Are We Dancing Yet?

April 9, 2017

What’s your best experience being part of a team that discovered something new? Did exciting ideas or insights emerge from deep listening and asking questions to fully understand all the diverse opinions in the room?  Were folks able to transcend their own narrow viewpoints and listen for something larger to emerge?  When discovery showed up, did folks appreciate that it could not have been possible if anyone in the room had been missing?  My first experience of this was as a ballet dancer.  With music, it can happen without words! 


Dancers (and athletes of any kind) devote their lives to achieving this experience.  You might imagine otherwise – that it’s all about getting the solo parts. But ask any dancer what really turns them on and I’m willing to bet you’ll hear something about “the magic” of teamwork. 

So what is “the magic,” and how do we conjure it?

Dancers do it by practicing quite a boring routine of steps, for several hours, daily.  Repetition. Focus.  Commitment. Still more repetition.  Sweat. 

The goal  is to build muscle memory until a lot of movements (that once caused great strain and required tremendous intention to do well) become almost “natural.”  It can take years of practice in class to be ready and able to bring your absolute excellence to a team on the stage.

The beauty of it, for the dancer, is the experience of everyone moving together as one.  Dancers have one eye trained to perfect their own form. The other eye is trained to take in a much bigger picture—to perceive the form of everyone on the stage (or in the rehearsal space), and contribute to that larger image that is created together, in tempo to the music.

Each body adds a lot that’s distinctive in helping to deliver a common message.  When it works, the shared vision infects the audience and makes everyone present feel part of it.  

How do we do this sans toe shoes, in our conference rooms, with our colleagues and partners, and in our coalition work?  Basic tips are provided in the video above.  It would be easier with music, to be sure. 


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About The Authors

Melinda Lackey is co-founder and director of SEED Impact, which to-date has assisted more than 300 diverse non-profit initiatives to communicate and coordinate action more efficiently, sustain higher performance and achieve greater social impact.


Contact Melinda at

Barry Kibel, Ph.D., is Director of Innovation and Research at SEED.  He contributes more than five decades of experience devising evaluation and planning instruments to support transformational work.

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