Dance Lessons: Six Steps to Great Partnerships in Business & Life

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From Chip R. Bell, the bestselling author of Customers as Partners , Managers as Mentors , and Managing Knock You rSocks Off Service , partnering with Heather Shea, the former president of The Tom Peters Group's training and consulting company
Provides invaluable insights into the changing world of powerful partnering
Offers tools, details techniques, and provides activities and resources to help you develop successful partnerships in every enterprise
Partnerships are fast becoming the primary structure of contemporary business, as organizations partner with vendors, unions, customers, and even competitors to take advantage of short-term market opportunities, leverage intellectual capital, and create more flexible and innovative enterprises. In this important guide, authors Chip Bell and Heather Shea offer an in-depth look at how we can successfully manage partnerships and build them with substance-passion, quality, heart, and soul.
While many other books have examined the rational, logical, analytical sides of partnership, none has fully explored the irrational, illogical, emotional sides, which are most often what cause partnerships to falter or fail. Dance Lessons is a comprehensive guide to the interpersonal side of partnerships, revealing exactly how the champions choreograph their partnership dances for show-stopping performances. It features:
new perspectives to help you decide if partnership is right for you
exciting tools for selecting the right form of partnership
important techniques to help you get emotionally prepared to partner
smart ways to accurately pick good partners
engaging activities to help you practice your partnership skills
effective methods for dealing with difficult partners and partnerships
vital cues that let you know when the partnership is ready to end, and helpful tips on how to end it
insights on how to manage external factors that effect partnership success
practical resources to help you continue to learn about effective partnering
Dance Lessons shows how to develop meaningful, ethical, and soulful partnerships in every interaction throughout your work and your life.

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STEP ONE: FOCUSING: Preparing for Partnership

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Heels or Flats?

Boots or Toe Shoes?

Take a minute to think about a particular partnership of yours. It could be one you are starting up, one you are in now, or one you are considering in the future. Review the descriptions at each end of the ten scales below. On each scale, circle the number that best represents the relationship you have in mind.

I expect our relationship to be intensely interdependent.

5 4 3 2 1 I expect our relationship to be more like a valuable support system.

What we have at stake is pretty much equal.

5 4 3 2 1 What we have at stake is far from the same.

We will march to our own drum, without the approval of others.

5 4 3 2 1 We are very dependent on others to make this partnership work.

The risk of failure is moderate.

5 4 3 2 1 The risk of failure is very high.

We expect this union to last a long time.

5 4 3 2 1 We honestly expect this union to last a relatively short time.

It is our idea.

5 4 3 2 1 It is their idea.

I want to do this project.

5 4 3 2 1 My boss/organization wants to do this project.

 

STEP TWO: AUDITIONING: Picking Great Partners

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Do You Have the Capacity to Be a Great Partner?

Answer these questions candidly and thoughtfully. Your aim is to audition yourself to get a clear and honest understanding of the talent you bring to the dance.

What is your passion? Why are you really dancing this dance?

Recall a relationship that brought you joy and fulfillment. What assets did you bring to that relationship? What did people brag about?

If participants in the relationships of your life were to write your epitaph, and their goal was to capture the essence of the gifts and strengths you contribute to important relationships, what might they say?

When you are a part of a work team, how do you typically contribute, participate, or engage in it?

What are the positive adjectives your close friends would use to describe you?

Then the stage manager called for

“places” for the prom number. It was her big scene!

They began okay. But their routine quickly deteriorated. His stride was way too short, his turns much too slow. He seemed to be dancing a fast waltz, not the frenzied shuffle the number required. He was winded after two minutes . . . and there were still four to go. He almost dropped her during a vigorous spin, just as the director salvaged some of her self-respect by screaming, “Stop!”

 

STEP THREE: REHEARSING: Getting the Partnership in Shape

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STEP THREE

center stage if they have to go around that set. The audience won’t be able to see them.”

The young intruders quickly realized that the spirited people down front were the choreographers of the production in which they had a week earlier won a role. Today was the first day of rehearsal, and the eager dancers had arrived an hour early.

“Will you need one or two boom lights?” a voice yelled from stage left.

“Two!” the choreographers answered in unison. They laughed at their sudden show of unanimity, and their mood lightened. “Let’s take a break,” the man said. “We can work some of this out when we start rehearsal.” They closed the score, crushed out their cigarettes, and walked backstage.

performed. There are drawings and symbols that telegraph stage layout, prop placement, and lighting arrangement and movement.

There are both written and drawn instructions for the dancers that depict their positions on the stage and their alignment with the audience. Overlying the dance score are the customs, conventions, language, and norms universally understood by dancers, directors, and support people. This array of directions provides a clear picture of “the dance.”

 

STEP FOUR: DANCING: Keeping the Magic in Motion

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STEP FOUR

W

hat is world-class partnering “magic in motion”? It encompasses that state of ecstasy when partners find themselves so completely “in the groove” their ideas blend without stirring. It is a oneness so pure that partners complete each other’s sentences and seem able to almost read each other’s minds. It is rare, it is distinctive, and it is an unmistakable, exhilarating high.

There are many ways to label this special feeling.

Athletes call it “playing over your head,” dancers refer to it as being “hot” or “on,” artists call it “flow” or being in sync with the muses. We call it

“partnership squared”! To the outside observer, it truly is

“magic in motion.”

MAGICAL ENERGY

Regardless of the label, the feeling is an energetic, sparkly magical current of energy which propels you to your highest levels of excellence.

And the output of “partnership squared” is generally the

stuff of which broken records, new standards, and bar-raising are made.

“Partnership squared” in action yields a state of tingly exultation and blissful joy. As the president of a prominent

 

STEP FIVE: HURTING: Managing the Pain in Partnership

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STEP FIVE

“What should we do?” the wardrobe assistant asked the stagehand. They continued to watch, awed by the dancer’s endurance and strength. There were still three minutes left to curtains. “Don’t worry,” said the stagehand with an all-knowing air.

“He will signal her, and they’ll finish the dance.” As if following precisely the stagehand’s whispered prescription, the injured dancer gave his partner a private look. Their balance shifted, their turns slightly altered, and she supported his weight. Backstage, after their third triumphant curtain call, he grimaced in pain and she collapsed exhausted into his arms.

P

artnerships, like dances, are never pain free. Talk to the participants in any successful partnership and you will hear phrases like “We had our trying moments” or

“It was touch and go at times.” Some relationships wilt under the agony of despair; some are strengthened by adversity and endure the pain. Some, like the ballet dancers in our opening scene,

rely on their relationship while digging down deep for inner strength.

 

STEP SIX: BOWING OUT: Calling It Curtains

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STEP SIX

in a hurried blend of triumph, sweat, and relief.

“You gave my heart new beats,” he said to her poetically as they paused in the dimly lit hallway. “You helped me find the magic again,” she replied with a similar tone of melancholy. They embraced in a moment far more poignant than their calculated embraces on stage. Her “Be well” was uttered at the exact same moment as his “Take care.” The end of their partnership had been choreographed as carefully as it had begun.

G

reat partnerships don’t just stop; they end as purposefully and deliberately as they began. Their closure is planned and orchestrated to ensure there are no loose ends, no unfinished business, no unresolved problems. The bowing out phase is carefully crafted to ensure the partnership is nurtured until it is no more.

The word “nurture” implies a key concept in dancing and in partnership: relationships must be fed and cared for.

Absent support and growth, partnerships languish and cease. Partnerships generally do not end in conflict; they vanilla to death. They end far more often because of neglect than strife, so the most important lesson is to keep partnerships healthy along the way.

 

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