Strictly Come Dancing is one of my favourite shows on TV – not least because I love to dance myself and am lucky enough to have regularly danced with two of the professionals of the show – but that’s another story!!
What is also fascinating about the show for me is the change in confidence levels you can see as the weeks go by. As the show progresses and their intensive practice continues, for most of the celebrities their feelings of self-esteem and belief in their abilities to perform the specific tasks increases dramatically. This is the result of a lot of support, opportunities to practice and encouragement, with the professionals communicating more and more in the style that their particular partner learns by. For instance, Brendan is using Lulu’s auditory preference for musical sounds rather than the traditional counting, as he teaches her the new dance steps.
You can also start to see that these new experiences are bringing about positive emotions such as engagement, happiness and enjoyment. Neuroscience research shows that these positive emotions help us to broaden our awareness and outlook, increase creativity, and in turn enable us to build more new skills and take on even greater challenges. We benefit from an upward spiral of positive feelings, which has the added bonus of providing a greater ability to cope and adapt to any new challenges (including wardrobe malfunctions!!).
There are lessons that can be learnt for developing management and leadership skills here as well. When you’re leading individuals within your teams, think about how you can provide them with opportunities to learn new skills, whilst making them feel secure by supporting them all the way and encouraging their progress. Watch out for the different “learning styles” (including visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) and adapt your communication skills accordingly to help them learn by their own mistakes, feel challenged but ultimately enjoy the experience. Help build their confidence step-by-step (no pun intended, really!), and their creativity, productivity and engagement will grow too.
What you can also see on the show is how easily the celebrities’ confidence can be crushed by way of “constructive criticism” from the judges, where the communication triggers some deep-seated esteem issues or they take the feedback provided negatively. Again research has shown that negative or “constructive criticism” is often taken neurologically as a threat to our wellbeing, and in response our working memory is inhibited, we take fewer risks and we may find we are unable to quickly respond to new challenges (making learning the next dance routine a lot more difficult).
This same response can be seen in the workplace when someone we respect provides negative feedback which, over time can result in the downward spiral of negative feelings, reduced productivity and lack of creativity. So the key as a leader is to provide positive feedback and a positive environment for learning and developing, through developing advanced self-awareness, leadership skills and communication skills.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue my dance lessons with my patient dance professional, who has had the privilege of 5 years of adapting to and encouraging my unique way of learning!!!