. They judge. They seem enthusiastic about the art form but for aren’t brave enough to really get their feet and hearts in the game.

Do these types sound like the people we work with? I take away these lessons:

  1. You can be a good leader even if you aren’t a natural. Skills can be learned and the most important thing is to enjoy the process.
  2. Good leadership requires a bit of style. Figure out what that is for you.  People want to follow confidence and grace.
  3. Don’t sit on the sideline and criticize. If you are showing up for work, you have some kind of leadership job to do.
  4. If you follow your own drumbeat you probably still have a following. Keep your heart in the right place and the rest will follow.
Dance as though no one is watching you,
Love as though you have never been hurt before,
Sing as though no one can hear you,
Live as though heaven is on earth.

― Souza

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