Leadership Lessons from a Dancing GuyMay 05, 2014 | By Wayne O'Neill
A colleague of mine sent me this video, First Follower: Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy and it’s full of counterintuitive notions about how behavior transformation happens. In watching it, the first thing I’m struck by is the fact that what really changes a group is the first follower to a leader, not the leader himself.
Don’t get me wrong, it certainly takes a leader putting himself and his ideas out there. That dancing guy is taking a big social risk when he’s out there in the middle of a crowd. But it takes more than that to create a movement.
What does it take?
The first person who embraces a new way of doing things-that’s a big change. It’s hard to change a behavior that you’ve always done. What’s most interesting to me is how that leader out there embraces the risk of the first follower. It’s pivotal. The second follower makes further change in the group and by the time a third person joins, you have other people joining the crowd socially and safely.
Watching our practice, that’s how it happens within every single company. Somebody embraces the connections process first, and they’ll do it in a lone way for sometimes as long as 14-30 days before a second follower shows up and follows along. If that leader embraces the new follower and pulls them in, that’s a momentum shift. The third follower—that makes it a crowd—infects others who are looking on. I’ve seen it over and over again.
What’s the timeframe we’re looking at?
When people ask, “How long does it take for change to take place?” We tell them that when we start The Connection Process, it’s a flywheel. We first have to encourage one person to get onboard, take the risk, and dance in front of everybody. They have to risk ridicule until others see the benefits and join in. Once that happens, it’s impossible to stop the momentum of the effectiveness of the connections process.
Weird, but intriguing…
That video connects with me because it’s not about dancing at festivals or being inebriated. It’s about human behavior and I see it over and over and over again. This is what it looks like to build a flywheel. As a baby boomer, I have far too many memories of concerts that I pray I didn’t do anything embarrassing at, and I’m thankful that at that time, video recording wasn’t something we had to worry about as often. But you have to look past that and look at the dynamics, and that’s how a movement occurs every time.
It’s unpredictable who will get it first. It could be someone in marketing, a leader, or a technical person. It’s unknown. And you don’t know who’ll be next, it never follows a pattern. I’m hopeful it infects someone on the leadership team. But we’ve infected whole firms without anyone on the leadership team being the first, second or third follower. But once the crowd is already there, it’s hard to resist.
Here’s the bottom line…
A leader doesn’t exist without his followers. When someone catches on to something you’re doing that is pivotal, allow for that behavior transition to be a comfortable one.
Because it’s unpredictable, it’s important to get the diversity of folks into the group. When we come in, we often are told to “fix” a group—like the sales people or the leadership team. That’s just not going to work. It needs to be a top down, bottom up peripheral exercise. Let them all see you dance.