I spent the last two weeks traveling to Spain and France with my son, who is a sophomore in college. I have dreamed of doing this trip for over 10 years and it finally happened. As a mom, it was pure joy. We had the chance to see flamenco dancers in a small neighborhood café called Café Del Duende. We were so close to the dancers that we could hear them breathing, and thankfully we dodged all their sweat.
I was so completely mesmerized by the dancers that I found my body involuntarily pulsing to the beat of the music. Please note, I have no clue how to dance flamenco, but it was exciting to watch and they made me believe for a hot second that I might have flamenco potential. It got me thinking, however, about the similarities between flamenco dancers and leaders.
Passion and Commitment
From the minute the dancers entered the room, nothing else mattered. Their commitment to get on the stage and execute each move with precision was remarkable. It was as if their passion and commitment was oozing out of their pores and into the audience. They were fully present and the audience knew it, felt it and reveled in it. Too often leaders show up but are not committed or present, and in that case passion is rarely evident. I see leaders texting or tapping away at their computers while an employee is desperately trying to get their full attention. Imagine our flamenco dancers trying to order a drink from the stage or answering the phone during their routine—preposterous right? How is this any different in the workplace? One activity at a time!
Although filming and photographs were allowed, there was a point in the program when they asked the audience to put away all devices and just be present and enjoy the next two performances. There must have been a language barrier or else some patrons just didn’t care as they kept filming and taking pictures. In spite of the annoyance, the dancers poured their heart and soul into those performances as well. As a leader, do you sometimes find yourself having to manage communication breakdowns and distractions that seem sent to derail your progress and team morale? How do you respond? Do you dance through the frustration and push for a big finish, or do you find that it grinds your progress to a halt? These dancers pushed through and the last moments of those performances seemed to be filled with extra energy and strength as if to say to the disobedient patrons, “Take that!”
Conversations are happening across many companies as we speak about what can be done to help employees stay engaged. There are many ways to boost engagement, ensuring we have the right people in the right job, recognizing the contributions of the employees, being fair, being open to new ideas, and the list can go on. There is no doubt that in companies where leaders are highly engaged, their employees, too, will follow suit. Just like the flamenco dancers’ ability to pull in the audience by virtue of their performance, leaders ought to have that same ability to do the same with their employees. A leader’s engagement is not something you read about in the company newsletter but their actions, words spoken, and decisions made will pull people along in the right direction even when the employees themselves are not sure. It becomes contagious.
Join us on February 7th as Richard Pummel joins me in our free monthly webinar series to talk about boosting employee engagement.
Karen Hinds is a leadership and diversity and inclusion expert. She used her experience in building talent pipelines for financial services companies to launch her company over 20 years ago. Workplace Success Group is a strategic, talent development firm that works with organizations to cultivate and retain their next generation of leaders.