Saturday, July 12, 2008
Dance Floor and Balcony
When I coach leaders I often suggest they read a book called 'Leadership Without Easy Answers' by Ronald Heifetz. In it he creates the image of a dance floor and the balcony above it. His lesson is very general and can apply to ordinary situations we find ourselves in, not just big leadership issues. In particular, he discusses a way of seeing both the big strategic issues and the smaller immediate problems, the main challenge and the smaller immediate challenges to be met on the way to the big challenge. This perspective is a powerful one for the coaching relationship. He is a musician and talks about two perspectives. He calls the first, the view from the balcony – the big picture (looking down on the dance floor, a position of height from which we can see everything), and the second the view from the dance floor itself (a grass roots perspective where we are aware of all the small details and the smaller individual challenges that have to be met on the way to accomplishing the future goal). It is necessary to be familiar with and to ‘move between’ both of these so that a clear perspective and awareness of each view can be achieved all the time. In coaching, this translates to keeping a clear view of the long-term big goal and the smaller steps on the way to the big goal in tandem. That is, moving from one to the other so that the big goal is not lost sight of and the smaller steps on the way to it are also kept clearly in sight. This dual perspective, or dynamic way of looking is a helpful tool in the coaching process.