Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders

Sharna Fabiano - Connect, Collaborate, & Create

July 07, 2020 Scott J. Allen Season 1 Episode 11
Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders
Sharna Fabiano - Connect, Collaborate, & Create
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Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders
Sharna Fabiano - Connect, Collaborate, & Create
Jul 07, 2020 Season 1 Episode 11
Scott J. Allen

Sharna Fabiano helps individuals and teams strengthen their communication skills, from the perspective of both leadership and followership skills. Her background as an internationally touring instructor of tango partner dance gives her unusual insight into the nuances of teamwork and collaboration. We had a really fun conversation and I loved hearing her perspective - it's fresh, innovative, and thought-provoking.

Quotes from This Episode

  • “In my in my world, like, if you’re not connected, then you can’t do anything together - that’s meaningful.”
  • “If we’re going to have people called leaders, then we’re going to have people call the followers and those people have to be equally valued, but we have to recognize that they have a choice.”
  • “And both people (leader and follower role) have to have those skills, distinct but complementary skills, in order to dance together in order to improvise, in order to have the beautiful transcendent experience that we all aim for every night and chase for years.”
  • “We say that leaders ‘invite.’ That’s their main job to ‘invite’ either to invite you to dance or to invite you to take a step to the right or invite you to express this sharp accent. They’re offering a whole string of invitations, that gives you the opportunity to dance with them. And then we say that the follower ‘responds.’”
  • “So when once you get to that level, the creative level, the experience is that the roles sort of dissolve.”

Additional Resources

Other Resources Mentioned in this Episode











Show Notes Transcript

Sharna Fabiano helps individuals and teams strengthen their communication skills, from the perspective of both leadership and followership skills. Her background as an internationally touring instructor of tango partner dance gives her unusual insight into the nuances of teamwork and collaboration. We had a really fun conversation and I loved hearing her perspective - it's fresh, innovative, and thought-provoking.

Quotes from This Episode

  • “In my in my world, like, if you’re not connected, then you can’t do anything together - that’s meaningful.”
  • “If we’re going to have people called leaders, then we’re going to have people call the followers and those people have to be equally valued, but we have to recognize that they have a choice.”
  • “And both people (leader and follower role) have to have those skills, distinct but complementary skills, in order to dance together in order to improvise, in order to have the beautiful transcendent experience that we all aim for every night and chase for years.”
  • “We say that leaders ‘invite.’ That’s their main job to ‘invite’ either to invite you to dance or to invite you to take a step to the right or invite you to express this sharp accent. They’re offering a whole string of invitations, that gives you the opportunity to dance with them. And then we say that the follower ‘responds.’”
  • “So when once you get to that level, the creative level, the experience is that the roles sort of dissolve.”

Additional Resources

Other Resources Mentioned in this Episode











Ira Chaleff :

This story is more embarrassing to me than to Sharna. So let me tell you the backstory. The I don't know how long ago was now maybe eight years ago, maybe 10 I was in Argentina. And I saw Tango. And I loved it. So I came back to Washington DC. And I said, Okay, Mr. Courage. Go take Tango lessons. This isn't a happy story because I still can't dance tango, but okay, but so I went, and there was this teacher there. And this was the beginning class and every, lesson, she talked about leading and following, leading and following, leading and following. Having no idea that this was what my whole life's work was about. And I'm just enthralled listening to her. And not only did she talk about it, she had each of us perform both roles. Because both men and women had to understand the lead role and the follower role to support the other. And she had us do these exercises. How do we follow poorly? How do we follow compatibly? How? And she actually gave us this sense embodied sense of what is it like to follow or leave well or poorly and I am just I can't believe I've stumbled onto this goldmine. So, after the class was finished, and I knew that I was not going to be a tango dancer, I reveal to Sharna my fascination. And she got so energized because she had never met anyone outside of the field of dance, who was so fascinated, particularly with the follower role and how it contributed to the dance. So I then invited Sharna to make a video, which many of you have seen in some of you probably use in your classes and workshops, on leading and following through Tango. She was supposed to be dancing with a gentleman from Argentina. He had a family emergency that day. So she wound up dancing with her life partner, Isaac. So The interaction that happens in the video becomes all the richer because you know how leading and following goes and personal relationships right. And so I I have watched the video because I use in every workshop at least 100 times, and I love it every time. So that's the backstory of Sharna and how we are all benefiting from her being here. She's developed her own way of teaching followership. So Sharna...

Scott Allen :

So what you just heard is an introduction of a pioneer in the followership literature, Ira Chaleff love speaking about Sharna Fabiano and my guest today is Sharna Fabiano, and I'm I'm excited for this conversation because, I just finished about a week and a half ago, a really great conversation with Ron Riggio, and he really placed followership front and center in this whole dialogue that we've been having in in Phronesis. And so sharna IRA mentions that you are charting your own path forward with this topic of followership. So tell us about that. I mean, if you'd like to, you can tell us a little bit about you, you are a leadership and followership coach, you are a dancer as we know. So maybe let's start there. Let's start with a little bit about you. And then we can talk about this path that you're charting forward with this topic because I can't wait to equate followership with dancing and anything else that you're thinking about moving forward.

Sharna Fabiano :

Sure, thank you so much. I'm I'm really excited for this conversation, too. I think there probably aren't many former Tango instructors in the leadership and followership coaching space. So that I suppose makes me feel unusual. And so the first thing I would say is those terms leader and follower, those are really common in the tango community. This is how we talk about partnership. And so, although, in the business world, the organizational world, the term followers still being defined and discussed for us, for for social dancers, it's very normal. And it's very equivalent with leadership. And so I spent maybe 15-20 years you know, my, one of my first big adult career in that world, and then I did my graduate work, I did a transition in my career and I got into coaching, but that is so formative in my body, you know, and in my psyche, that I couldn't help but start to, want to bring those principles into my coaching because I had known them to be so powerful in the conversation of collaborating and you know, human connection, and community building. So that's sort of what I've been working on for the past couple of years drawing on these principles of partnership that I'm, I've been steeped in as a dancer and looking for ways that they might enhance the conversation of team building, and culture, and healthy relationship in the organizational world.

Scott Allen :

Well, and I had mentioned a little bit ago this conversation with Ron Riggio, and he said something to the effect of you know, that we that we know that leaders don't do leadership, leaders and followers co-create, and I imagine in dance, it's somewhat similar that you have, you have two people who are co-creating something of beauty. And so would you talk a little bit about that co-creating because I you use the word partner, which I love, so let's explore that for a little bit.

Sharna Fabiano :

Absolutely. Tango is really unusual as a partner dance because it doesn't have a basic step. So what that means is if you imagine swing or salsa or even like a ballroom dance like Waltz, you probably have in mind a set of steps that both partners would learn and they're kind of symmetrical and then you do this 123, or this you know, four or five, six together. In the Tango, you don't have that at the beginning. It's, it's, what we call improvised. So, you at the beginning like day one, you have to ask yourself, okay, I'm the leader, what do I do? I'm the follower. What do I do? You're very much confronted with that role. At the very beginning. You don't have a lot of scaffolding to put around you. And so you you learn okay, there are things that the leader person does, right, certain ways of communicating with the body, certain postures, certain vocabulary, pieces. And then there's certain things that the followers responsible for doing to, again, right from the beginning that allow the couple literally to move together. And both people have to have those skills, distinct but complementary skills, in order to dance together in order to improvise, in order to have the beautiful transcendent experience that we all aim for, you know, every night and chase for years. So...

Scott Allen :

I don't think that's any different than leadership.

Sharna Fabiano :

So yeah, so there there are these two distinct skill sets, and, the other thing that might be interesting to bring in this conversation is just the physicality of it, because I don't think many outsiders know that. So, the leader person uses most of the upper body, the arms, the shoulders, the upper torso, to communicate signals and it's the literally the top of the body. And the follower person is expressive and contributing mostly from the lower body, the legs, the feet. That person is responding to those signals moving into the space around the leader often. And that placement that he or she does, the follower placement then informs the leaders next signal. So you have this literal kind of top to bottom and the bottom to top manifested in the body. I think that's super interesting to take into organizations where you also have a hierarchy, but we usually just think the hierarchy goes down, right? We don't think of actually going back up with an equal force of support or expressiveness or anything, but that's how I think about it.

Scott Allen :

Well, and I love how you're communicating that because you use some phrase there that I that I really enjoy "equal force," so a leader in an oranization and hierarchical structure may say what the vision is. But the the followers psychologically and physically in some cases are in or not. Right? And I think the leaders sometimes think that they've communicated and think that there's engagement, think that there's buy in, but from a co-creating standpoint, it really isn't co-creating it isn't a partnership. It's one sided. And as a result, follower engagement...it's not where it could be. It's it's not an energized group of men and women who are working towards a common vision. And we see that a lot in organizational life I've experienced I'm sure you've experienced that for sure.

Sharna Fabiano :

Exactly. Yeah. I think that's one of the biggest challenges right now is this mysterious idea of engagement. How do we make it happen? And dancers obsess about this concept, right? They're like, how do I communicate exactly in the right way and make the follower comfortable and make it natural and make it exciting for that partner to rhen come with me, right, on the vision, right, that the dance being the vision in this metaphor. And so there's a lot of care put into that. And it's known that every every partnership is different, right? You can't just expect the next partner to be the same, they are all different, they'll require a different way of connecting. And likewise, the follower partner is trained to be able to sync up really fast with each leader and support what that leader is interpreting, you know, in terms of music. So that's kind of what I see a little bit missing in the organizational world. There's, there's a lot of literature on leadership, right and how to do it and different ways of doing it. But there isn't this attention, perhaps because the awareness is newer, that they're actually things that people being led, do, or learn or there are abilities there that that make the partnership work better. So that's what I've been interested in doing kind of translating from my Tango background into the, the work environment.

Scott Allen :

Well, and so what I'm hearing from you I'm hearing, and I think of leadership as this very, I think of leadership, very much as an improvisational activity at times, in that throughout the day, leaders, followers, individuals in an organization, things are emerging, whether it's in the context of the dynamics of just putting a bunch of humans together in a room or an organization issues are emerging, and the leader and the followers have to respond to these in real time. So I love what you're saying. You use the terminology "sync up," which I think is beautiful. And I also think it's wonderful how you're thinking about the role of follower in that, "How well do we help prepare these individuals to follow?" And so I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you're thinking about that. How are you thinking about, Ira had mentioned in that intro segment that we did that you are charting your own path. So what are two or three things you're thinking about as you're charting your own path that are new and emergent in this space? What do you think?

Sharna Fabiano :

Well, I will give you the broad strokes of what I'm developing this translation from Tango into the organization. And there are three stages of dance training that I've identified that are, I think, totally relevant. The first phase is "Connection." And these are skills and abilities that sync kind of sync sync up, sync up the two people, or the groups of people, and they include things on the on the leadership side, probably more familiar, like clean communication, inclusivity, making everyone feel they're heard. But the followership side is equally important, and on that side you would have listening, right? Not just passive listening, but, like really opening yourself to what someone is, is expressing and even helping them to express that. Engagement, obviously, right, we've spoken about what what does that really mean? You know, it's not just coming in with your own idea and taking over the meeting. No, it's engagement for the purpose of developing an idea someone is asking for your support on so that well timed question like a detail that might have been overlooked, being a sounding board, you know, offering an alternative solution,these are things that are there like, not necessarily flashy, but they're super helpful to a person in leadership who job it is to develop a big vision for something or a plan, right? They can't hold all those details in their mind. And that's the follower job, right, is to provide those relevant details. Those are be some examples. At the "Connection Level," this is like what allows people to begin to work together and to feel connected.

Scott Allen :

Great.

Sharna Fabiano :

The second phase is "Collaboration." These are my my terms. And this represents the part of the dance where everyone is now familiar with the nuts and bolts like the vocabulary of the dance, they understand basic rhythm, they're not stepping on each other anymore. They kind of know where to put their left foot and their right foot. And so they're getting around the floor right? They're doing the work, so to speak. And they're also navigating not to crash into other couples. And so this is like the day to day - I do this report, you know, then you take that and you put it into this plan, and you're finding a rhythm with your team or with your, your leader. And likewise, there's things that dancers do on both sides there to make that work. So the obvious thing for leadership might be like project management, you know, making a timeline, coordinating different parts of a project. Also setting expectations for standards of performance or ethics, anything that, you know, would be like, here are the norms that we're all agreeing to.

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

But on the followership side, you have equally important, and I think sometimes taken for granted, getting your work done on time, right. That's not an easy thing. Right, but we kind of assume, "oh, yeah, if I make a project plan, then it's fine, i'm done" like, well, that's, that's only half of it.

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

So followers, right. That's whether you're dancing or in an office environment, like you're responsible for almost self-managing then all of the things that allow you to produce quality work on schedule. Those are those are skills that that people need to develop and boundaries is another really important one. And, you know, I think Ira Chaleff is one of the most brilliant voices on this topic, that if the follower is not there to ensure that the standards are kept, whether that's a safety standard or an ethical standard, who will right? Who will hold those leaders in those organizations accountable? So I think that's a power that we don't usually assign to the follower, but it's a very important role, perhaps the most important

Scott Allen :

Hmm, well, and so what's the third? So we have we have Connection, we have Collaboration, and then what's your third, the third element that you're thinking about?

Sharna Fabiano :

The third phase is Creation. And I think A lot of us try to zoom to this stage immediately, like we want problem solvers, we want creative people, we want a team full of high achievers, but in, in dance and I think in life as well, the level of be able being able to really create with someone like we would call that, to improvise with them at a high level, depends on the first two phases. So if you're not connected with your partner or with your team, if you're not smoothly collaborating in the day-to-day necessary tasks of the work, then you will, rarely if ever, be able to come up with that innovative solution or the insight that suddenly turn something upside down and, you know, transforms how you roll out a product or up ends and industry or or invents like a new biotech gadget, you know, to save lives. So those moments of creative innovation come from the first two phases.

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

And so of course you need the leader to have the strong vision for that, right? That's kind of the creative leadership side, see what's see the potential in your people...begin to narrate a new future. But on the follower side, and again, this is just less articulated. You have to have followers who by that time right in the relationship are, are brave, right? They're willing to step out of their comfort zone, they're willing to try something new. They're willing to trust themselves enough to contribute something that might be unusual, but that they know in themselves if this is just, you know, intuitively, I feel this is something that needs to be pursued or "Not everyone does it this way, but I think it's worth trying."

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

So those sorts of leaps, like come out of a strong relationship, almost always. So the whole curriculum that I'm developing is sort of to guide people toward that direction. But I just don't think you can rush that. You can't kind of take a shortcut.

Scott Allen :

I love how you're framing it. And you use such an important word, which was scaffolding, which is a word that I'm growing to absolutely love. And the whole connection, collaboration, creation, kind of process. I couldn't agree with you more. I think you have to have some of those foundational...and the reason I love how you're thinking about this is because it's on both sides. You might be an incredible leader, quote, unquote. But if you aren't co-creating, as Ron had said, If you weren't if you weren't co creating with men and women who are also prepared, going back to the metaphor of dance, if you were, if you and I were to dance right now, it wouldn't be good, because I'm not in any way, shape or form, prepared to contribute. I'm not prepared. I don't have any frames of reference. I don't have any, I don't have any knowledge on how to even help you, as I serve in that role, quote, unquote. So the attention to that side of the equation, I'm growing to really, really better and better understand. It's it's limited. It's an opportunity. And it's needed. Because I don't know that enough conversations are occurring, at least in the communities that I've been in. Enough conversations are occurring that need to be happening. And of course, I know that Ira (Chaleff) and Robert Kelley and some others have have really, Barbara Kellerman, have have really put this conversation to the forefront. But I'm really excited how you're thinking about this.

Sharna Fabiano :

Thank you. Thank you. I wanted to say something about improvising because I think that word as it's used outside dance is sometimes thought of as like not intelligent or not intentional, or just kind of, "oh, we'll just fly by the seat of our pants and make up something" you know? But for dancers, what that means is very sophisticated. It, it implies a lot of training. It implies a tremendous amount of sensitivity and the ability to customize your action for the moment and for the person you're dancing with.

Scott Allen :

Make it up this is your space!

Sharna Fabiano :

Exactly. but that is, you know, the the ability to do that with different people. Very quickly through this process of syncing up, you know, connecting what I'm calling, "connecting, collaborating, creating," like, that is the most exciting thing. For me, I think now as a coach to be able to share a little bit of how dancers do that, and to help people do that in their meetings and their one-on-ones, and they're, you know, whenever they're interacting with people,

Scott Allen :

As I have become more and more familiar with this topic, and as I have even observed more and more of the dynamics happening in any number of different organizations, I oftentimes assert, and it's kind of a provocative question, but I also oftentimes will suggest that followers are often a part of the problem. And I've never really had words for why I thought that until kind of this moment, but I'll often give examples like this, you know, a follower might make an influence attempt, and oftentimes, they, it's a poor attempt. It's very poorly timed, it's poorly thought through, they might soft pedal it and say things "well, I don't know if this is a good idea, but..." or any number of other...they get they make one influence, attempt and give up. And don't try again. But I think I've been a little bit unfair because I don't know that we have trained men and women how to sync up. Right? So I'd love to explore that a little bit more. How do we help? How do we help followers sync up? And I think you'd use the term listening, but in dance, to your point, years of training have gone in to serving in the follower role. There's expertise there, there's excellence there, there's wisdom there to respond and move backwards. I would imagine some of the time and and be in sync with that other individual. There's great skill. How do we help people be more effective when serving in that role in organizational life? Because I think it's a bunch of hats. It says if I were to, again, back to the the example I use previously, it says if I were to come and dance with you right now, it would it would be frustrating for you, it would be difficult for you it would take literally probably months and years for me to get to the level where I'm co-creating with you. Does that make sense?

Sharna Fabiano :

Yes, absolutely. And I just want to say whenever you're ready, Scott, we can make it happen. Yes, I agree, and to you thoughts, followers are part of the problem, I think we have, we've been so overwhelemed by the leadership industry, as Barbra Kellerman says that we just completely overlooked, it's actually perjorative to be follower.

Scott Allen :

Yes, young men and women are not writing applications to college about when they were a great follower. Right.

Sharna Fabiano :

Exactly

Scott Allen :

Unfortunately, in some cases.

Sharna Fabiano :

Right, yet those are skills, whether you name them followership, or whether you name them something else that are essential.

Scott Allen :

Yeah.

Sharna Fabiano :

And so frequently when employees in the role of follower and I'll say that almost everyone is in both roles at some point during their day, right?

Scott Allen :

Sure, sure.

Sharna Fabiano :

But when you're in the role of the follower, if you try to do leader things, they're usually not going to go well. And I think that's what happens a lot because we've learned that the only way to be a good employee is to be a leader or to exhibit leadership qualities. And so making an influence attempt, right, that's more like kind of a leader like type thing. It doesn't surprise me to hear that that would be accompanied by some like hedging, or "well, here's my idea, but well, I don't know if it's really good" or and I'll give up.

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

Because it's not done in. And I'll say, instead of saying, in a followership mode, I'll say like in a supportive mode.

Scott Allen :

Great. Oh, wow, nice.

Sharna Fabiano :

So you could express the same thing in a different way and have it be more effective?

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

I'll give you two more terms from the dance world that might be useful. We say that leaders "invite." That's their main job to "invite" either to invite you to dance or to invite you to take a step to the right or invite you to express this sharp accent, right? They're offering a whole string of invitations, right, that create that give you the opportunity to dance with them. Now, now, the implicit agreement at the beginning is I'm going to accept the invitations, right? It's like it's not like every two seconds, but "Well, I don't know. Maybe" You know, but still, the gesture of the leader is an invitation.

Scott Allen :

Well, and there's a there's a spirit there that is very different than kind of a tyrannical, autocratic, "you will do this" right? That's, that's more of a forcing style that. So just even though the language of inviting is is warm...

Sharna Fabiano :

Mm hmm. Yeah. And then we say that the follower "responds."

Scott Allen :

Hmm

Sharna Fabiano :

So I find that super fascinating because it's a very active word, right? We don't say that the follower gets dragged around. We don't say that the follower shows up. Right we say the follower "responds" to the invitation, which in many ways is even more active than what leaders doing and in in physical terms, the follower is more active. She or he is probably moving about three times more in the dance because of the structure because she's moving around the leader, taking bigger steps, sometimes the follower takes steps and the leader doesn't. So physically, that person is actually moving more. So yeah, inviting and responding, I find that a really useful dynamic to take into the work environment. And of course, then some people will be nervous about that because you're like, well, "what if I invite and they say no?", like, Well, yeah, that's the point kind of,

Scott Allen :

Well, they say no, regardless, right? And I can't tell you how many organizations I've been in, or even organizations I've worked in, where everyone sat there and nodded their head, like, "Yes, I will accept your invitation." But psychologically, they were out they really weren't there. You know, have you felt that before?

Sharna Fabiano :

Sure.Yeah. And that's I you know, it could be because that group wasn't connected to begin with, like they're not on board at the start, and so then, you know, in my in my world, like, if you're not connected, then you can't do anything together - that's meaningful. Yep. Yep. So I think that the first part is just recognizing, if you're, if you're the leader, if we're going to have people called leaders, then we're going to have people call the followers and those people have to be equally valued, but we have to recognize that they have choice. they're not just, you know, obedient peons that are there, by convenience. You know, and so if we really, I don't think anyone would, would say that, but we have to act as though it's true.

Scott Allen :

Yes. They might not say that, but they may act that way. Correct? And so, you had mentioned earlier and maybe well, let's see if you had mentioned this, my head's filled with a lot of different thoughts. But, you know, you're inviting and you're responding and, and it's, it's, there's a tone that's there. And it's genuine and authentic, we would hope Right? And I imagine when the tone or when it's not genuine or authentic on either side of the dance, we aren't getting to Creation, really all that? Well, I would imagine that it's more difficult to get to that point. I can see that metaphor following beautifully in organizational life. Does that make sense?

Sharna Fabiano :

Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And this, I think, maybe is where it gets a little bit harder to measure. Because there's a component of being authentic and genuine. That is internal, right? You can't like write it down and say, "Here, look, I I am authentic" on a piece of paper. Therefore, it is embodied, you know, for lack of a better term, it's, you could say the same words, you know, in that meeting, and have it come across two different ways. You know, so it's not just a matter of learning a couple of phrases, you know, but the intention of an invitation or a, you know, a set of a project plan even is, you know, if you think of a project plan as an as an invitation, you know, you're saying, "Here team, I have made this for you in the spirit of attempting to unite all of your work in a way that is as efficient as I can, so that we can work together in as smooth a way as possible to reach the goal we've agreed on together. Like that's, if it is done in that spirit, one, you're going to be open to changing it. Yes. And two, your your team is going to feel that they matter.

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

And this is sounds simple, but this is, I think, really essential at the connection phase is that the way that we do things, it matters. The internal, the attitude that we have toward it really makes a huge difference.

Scott Allen :

Yes, I couldn't agree more I the word "tone" keeps going through my through my mind right now, what is the tone we're setting? And is it a inviting tone, a truly inviting tone? Where a "we are going to co create" tone? A "I'd love to have your feedback tone," or is it a, "you will now do this" tone? "I don't care what you think tone," "hurry up and get going" tone. And that tone, would you talk a little bit about that in the world of dance going back to the dance metaphor? What are some different tones set by the leader that can throw the whole thing off from the very, very beginning? Are there two or three different styles in dance that will often not lead to this creation to authentic collaboration. And there may not be but I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Sharna Fabiano :

Yeah, I wouldn't say their styles that would or would not lead I would say in any style, you could achieve the creation zone. Right? So that's more like at least the way we use that word. Sure, it's more about what the shape of things are, and, you know, what, what teachers have you emulated, and what how do you inflect the language, you know, of the dance, but I would say that, similar to I think in the organization, there are missing skills that would prevent you from getting there. . And attitudes as well. So, if let's see, we'll do both both roles. So one of the leader's jobs right at the beginning of the dance or as a foundational ability is to stand in such a way, like physically stand in such a way and arrange the arms in such a way that the follower person can be balanced. Right can and it sounds like a simple thing but doesn't always happen.

Scott Allen :

And in organizational life either

Sharna Fabiano :

Can take the steps in a way that that he or she is, is balanced?

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

And so things that interfere with that are like maybe the leader person bending forward, right, you can kind of imagine if there's like a hunching forward, if the arms are pulling into tight, that's going to bend the spine of the follower. If the hands that are up in the air, and on one side, there's two hands up in the air usually, if that arm of the leader is pushing forward, right, that will create pressure on the follower's shoulder and she will have to bend somehow or adjust in order to stay connected. So physically like the follower person can actually - the leader can also suffer damage so to speak, but the followers more vulnerable because of the position. So if those things are not happening, then that couple will probably never get out of the connection phase, or if they do, it'll be out of cost a high cost to one of them.

Scott Allen :

Okay.

Sharna Fabiano :

So on the follower side, right, one of the jobs that they have is to is to "take one step at a time." So the way the tango works, because there's no basic step, you have a signal from the leader, and then you have a step from the follower. There's some exceptions, but to simplify, that's how it works. Yeah, so the directions happen in terms of one step at a time, left, right back, side, etc. So if a follower isn't trained to do that, and says, "Well, I'm just going to take five steps because that's what I feel like doing." Then they get disconnected, right, then the leader has to just sort of wait until the partner stops moving and then can give another signal but in that time, They're not co-creating. They're just they're sort of both doing their separate thing. It's not a dance. Those are just a couple examples. But those are like really essential, right for the whole thing to work. You know, on the leader side, it's, it's making, I guess, in the organization, you would translate that into saying, "Do people feel like physically comfortable? Do they have the equipment they need to do their work?" Or do they feel like psychologically safe and included in order to speak into their work? And on the follower side, you know, are they doing what? what's relevant to the moment? No, versus just doing what they feel like doing right in terms of the project like someone asks you to do "A" and you do "L", that's, that's not going to help it doesn't mean I think this is where we get kind of lost in the what is following and I'm only valuable if I do something that's "leader like." Right, well, you asked me to do this, but I think I should do something different. So I'm just going to leave the plan, you know, and that that happens. But that, for me is like a failure to understand followership that I'm in that role. I'm valuable and contributing and strong, if I provide exactly the thing that is that is needed. And then maybe something else can come from that.

Scott Allen :

Yes. How often does how often do the roles switch? So for instance, if I tend to, if I tend to dance as a follower, does that mean I i default into that role most often, or are there are there individuals who are ambidextrous? Or is it just the norm that you're ambidextrous that you could serve in either role? How does that work in the in the tango world?

Sharna Fabiano :

At the moment, there are more individuals who prefer to do one role at okay. is a normal thing. Yep. There's a growing percentage of people particularly in, I would say, Europe, United States, who are ambidextrous. And I'm, you know, I'm in that category. That because I'm just interested. And there's there's also a growing number of, I would say the right now there's more, and this is kind of a little bit of a, like a gender thing, right, there's more women who prefer to be in the following role, and that's the conventional, the conventional setup, and there's more men who prefer to be in the leading role, but it is it is changing.

Scott Allen :

Okay.

Sharna Fabiano :

Yeah, it's changing.

Scott Allen :

What have you learned or what observations do you have about being ambidextrous, so to speak, that's not the dance term, I imagine. But, but what have you learned about dance having served in both roles or working to master both roles?

Sharna Fabiano :

Well, I think almost everything, actually, having done that, and i will just give a shout out of gratutude to my early teachers, who advocated for that. I think that, one, it actually kept me dancing in the community, part of the reason for that is there tend to be more women, in the dance community and so if women are only following and men are only leading, you won't dance much. So that's one thing being able to dance both roles and being able to dance with anyone, it just made my dance experience, much more broad and inclusive so that kept me engaged in the community for longer. That alone is interesting for me to refelct upon. It radically changed my understanding of the dance. I think it allowed me to become profieicent at it much more quickly. Standing in the leader's shoes physically, showed me how important it was for the follower to do certain things. You immendiatelty feel how important it is and so when you switch, oh well now I know how important it is to be present one step at a time, to find that meditative stillness in my upper body all the things that you are taught as follower, but you gain such an appreciation for that, and the reverse is also true. Following I understand why it is important for the leader to stand up straight, why the leader should give clear signals, that are not contaminated with extra attention, or superfluous nevrous movements becasue those things make it hard to understand. So it just gave me such a deep understanding of how each of the roles supports each other.

Scott Allen :

Yes.

Sharna Fabiano :

That I mean, just made me love the dance more. And I think it also allowed me to see all these parallels right in, in, in the world off the dance floor.

Scott Allen :

Well, and it helps, I imagine it helped you empathize also, right? You're you're experiencing and living a whole other half of the reality quote, unquote. And so I think that's really cool. I think that's wonderful and and to your correct, kudos to your early teachers who challenged you to take on both roles. I think that's wonderful. I'm, I'm so excited about the work that you're doing. And I'm impressed with how you're thinking about this space. I love speaking with men and women. And who maybe didn't come up through the MBA/PhD or MBA/IO Psychology or you know, the traditional route to an individual who is coaching or training or teaching leadership, because I think, coming at this topic from so many different angles, and there's so many different lenses through which we can talk about this topic, I think it just adds a beautiful perspective. And so I'm really, really excited to see what you create. I'm really excited by this notion of scaffolding, education, for followers, how do we help prepare followers to be more in tune to listen to intervene skillfully? And how do we frame that role better? It seems to me in your world, the roles of the two are fairly fairly clear. Obviously there's there's nuances and differences. But to be successful to get to that, that creation stage, it's likely that we have a fairly solid understanding of our roles. And we are so in tune that it almost I would imagine you get to a place of almost flow where it's just happening, right? I don't know that we're there in any way, shape, or form when it comes to the topic of leadership. I don't think we're even on the dance floor yet. We're putting our shoes on thinking about walking onto the floor, when it comes to the topic of followership. And so I guess we'll we'll kind of start to land the plane there, Sharna, but do you have anything else that you want listeners to be thinking about as we close out this conversation?

Sharna Fabiano :

I just wanted to comment on your, on your comment on being fluid and flow and that is actually exactly how the diehards, they describe their dancing that way. The roles dissapear and it was pure improviastion, I has this experience of oneness, it was so creative, so once you get to that level, the creative, the experience is that the roles dissolve, which is interesting its like a paradox, and I think when you have a really integrated team it feels like that too. It doesn't matter much who has the idea, cause you are all throwing in what is need. Everyone knows what is needed and the team moves forward. I would just remind us you can't just jump to that, even though that's the ideal, what makes it possible, is the scaffolding. And so, if we want to that to be a more regular experience, not just a fluke of "oh some teams just get it together andf they are amazing," great, but if we want more teams to have that, to get that to that level, to me it's education, let's start, because there is a path let's put that scaffolding in place so everyone can make it and it's not so mysterious.

Scott Allen :

So Sharna, I, I often will close out these discussions by just asking quickly. Is there anything that you're streaming or watching right now that you think listeners would be interested in? And is there anything that you're reading or listening to? That you think readers would be listening to? I know, I know you're working on a book, correct? Yes. Yeah. So we will reading that.

Sharna Fabiano :

I that would be marvelous. Yes, hopefully early 2021. That's the general plan at the moment.

Scott Allen :

So what are you reading? What are you consuming, I should say could be watching, listening, reading anything stand out for you. And it could have to do with followership and the topic we've discussed or Tango, or it could just be something that's caught your attention.

Sharna Fabiano :

Well, I have to say right now I'm, I'm catching up on my anti racist reading, and I'm reading Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, and a number of other authors in this space and I have been thinking seriously about a protest as as followership, you know, as what is the citizen follower. You know, it might seem like a big leap, you know, but this is just how my mind works, you know, everything is in relationship. And so if, if there's followers or group of followers, you know, it citizens who are, you know, frankly being told they don't matter? Yeah, For centuries, like there's, that's inherently dysfunctional, you know, in my mind. And so I'm kind of curious about looking at it that way. You know, that's kind of my analytical brain and then finding, okay, what's my what's my place in this movement once I educate myself and you know, get get myself more up to date on how others are thinking about it? Yeah. That's where I am right now.

Scott Allen :

Yeah, it reminds me of my favorite quote, which is, and it's been attributed to a number of different people, but it's "every system is perfectly designed for the results that it achieves." And I think we have data that you know, the system is not producing results in you know, there's a number of red flags many long standing red flags, some newer red legs. But in many ways the system isn't healthy. And so any specific books by either of those authors that you'd like to recommend that standing out for you or articles?

Sharna Fabiano :

Yeah, I mean, the ones I picked up are How To be an Anti-Racist and White Fragility. And I can't put my finger on right now. But a recent interview with Ibram X. Kendi, he, he asked, I think, a really provocative question, which now seems obvious to me, but "what are we missing because of this system?" You know, because we're excluding people in, you know, violently. So what do we don't have what are we actually? You know, we're not at the creation phase, right? Yeah. If we're, if we're doing this, and so I think a lot you know, a lot of white people, the knee jerk reaction is like, "Oh, I need to do extra work or we're going to lose something," but we're already in a deficit.

Scott Allen :

Hmm,

Sharna Fabiano :

You know, and he kind of linked this dysfunctional system to the fact that we, we don't have universal health care. We don't have a strong community support system like these are connected, you know? So I thought that was incredibly insightful and it's like the thing you hear and then you can't unhear it.

Scott Allen :

Well, at least my perspective on this topic is that there are a number of citizens in urban and rural, all over our country. And this is some speaking of the United States right now. But, you know, some of those, we could go to Maslow's hierarchy, safety, food, shelter, some of those base level needs are at risk, psychologically and physically. And, again, that's, that's a, that's a troublesome place to be. And so how do we work on the system to help achieve new and different results. Because despite the good intentions of people from generations past, and in many cases, ill intentions. Here we are, and it's achieving the results it is. So I love how you're thinking and I love that you're taking the concepts that we've been discussing to that level too. That's awesome. That's really cool. Sharna, I have loved our conversation. Thank you for the work that you're doing. We are excited to read your book in 2021. I'll have you back when when it's out. And we'll talk about and we'll update everybody, but I really, really appreciate your time today.

Sharna Fabiano :

Fantastic. Thank you so much, Scott. It was a great pleasure. Okay, bye bye bye.