May I Have This Dance?

Partnerships exist in an array of human activities, from marriage to politics, sports to business, and to professions like lawyers and even the police service, where Hollywood would have us believe that a NYPD or LAPD police officer can never be on duty without his partner. Think Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon and you know what I mean. But even the buddy cop partnership does not hold a candle to the Perfect Partnership a flawlessly synchronized couple ice-dancing for Olympic Gold. What a sight! And all at fairly high speed, with the ice-dance couple never separate from each other by more than two arm-lengths as per the rules. Every twist and every turn, every sashay and every swerve, sheer poetry in motion!

But the ice-dance is comparatively recent, being first competed at the World Figure Skating Champion-ships in 1952. Its magic derives really from its original source – ballroom dancing. From the delicately graceful Viennese waltz to the passionately sensual tango, ballroom dancing really has to be the epitome of coordination, understanding and yes, trust, between two partners.

They are not equal partners, the waltzing duo or the tango couple, mind you. Traditionally the man leads and the woman follows. But to the enchanted viewer this is not at all noticeable, for the lead is managed by the man through body language and imperceptible physical signals which only his female partner receives, understands and responds to.

Now apply the principles of ballroom dancing to a partnership in the corporate world. Can we conclude, I daresay, that in the corporate world, perhaps the best partnership needs to be between 2 unequal entities, one leading and the other following? Not such a bizarre extrapolation if you really think about it. Two equal partners may each be always trying to have a slight upper hand, causing tension in the partnership. On the other hand, unequal partners may achieve more together with greater harmony, as the bigger burden in terms of responsibility and delivering on the targeted goals would fall on the bigger partner, with the smaller partner not being devoid of its share of responsibility either. For it will know that non-performance may well mean its replacement in the partnership with someone else.

What about other aspects of the emotionally charged tango or the breathless exuberance of the Viennese waltz? The long hours of practice, the perfect timing and coordination achieved at the end, the gelling together in every which way? Can we draw a parallel in this too with the corporate world?

Well certainly! Let’s say the dance itself translates into a project in the corporate world which two companies are taking up as partners. The long hours of practice are the time spent in research and planning. Perfect timing is the project timeline drawn up by the partners with mutual agreement, while coordination is the mechanism set up for project execution, ongoing review, fine tuning and further execution.

While in ballroom dancing the rule may be that the man leads and the woman follows, an important qualification needs to be made. If the man makes a mistake in the lead misses a step for example, or goes off rhythm ? the woman, no less accomplished a dancer than her partner, quickly guides him back into the right flow, by taking the lead for just those moments in which the man realizes his mistake and establishes the right rhythm again.

So when two companies decide to partner for a common goal, the larger one may be giving the lead (and paying more for it!), but the smaller company will have to remain focused and ensure that the project is not going off course or the understanding is being lost.

At the end of the day the success of a partnership between two companies will depend to an appreciable extent on the level of chemistry that the people in the 2 companies are able to achieve. This too is directly relatable to ballroom dancing ? your waltz, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, rhumba and others, including Praetor’s personal favourite, the tantalizing tango!

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