I love to dance!  That’s my passion and it would take a lot to stop me from getting to my lesson.  Not only do I enjoy the process of learning, but it’s also a good way of reducing stress and having fun.  But there are also benefits that can be transferred into your leadership role, as I have done.

I read a great article recently about a lady called Patrice Tanaka who has written a book “Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smater CEO”.  I’ve summarised her lessons from the article, but also added a few additional ones that have made a difference to me during my career.

  • Leading and PartneringIn dancing a woman follows, never leads – this helps you to learn when to be an active follower in business and relinquish control.
  • Learning to Let GoDon’t hold back or your balance can be thrown – push past your comfort zone and go for it.
  • Wearing the Right CostumeDress for the occasion – be yourself, express yourself and enjoy what you wear, as your confidence shines through.
  • Being Fully PresentTo dance well you have no choice but to be fully present – very important to be fully present during workplace meetings, discussions etc as you and your team will perform at their best.
  • Finding Time For You. Finding time out of your busy schedule for yourself, as well as an outlet for stress, allows you to become more focussed in the office.
  • Trading Perfection for the Pursuit of PleasureA journey of continual improvement – each failure is a step towards getting better, tiny mistakes should not overlook the big picture, you can take pleasure in each accomplishment

And a few additional ones of mine:

  • Discovering Your Unique Way of Learning. In dance, my style seems to be to see a demonstration, try it, visualise it overnight, try it again, more visualisation – and then usually I’ve got it (surprisingly!) and can improve on it.  You’ll achieve new responsibilities quicker if you use your preferred method of learning.
  • Communicating Your Needs.  If you’re being taught a new step and the way it’s being explained doesn’t work for you, you will find it difficult to pick up (Foxtrot was my bug bear and I had previously refused to learn it as I just didn’t get it!).  I also feel sorry for my dance instructor as I make up my own descriptions of dance moves, and he’s adopted my language for me – which is quite amusing at times!!  In business, we assume people know and understand us, but they aren’t mind readers and everyone benefits from your self-awareness and you taking the initiative to explain your needs.
  • It Takes TimeAfter you’ve learnt a new step you often wonder how you couldn’t do it before – as a leader you need to remember that what you know now was a mystery or felt strange/awkward to you once.  New responsibilities will feel like this to others, so it’s important to support them during any delegation process and help them learn from their mistakes.
  • Honest Feedback.  Sincerity in your praise is essential, as people will quickly see through false comments.  It’s also important to understand what others need from you.  (Eg, up until 2 weeks before my first competition my instructor had told me I could win.  When he stopped I assumed he no longer thought I could, so I lost my confidence. Actually, he was trying to reduce the pressure on me!  I’ve learnt about my own self confidence since then, but it’s also a useful reminder to adapt your style accordingly for others).
  • It’s Never Too Late to Learn Something New – and transfer your skills from one situation to another.

It’s obviously not just dancing that could help you learn about your leadership style and communication skills.  For example, team sports like football and hockey demonstrate diversity in a group, encouraging different skills and abilities, learning when to try something new, learning from mistakes, and that a leader does not have to be able to do all the roles but does need to be able to delegate, motivate and get the best from every individual.

And it would be an entire other blog for me to explain what I learnt about myself from having a go at the flying trapeze!!!

So what is your favourite hobby and how can you take what you learn about yourself into the workplace?


A WORKSHOP is available which helps leaders to develop their skills by utilising the strengths they have gained from their hobbies. With management resignations doubling since 2010, issues retaining managers up 32%, and nearly 60% of organisations struggling to recruit new managers (according to a CMI survey), finding a way to engage your talented managers is ever more important. This Workshop helps leaders to take their passion for a hobby and transfer it into a passion for leadership.

You can also click HERE for more information on developing self-awareness to enhance your effective communication skills and leadership skills, or how executive coaching could help your confidence.




  1. admin

    Thanks to Swathi K on Linked In:
    Karen, good one, similarly I am an karnatic vocalist, we can develop leadership by teaching our juniors and making them understand the concept. Both communication & leadership along with interpersonal skills are enhanced.

  2. admin

    Thanks to Nick Hollingworth on Linked In:
    I have been a beekeeper for about six years:

    1) You need to be well up on your subject and keep abreast of developments and get some good initial training. Join a local association for fellowship and advice.
    2) Preparation and planning are key. Having enough clean equipment ready for the start of the season.
    3) Be gentle and considerate to your workforce, but wear some protective equipment in case they take exception to your invasion of their workspace.
    4) Consult other keepers, especially those with more experience, but remember two beekeepers, three opinions so weigh any advice.
    5) Make sure your activities don’t upset your neighbours.
    6) Only draw products from your hive that are in surplus. Remember the bees have to retain enough stores of honey to survive the winter. You may also have to feed them with sugar solution in the autumn to replace the resources you have extracted.
    7) Check for anything that may be going wrong. Some diseases are notifiable and all need treating not ignoring, so welfare is paramount.
    8) Each beehive can contain up to 50,000 individuals at the height of the season – one mother and mostly girls, with never a cross word between them. They all have specific jobs to do at different stages during their six week life span.
    9) Listen to your bees. You learn to know when they want to be left alone to get on with the job. Observe what is happening. Are they preparing to get up and go (swarming)? If so you can catch them in time double your capacity, otherwise they may fly off and you have lost them and they work for someone else.
    10) One teaspoon of honey is the entire lifes work of 18 bees. Its important therefore not to waste any of their precious product.
    11) Respect the colony and work with them, not against them.
    12) Remember they have been doing the same thing in the wild for over 180 mill years. None of the bees have ever read a textbook so be prepared to see their behaviour change to face new challenging environments such as climate change and new pests.

  3. admin

    Thanks to Becky Moore on Linked In:
    I have been skiing for over 40 years

    Leading, choosing the right slopes with the best conditions.
    Responsibility for less experienced skiers.
    Dressing for the occasion – making sure you are prepared for every type of weather.
    Excellent communication – which run you are taking and to ensure you do not lose anyone.
    Motivating – when they think they cannot manage the slope.
    Learning styles of the less experienced skier.
    Celebrating success – finding the best ski huts with a seat, good food and drink.

  4. admin

    Thanks to Maxime Chognard-Sattonnay on Linked In:
    Sailing helped me improve my communication skills and coordinate my actions with other team members.

  5. admin

    Thanks to Gary Homes on Linked In:
    For many years I was an avid horse rider and took part in several cattle round-ups in Arizona and New Mexico. Those experiences helped to develop my vision & direction skills, my communications skills (with people and animals!), my resilience, my confidence (in achieving things you though you could not) and how to remain part of a team while being completely on your own miles away from anyone else.

  6. admin

    Many thanks Maxime and Gary for your comments. I agree that communication skills, team work and confidence are major gains from our hobbies.
    You’ve both mentioned communication skills and it would be great to find out more details about how your different interests have helped in this area.

  7. admin

    Thanks again to Gary Homes on Linked In:
    For me it was a reinforcement that communications is about much more than just words. Of course, I knew that but the hobby not only reminded me of that fact but helped me analyse what makes an effective communication. It starts with an intent and if the intent is weak it does not matter what words you put around it, the communication is ineffective. After the intent comes the translation – taking the thing you want to communicate and putting it in a language and style that is understandable by the receiver. We can’t just use our own “default style” or the communication is likely to get lost in someone else’s translation. Then comes the delivery which is the culmination of passionate intent and effective translation. Finally is the validation – ensuring the communication was received, was understood and is being acted upon. What really helped me understand this was the communications with horses, dogs and cattle while working on the roundups. Of course, it applies to people too but we often take it for granted that we will be understood by people. However, when trying to communicate with an animal that has a different “language” all the above becomes more important. Since then, I have found that what works well with animals works even better with people! A couple of years ago, I attended an Equine Guided Leadership Development course which further reinforced my view. Wishing you all the very best. Gary

  8. admin

    Thanks to Gary Coulton on Linked In:
    Hi Karen,
    In my spare time I coach marathon race kayaking technique. I employ the same self-awareness and discovery strageies to kayaking as I do to business coaching.

  9. admin

    Thanks to Lynn Anderson on Linked In:
    Igniting your passions in whatever you are doing.

  10. admin

    Thanks to Monty Rainey on Linked In:
    Karen, my favorite hobby is gardening and gardening is such a terrific metaphor for so many aspects of life; parenting, team building, sales, self development, etc. In gardening, you can’t just stick a seed inn the ground and hope for the best. You must do a great deal of preparation first; finding the right location to get plenty of sun and to allow room for growth, choosing the right vegetables to plant and learning which ones make good neighbors and work well together, preparing the soil and making sure it contains the right nutrients and knowing when is the right time to plant. I equate preparing and planting the garden to education, or in the case of sales, to product knowledge and then building rapport.

    Then you have to tend the garden regularly insuring there is plenty of water and fertilizer. This is meeting customer needs and providing superior customer service. Then you must diligently keep pests and weeds away. This is like dealing with competition or in the case of parenting, making certain your children are not influenced by the wrong people.

    I can go on about the life’s lessons I’ve learned from gardening, but I think you get the idea. In the end, you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest.

  11. admin

    Thanks to Diane Chencharick on Linked In:
    Well said, Monty. I have many hobbies and the lesson I have learned from all is the same – patience. Nothing happens as quickly as you would like and quite often the outcomes are not what you imagined. Be patient and be open.

  12. admin

    Thanks to Michael Peiniger on Linked In:
    Great question!
    My hobby / passion is coaching my son and my daughter’s basketball teams. It has reminded me that you cannot treat everyone as if they have the same skill level, and you cannot afford to show favourites. It has also shown me that the team must come before the individual, and that that success can be achieved both by improving the skills of your weakest as well as enhancing the skills of your strongest individuals.
    More than anything it has shown me that a well-drilled team that understands the fundamentals well can outperform higher classed groups.

  13. admin

    Thanks to Alison Royal-Combs on Linked In:
    My passion is long distance running. Training for a ultra requires patience, commitment and learning how to pull through in low moments. Funny thing is when I am in training, I rely on my experience in leadership to get me to the goal….the race!

  14. admin

    Thanks to Sally Jackson on Linked In:
    “Be gentle and considerate to your workforce, but wear some protective equipment in case they take exception to your invasion of their workspace” – this is something ever leader should know about! Nick, maybe there’s a new line of business for you in teaching leadership skills through beekeeping?
    My hobby’s running, and much like leadership, the more you do it, the easier it becomes……oh and having the right footwear really helps!

  15. admin

    Thanks to T McCloskey on Linked In:
    Team activities (of which I include pub quiz as I don’t do flat shoes) keep the grey matter going, assist with interaction and can also give a great insight about dealing with debates – let’s just say on Monday I was robbed!

  16. admin

    Many thanks for your comments. I don’t do flat shoes either!!
    It would be great to hear more about how the specific skills you learn doing your hobby can be transferred to the work environment, especially on the interaction/communication side. T – your debating skills must be very useful when working with a team?

  17. admin

    T McCloskey: I find that at my regular pub quiz conflict resolution skills are a must – being able to justify answers is necessary and ensuring everyone feels that they have contributed. Picking up colleagues when something doesn’t go their way, consoling those who tried but got it wrong and being inclusive and collaborative are all transferable into the boardroom. If only they believed me when I the dot over an i is a tittle. –

  18. admin

    Thanks to Liz Veasey on Linked In:
    Dog training! I’m currently working with an international trainer who is amazing at always being one step ahead of what the dog is thinking (and me as well!). I’ve also recently taken on a rescue, who is definately alpha-girl material! Trying to outsmart her, rather than going head to head is great training for working with the difficult people!

  19. admin

    Thanks to Martin Collinson on Linked In:
    Do what you love and everything flows; anything else is meaningless.

  20. admin

    Thanks to Andrea Barry on Linked In:
    Ooh so many! Do you take classes? How do you rate your instructor? Do they manage to keep the focus on the task, deliver new information effectively? Are you part of a team or group – what is your role; do you do the organising in turns? Are you setting goals for yourselves? How do you measure your success? Do you require discipine to achieve success?
    There are so many transferable skills and experiences that apply to management. As said before by others, keeping fit and reading are important whether you are in management or not.
    Good question Karen! Thank you.

  21. admin

    Thanks to Elaine Harrow on Linked In:
    I learned to ski this year and had a fantastic instructor, who always managed to remember how I may be feeling when trying something new or more difficult – he was always there to support me, no matter how mundane it may have seemed for him. He also taught my 12 year old son, who is now streets (or pistes!) ahead of me. It reminded me that as we go through life we learn differently and as leaders or coaches it is really important to understand those that we are coaching or managing (or training) and adapt our style and pace accordingly. It certainly did me no harm to be the “beginner” again and reminded me about human psychology, particularly important in diverse workforces. My fear of broken bones translates to the fear of failure or lack of confidence in the workforce. I’m pleased to say that no bones were broken in my learning process!

  22. admin

    Thanks to Joan Stanley on Linked In:
    Of course I agree that everyone should learn to dance!!
    Seriously, when I was a teenager I was in the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and took part in First Aid Competitions as captain. When I found myself in Quality managerial roles in industry dealing with one panic after another I found the ability and confidence to assimulate information quicky and make immediate decisions, which the first aid training had given me, invaluable. And of course qualified first aiders get preference over other job applicants, and increased salaries …

  23. admin

    Thanks to Adrian Martorana in Linked In:
    Motor Racing…preparation, planning and keeping focussed even at the end of a race
    Football… believe you can do it, because if you think you’re going to miss you will
    Shooting…if you need glasses wear them 🙂

  24. admin

    Thanks to Tara Lennon-Jones on Linked In:
    Horse riding. The horses forms a strong partnership with the human who becomes the herd leader. Some horses are happy at the front of the pack, others in the middle, some will only follow. Some horses want to challenge the leader by kicking and nipping. All of this needs to be managed. You can ask a nervous horse to attempt something its unsure of by keeping your own nerve and providing encouragement and reassurance. If a horse isn’t used to being loaded into a van, you don’t wait until the day of the show to attempt the job – you have ask the horse to practice in advance so that minimal force is needed on the day. You communicate with your horse by using your legs, hands, posture and tone of voice in much the same way as you’d employ multiple leadership and communication skills. Understanding how you’re perceived as a leader and how the horse needs to receive your communication in order to clearly understand what you want builds trust and translates well into the world of work.

  25. admin

    Thanks to Joseph Smart on Linked In:
    For me it martial arts. The respect and the dedication that has to be shown is fantastic, but I think the most important thing I have learnt relating to HR is that you have to get in there and give it a go to be truly respected. I used to box in a gym in Newcastle upon Tyne and I started by just going to the fitness sessions. I felt everyone there was friendly enough but that I was never truly accepted. After the fitness sessions there would be an hour sparing session. As my fitness improved I started attending the sparing sessions. In these sessions you learnt to actually box, rather than just punch a bag. Then the day came that my coach thought I was ready to get into the ring for the first time and spar. So in I got (legs a trembling) with this really big guy who had been boxing for years. We touched gloves and the first punch sent my contact lens flying out of my eye! I basically covered up, kept moving and tried to last the round. I managed it and the subsequent rounds went better as I started to use what I had learnt. When I got out of the ring I was embraced by many of my training partners who had only politely nodded at me before. The lesson I learnt is that you can read all the books, practice all the theory but to gain respect you need to get in there and do it. I use this lesson in HR by making sure I spend as much time as I can in the environment where my managers work, so I can truly understand the environment they work in, the pressure they are under and the objectives they need to complete. I can then offer the best assistance I can while building relationships of mutual respect.

  26. admin

    Thanks to Paul Roe on Linked In:
    History, I love it. Think of it as a vast data base of right answers, and I guarantee, you’ll want to read more.
    The most successful leaders would not fight a battle unless they knew it would be won. Pretty much echos much of what Adrian refers to.

  27. admin

    Thanks to Karen Stubbings on Linked In:
    My name is Karen and I do dancing too! Each and every week I do Tap and Jazz dancing but I also do another form of exercise which I dont tend to broadcast due to what peoples preceptions are ….. Pole Exercise classes. Apart from the dancing which allows me to be creative not only on the dance floor but in my thought processes at work, I have found that Pole Exercise has given me a lot more confidence. These classes are not about draping yourself prettily around a pole (although this helps!) its about facing challenges of attaining different moves / climbs and focusing your mind to achieve them! This has definately flowed into my attitude to work as I have achieved far more than I ever thought professionally whilst doing this particular hobby. The discipline involved has meant that it is so good for your physique. No longer do I have ‘dinner lady arms’ and my general stature has improved. If you feel good about yourself, you can conquer anything at work (well almonst anything)! If any of you want a challenge, I suggest you try it! But a word of advice don’t shout about it, because your credibility just might go out of the window!

  28. admin

    Thanks Karen, sounds like we need a support group for Karen’s that Dance!! 🙂
    Do what you enjoy, as other’s opinions are just that – their opinion – and they could well wish they had your ability and confidence to do it!!

  29. admin

    Thanks to Alison Rowland on Linked In:
    Opening an online shop to sell my jewellery has led to a range of skills I never thought I’d acquire like HTML, web design and blogging. Great fun, and makes you a more rounded and happier manager at the same time.

  30. admin

    Thanks to Anthony Gibson on Linked In:
    I recently made my first attempt at wallpapering, which isn’t going to become a hobby, but which I did learn some skills that I can apply at work.
    I could go on and on but one thing I’ve also learned is that sometimes, just get the professionals in, but I daresay my boss would view that with some concern re my capabilities!

  31. admin

    Thanks to Charles Reis on Linked In:
    Karen, Triathlons and marathons have taught me to never give up and keep a positive mental attitude which I pass on to others. Nothing seems to be a big challenge after you complete a 50 mile run.

  32. admin

    Thanks to Elvira Villarini on Linked In:
    Scuba Diving has taught me that no matter how deep you think you are … you can ALWAYS breathe

  33. admin

    Thanks to Cory Cook on Linked In:
    Ironman racing has taught me to have a plan…and the importance of keeping your wits when things don’t always go to that plan. Avoid giving in to frustration, focus instead on determining the next best move and taking it.

  34. admin

    Thanks to Debbie Hunt on Linked In:
    When I hit the wall at 17 miles running the London Marathon – I broke it down into 1 mile at a time, you still reach the goal at the end – but you can make it a little easier on yourself when it gets tough….

  35. admin

    Thank you to Heidi Nicholson on Linked In:
    Taking up public speaking when I was at school has been really helpful later in my career. It meant that I learnt to deal with the fear factor in what, I can now see, was a relatively safe environment. Also, a lot of the voluntary work I’ve done has required enhanced customer service skills and the ability to deal with bureaucracy both of which have been helpful in my professional life.

  36. admin

    Thanks to Mark Ball on Linked In:
    Rugby has taught me the benefit of having the correct attitude, developing the warrior spirit in me, how to think effectively under pressure and the benefits of self-analysis and self-learning. Things i am now passing on to young players via my coaching.

  37. admin

    Thanks to Anne Morris on Linked In:
    Schooling horses has shown me that you need to be in that place wholeheartedly. You need to have focus on what you are doing, you need flexibility when things change or happen suddenly and you definately work better as a team rather than fighting for total supremacy.

  38. admin

    Thanks to Martin Richardson on Linked In:
    Singing in a chamber choir – nowhere to hide, taking ownership and responsibility, developing confidence in ones skills and ability, teamwork crucial.

  39. admin

    Thanks to Jez Nicholson on Linked In:
    mountain biking: concentrate on where you want to go and not at the hazards, otherwise you will just hit the hazards.

    football: not everybody wants to be the captain, many people just want to do a good job and enjoy themselves at the same time…otherwise, in the long term, why bother playing?

  40. admin

    Thanks to Paul Hopwood on Linked In:

    Forward planning – the route, start and finish point, timings.
    Take the right equipment – map, compass, rain gear, food/drink
    Build in slack for contingencies – get lost, impassable terrain, strange animals

  41. admin

    Thanks to Shaine Mielty on Linked In:
    Kung-fu has taught me discipline, self-awareness, empathy, how to win or lose and always learn from it, the complexity and depth of anything we perceive, and how to climb buildings and jump off of swords.

  42. admin

    Thanks to Caroline McCormack on Linked In:
    I suppose my gymnastics taught me discipline, flexibility and commitment; marathon running dedication, focus and hard work and to be able to laugh at one self and finally coaching athletics means I train kids I suppose if I can manage kids then managing adults is a breeze??:)

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