I don’t normally fall prey to writer’s block, but last night I was really struggling. I decided to take a break and clear the cobwebs by watching “Dancing With The Stars” with my wife. As I watched Jerry Springer, Emmitt Smith, Joey Lawrence, Mario Lopez and the rest of the celebrity cast sashay across the dance floor my writer’s block vaporized and I found myself back at the keyboard. OK, the show is about celebrity ballroom dancing which is admittedly good, clean, family entertainment, but what does it have to do with business? Directly, not too much….but on an indirect basis much more than one might think. When you peel back the layers and look beyond the dancing the show is about packaging personal style, talent, focus, attention to detail, salesmanship, popularity and work ethic to create a competitive advantage. In today’s post I’ll share the things that we should all learn from watching “Dancing With The Stars.”

Imagine having only a few weeks to learn a new skill set and at the end of those few weeks being expected to perform up to a professional level by demonstrating your newly acquired talent on national television. Talk about stepping outside the proverbial comfort zone…Most of us spend years honing our craft. We often go through decades of rigorous academic and professional training as well as having the benefit of numerous real world applicational experiences to develop our expertise. In the text that follows I’ll share my perspective on why the “Dancing With The Stars” celebrities can step out of their comfort zone and make huge gains over short periods of time and why many in the workforce fail to be able to do so.

One of the celebrity contestants is former Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. He is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and the same traits that made Emmitt successful on the gridiron are the same things that are making him successful on the dance floor. While having no formal dance training his coordination, strength, rhythm and agility are quite obvious. His confidence, charm and charisma radiate from his constant smile and a friendly yet professional demeanor. However it is his work ethic, focus, attention to detail, commitment to excellence and his desire to win that form the foundation of his approach to learning a new skill and make him one of the favorites to win the competition.

Most of the celebrities on the show are similar to Emmitt Smith in that they understand what it takes to be successful. They have confidence in their ability and possess a competitive spirit. They are willing to take the risks and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their goals. The show also provides an environment which creates a singular purpose. The dancers have the luxury of clarity of vision in knowing why they are there, what their objective is and what the corresponding payday is. Contrast this with many corporate environments that exhibit a lack of vision, ambiguous objectives, moving goal posts in terms of compensation and employees that in turn have a lack of focus.

The show also pairs the celebrity participants with professional dance partners who serve as their coach. By nature of their backgrounds the celebrity dancers understand the value of leveraging professional mentors, coaches, trainers, agents etc. and they take full advantage of those resources to accomplish great things over short periods of time. To be the best they understand that they must learn from the best. Contrast this picture with corporate environments not offering strong leadership development, talent management, training, and mentoring and it is no wonder that poorly led and trained workforces have correspondingly poor performance.

The show makes it is easy to see why professional singers, dancers, athletes and actors can accomplish great things in short periods of time. They have talent, focus, desire, clarity of vision and work ethic. They are also afforded significant resources in terms of training and coaching. Bottom line…If you want to perform like a pro at the top of their game then you need to adopt many of the traits and habits mentioned above.