Nathy Gaffney

Once a month – my Latin dance school holds a social night. It provides students an informal environment in which to take the ‘first steps’ to using their ‘learned steps’ in a social environment.

The night kicks off with a lesson – to warm up the nervous (or novice) dancers – then the lights go down, the DJ kicks in, the bar opens and the fun begins (well for some of us).

Over the past few months – I’ve been kept busy with work and have spent a lot of time on the road, so have been missing our regular Salsa lessons. My partner however – has kept up with lessons and classes and is improving at a rate of knots! He keeps me in the loop by taking me through all the moves he learns, so I’ve kept up (more or less) with the steps.

What I’ve missed though – is the social aspect of the learning journey. Having to dance with different partners after dancing with only one – is challenging enough: everyone moves differently. But having to stand at the side of the dance floor and wait to be approached by a stranger, or indeed to approach a stranger yourself and invite them to dance – is a whole different (and uncomfortable) ball game.

In the pursuit of excellence (or at the very least – increased competency and confidence) – I get comfortable with my discomfort and ask a tall, slim man to dance. He responds by barely nodding, taking my trembling hand, and leading me onto the middle of the dangerously crowded dance floor.

I find myself being whirled and swung and flicked and flung by said tall, slim (and increasingly) sweaty man. He’s clearly a very good dancer and dances with an economy of movement and emotion. Me on the other hand – whilst keeping up technically (by this I mean not falling over, or vomiting from the motion sickness brought on by the double and triple spins), am not really having the time of my life it must be said.

At the end of the song – he gives me an imperceptible nod of his head and disappears into the throng – leaving me panting, dazed and …..alone – in the middle of the dance floor. Sadly at this point I’m feeling less ‘J-Lo’ and more ‘Bi-Lo’.

The chatter starts in my head – “I was awful! He must have thought I was dreadful. It must have been such a chore for him to be dancing with someone as lead footed as me. He didn’t look at me or smile – he must have been having an awful time. Basically I’m shit and I want to go home – now!”

But the coaching professional in me realises I’m being offered an opportunity to learn something, so I` cruise back to the edge of the dance floor trying to look available and welcoming (but not needy). Thankfully my “Puberty Blues” moment is over quickly and I’m offered a hand.

I follow my new partner back to the belly of the beast, and we start to dance. Three minutes later – it’s over. I rinse and repeat a few more times but am left wondering – if this is social dancing – why aren’t we socialising?? What’s more, I came here to improve my dancing. Now sure – I’m getting experience on the dance floor, but there’s a vital ingredient for improvement that I’m not getting – and that’s feedback!

I’m left constantly guessing. Guessing what I’m doing wrong, guessing what I might be doing right, guessing what I could do to make it better (both for myself and my partner), and wondering what’s the point?

I change tack. I seek out a new partner and off we fly. At the end, before he can escape – I stop him ask him if he minds if I ask him a couple of questions. He looks surprised but agrees. I ask him simply, if he would mind giving me some feedback – what I did well, and where, in his opinion – I need to focus to improve. In not more than 20 seconds I find out that I have lovely posture and energy, and if I tighten up my footwork on the walk throughs – I’ll find the recovery from my turns much easier. He also fed back to me that he often has tips that could help the people he dances with, but doesn’t want to offend them by offering his opinion.


So here’s the point. In business as in life – many of us have been conditioned to fear feedback. Readying yourself for a review with the boss, often includes the gnawing fear that we’re going to get smashed for all the things we’re doing poorly. On the flipside – having to give feedback – often means having to deliver ‘bad news’, and no one likes having to do that. The look on someone’s face when you tell them they’re not performing to expectations – can be awful, and for many managers – a really difficult and debilitating part of their roles.

But there is another way. And it starts with our perception. Consider the place you are at today – in either your life or your job. Ask yourself – “Is this where I was 12 months ago?”

How far have you come in the past year? Chances are – you’ll see a real pattern of growth and progress. Discomfort is a side effect of growth – so if you have someone shining a spotlight on areas of your performance that could be improved upon – see it for the gift it is. The key is – getting them to be specific. Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive – diving deeper into their insights will yield greater results – every time.

At Phuel – giving people the skills to both give and receive (dare I say – welcome) feedback is just one of the many areas where we offer support to the ‘people’ side of organisations. All levels of management achieve greater impact with both their internal and external stakeholders when they focus on the mindful practice of being human.

If you consider the strength of human relationships a vital tool for your business success – let’s chat about how Phuel can help develop yours.

If however – it’s latin moves you want to work on – go to Ask for Felix – and tell him Nathy sent you.

Keen to know more about how to implement these and other initiatives at your next team get together? We’d love to chat about our how we can help. To start your thinking, let's talk to find out what's possible.