Nathy Gaffney

I’ve always wanted to learn to dance Salsa. I first dabbled in 2000 – when I had planned a trip to Cuba with my then husband, father, brother and his new wife. My hubby and I headed off to Arthur Murray’s in a short-lived attempt to steam up the dance floor with some Latin moves. Our attempts failed dismally. I’d like to say it was all his fault – but with the benefit of hindsight – I’ll take part of the blame because I now understand something I didn’t understand then.

I went on to spend the month in Cuba ‘dancing on the inside’. Watching from the Mojito soaked sidelines as my (then) 60 something year old father salsa’d his way round every dance floor available – I was secretly tormented that I hadn’t mastered the moves. I longed to be twirled and spun and flung with abandon. The unavoidable irony being that the women looked so free – in this dance in which the man gave all the direction. How the magic of this dynamic eluded me. But I wasn’t ready to ‘follow’ and so I remained ‘Baby in the corner’….

Fast forward 15 years. I’ve taken up social Latin Dancing. My teacher Felix has a very dry sense of humour, and he pegged me from the get go as a woman who would struggle with letting go of the control I exert in most other areas of my life. It’s not that I’m a control ‘freak’ – I’m just an educated, strong-willed, single parent of a teenage boy, who happens to be a facilitator and coach to senior executives and business professionals kind a gal – on a mission – to suck as much juice and joy out of life as I possibly can! (No control issues here!)

But Felix is also an excellent teacher, and has done a very good job of teaching me how to become comfortable with the uncertainty of not always knowing ‘what’s coming next’. As a man leads on the dance floor – in the early days the moves are very mechanical: they are being taught to guide you by exerting subtle pressure, to indicate in which direction you need to move – to keep the flow of the dance. His instructions to me? Just keep stepping – become comfortable with the uncertainty – go with the ‘flow’.

These words resonated with me – but beyond the dance studio – and into my work world – where my role with Phuel finds me working with people – who for the most part – are used to being ‘in control’, but who are also dealing with great uncertainty. Whether it be senior executives preparing for a massive presentation to a group of 500 external stakeholders, or early or mid-career trajectory changers – people need to become familiar (and more comfortable) with feelings of uncertainty. Just as sure as change is the only constant – we can be certain that there will always be uncertainty.

Today – I got it. Rather than looking at my partner today and trying to ‘figure out’ what next move he was planning (still haven’t quite honed my mind-reading powers!), I actually stopped focusing on him (quite literally – I didn’t look at him at all) and focused on me being ‘in the moment’. I turned my attention to the physical sensations and messages my body was receiving from my partner – and all of a sudden – we were dancing – together. It wasn’t two people – one leading, one following – it was a synergy – a flow of energy – and it was happening as a result of what the two of us were doing together – and in my surrender to the process – contrary to my previous fears of ‘relinquishing control’ – I felt very much a part of what we were creating.

If you feel that learning to let go and being more comfortable with uncertainty is something that could assist you in your leadership, touch base with the team at Phuel. If, on the other hand you’d like to feel that on the dance floor – check out Ask for Felix (and tell him Nathy sent you!)

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