Fred and Ginger dancing

I’m a dancer. Well, not a trained dancer, per se. Actually, I just really enjoy dancing and I’ve taken some classes and I’ve been told that I’m pretty good at it. Mostly, I like partner dancing — always had a full dance card. I started with country-western when it was big a while back and easily moved into swing a few years after that. Eventually I transitioned into the Latin scene and endless nights of salsa dancing. It just felt right. It brought me joy and satisfaction and it allowed me to express myself in a way that was authentic. I was able to connect with my soul and to disappear in a fog of endorphin-induced comfort.

Uh, okay, but what does any of that have to do with branding and employee communications? I’m coming to that.

For anybody who has ever learned a discretionary physical skill like a sport or an art, you understand the difficulty and awkwardness (and hilarity) that can often accompany the beginnings of such an endeavor. You learn from somebody who knows what they are doing and you learn large, in exaggerated motions until, over time, you are able to reduce the effort to minimal exertion for maximum efficacy as it enters your DNA and becomes part of your muscle memory. In short, it becomes you. You become it.

All it takes is humility, training, discipline, perseverance and practice. A ton of practice. It also takes a thick skin and the ability to look at oneself honestly in the mirror (figuratively and literally) and to forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and evaluate your aspirations in the face of reality — your history — nature vs. nurture. Some have natural rhythm and coordination. Others must learn by the numbers and function best when patterns are taught. For some, structure is the key and for others, intuition and feeling lead the way. Eventually, almost imperceptibly, you become the music, you become the movement, you become a dancer. The feeling is indescribable — it’s euphoric, like learning a second language and that moment when you realize you are saying something without having to translate it first.

Now, imagine having to communicate all of that to a variety of partners, each of whom has their own agendas, talents, strengths and insecurities. That, my friends, is the essence of employee engagement — where both parties know the rules and you’re dancing to the same tune — your brand purpose and values. One party leads and the other follows, yet both are free to interpret and express themselves in synch with the rhythms of the music and the beat of the brand. Sure, we all hear and connect with music differently, but that’s the beauty and the purpose of the dance — to understand how the other person moves and to guide them and work with their strengths while navigating within the larger framework of the music, your brand.

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