Do you remember your first junior high dance? For some it was great fun. For others, it was a moment to cling tight to the wall. And for some, it was a time to make up an excuse to get out of there as quickly as possible and say… “My parents are picking me up early”; even though they were not. Comfort, curiosity, discomfort all rolled into one frenzy of adolescents. As managers, it’s a good idea to ask ourselves…When was the last time I got on the dance floor? What drew me on to the floor? What kept me away?
Managers are often told to practice Management By Walking Around (MBWA) . Described as ” the habit of stopping by to talk with people face to face, get a sense of how they think things are going, and listen to whatever may be on their minds.” If you follow this approach are you truly on the dance floor? Or are you just going through the motions?
Ron Heifetz writes about being on the dance floor and on the balcony. In change management, the dance floor allows us to see how things are being implemented and the balcony helps us to see the strategic vision.
How does Heifetz relate to your Junior High Dance experience. What is your dance floor style: Are you Comfortable? Curious? or Uncomfortable? Let’s think about how these three approaches might unfold for you.
Comfort. For some managers, getting down on the dance floor is energizing. They find themselves chatting with people, talking about sports, events, family and checking in on work flow. This comfortable approach is great at relationship building, a key to a strong team. People do notice managers that check in on them and it needs to be done regularly or colleagues will wonder…what’s up? Unfortunately, even when comfortable, this approach can turn to socializing instead of inquiry on implementation. A question to ask yourself could be, how is being on the dance floor enhancing relationships and performance? Am I actually learning about work flow and project implementation?
Curiosity. Managers with this lens, tend to walk around and stroll through the dance floor. They listen and observe. They may notice how people are interacting and where there is high energy and high performance. This approach to getting on the dance floor is about information gathering. A good question to ask yourself if this is your style to the dance floor is, does my curiosity build the team? and Am I gathering the right data to assess a change initiative’s implementation?
Discomfort. Perhaps you are a manager that is most comfortable working on strategy. Or, perhaps you are a manager who feels this dance floor approach is a waste of time because you know you hired the right people and you trust them to do their job. A good question to ask yourself here is…Do I stay off the dance floor because I trust my team or is it because I am more comfortable on the balcony. Do I prefer looking at the whole picture on the balcony? Am I missing seeing the parts by not going on the dance floor?
Consider the value of taking on all three approaches: comfort, curiosity and discomfort. Imagine taking a day where you not only check in with people but you work on a project side by side. What would be different? Next, try taking a day where you sit down with a colleague and genuinely ask them to share their approach to a project and get curious about their strategies to work flow. What could you learn? Now, imagine a day where you can move fluidly from strategy (the balcony) and to building team performance (the dance floor). How will this help you move an initiative forward?
If you are like me, you probably tried at least one more junior high dance. What made you give it another try? Tap into that to memory to help you step on to your work place dance floor.