Apart from being a coach, I am a passionate semi-professional tango dancer, and I use elements of this beautiful dance in my coaching, both with individuals and companies. So what does tango have to do with business?
As a coach (and a passionate tango dancer), I like to use elements of tango when I work with teams and groups of different individuals who have to learn to collaborate. It is an especially powerful tool to work with people or companies coming from a different culture. What do tango and business have in common?
Business is about relationships, and tango is about relationships, too. Tango dancers know like no other what a true partnership means. Here are four key principles of a successful tango partnership that will help you improve both your personal and business relationships.
1. You are totally responsible for yourself and your role
In tango, staying balanced is your task, and not your partner’s. If you can’t keep your weight off your partner and try 'hanging' on him/her giving your ‘full self’, if your partner has to pull you across the dance floor, there’s no dance. If anything your partner does puts you off balance, there’s be no dance. To be able to dance together, both of you need first to stay stable on your feet and be connected to your core – and only then listen to where your partner is proposing to go.
Sounds obvious when we’re talking about a dance, doesn’t it? How about we apply the same principle to business?
Think about your difficult business relationship(s): where in your career or business do you go off your balance and give all your ‘weight’ to one particular business relationship?
Another example of the same issue: how often do you go off balance when your business partner or client does something that you didn’t expect? Does it take minutes, hours or days for you to adjust?
An example from my life: in early days of setting up my coaching business I was making a classic mistake. Whenever I would get a potential client who promised to 'think about' working with me, I then would relax and wait for them to follow up without making extra moves in other directions. Of course, I were very disappointed if the client decided not to come on board eventually and it took me a while to get back into my confident self - because I had spent so many hours thinking about how it could work out and was counting so much! Do not make this mistake and make sure that you keep your balance in the relationship no matter what.
Think about where in your business relationship you become disconnected from your ‘core’. Do you perhaps accept a job or task that you don't really want to do? Do you agree to things that don't appeal to you just keep the client relationship going? Does it really improve your relationship? Usually, when you don't build the partnership and relationship from who you really are, from your core, remaining well-balanced, it's not long before you start experiencing problems.
2. Leaning in means giving to each other as much as they give you
In a perfect tango alliance, both partners give each other an equal amount of weight. They lean towards each other while standing firmly on their feet (and staying connected to their core). If you do it right, you will almost fall forward on the floor if your partner moves out of your way.
The same principle applies to any successful partnership: I am here for my partners' success and he is here for mine, and we both contribute evenly towards it. If each of us only thinks only about his/her personal performance, there will be no partnership (or dance). If one party gives less (or more) to the partnership, there's no dance (and the relationship isn't productive either).
Leaning in means that when one of you makes one step forward, your partner has to take one step backwards, and vice versa. If he decides to move forward instead, he’d land on your feet, not the most exciting experience (although somewhat unavoidable at the early stages of learning to dance or building a business relationship).
Unbalanced power frequently shows up in the relationships between investors and companies they finance. When something is going wrong, often investors overexercise their power and 'step' on the feet of an entrepreneur, instead of leading them to the desired direction.
It’s also happens often in service industries (my experience is with media and advertising agencies). When they don’t want to lose a powerful client, they often accept everything a client throws at them, instead of setting up some boundaries and giving their ‘weight’ back to the client and challenging his viewpoint and decisions.
3. A good tango dancer knows both how to lead and to follow (and knows when to do both!)
In a classic tango, a man takes the role of a leader, a woman that of a follower. However, if you are an advanced dancer, you are likely to be able to do both roles. Also, in the dance sometimes a leader gives a follower an opportunity to lead, just to make it more fun. He also leaves some space to the follower to make her own embellishments.
Same in business. Very often one wants to take a leadership role in a business alliance, and have everything done as and when they think is right. However, this approach doesn't leave our partner any opportunity to be creative and experiment, and makes the whole ‘dance’ far less spectacular.
Yet, sometimes one needs to focus only on the ‘core’ movement and leave any embellishment aside not to lose our partner or client. Question is, how can you find a balance between the two? How will you know you’ve found one?
4. Don’t try to make complex steps with a beginner
When leaders first learn to tango, they get excited about being able to do fancy volcadas and boleos, and practice them with every single girl they invite to dance. Needless to say, not all girls know how to do fancy elements properly (and not all of them enjoy learning them under pressure).
A good tango dancer matches his level with the level of his partner and tries to make even a basic dance can be pleasurable. A poor tango dancer keeps insisting or accusing the partner of not being able to make certain steps. As a result, instead of having a great dancing experience, both partners end up frustrated about each other and are likely not to dance together again anytime soon.
Someone who’s been a leader in their team or tried to delegate certain things to other people and failed will recognize this pattern immediately. You are all excited about things you know and want to do and think it’s really simple. However, when you ask others to do something that seems so simple to you, they mess everything up, because they don’t have your level of knowledge and experience. You get angry and start explaining them what needs to be done, and they mess up again (or ask you for a confirmation every five minutes). They get frustrated and make even more mistakes. Sounds familiar?
Having read what you've just read, what could you do differently if you were a tango dancer?
In the ideal world, you want to dance with somebody who is a little better than you are to learn something new. However, if that’s not always possible, so get people to do things they can do to make the experience pleasurable for both.
I will be delighted to hear about your business experience and how you think knowing the key principles of tango could help you improve it. Please, write about it in comments!
Best of luck - and venture into doing what you really love to do!
PS Want to know more about tango and business? I run workshops on tango for business for individual and corporate clients in London. If you want to know more, please get in touch and I’ll send you all information.
Photo source: Flickr
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