Staccato is the second rhythm in 5 Rhythms dance. The rhythm of clarity, purpose, masculinity, passion and fire. The Yang energy. Sometimes during workshops we practice dancing in lines; one dancer takes the lead and his/her followers reproduce the same movement. This exercise is supposed to help amplify the rhythm of Staccato.
One mantra in 5 Rhythms dance is that there is no right or wrong movement. From the moment you are embodied in your dance that should do. That said, in these “dancing lines” things can go so badly for me… I know that may sound judgemental and I should just keep dancing my feelings. It’s not about the movement as such though, but rather its quality and texture. Sometimes my body simply refuses to follow unclear, fluffy, unfinished or fake movements. Then my mind – and ego of course – also come across the way: “Sorry, not following you just because you stand in front of the line!”
Tutsa Dancers from Changlang District in India – from Wikipedia
Things happen slightly differently at work obviously… It’s a question of professional survival. Although with the emergence of Enterprise Social Networks (ESN’s) some old post-industrial management theories and practices may have to adapt.
In his blog post “What Is Wrong With The Hierarchy?”, Oscar Berg declares : “What we are seeing now is a shift from hierarchy to the network as the primary organization system for an enterprise. In the light of this, it is easy to see that middle management is becoming irrelevant and displaced, and that it is there we will find the greatest resistance to change, trying to maintain status quo.”
That sounds like a very staccato statement indeed. And although I like moving in that powerful rhythm, I also like to think things are not always as black or white.
Oscar Berg brings some nuances too by saying : “It (ESN) poses a threat to those managers who are not really good coaches, mentors, visionaries, sales people, networkers and so on.” Obviously there seems to be hope for some middle managers at least…
Even more so. Simon Terry looks at this from a slightly different perspective in his article Middle Managers need to use their Networks and Authority : “Enterprise Social Networks could become a place where middle managers practice authority based on actions, decisions and authenticity.”
That sounds also quite staccato to me, in a more positive way. It’s definitely a call to action for more clarity, transparency and authenticity in the decision making process. In the Social Age, authority can’t rely anymore only on hierarchical position and bilateral emails send around the organisation from a corner office of the building. “Middle managers needs to play a role of networking the organisation across the middle” says Terry. “They have to get straight at the heart of the networks where they can use their authority by acting.”
Let’s not mix up “Acting” with “Controlling” though. In Management in Networks, Harold Jarche says : “Managers must actively listen, continuously question the changing work context, help to see patterns and make sense of them, and then suggest new practices and build consensus with networked workers. […] They act as servant leaders”.
Let’s take a Yammer group for team cooperation as an example. The manager’s role is not to push communications (in worst cases via emails), validate the objectives, set up the rules and then wait for people to engage in conversations. The manager is expected at the heart of the group discussions, sharing her insights and also her doubts. Taking action as a manager doesn’t necessarily mean showing up for each problem with a pre-packaged and/or non-risky solution. In the ESN “ambiguity sandbox”, participants should feel it can become possible to “play seriously” with other peers and team members, whatever the hierarchical level. Everyone can become a teacher. No need for superheroes. Even less super-egos….
“They (managers) have to share their knowledge with juniors and across silos. And not only the explicit knowledge about what they do, but more important their tacit knowledge about how they do it.” says Terry. “Build a reputation as a generous middle manager who is happy to collaborate, share information and advise and you will find people beating a path to your door.”
While people will be beating the path to the Social Leader’ door, Staccato dancers will be shaking hips on the beats of the drums, sharply and fiercely. In that exercise of the dancing lines as mentioned above, I am wondering what would happen though if the leader stands in the middle of the line rather than at the front ? Before starting the exercise, the leader could take a moment to tune in with the ones at the front of the line, making sure they understand the nature of the movement to reproduce. Then check that the dancers behind are able – and willing – to follow the movements. It would be interesting to see what sort of energy that new setting would generate. And how the “middle dancer” can lead, but also refine and adjust his own Staccato movements and vibrations, surrounded – and why not influenced – by other empowered leaders/learners. That’s the art of Staccato : staying fluid in clarity. The balance of being present in the Yin & the Yang…