6 Things My Dance Studio Has Taught Me About Leading My Team

One. You have to clearly communicate your vision.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s actually hard.  It puts you in a vulnerable position.  Voicing what the vision is means that everyone will know if you fail.  It can be hard for us to even dream in our own mind, let alone out loud to others… especially when those  others are looking up to you as their leader.  

Be brave.  Be brave enough to fail big, lest you live small forever.  In the end you will have more respect for yourself, and those that you are leading will have more respect for you too, if you fail while earnestly trying at an endeavor rooted in true passion and service than if you perfectly stay the same forever.

Two. Do not procrastinate when it comes to decision-making. 

Tons of decisions have to be made every single day when you’re the leader.  While we must act rationally and not allow our decision to be impulsive, any prolonged delay in decision-making will snowball into an avalanche of issues. Those issues keep growing and feeding off of each other, and the longer we don’t face them, the harder they become to face.  

I can’t think of any role in life that allows us to only make decisions that make everyone happy.  Your role as a dance studio owner is certainly no different.  You won’t always get to be loved by everyone.  And, the truth is, you won’t always get it right. 

Have a defined set of principles in place that you can weigh each decision against, whether large or small.  Your ability to make good decisions will improve with practice.  Help your decision-making development along by keeping “postmortem” notes of choices gone wrong as well as choices gone right, and take time to reflect on why you had the outcomes that you did.  

Three. Say thank you a lot!  

No one wants to follow a demanding tyrant, but your job as the leader is to delegate jobs to others, so that all the jobs get done and the ship keeps moving.  

Remind people that you understand that the ship wouldn’t even be on the water without them.  Give them credit where credit is due.  Acknowledge them where you can; on your website, in the recital program, in your newsletters, with a birthday card, with a thoughtful gift.

Four. Listen to other people’s ideas. 

It can save you tons of time and energy.  Coming up with all of your own ideas, solutions, content, promotions, etc., etc. can eventually put a drain on even the most creative dance studio owner.  It’s also important to remember that we are not our customers.  As the studio owner, our perspective is likely on the opposite end of the universe from our customer. Other staff members’, studio parents’ and even students’ perspectives can at times be much more valuable to your business. 

Share your vision with others and listen to their feedback.  Open yourself to suggestions.  Create opportunities hearing outside ideas.  Seek out people that are smarter than you in areas that you are trying to grow and improve in. 

Five. Match the job to the person. 

Allow people to work on what they are naturally good at.  This certainly takes some time and experience to learn how to do, but you can’t stick a square peg in a round hole. In the early days of dance studio ownership, I was so desperate for help that I often had unrealistic expectations of those that I hired. Teachers, front desk staff, even volunteers constantly disappointed me until I realized the shortcoming was actually my own.  I had not provided the leadership that they needed. 

Take time to understand a person’s previous experience and their desires.  What makes them tick?  What do they tend to understand instinctively?  Take time to communicate your vision clearly whether it’s for a small task or a major ongoing function of your studio.  Take time to train thoroughly.  Take time to be open to their questions, and when appropriate, listen to their suggestions.

Six.  Be open to the adventure.

You won’t always be a perfect leader.  Not every decision you make will be the right one.  Not every idea will be a good one.  Not every hire will work out.  But if you’re lucky enough to feel passionate about something and brave enough to pursue it, others will naturally be inclined to follow you.  Take time to learn how to be a good leader.  This is a very incomplete list of the lessons that leading my dance studio has taught me, and I look forward to the adventure of continued learning.

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