What am I – a Dancer or a Change Consultant?

I’m a ballet dancer. No, I’m a change consultant. No, that’s not right either. I think I’m both. Start again: My name is Carole Maleh. All my life, I’ve been a dancer. Musical dance was my destiny. “Over the Rainbow”, “Summertime”, “Fly Me to the Moon” – these were the hits I could sing for ages. I always saw myself on stage.

One day, when I was 21, while preparing for the audition for the musical dancing school, I tore all the ligaments in my right knee. Dancing became out of question. There was no way I could recover fully. I had to give up my dream of becoming professional dancer. After recovering from the shock, I started all over again. Following the path of so many people in my environment, I went into business. I became a change consultant, to be precise and started my own company. Building up a market and supplying change consultancy for big companies became my new life’s purpose.

And yet, I’m a dancer again now. How did this happen? This is another story to tell. At the age of 50, I’m a dancer AND a change consultant. Passionate about both and connecting both worlds.

The parallels: Preparing, focussing and coordinating and performing

A performance: Planned down to the second

Image you are going to see a classical ballet, for example Shwan Lake. There’s a story. it’s easy to understand, with a coherent and interesting  dramaturgy. A story that fills the heart of the audience. There is a cast consisting of different roles, entering on cue at different point of times, delivering their various messages. Soli, duets or ensemble scenes fill the stage. Everyone knows from the beginning of the project which part and role he has. There’s no meddling and no interfering. People in the background magically change the stage setting. Invisible hands pulling, showing, sinking, lifting things to change the setting. The music matches the play and dance. Musicians of all kinds know their parts and their entrances. There could be 30, 50 or 100 musicians. They are all aligned. And for two hours everyone fulfills their assigned part, whether on stage, in the orchestra or backstage. They all fill in a piece of the puzzle – called performance.

A change process: Teams and responsibilities

A change process has many parallels to a dance performance project. Usually the process peaks in a workshop or conference. In an action that is evident for a large number of people, very similar to an audience. There’s a story. A story which speaks of urgent need for change, a vision of the future and of the way to get there. this story is understood by the participants and stakeholders. It fills their hearts with trust in the future. A better future for the benefit of all.

There are working teams of various kinds. There’s a steering group collecting data, analysing it them and developing a change concept. A leadership committee is supervising and making decisions. A marketing team is coordinating communication alongside the process. And there is a facilitation and logistic team carrying out workshops and conferences. Each group fulfils a role. Each team member is chosen deliberately, in accordance to his contribution to the project.

The strong will of a ballet dancer: Training before the show

A change process requires design and preparation. What’s to be achieved? Who is involved? What is needed and when? What must be changed and what should be kept? Weeks of development, discussion, discovery. Every angle should be examined. Every perspective considered.

The designing phase offers the best training to succeed in a change process. Skills are practiced, such as working in teams, focussing on the problem to be solved and the vision to be achieved. This phase emphasizes on picturing and coordinating various aspects of the situation and learning about strengths and weaknesses of the organization. It’s about exploring corporate history and culture, finding clues for solutions, searching for connecting threads. Transparence and communication among different target groups and stakeholders as well as commitment to the change, are further vital factors to producing a long-lasting change in the organization.

This is a phase of patience and persistence, hope and encouragement. It needs the strong will of a ballet dancer.

Everything belongs together: Authentic movements

Every day dance training. Every day the same exercises, uncompromisingly executed in minute detail. Every day working on improving technique, changing muscular habits, expanding flexibility and comprehension in order to memorize complex routines effortlessly.

Hard training to coordinate the parts of the body into a specific pose, always aware of the picture it should reflect. Training to strengthen assets, until the previously unattained can be achieved. Graceful movements are the highest achievement. All parts move in harmony, conveying a clear and authentic to audience.

This is very similar to a change process. Every move should be aligned both to the previous and to the upcoming. Every single meeting, every workshop and every conference not only deliver results, but convey a feeling of coherence, of trust and hope. People want to experience something that moves them in a way that binds them to the organization. And they want to perceive beauty in sensing that their effort produces a benefit. Therefore, all actions need to be in harmony, always matching cooperate culture and need.

This list of things common in both between ballet dance and change processes could be continued. However, the analogy has already is clear. In the end, each culminates in a performance that should move people and organizations. A performance based on the power and the hope off all involved.

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