I grew up in a pub in Northern Ireland which was built into two sections. The first was the pub section which looked like any typical Irish pub. The second section was the lounge which was built in the 1970’s to accommodate more people. It also had a large dancefloor and space for live bands that played every weekend. It was a popular place and I remember it being packed come the weekends.
As the music got going and the band played popular tunes there was barely any standing room left. One of those bands used to play music from ABBA and their iconic dance hits. My sister and I liked nothing more than to get lost in the dancefloor with everyone else.
Years later I remember reading an article in Harvard Business Journal from Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky titled “A Survival Guide for Leaders” where they used the metaphor of a crowded dancefloor.
Remember what it’s like to be on a crowded dancefloor? Maybe it was at a wedding or a nightclub. There’s always a lot of movement and energy. It’s hard to see very far because you are surrounded by other bodies. Normally the music is loud and it’s hard to think of anything else. It’s hard not to get caught up in the emotions around us.
Now, imagine there is a balcony overlooking the dancefloor where you go to take a break from all the dancing. This gives you a different perspective because now you are more of an observer. It becomes much easier to see what is happening below. You can see people you hadn’t noticed before.
You can see who has the best dance moves and who needs more practice.
In life and work, there are times when we feel as if we are on the dancefloor. We get so immersed in the problem at hand that it becomes hard to see anything else. Sometimes we get triggered emotionally and our actions come from a more reactive place. It’s easy for us to make decisions without considering the wider consequences. At these times, it’s also easy for us not to be fully aware of how we are impacting others.
It’s therefore critical for us to find some space where we can recollect ourselves and look at our reality from a different perceptive. In other words, it’s like getting on the balcony and looking down at the dancefloor of our lives and work. If we can take the time to step back, we have a much greater chance at making more informed decisions and seeing if our behaviors are serving ourselves and others. It also gives us a chance to see what changes we might need to make.
For this week’s EQ workout, I put together a worksheet that takes the metaphor of getting on the balcony and going through a step and step process to move from the dancefloor and get a wider perspective in any situation you find yourself.