The most recent PMI Pulse of the Profession research focuses heavily on Power Skills — also known as interpersonal skills or soft skills such as communication, problem-solving and collaborative leadership — are proving essential for project professionals. They are at the heart of leading successful teams, engaging stakeholders, and conquering challenges to the project plan. Technical skills enable project managers to chart the path from the start of a project to close, but power skills are how they bring the entire team along for the journey to execute a common vision.
PMI research results show that organizations that place a higher value on power skills tend to perform significantly better on multiple key drivers of success such as benefits realization management (BRM) maturity, organizational agility, and project management maturity — indicating that power skills work in concert with technical skills to bring new definition to an organization’s project success.
PMI defines power skills as abilities and behaviors that facilitate working with others and help project professionals to succeed in the workplace. Some individuals and other organizations also refer to them as “soft skills” or “interpersonal skills”.
Calling these abilities and behaviors “power skills” signifies the value they bring to project professionals, teams, and organizations.
Organizations are looking for creative ways of learning and developing new skills and strengths for their teams. Let’s see then how DANCE can help to boost the power skills?
Dancing stimulates the link between the body and brain. In fact, it provides a full brain and body massage! Signals are relayed from the motor area of the brain to nerves, muscles and joints, and the moving body also sends signals back to different parts of the brain and creates activity both deep down at the core of the nervous system and in the neocortex, the brain’s outer layer.
Dance requires individuals to communicate with each other to create a cohesive performance. Dancers must learn to communicate through body language, eye contact, and verbal cues to synchronize their movements. This helps improve communication skills, which is an essential aspect of collaboration.
Dancing changes the way we feel and think and boosts our self-esteem. We communicate through dance: just as the way we move is influenced by our emotions so we can recognise a person’s emotional state from the way they move their body. What’s more, our own subconscious movements are influenced by our hormonal and genetic make-up. So dancing brings together our body, our mind and our hormones – no wonder it is such a powerful activity that can make us feel fabulous.
A huge amount of research has been done on dance in the fields of neuroscience, cognition, biology, medicine, anthropology and evolutionary theory, and the evidence is clear: it shows that the act of dancing brings about specific psychological and physical changes that can play an important role in our lives.
Dance is one of the most powerful forms of communication that we have.
So much of what we communicate does not come from the words, but from the body language that accompanies them, which is received at an unconscious level.
Cognitive psychology deals with how humans think, learn, solve problems, use language, perceive the world and remember. Experimental cognitive psychology involves a great deal of laboratory work.
D’Ambroise, the famous American dancer and choreographer said: “Dance is your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. It’s the rhythm of your life. It’s the expression in time and movement, in happiness, joy, sadness and envy.” Dance is the expression of emotion in movement – which also makes it a communal thing, arguably one of the most socially powerful and communicative activities there
If you want a person to know you better, then one of the first things you should do is go for a walk with them, and walk at their pace. Synchronize your walking speed with theirs, and magic happens. I was astonished when I first discovered that this simple act of synchronization leads people to have more positive feelings towards each other. Moving together in time is a form of non-verbal communication that connects us emotionally. Scientists have found that we trust people more when we move in synchrony, and we also feel more affinity with them. The saying “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes” means that before you make a judgement about a person you must empathize with them, and understand their experiences, challenges, and ideas. Moving together has been proven to facilitate this process.
The body is brilliant at communicating emotion but, other than in a dance class, where do we get the chance to act out with our body what is going on deep in our heart? Most of our lives are spent disconnecting our emotions from our physical expression of them. We feel things, but we cannot express them. Dancing to music is a great way to overcome negative feelings because both the exercise and our emotional responses to the music we’re hearing can increase the release of dopamine in different parts of the brain. As dopamine levels go up, we can shake off some of those negative feelings and float into a euphoric state.
Never underestimate the power of the human body to communicate emotions and generate a response in others: we stimulate the brains of those watching us when we move in different ways, and as we change the emotions that underpin our movements, we activate different areas of our observers’ brains.
Developing relationships and building trust
In dance, dancers must trust each other to execute their movements and create a seamless performance. This requires trust ad vulnerability, which helps build stronger relationships between individuals. This trust can translate into other collaborative settings, as individuals learn to rely on each other to achieve a common goal.
Dancing with other people is great for developing relationships and building trust because of the changes it stimulates in our brains. Scientists at Oxford University think that our innate pain-relieving system – otherwise known as the endogenous opioid system – might be working overtime when we dance, and this makes us feel good about the people we are dancing with. The dancing dons at Oxford tested the relationship between dancing, pain and social bonding and found that they were all linked. Hundreds of people were taught some simple dance moves and then split into two groups, the same-dance group and the different-dance group. The former had to perform the same dance moves at the same time as each other (imagine a group of people all doing the Macarena in perfect unison), while the latter had to do a different set of movements at the same time (imagine three people in a group, one of them doing the Macarena, another person doing the Hokey Cokey, and the third doing the Hustle). Then they measured both groups’ pain threshold, by inflating a blood pressure cuff on their arm until the pain became unbearable. Finally, they asked everyone questions about how socially bonded they felt to the people they were dancing with. Here are some of the questions they asked:
- How much do you trust the people you were dancing with?
- How connected do you feel to the people you were dancing with?
- How likeable are the people you were dancing with?
- How similar in personality do you feel to the people you were dancing with?
Dancing together gives us a natural high because it leads to increased activation of our endogenous opioid system. This makes us feel pleasure and it changes the way we feel about the people we are dancing with. We trust our dance partners more, we feel more connected to them, we like them more and we think their personality is more similar to ours. We also feel less of a distance between where we end and they begin.
Problem solving skills
Not all thinking is the same, just as not all movement is the same. I have found that different types of physical movements affect our ability to think and solve problems in different ways. There are some problems, for instance, that have just one correct answer, and once you have the answer, that’s it: you’ve arrived at the solution. These are called single-answer problems and they require “convergent” thinking. Then there are problems with potentially hundreds of correct answers. These multiple-answer problems require “divergent” thinking.
How can you support your project team members in resolving problems in more creative way by implementing new ways of working? Working with different teams, I have found how easily people discover new techniques of working together and they like experimenting them. People like self-discovering their individual strengths but also teams self-assess their strengths team portrait. Self-organizing and self- managing teams have a bigger potential to grow together.
Argentinian tango, unlike many dances, does not have any set step patterns. The dance is completely improvised, moment by moment. It relies on the leader communicating their intentions to the follower, and on the follower responding. It’s a mistake to think that the follower is passive. All the leader can do is to issue an invitation to the follower. The follower “listens” and moves in response. The leader “hears” and then in turn responds – and so on. Projecting intention is about an intensity, saying: “We’re going here”. It means focusing your energy and conveying that intention with your whole being. The partnership formed will produce unique results and the quality will depend on the success of the communication.
How do you then build your personal leadership style to be part of more collaborative team? How do you express your perspectives of seeing things with your peers and how do you perceive other perspectives?
That leads us to the question: how empathetic are you? An empathetic person is someone who can place themselves in another’s position and has an understanding of their feelings and experiences. Empathy is a type of emotional intelligence that is fundamental to human relationships, because it helps us create meaningful connections. It enable us to appreciate a situation from someone else’s perspective and understand their discomfort or distress.
When you dance, you generate a conversation through a body beyond words… If I’m experiencing somebody’s weight when they’re falling backwards, I’m responsible for making sure that they don’t fall… When you actually feel a body, a real presence in real time, it affects everything about how you feel about that body – it personalises it. It becomes about the individual and you realise that they are made of the same flesh and blood. It tells you more about your similarities than your differences.
As this example demonstrates, dance is a great way of improving your emotional intelligence skills. Studies have shown that people who score higher on tests of emotional intelligence tend to be more successful in life. The great thing is that it is not fixed – you can always work on improving your empathetic skills, and dancing is a great way of doing so.
Dance is not only a form of physical activity but also an art form that requires collaboration and communication between individuals. Overall, dance can be an effective way to improve collaborative skills, as it requires communication, trust, shared goals, and feedback. These skills are essential in any collaborative setting and can help individuals work together more effectively to achieve common goals. As we have already talked about communication and trust, we should mention about shared goals and feedback.
Shared goals – where dance performances have a shared goal, which is to create a cohesive and visually appealing performance. This shared goal requires individuals to work together towards a common objective, which can translate into other collaborative settings.
Feedback – in dance, individuals must give and receive feedback to improve their performance. This feedback is critical to the collaborative process, as it helps individuals learn from their mistakes and improve their performance. This skill can translate into other collaborative settings, as individuals learn to give and receive constructive feedback.
As you can see, you can boost your Power Skills by dancing your preferable style and consciously observe your reactions, emotions and feelings toward other people, your potential team members in your business life.
Agnieszka is an energetic multi-lingual trainer, coach and consultant with over 20 years’ international experience in the project management profession. She is a very creative trainer and consultant who uses innovative skills to support clients in designing and delivering leadership skills courses. She has a long experience in working with clients from private, public and academic organisations. Her strong interpersonal and communication skills allow her to build very good relations with clients across all levels and in different languages due to her fluency in English, Spanish, Italian, Polish and conversational German and Russian. Agnieszka has delivered successful programmes across Europe, USA, Latin America and Australia. She is Business Coach (ACC ICF) and author of creative program “Leader TANGO – strengths for Life” www.leadertango.com