Your customers are judging your team. Like it or not, even if they never let on, they are taking mental notes. If every little thing you do isn’t exactly magic, the points come off.
Come on, you know you do it too. When you’re shelling out the cash, you expect to get value. You expect the people representing the company to all know what that value is, and to deliver their own little personal piece of it. And if someone’s out of step, your eye goes right to it.
Over the last five days, I’ve spent about 24 hours in a dark theater watching dance teams perform. Needless to say I had time to think about how dances are judged.
Dancers on teams know everything they’ll ever need to know about teamwork in business. I’d even go so far as to say I’d hire a dancer before I hired a swimmer or a wrestler. Here’s why.
Dancers know that each girl — and no one girl — is the most important part of the dance. The individual is just one piece. Excellent teams consist of dancers who are aware of each team member’s unique contribution.
They know what the audience is supposed to experience and they understand right down to the last feather exactly which part of the dance they must contribute intensity to achieve the overall impression.
The best dance teams (the ones that win competitions) also know they perform the same for all members of their audience: for the judges, for their parents, for the audience, for their director or choreographer, for themselves and each other.
Winning teams are focused on performance.
Awesome teams know that all their background work is wasted if their performance in front of an audience doesn’t exceed expectations.
True confessions: I’m a real life dance mom…I know the amateur dance world intimately because my daughter’s been active in a high performing dance team for over two years.
Being a dance mom, I couldn’t even begin to guess how many total hours of work (including parents) went into producing all those hundreds of dances, many of them nearly flawlessly executed onstage. Here’s a list of resources dance requires (off the top of my head):
- Over twenty hours of dance practice per week for each girl
- the teachers’ time and education
- the effort and cost of running a studio
- the choreography, including visiting guest choreography
- the costumes, dance shoes and clothes, the makeup, hair products and accessories required (think extras like manicures and spray tans in some cases)
- the time and gas required to transport dancers to practice and rehearsal
- the annual recital
- the team meetings with kids and parents
- team-building fun days
- Mind and Body classes where dancers who dance 20+ hours every week learn how to stay organized and healthy so they can succeed in academics, church, family and social life
- non-studio dance camps
- special audition opportunities for various local and national events
- community performances like tree lighting cereomonies at Christmas and school fundraisers.
If someone could contain all that energy, you could power a small village!
For better of for worse, the year finishes with a bang at the National Dance Competition. That’s where teams go to win. It’s like the Olympics of the dance world.
Oh, it’s a fun time, and the girls enjoy traveling with their friends and doing what they love.
But when the dancers hit the stage for their three minutes in the spotlight, it’s full on showmanship and technique. It’s “balls-to-the-wall” dancing.
For those three minutes all eyes are on the performance.
No one cares how much they love to dance, or how much their moms love them, what it costs, or what their director thinks of their work ethic, or how they treat other teams at the competition, or if they had a gut-busting cheeseburger at lunch.
The only thing that matters is the performance. What the judges see. Those crucial three minutes…The Performance.
In this summer of the Olympics, all eyes are turned toward sports. The world is suddenly interested in sports they don’t even follow. Why? Becuase it’s all about the performance. We all want to see the best of the best in that particular moment in time.
Your customers are like Olympic judges. They want to see you win, but they take points off when you fail. [Click to Tweet.]
Three things great dance studios know about team performances…
and how your team can use them to blow your customers’ minds:
1. Practice. Role play, train and practice again. Dancers learn, study and rehearse steps in the studio. The difference onstage is that they dance the steps. They make it look like fun. They make the audience think those steps are just a natural expression of the music.
Teach your team members exactly how to serve their customers (This could mean the end consumer or internal “customers” in other departments.) Then take time to practice their approach behind the front lines. They should be trained to over-deliver, counter objections, make the customer feel like #1.
Confidence is everything in a top team.
Think about it: when you know exactly what to do and what steps to follow, you enjoy the task more and are able to work more creatively and confidently. Plus, being prepared is just more fun. As a manager or business owner, give teams time away from customers to get their acts together and quiz, practice, rehearse again and again until every member of the team can nail it.
2. Make individuals aware of other team members’ roles. Dancers don’t dance alone. They are all moving parts of one dance. They constantly move within their space onstage and are tuned in to their teammates’ positions. A chorus line of high kicking girls can stand hip-to-hip and dance in a uniform line. But an acrobatic team or one performing a contemporary dance must allow room to extend their arms and make dynamic use of their space.
In practice, dancers spend as much time dancing as watching their teammates. This is because no one dances all the time. The audience’s eyes travel from one to another, captivated in turns by one dancer’s beautiful lines of a leap, or the power of another dancer’s turns, or the smile and broad shoulders of yet another.
In the same way, your team should know individual strengths of each team member and each department it intersects with. Hold weekly meetings and make sure all departments are represented. Identify points where transitions between jobs are appropriate.
Show, reward and respect amazing listening skills. If someone needs to hand off a customer’s problem to another department, make sure the transition is seamless and elegant. Your customer is watching every move particularly at these moments.
3. Great teams have fun together. Every dance team has its own culture. Remarkable teams like eachother; they help each other with hair and makeup; they laugh and high five their soloists. And at competition they score higher than teams who act catty and compete amongst each other. Ironic, isn’t it? Judges reward teams that seem to joyfully dance “as one,” and it’s really hard to fake it.
Great team leaders in business also encourage friendships and create times to publicly call out support for each division or individual. Because bonds are strong “offstage,” the connections remain strong when they are performing in front of customers. People want to do business with a team that is focused on performing its best. It’s easier to connect with teams whose members genuinely like each other.
If actions are best judged by results and not by intention, then the same goes for teamwork. Build a team that performs well together. Make the performance more important than the process and the politics. Slice through the waste and the drama and you’ll be rewarded by the ultimate judge — your customer.
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The photo is from Flickr Creative Commons; gnuckx select1.