A dance instructor is a unique type of leader, assessing the talents and strengths of each class member while arranging steps and combinations to showcase each dancer’s strengths. Turns out it’s more like being a traffic coordinator than you might think.
Teams and tasks are everything to an agency traffic coordinator, as the ability to thoughtfully organize a sequence of events is crucial to ensure successful project completion.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
You see, I’m one of “those” people who read all the directions or the entire manual – twice – when orchestrating an “assembly required” project. When there’s a project with delicate and deliberate steps, it’s important to me to follow through with care and precision. Case in point … every few months, I clean my espresso machine, and every single time, I pull out the instructions and follow them explicitly.
Not surprising to find, then, that I don’t believe in the concept of “over-communication.” When you’re managing a team, you honestly can’t communicate enough. The job of a dance instructor is to make sure that every step makes sense, and my personal philosophy is “Do it right or don’t bother.”
But I’m a born collaborator so this is just the best of both worlds for me. I get to use my mechanical mind, blended with the human factor, to keep projects flowing gracefully through the management system.
Here’s where it can get a little tricky
The references to dance are deliberate. For years, I taught and choreographed for hundreds of dancers, so I’m keenly aware that timing is everything. And when you manage tasks, resources, budgets, tools and surprises, the relationships you have with each team and each team member are essential.
Early on, I learned that a dance ensemble needs to rely on trust. For example, you have to trust that when you move two steps to your left, your partner is moving two steps to the right in synchronization to achieve symmetry.
Trust and empathy support each other in team and task management. When team members truly trust each other to get their part right, on time, the first time, everything flows perfectly. The budget is intact, deadlines are on target and most importantly, the team is happy because of the heightened sense of efficient accomplishment.
OK, you can call me a “taskmaster”
I’m not offended if you use this usually derogatory term to describe what I do, because someone has to do it.
Someone has to be the one who pulls everyone back to the conference table to agree on action items before the meeting can end.
Someone has to scope out an entire project, take it apart and put it back together again with workflows, assignments and resources.
Someone has to prioritize and reprioritize several times a day, in order to be able to maneuver quickly. I’ve even prioritized prioritization, bundling similar tasks for myself so when I block out the time and get in the groove, stuff gets done!
When reality sets in
Try as I may, certain things are out of my control. So the perfectionist side of my being sometimes needs to yield to the realist when unexpected circumstances arise. If you’re prepared – and double prepared, of course – surprises can be dealt with practically.
Some think it’s a little quirky, but I have a hand-drawn chart that maps out every project. Even though every project and every one of their little subtasks and sub-subtasks is well-documented in the project management platform, it is absolutely necessary sometimes to get an aerial view of everything that’s in house.
This is where that over-communication thing comes in handy. In fact, my failure fear is that somehow I will not communicate efficiently or effectively, and an entire project might derail.
Because there are so many moving parts within all of our projects and sub-projects, it’s super important to identify potential roadblocks before they happen, and continually align expectations in order to connect the dots between team members.
We are a communications company, after all
This is where we get to use a time-worn cliche. Communication is key. How many times have you heard it? How many times have you said it?
Thousands of times, especially if your business actually is communication. Team and task management can only succeed if there’s clear, sincere communication.
“Everyone responds to stimulus differently, so I’m keenly aware that the best way to achieve buy-in is to understand how best to communicate with each individual or team.”
As an English major with minors in Communications and Philosophy, my education could not have more perfectly prepared me to be a traffic manager. Professionally, I have my dance background to thank for the development of my eye for detail and sharp focus on how the intricate pieces of a project can function together seamlessly.