I love the Balcony and Dancefloor concept of Ron Heifetz of Harvard Business School (a prolific leadership author – check his work out here). It has revolutionised many a leader’s approach to leading. The metaphor exquisitely helps us to remember to either get out of the reactive and focussed nature of the dancefloor to see a bigger picture perspective, or to ensure that we are not making decisions from a far off and disconnected balcony.
In complex organisations, where there is often a lack of understanding of what is happening on the floor or what direction needs to be taken to move forward from a strategic perspective, it’s the staircase that needs the work.
Is your business seeking to work with more agility and creatively? Co-creation and co-design sit firmly on the staircase. Design thinking works when the perspectives of strategic, long-range and big picture (balcony) thinking join together with those dealing with the day to day delivery of the work (dancefloor), and the end-users’ perspective. All are important – one not more than the other. Having conversations that explore, ideate these perspectives and ideas and then synthesise them into solutions is the staircase in action.
It’s on the staircase that we start to co-create solutions from both perspectives, listening deeply, asking curious questions and letting go of the hierarchy of whose right to make better decisions. The staircase discussions require skill and a new way of interacting in organisations. It’s collaboration in action. And it needs leaders to let go of the need to be right.
When the staircase is activated:
- Hierarchy fades – positional power is put to the side to enable open and transparent discussion
- Curiosity leads – our questioning skill about how we might do things differently creates a space of exploration rather than judgment
- Listening deepens – we seek to understand perspectives and insights at a much deeper and informed level from each other
- Trust and connection emerge – our understanding leads to seeing the situation with both empathy and a clearer lens, and the relationships strengthen as an outcome
- Possibility appears – we are able to make decisions about future steps from a much richer and informed platform
As with any conversations in the workplace, tonality and mindset are key. When you’re discussing perspectives between the balcony view with those on the dancefloor, does your curiosity sound like wondering, or judgment? Judging people’s responses leads to shut down and low level, transactional conversations. Activate deep listening and ask questions that deepen your understanding, and you’re well on the way to a robust, insightful and useful staircase conversation.
How strong is your organisation’s staircase capability?
Tracey Ezard is a Melbourne-based consultant whose work focusses on leading learning cultures for high performance. She is a keynote speaker, author, and educator. Mentoring organisations of varied industries, Tracey works with leaders and teams to improve collaborative cultures in large, and often multifaceted, workplace communities. Change is inevitable for every business model, and through innovation and deep communication, Tracey brings leaders and their teams on a journey to engagement by creating an energy buzz.
Tracey Ezard is a Melbourne-based consultant that focuses on leadership and learning culture. She is a keynote speaker, author and educator. Mentoring organisations of varied industries, Tracey works with leaders and teams to improve collaborative cultures in large, and often multifaceted, workplace communities. Change is inevitable for every business model, and through innovation and deep communication, Tracey brings leaders and their teams on a journey to engagement by creating an energy buzz.
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