Which City?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Leading and Following: How Dancing Can Deepen Our Coaching Insights

I've been away from blogging for a while, concentrating on setting up new Dementia Friendly Communities projects funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and becoming more absorbed in the MA Creative Writing I am doing at York St John University. Conventional Leadership Development and Coaching have taken a back seat in the last month, although you can see from our Spring Newsletter that The Open Channel is working right at the heart of the concerns of organisations, particularly in the public and charitable sectors.

Personally, I am learning how to be a creative practitioner, in preparation for my third career as a writer, to which I plan to transfer full time in 2016. So, ideas and techniques which link coaching and leadership theory to creative practice are of particular interest and for that reason alone I couldn't miss this month's EMCC Yorkshire and Humber meeting which promised insights into coaching practice through dancing.

Thanks to Kate Pinder for introducing us to Fides Matzdorf and Ramen Sen, brilliant amateur Ballroom and Latin dancers whose day jobs are as a Research Fellow in a Business School and in IT consultancy. Their personal understanding of organisations and leadership are evident in the parallels they draw from dancing. 

What did I learn? First of all I learned to dance, which was amazing since a few years ago, I spent two terms at evening classes trying to achieve what Fides and Ramen taught me in less than five minutes. With the co-operation of my brilliant partner Corinne, I learned how to connect physically hip to hip, and to maintain a connection which allows leader and follower to  move confidently to music without learning any steps. How great it felt to glide around a dancefloor, swaying to the music, connected by rhythm.

And how great it feels, if you've had that experience, to work in an organisation where you feel in tune with the culture and values,  confident in  supportive leadership, and free to express yourself within explicit parameters that everybody understands.  How great it also feels to coach an individual or a team in a relationship of mutual trust, where leadership is a question, and following is a response which leads to insight.

The insights I had in this incredibly enjoyable and fun session were:

  • Leadership has to be based on trust.
  • Trust is based on supporting people through mistakes and learning from them.
  • Clarity of rules and techniques is essential to prevent people from getting it wrong - for example the ballroom convention is to move anti-clockwise. It works if people follow the rules.
  • Within the rules, individual expression is encouraged - feeling the rhythm of the music, and responding to one another as partners allows you to be creative.
  • Both leader and follower have responsibilities, they may be different, but they are both essential for a good outcome.
  • Collaboration toward a shared objective is the key to success.
  • Satisfaction , fun, a sense of achievement - these are the rewards that make you want to continue.
If you get a chance to attend one of Fides' and Ramen's workshops, do it. Wherever it leads you, be a trusting follower and learn from your dance.

For those of you taking a break this Easter, have a great time, for others, have a great time too!