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  • Melinda Lackey

Will You Join The Dance?

How do you go about enrolling partners in your mission?

Enrollment is a craft. It is much like dancing. Anyone can practice, build technique, and develop it into something of an art.

How do you engage in this dance of dialogue?

Shared enjoyment is your first goal -- both parties being fully authentic and free.

As Samuel Beckett once said, “Dance first, think later.”

Over time, with practice in this dance, you learn to really tune into the other person’s rhythms and movements. Martha Graham offers helpful inspiration:

”Dancing is about discovery, discovery, discovery.”

STRETCH: Let's prepare "to dance" with one person you have in mind to enroll in your vision. Consider someone who can add value by becoming less of an onlooker and more actively engaged.

Go for an unusual ally, a person “beyond the choir,” outside your everyday web of interactions, perhaps entirely outside your profession or field. Stretch your sense of possibilities!

ENLIVEN: Be sure to do your research. What do you already know about your prospect's interests and values? Where can you find out more?

A developmental scale may be helpful, as you consider where each prospect is now, and prepare questions that will nudge them towards action.

Overall, your quest is to discover connections across two rich but disparate contents, yours and your prospect’s.

The promise of enrolling participants (versus simply getting their buy-in or passive approval) is the development of something that is owned and appreciated by both parties. In other words, your dialogue must get you both dancing!

Here is a bit of structure, suggested as a guide for your first dialogue to enliven their interests:

At the start of your meeting, offer a connecting question that you will answer in turn, such as: “Why do each of us care so much about X?" Or, “What brings us to so passionately engage in [the larger issue that your organization addresses]?” Suggest taking two or three minutes each to respond.

Now try to gain a sense of what is going well for your enrollee related to that topic, and what is getting in the way of her/his ideals? What's missing? What needs to happen? What are some of the great challenges? Listen actively and seek clarification to understand what is important to her/him.

Then you can start weaving a shared vision.

With awareness of your own hopes and biases, share the distinctiveness, the unique promise of this opportunity to co-engage. This is more of a skilled advocacy, directing their energy to what might be mutually enhancing. Introduce aspects of your work in connection with what s/he has shared. Four tips:

1. be transparent (“this is where I am coming from”)

2. relate it to what s/he has said

3. present with enthusiasm and passion

4. stay open—invite more: “What is making sense to you?”

Remember: both parties must stay in motion to dance together. (Don't do all the talking!) Frequently, check for understanding. Ask for her/his thoughts on what has been said. Are new ideas bubbling up between you?

ENNOBLE: Bring out the best in your prospect. You want her/him to shine on the dance floor!

Share what you are now grasping about her/his deep interests. Then ask: “How does my work connect with what you value?” Offer an invitation to visit your organization and experience your work firsthand. Or ask: “Are you gaining a sense of how you might want to be involved? What might it look like? Is anything beginning to surface?”

DISCOVER: “What are we hearing as shared vision? Let's have a look at what we've come up with. I heard XYZ. That’s a lot of great ideas. What else are you thinking?”

Suggest a quick brainstorm on concrete items, to determine next steps. Try to end with firm agreements of who-will-do-what-by-when, to bring your shared agreements to the next stage.

Close your meeting with appreciation for the time spent together.

We'd love to hear how this works for you:

To develop your craft, SEED offers coaching, software and online learning community spaces:

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