The magic of turning off the music

Last year, one of the most moving moments on British TV happened on celebrity talent show, Strictly Come Dancing. It’s not a show I normally watch but, like millions of others, I couldn’t help but feel moved.

Rose Ayling-Ellis was the first deaf contestant on the show. How does a deaf person dance to music she can’t hear? Doing complex choreography? With a partner?

The answer turned out to be: extremely well. She went on to win the competition. And that wasn’t even the most moving bit.

In an earlier heat, as Rose was dancing with her partner Giovanni, the show’s producers switched off the music halfway through their routine — and the pair carried on dancing.

At a stroke, we had now entered Rose’s world.

Everyone who watched this immediately understood. It was pure magic. And when the music returned twenty seconds later, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

It was also a great lesson.

Much has been written about how to get the most out of people. From productivity tips to leadership models, there is more advice out there than anyone can keep up with.

But sometimes, all we need to do is to switch off the music in our own heads.

To let go of our assumptions, expectations and biases. To simply let people do things their own way, aligned with their own strengths and motivations. Even if at first it seems weird.

The result can be pure magic. As when Rose danced with Giovanni… in total silence.

Photo credit: AP