At work are you more like a chorus line dancer or a soloist?

I’m not asking if you can high step or pirouette. I was struck by the metaphor of dancing style and work style while in my Jazzercise class.

I watched classmates who added their own flare to the instructor’s steps. Most of us follow his movements closely, but several gals kick higher or add some embellishment. It was fine for them to do their own thing as this class was just for one’s own enjoyment.

However, I thought, if we were performing as a group, these gals’ personal exaggerations would be out of place. It reminded me of the dancer in the “The Chorus Line” who was so used to being a soloist she had a difficult time dialing back her extra movements to fit into the chorus line.

In work, are you more of a chorus line dancer, knowing how not to make waves or stand out so the group works in union? Or are you more of a soloist, wanting to do your own thing and not really fitting in when forced to toe the line?

The answer for me is I do poorly in the chorus line. I was once engaged to co-present a 4-day in-house program for a client. The other 3 presenters were internal trainers who had designed the program. I was retained to go through the program, then present with the others so I could then make refinements to make the program more effective.

Being a professional speaker and independent consultant for 30 years, my presentation style is entertaining and full of stories as well as very interactive. The other trainers’ style was more academic. After the second day, a fellow trainer pulled me aside and told me my style wasn’t working for this audience and I needed to dial it back. I was taken aback, but told fewer stories and was less animated the next two days. I hated it. I was having to hide what had made me successful in my career. But it wasn’t what was needed in working with this situation.

Whether you’re co-presenting or just working in a group, are you given subtle — or not-so-subtle — messages that you should rein in your style? Or do you welcome the opportunity to blend in with the others because you know that is what will make this project most successful?

It is wrong to be a chorus line dancer? Absolutely not! It’s what makes the Rockettes so amazing. Each dancer knows exactly how high to kick to give the visually appealing image to the audience. Imagine if one kicked a foot higher than the others. It would ruin the affect. It’s why Busby Berkeley’s films’ dance sequences were so entrancing.

The key is know when it’s best to be a soloist and when to be a chorus line dancer. Great if you have the skills and sensibilities for both. If not, know which one you are best at and don’t accept assignments where you won’t be a good fit. I should have done that with the engagement illustrated above, but I thought I could adapt. It was difficult once I knew I had to, and I felt I was hiding my light under a bushel. Don’t do that to yourself.

1 thought on “At work are you more like a chorus line dancer or a soloist?”

  1. I’m definitely a soloist. I can start out as the chorus member as I learn how they do things. But I’m not there to be another cog on the wheel. If they wanted that, they could have hired someone at ½ my pay. Eventually, I start having ideas on how they can do things cheaper, better, or faster. 90% of those ideas may get dismissed (been there, done that, other factors to consider, etc.). Just give me the 10% to run with, and I’m a happy guy.

    “know which one you are best at and don’t accept assignments where you won’t be a good fit.” – Seems like part of the engagement they needed a chorus member (presentation), and part a soloist (refining their program to be more effective). With three other internal trainers presenting, too bad you couldn’t just leave that part to them.

Comments are closed.