As leaders, we can easily get caught up ‘in’ the business that I liken to being on the dance floor of a nightclub. We need to get quite good at dancing and busting out some moves to accomplish tasks! If you’re not good at dancing this can be a scary place to be sometimes. I know I’ve felt rather trapped on the dance floor the past couple of weeks due to short weeks and lots of back of house tasks that just have to get done. And I’m a little tired of dancing!
To be an influential and effective leader we need to balance our time between in and on, proactive and reactive (let’s face it in today’s world we can’t eliminate being reactive). We can’t always be on the dance floor. The scenario below paints an effective distinction between the balcony and the dancefloor. In other words the distinction between the doing and the thinking.
Imagine you’re at a busy nightclub. There are loads of people dancing, the music is loud and people are throwing their hands and arms in the air. Some people try to walk through, so you’re getting bumped. It’s hot, sweaty and sticky. The dance floor is suffocating, adrenalin filled and exhausting. You can’t dance for long periods. You need to leave, catch a breath and have a rest.
To get away, you go up to the balcony where you can look down over the dancers. It’s quieter up here. You breathe, cool down, grab a drink. You watch people’s dance styles, note strengths and weaknesses, reflect on your own dancing, think about what you’d like to do next. You map the dance floor – noting which areas are more or less crowded than others and if there are any troublemakers. From here you can plan where you want to dance next – do you want to be in the crowd or around less people, and you can decide if you’ll confront the troublemakers or steer clear and seek help.
Your main tasks as a leader can be broken into these areas:
- in the business – the dance floor
- on the business – the balcony.
Often we get caught up ‘in’ the business and spend little of time ‘on’ the business. Whereas, we need to be spending time on both.
The balcony is critical for clarity. It is quieter, and a chance to slow things down, be proactive and strategic. It’s elevating your thinking so you can reflect on what’s working well and what isn’t, and identify the right activities to take your business or career to the next level. It’s assessing results, the culture of your business, and the performance and development of your team. It’s assessing where you need to spend your time; where your hot spots are; and understanding what you can leverage. Without spending time on the ‘balcony’ you are reactive, busy and just plain boring.
The dance floor, on the other hand, is intoxicating, frantic and exhausting. It’s where it all happens. It is important because this is where the fun is: directing, engaging, responding, having conversations and solving problems. It’s so good to be on the dance floor, but it’s not an activity we can sustain for too long. It’s also more fun when you know you are doing these activities with purpose and they are helping you achieve your goals. The tasks you execute become more fulfilling and you control them, instead of being dictated by them.
It would be fair to say most leaders spend most of their time on the dance floor, in the business, without spending enough time on the balcony thinking and planning strategically. Is this you?
While it’s very useful to be a great dancer, mover and shaker, it’s also beneficial to be a good observer and thinker! A blend of both is necessary for influential and effective leadership. The trick is to be good enough at dancing that you can manoeuvre your way off the dance floor and elevate yourself at the right time.