Last year, while coaching an executive in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I walked from my downtown hotel across the refurbished pedestrian bridge to a district of art shops and restaurants. Imbedded in the sidewalk, I noticed designs indicating the steps of several dances. I chose to stand in “The Waltz” footprints and spread out my arms hoping that a partner would come along and join me.
I waited for about two minutes and wasn’t disappointed. Lisa joined me and we danced only briefly because she had to get to work – at her dance studio. She gave me her card, and with a smile, encouraged me not to give up my day job. Lisa raised sidewalk prospecting to a new level, and triggered me to consider six dance strategies to invigorate innovation in any organization.
1. Enhance Your Dance. Even if you’ve been dancing your favorite dance forever, a refresher will always pay off. If you’re new to the organization, you may want to start by learning the steps that are familiar to your entity. Enhance your dance by upgrading your steps to make a bold statement with every move. Dance with passion, pizzazz and hutzpah. Make the old new again.
2. Change Your Routine. If your organization dances in only one style, shake things up a little by altering the tried and true. For example, if your company swears allegiance to The Hokey Pokey, try putting your left foot in first instead of your right foot as you’ve always done, then put your left foot out and shake it all about. Apparently, that’s what it’s all about. By the way, most feet don’t really care one way or another.
3. Listen to Your Own Music. “And those who were seen dancing,” said German philosopher and cultural critic, Friedrich Nietzsche, “were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music.” I enjoy watching young children dancing with abandon at wedding receptions. They feel free to dance from the inside out and invent new dances without even knowing it. Follow your inner music to create the future. American philosopher Henry David Thoreau offered this wise perspective: “If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.”
4. Attend a Dance Performance. “Dance,” observed Martha Graham, an American modern dancer and choreographer whose influence on dance has been compared with the influence of Stravinsky on music, “is the hidden language of the soul.” So go to a live dance performance and identify what others communicate about their souls through their dancing. Experience the depth of traditional Irish music at a theatrical show called Riverdance. Or, if you’re in New York City, witness the energy and alignment of The Radio City Rockettes.
5. Hire a Dance Coach. Engage a coach who can understand your particular situation and provide you with advice and support. Activist and poet, Maya Angelou, commented: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Without exception, in my experience, every leader who faced a difficult challenge, got through it with the help of a coach who acted as an enlightened corporate choreographer.
6. Reflect on Your Dancing. In his book, Leadership without Easy Answers, Dr. Ronald Heifetz, a psychiatrist and professional cellist, observes that we all need sanctuaries. He defines a sanctuary as “a place of reflection and renewal, where you can listen to yourself away from the dance floor and the blare of the music, where you can reaffirm your deeper sense of self and purpose. Listening to oneself requires a place where one can hear oneself think. Working amidst the cacophony of a multiple-band dance floor, one needs a sanctuary to restore one’s sense of purpose, put issues in perspective, and regain courage and heart.”
In The Tao of Leadership, John Heider describes humanity in an interesting way: “Thirty percent of the people love life and fear death. Thirty percent of the people prefer death and avoid life. Thirty percent of the people fear both life and death. Only ten percent of the people have the wisdom to accept both life and death as facts, and simply enjoy the dance of existence.” Be part of the ten percent who enjoy the dance, and use these six strategies to invigorate innovation in your organization. You might even consider tap dancing to work like Warren Buffett and me.