Thursday, 15 July 2010

Lessons in Leading Change from the Dancing Man

I came across this clip whilst researching for a team-building event for a new client. Take a look it, it’s just short of four minutes long but please don‘t try to take a short-cut, watch to the end!

To me, this presents a great metaphor for the leadership of change and I’d like to offer the following thoughts to those of you who are working hard to create excitement and momentum for change:

  1.  If you’re really committed to achieving your change goal, go for it big-time! A bit of self conscious hand jiving just won’t do, - you have to get stripped down and put your soul into it! We don’t know if the dancing man felt embarrassed, but he certainly didn’t show it! Note too, that you don’t have to be a fantastic dancer – but you do have to commit, - and to show everyone just what great fun dancing is!
  2. Don’t intellectualise too much. I don’t suppose the dancing man crafted a compelling PowerPoint explaining the features and benefits of dancing. Nor did he commit too much time to persuading others to join in (he tried but it didn't work too well!). Yes, talking and explaining is good – but active demonstration is much more powerful!
  3. Find the right dance-floor.  Yes, you want to be visable so you can have an impact, but dancing all over someone else's picnic is not going to make you many friends!
  4. Don’t give up. I suspect most of us, if we had been brave enough to start dancing on our own, would have given up after thirty seconds or so. It takes a long time for someone to grow the courage and enthusiasm to join in. While you’re dancing, and while you’re showing your commitment and enthusiasm is not easily damaged, you’re building up ‘trust-credits’, you’re showing yourself as the sort of person who it’s safe and good to follow.
  5. Make a big fuss of your early adopters! “Wow! You are the best dancer ever! So tasteful! So classy! You are so much better at it than me!” Allow your new-comer to enjoy the experience on their own terms and don’t try to control them too much. This is often difficult for a ‘change leader’. After all, it’s been your dance for so long it’s only natural you will want to show people how to do it and make sure they do it in the way you’ve been dreaming about for such a long time. Sustainable change needs to be organic. As soon as someone joins in it stops being ‘yours’ and starts being ‘ours’. Welcome the new creativity and energy and if you hadn’t envisaged handstands? – well get over it! Of course in practice there will need to be some rules but try and keep these to a minimum early on emphasising values and commitment instead.
  6. Don’t let up. It’s a great feeling when one turns into three and three turns into six but remember that these early adopters will probably not have the commitment or staying power that you have demonstrated. A less experienced dancing man might have stood back with delight and pride, taken a well earned rest….. and watched the support disappear! Notice the successes but be aware that change takes time to bed in. Others will not be as resilient as you have been. They need your inspiration and example, they need to see that you are just as committed to the change and just as passionate as you always were.
  7. Finally, can you imagine how our dancing man felt at the end of the sequence? That’s going to be you someday – maybe sooner than you think!


  1. Liked the video, loved the message - I'm passing it on.

  2. Very interesting the way once a few people had started to dance, there was a flood of people who clearly wanted to join in from the start but didn't quite dare. Peer pressure is a powerful influence!

  3. I agree Lynn, one minute something is embarrassingly naf and the next it's the latest craze, - it's a powerful realisation that we should be able to use to good effect. It reminds me of Malcom Gladwell's work on 'The Tipping Point"

  4. Fabulous Richard - thanks for posting this and I like all the points you make! Brilliant!!

  5. hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!

  6. Superb video and great messages. Really good. Thanks.