Last week, I had the opportunity to facilitate a session with some senior managers and directors on the theme of “Coaching for Leadership.” One of the segments was on Coaching for Complex Decision-Making,” which is required when there is no obvious choice, when any among several possible decisions creates different, unique sets of new problems, and you cannot undo the effects of any intervention or decision you select. Because, it’s complex!
One approaches such problems from the endpoint or “future desired state.” In other words, begin with the end in mind, where “end” is not so much a specific measurable goal or objective, but rather the set of desired effects—what’s it going to look like, feel like, and sound like when that desired future state is achieved?
It occurred to me that social partner dancing often tends towards the complex as well. You have two, autonomous individuals who are moving together in a shared environment created by the music, the other people, and the room itself, according to a few commonly held rules, but no two dances are the same, even with the same partner dancing to the same song. Depending on a whole bunch of random factors, what the couple produces together is emergent—new and fresh each time.
What this suggests is that rather than attempting to duplicate pre-choreographed steps and studio lessons, social dancing could take a page from the complex decision-making book and begin with the end-effect in mind. Approaching any given dance and partner with intention, we could ask ourselves, “What is the ideal outcome of sharing the perfect dance with this person?” And then follow-up that question with, “What would have to happen just before we reach that moment of perfect dance? What would that look and feel like?” The answers to these questions involve more than simply executing a set of routine patterns and moves.
For each person, dancing with a given partner, the answers would likely be unique. With one, perhaps achieving a great dance connection is the ideal. With another, it could be creating a magical, mutual interpretation of the music. With yet another partner and a different song, the ideal end-state could simply be to keep up, or be technically precise in the lead or follow. Whatever the particular situation, entering a dance relationship that will, in this moment, last the duration of a song means that you enter with a mindful intention to create something specific with your partner by the time the music stops. You back up from the ending to the beginning, thinking through what it might take to achieve that end-point, and then, how to start in order to set you both on that trajectory towards a truly great dance. You move, respond to your partner and the music, adjust, discover, and respond again to the complexity of movement when we…
See you on the dance floor.