What HR can learn from the dance world

One prominent VP says there are a number of parallels between business and dance.

What HR can learn from the dance world

The similarities between the average workplace and the world of dance may not be immediately obvious but one prominent VP says there are more than most people realize.

Valeh Nazemoff is the executive vice president at business performance firm Acolyst but she’s also a professional dancer and author of best-selling book ‘The Dance of the Business Mind’ – she says countless dancing principles also apply in the workplace.

“From dance partnerships—which teach you how to let go of constant control—to learning new steps, dance can help you better relate to others and succeed in the workplace,” she says.

According to Nazemoff, one of the most important things employees can learn from dance is the ability to let go – something she claims many people talk about but few people truly understand.

“Letting go is a commitment,” she tells HRM. “In dance, you have to commit to a movement but lots of people are hesitant towards that commitment because they’re afraid they’ll fall – it’s the same in business.

“In business, a lot of people are so hesitant and they don’t commit because they’re afraid they’ll fail but when they finally let go and overcome that hesitancy, that’s when they become better at committing to achieving many of their goals and targets.”

As well as that increased ability to let go and take risks, Nazemoff says dance can teach employees to become better at spotting negative habit and self-correcting.

“In dancing, if a certain routine has become a habit, it goes into your muscle memory and if you need to change that routine you recognize that you need to alter that muscle memory and you learn how to do that,” she tells HRM.

“Then once you’ve practiced how to alter your muscle memory, it’s much easier to apply that in business – you know how to adapt quickly and that helps with change in an organization because a lot of it is mental, overcoming the fear of change of change.”

Washington-based Nazemoff also says dancing teaches employees to be responsive rather than reactive – a trait which is becoming increasingly important in today’s uncertain world.

“A lot of people in the workplace, the business world, tend to react rather than respond but when you’re reacting, your energy state is a form of anxiety, a form of tension,” she explains.

“When you respond, you respond in a more of a compassionate way, even though the two words are generally used interchangeably – respond and react – they’re actually different when you look at your energy level state.”

Finally, Nazemoff says dancing can help employees learn how to better accept constructive criticism and work on weaknesses one step at a time.

“In the workplace, we are consistently dealing with criticism – whether it’s from the market, whether it’s from our partners that we’re doing business with, whether it’s from our own employees or colleagues – we are constantly dealing with criticism and we have to evaluate which criticism do we want to apply and which ones do we ignore because they’re not a priority at this point in time,” she says.

“Dancing really helps with that because you may be surrounded by judges or an audience and they’re all giving some form of feedback or criticism but you learn to get into this state of mind where you know which criticism you can take on board and you know which doesn’t apply to you at this point in time.

“You break it down and you figure out which one you’re going to apply when and where and you learn how to take criticism.”

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