My 11-year-old daughter participated in competitive dance for the first time last year. It has introduced me to a new world involving costumes, choreography, and more than a little drama. As I reflect on the year, I can’t help but connect what we experienced and what I have learned about management over the last few years. So, without further ado, here are three things being a dance dad taught me about leadership.
1. We made dance a priority and our daughter grew as a dancer.
This is undoubtedly the biggest lesson I took from the last year. We invested significant resources getting our daughter to dance lessons and competition. And our daughter worked hard within and outside of the studio. Consequently, she’s made remarkable strides, and it’s been an absolute delight to watch! The same holds true for our work context: what we invest our time and resources in will yield results. This calls us to be intentional about scarce resources like time, people, and capital. Where we invest these things will determine the outcome. Therefore, it behooves us to determine what efforts provide the most return on investment before we start.
2. Never take your dance costume to the cleaners.
My wife made a rookie mistake: after a couple of competitions, the distinct odor of Jessie’s costumes drove her to take Jessie’s costumes to the dry cleaners. This became a huge issue when, 90 minutes before the third competition, we learned that the dry cleaner had ripped off a large decorative part of the costume. Thankfully, we were able to make do with the costume we had on hand. Later, my wife learned a trick from the veteran dance moms: they never dry clean costumes, but rather spray them with air freshener. This removes the risk that the costume could get destroyed or lost at the cleaners. Since the judges don’t evaluate how the dancers smell, dry-cleaning the costumes is an unnecessary step! This is an obvious corollary to the first point: we are always best served not to waste our time with things that are irrelevant. Great companies frequently take the time to evaluate what they’re doing and stop doing things that don’t impact their core objective. This helps them maintain focus on their central purpose.
3. One uncommitted dancer can torpedo the whole dance.
One of my daughter’s teammates this year has been a flake, missing rehearsals, showing up late to competition, and botching moves during performance. The rest of the team is terrific! But one dancer has ruined everyone’s chances due to her lack of commitment. We’ve all experienced this principal in our jobs. We can have a great team, but if one member isn’t invested in the work, the job and the team suffer! Ultimately, we recognize that it’s always about having the right people in the right seats on the bus!
My daughter hopes to dance again next year. Here’s to another season of delight…and learning!