Lessons Learned from Learning to Jive for the Strictly Agents Giving Charity Ball!
By Nicky Stevenson
In order to complete a short, 90 second dance performance last Friday, I put in 77,400 seconds of practice, and I learned more than just the Jive routine itself…
On 20th May, Peter Knight and I were on a train back to London after a meeting in York when he mentioned the plan for this year’s Agents Giving Ball. It was to be themed Strictly Agents Dancing! What a brilliant idea, I thought. There were three dance competitor spaces left, and before I knew it, I had signed up to compete at the glittering event taking place on 30th September in London, not really knowing what I was letting myself in for!
From 18th June through to 30th September, all of the competitor dancers were doing what we could to fit in a lesson with Wright Rhythm in Enfield. There was so much to learn!
It seems like a dream now; I am so pleased I did it. It really was a once in a lifetime experience to feel like a Strictly Come Dancing star for a night, and I loved every second of the evening. Hours of work were put into the routine by every single dancer, and it was over in just 90 seconds!
Which leads me to my first key lesson from this whole Learning to Jive experience – practice really is the crux of it all.
1) Practice Practice Practice
For a 90 second performance, I had 5 hours of training with Wright Rhythm courtesy of the Agents Giving Rightmove grant, with an additional 12.5 hours which I arranged myself. I reckon there were about another four hours or so of practice at home in the run up, totalling about 21.5 hours of practice and learning altogether!
Everyone competing had to practice as it was new to us all. Over time I got the basics of the routine, but I still needed lots of practice to build on this. For instance, where to look, facial expressions, the positions of my fingers, so many small details that needed to be perfected. It was hard to remember it all! Even once the routine was finalised, we had to practice faster and faster in time with the music… Practice, practice, practice.
How often in business do we practice some of the things we do every day? Phone conversations, pitching face to face, conducting viewings… All really important elements of our business. The customer changes. The expectations change. The market changes. Are we practicing the different tactics needed to address these changes? The worst thing is to leave a meeting or finish a conversation forgetting a particularly important question or point you wanted to make.
When the market changes, do our valuers, negotiators and managers know how to handle these new challenges, concerns and conversations?
Practice really does make perfect. Once the questions and key points have been perfected, why not have a checklist so it can be looked back on reviewed and improved over time?
After every dance lesson Charlie (my dance partner) and I recorded where we got to on our phones, and reviewed in our own time so we were well prepared for the next lesson.
It’s all about practice and we are never too old to learn new ways of doing things for a better outcome.
I know I was not the only one who had second thoughts after signing up to this challenge! It took a lot more time than I had anticipated and took out most of my Saturdays over the summer. I persisted however, going over the same dance steps over and over…. Every now and again I just needed to remind myself why I was doing it! Which was of course to raise money for the Agents Giving charity, and I didn’t want to let down those who had kindly sponsored me. Personally, I had set out to learn something completely different and I didn’t want to let myself down either!
Sometimes in life and business it can be the easy option to give up, but the feeling once you have achieved what you set out to do just erases all the previous negativity around it. I am now so pleased I persisted with learning and performing the Jive, and whilst my straight 8 score was not enough to win, I feel like I achieved by massively stepping outside my comfort zone!
It was Viktor Frankl who said:
To persist with a goal, challenge or set back, it is so much easier to carry on if you have a Why, and it begs the question of is your Why big enough? Is it communicated enough? Is it enough to get you through the challenges that lie ahead? You can learn more about starting with Why in this excellent TED Talk by Simon Sinek
I did not envisage wearing what amounted to a small leotard with sequins on it, and shaking my bum in front of hundreds of peers and clients! The dancers said to me that I need to forget ‘professional Nicky’ and become someone else when I am dancing. The routine was danced to Christina Aguilera’s Candyman, and so from then on in the dance studio I was ‘Christina’…
It is not just the dancers who believe in the power of your persona. I was lucky to see Amy Cuddy at an event this year; she has had 36,553,406 views on her top TED Talk ‘Your body language shapes who you are‘. Amy is one of many social scientists who believes in the power of non-verbal language, not just in influencing others, but influencing self… ‘Fake it until you become it’ is what Amy believes, and that tiny tweaks in our posture and body language can lead to big changes in how we think and feel.
I had a change of mind-set each time I entered the dance studio as my persona became ‘Christina’
Now I know there will be situations in the future where I feel uncomfortable, there will be times where I need to ‘Power Pose’ (as Amy puts it!) to think and feel more powerful, and it is interesting to see that there is some serious research into how our non-verbal language governs how we think and feel.
I will now be more mindful of the impression my non-verbal communication is giving not just to others, but myself.
What impression are you giving yourself with your body language?
The whole experience was brilliant, a great success for the charity, and I know everyone that took part had an absolute ball on the night!