This week, I’m teaching a one-day workshop, not on salsa (or bachata, or West Coast Swing) dancing, but on Performance Management as part of the Ontario University Institute of Technology’s Professional Management Certificate. One of the modules that I introduce throughout the workshop is a segment I call, “Coaching for All Occasions.” It discusses how to deal with both situations that don’t go as expected (a.k.a. “going off the rails”), and circumstances that go wonderfully well, and how to build on that success. The key element of this method involves three important questions: “What was missing?” “What can we do from here?” and “What can I do to support your success?”
As I am reviewing this material in advance of the workshop, while writing my weekly Salsaholics Newsletter, I’m struck by the parallels between Appreciative Management practices (which I coach, facilitate, and help to implement in organizations) and what I might call Appreciative Dance practices. Let’s take a look at the example of this one module.
What was missing? From time to time, a lead may signal a particular move that the follower doesn’t quite respond to as the leader might have expected. Or conversely, the follower might have been expecting a particular series of moves that the leader didn’t or perhaps couldn’t quite put together. The “what was missing?” question provides useful learning for each partner. The leader can reflect on the move that didn’t go quite right and consider whether the lead signal was sufficiently clear, or if it was too strong or too subtle. The follower might reflect on whether the leader was deliberately leading a pattern other than the one she had in mind, or if the leader was having some difficulty in remember exactly how the pattern went. In each case, we can ask ourselves – without judgment! – what was missing in that last move that could have made it a better experience.
In the middle of a social dance (because a class lesson situation is different), both partners should ask themselves, “What can we do from here?” How do we recover the flow of the dance by picking up the music, the partner connection, and precisely where we are relative to the floor and executing a different move that flows naturally from where we are. There is little to be gained in stopping, backing up, and attempting to execute the “failed” move. Rather, remember that this dance is a spontaneous improvisation, responding to how the music and your partner inform the interpretation of the dance. “Where do we go from here?” should ideally be answered with an intention to create an enjoyable and engaging connection.
Which brings us to the third idea: “What can I do to support your success?” be it as a leader or follower. Success in the context of social dancing means creating a circumstance where each partner feels wonderful about their dance with the other. It means keeping tuned in to your partner to ensure that they aren’t overwhelmed by an attempt at some fancy choreography. It means keeping your partner safe, and helping them to feel like they are indeed your favourite partner of the evening. It means creating that magical triumvirate of connections: with the music, with your partner, and with the floor. Each partner has the responsibility to support the success of the other in their respective roles, and therefore a soft of mutual accountability to each other for a wonderful dance experience.
Recently, I helped to facilitate a session at Rotman School of Management in which dance was used to illustrate and embody lessons of management teams among MBA students. Here, we have an opportunity to use a lesson from management practice to help illustrate how we can embody the best of Appreciative Dance with our partners.
See you on the dance floor!