I taught dance fitness classes part time for a few years. Recently, I decided to “retire” my instructor shoes and bring an end to my fitness instructing life. It is a bittersweet ending.
As I was reflecting on the men and women, whom I’ve had the pleasure of serving, I learned what makes a great dance fitness instructor. My husband and I recently started taking ballroom dance lessons once a month. Ballroom is very different from dance fitness but the lessons about communication are the same.
As a farewell to this part of my life, I present to you 5 Communication lessons dancing can teach leaders.
1. Show how everyone can join in.
The first time one tries a dance fitness class, most everyone has the same thought. “Gosh, I hope I don’t look stupid.” Some come to a class with no dance experience, and some with much. A good class instructor can put everyone at ease by showing them where they fit in. Before the music starts, instructors should explain how they show options for varying fitness levels.
Leaders can do the same. Make sure the people under your charge know the various ways they can participate in the new endeavor.
2. Drill the basics.
Never underestimate the power of simple basic communication. As an instructor, I would start every new routine at its most basic level. I took out any personal stylings that would confuse a class participant. I would drill the basics so that everyone knows the “what and why”.
Leaders get too excited sometimes and skip the basics, or they assume everyone is coming into a situation with the same basic understanding of how to move. It doesn’t take long to start from the foundation and then build a unique dance everyone can follow. You just have to start with the basics first.
3. Correct bad form in private.
I had to learn this the hard way. I am a stickler about proper squatting technique and early on I would publicly call out someone’s bad form. I didn’t mean to embarrass them, but that was the result nonetheless. I was so concerned about preventing injury that I would forego human connection. How many leaders do the same? You are so intensely focused on output or reaching that goal, that you forget there are people attached to the goals you are striving for. There are people involved who have feelings and preferences.
4. Celebrate their efforts early and often.
Doing something new brings its own set of insecurities. I found that if I celebrated a good effort early, it gave the participant confidence to keep going. A simple “You picked that up quickly.” or “That’s beautiful form.” went a long way in keeping participants engaged and coming back.
As leaders, we have to speak to the voices in their heads that are saying “You look stupid.” or “You can’t do this at your age.”. An encouraging word helps boost morale and builds confidence.
5. Remind people to breathe.
I always give breathing cues because we forget to breathe when we start something new. Our instinct is to focus so intently, that we unconsciously hold our breath. The body needs oxygen during exercise. Choreography is a tricky thing. I would always tell my first timers that the first class works your brain more than your body because you are concentrating so hard on picking up the steps. Breathing cues along the way allow people to remember to inhale and exhale.
As a leader, you have to give reminders and encourage your people to take a break. Of course, you want hard working, go-getters on your team, but like the physical body, if they don’t breathe regularly they will collapse or quit from burn-out and exhaustion.
6. Remember, it’s not your show.
I have been to dance fitness classes were the instructor was a brilliant dancer and would glide and groove across the floor. In one particular example, she was so good that the class stopped moving and just watched her. If we bought tickets to a show, this would have been fine, but we didn’t. We pay our membership to be lead in how to use dance fitness to burn calories on our own. The dance class is for the participants, not for the instructor to show off or showcase his or her prowess.
Too many leaders fall prey to the “all about me” show. They become overly involved in everything, micromanging, or taking credit for other peoples’ work. As a leader, your job is to provide vision, guidance, and support so that others can reach their goals.
7. Take the lead.
In my ballroom lessons with my husband, the instructor would often partner with the newbies to show us what it would feel like. When the instructor lead me into a turn, I spun like I knew what I was doing, even though I didn’t. She knew how to manipulate, in a good way, my body so that it did what was natural and right.
Good leadership makes all the difference in partners dancing. Also in group fitness dancing. The leader needs to know how to cue before the beat. If the turn comes on the “4”, the leader needs to cue on the “3” so the dancer knows which way to go. When I learned a new routine, I always practiced with cue giving. I had many people come up to me and say I was so easy to follow.
Leaders of organizations can make it easier for people to follow them by giving proper cues. As I hang up my instructing shoes to focus on my business and writing my book, I take with me so many lessons that I can use to help my clients become better leaders.
Have you ever taken a dance fitness or dance class? If so, how was the instructor? Leave your comments below.