How are Dancing and Running a Business Alike?

I was in the sixth grade when I learned to dance.  My parents took my sister and I, along with their dear friends the Wilsons and their two sons dancing at the SPJST hall in Round Rock, Texas.  We thought we were hot stuff to be at dancehall while most of our contemporaries were at home watching re-runs of Saturday Night Live or playing Pong on their Atari.

I remember all four of us kids laying on the edge of the dance hall floor laughing and giggling and trying to figure out how everyone was moving their feet.  Not too long after that, our parents arranged for us and several of our friends to have our own two-step and jitterbug class.  We would meet at the elementary school cafeteria where many of us had gone to kindergarten.  Oh, we had so much fun.

We learned how to initiate the dance, stand, hold our bodies, lead, follow, and navigate the other people (who were more like obstacles) on the dance floor.  Although our first class probably wasn’t very pretty in terms of style, we improved with every class.  I can imagine our mothers laughter as they peeked around the corner watching us try to navigate our way through the mechanics of the two-step.

Through the different twists, turns and dips our instructor would remind us to stop watching our feet.  “Look up!  You cannot navigate the dance floor if you are looking at your feet!”  Truer words have never been spoken.   Those words are as true in business and life in general as they were back then on the dance floor.

On our next family outing to the SPJST hall, we had so much fun dancing and trying new things.  The more we danced the better dancers we became and the more fun we had.  Before long the dance moves became second nature.

As I reflect on those good times it dawns on me that there are many business lessons in what seemed back then to be simply a good time.  Here are a few that are top of mind:

  1. Always look up and ahead so you can be fully informed about your next move.  Looking at your feet is short-sighted and will lead to a series of tiny, poorly executed moves.
  2. The leader’s job is to be firm and decisive as well as thoughtful so the follower can do so with ease.  A good leader makes it enjoyable for everyone by bringing out the best in the follower.
  3. Followers excel when they can trust the leader.  Otherwise, there will always be a power struggle.
  4. Mistakes will be made.  Learn from them and move on.  Everyone makes mistakes – it is simply part of the learning process.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  If you can relax, have some fun and not let your ego get in the way, great things will happen.
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