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6 Lessons Startup Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Dance Class

Dance classes demand your attention. Every muscle, every move, in coordination with others comes together in unison when everyone is focused.

Dance classes demand your attention.

Every muscle, every move, in coordination with others comes together in unison when everyone is focused.

One of my dance classes takes this line of thinking to the next level. The teacher demands that you give all of yourself for the 90 minutes you’re in her class. If your thoughts wander off, she notices. As someone who struggles to fit in my expressive, creative outlet amid my responsibilities as mom, wife, and CEO, I appreciate her holding me accountable.

In this past week’s class, as she lectured us about allowing everything we’d done in the warm-up to go to waste, my mind did wander to how this moment would resonate with social entrepreneurs. Sure, they’re not all dancers, but this rally moment in the class was a grounding reminder of what we as social entrepreneurs, employees and leaders can learn from dancers:

Receive feedback. In dance class, rejecting feedback is not an option. When your teacher offers you feedback, you don’t push back and you receive it openly. By offering feedback your teacher is saying you are worthy of notes, that you have potential, and are deserving of their time. Entrepreneurs should use feedback to refine their craft and not deflect or make excuses when receiving it.

Apply feedback. Dancers who receive feedback and don’t make the improvements only hurt themselves. Same goes for startup founders. They should keep feedback top of mind and focus on it like a laser. Be committed to showing progress.

Actively listen. When the teacher is speaking, dancers make eye contact and face her. We show with our bodies that we hear her and appreciate the sharing of her expertise to make us better at what we do. Entrepreneurs should do the same–acknowledge and appreciate feedback and demonstrate they’re listening. 

Support one another. When we break into small groups and dance the choreography, we support one another by standing to the side and showing that we are actively listening. We don’t multitask by practicing the choreography or displaying a lack of interest in the other dancers’ performances. Entrepreneurs too should support and celebrating those working with them on a variety of levels–both their employees and their support systems.

Engage in the present experience. Dancers must show full commitment to where we are, and that we are eager to receive information and learn. This dance teacher calls us out if our body language slips into something uninviting–for example if our arms cross or our hands rest on our hips. Even if it’s subliminal, entrepreneurs shouldn’t present a persona that says they are not fully engaged in their experience.

Giving your all. Dance teachers call us out when we give anything less than our best. Social entrepreneurs too must make sure to maximize their experiences and opportunities. And like dancers, for social entrepreneurs it’s more fun when we go all-in on the build. If we really sink into the experience and commit to where we are, we will get more out of it for ourselves and inspire our employee.

This article was originally published by EdWeek Market Brief on January 9th, 2019.

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