What is the difference between a good dancer and a great dancer? There are several possible ways to answer that question. A great dancer has more refined technique. There is an aura about him or her, some unquantifiable X factor at play. A great dancer connects to the music, to the story, and/or to the emotion better. But whichever answer one subscribes to, it often comes down to a sense that a great dancer puts something more into the performance. A great dancer commits to the movement.
I have said before that dancing is not just about doing choreographed steps. When a dancer just goes through the motions—steps in the right places on time with the music—it only goes part of the way towards achieving whatever the goal is of the dance. And while the movement may seem right in most ways, something immediately seems off if the dancers aren’t fully extending their lines, if they are not fully engaging in the technique, if they are not fully connecting to the story, the other dancer(s) or the audience. When dancers don’t commit to the movement, in big or small ways, the judges and the audience notice and disengage from the dance.
But when a dancer fully commits to the movement—when the dancer engages fully to reach a goal—the judges and the audience will engage and stay in rapt attention as the dancer performs.
It is not enough to just do the right steps. Dancers need to fully commit to the movement in order succeed.
The same principle is true in communication. Words alone are not enough. Leaders and organizations can say all the right things to engage with those audiences that matter most them. But when a promise or commitment is made to the audience, leaders and organizations need to follow through with action. And they need to follow through on exactly what was promised, not some half-measure or compromised action.
When that actions do not match the words spoken, audiences notice. Just like when a something does not fit within a person’s frame of reference, the audience will interpret for itself what this disparity between words and actions means. And ultimately trust and confidence will be lost, and those people who matter most to an organization will disengage. As the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words.
Therefore, a key principle in communication is to follow right words with right action. This means figuring what it is that a leader or organizations wants to accomplish, connecting to the audience on its terms to move them to think, feel, know or do something. And once the right words are delivered, leaders and organizations need to commit fully to making those words, those promised actions, a reality. When leaders commit fully, and follow right words with right action, they will win the trust and confidence of those who matter most and build reputations as great leaders.
This blog is part of a series “Lessons in Communication from a Dancer,” which uses principles and skills of dance as a way to better understand the key principles of effective communication.