December 2014 | On My Mind


Words from the publisher

Running a business requires many skills. It also requires good instincts and a willingness to act on them. Take the case of Maura, a successful school owner. Her weaknesses are a fear of confrontation and a tendency to be too trusting—and too willing to squelch her intuition.

That’s why when Shannon, one of Maura’s teachers, started teaching at a community center in the same town as Maura’s school, Maura ignored the ping in her stomach. Shannon explained that the community center was a different kind of business and that it would be a win–win situation for both of them. Because Shannon was a good teacher, Maura decided to see what played out.

Months later Shannon told Maura that she would be late to the recital’s dress rehearsal because she had another commitment. “Not a problem,” Maura said. To her surprise, two dancers were absent at the start of the rehearsal. A studio mom told her—in a tone that suggested Maura knew this—the missing dancers were performing at Shannon’s open house. But Maura had no idea. The ping returned. Shannon arrived an hour late with the two dancers, and Maura said nothing.

Photo by Mim Adkins

Photo by Mim Adkins

Months went by. One day when a guest teacher came to teach a master class at Maura’s studio, four dancers were missing and there was no sign of Shannon. Later Maura learned that they had attended a master class at the community center.

Maura’s instinct went from pinging to shouting. Exploring Shannon’s website, she discovered pictures of her former and current students taking class at the community center. The website’s layout, text, and the programs offered were almost the same as hers. She confronted Shannon, who offered to take down anything that Maura felt was duplicated. But she said, “You are the largest school around, so what are you worried about? This is a win–win situation for both of us.”

At first Maura wondered if she was overreacting. Then a neighbor showed her a flyer for the community center’s dance recital. It was being held on the same day as Maura’s show, in the afternoon instead of the evening, in the same location. Hoping it was an error, Maura emailed Shannon to ask about the flyer. The response: “It’s true. This is a win–win situation for both of us—now the students who take at both schools can spend the day at the auditorium.” Shannon added how good it was that they could show the community that two dance schools could work together.

Finally Maura’s instinct got through to her: “win–win” means both parties have agreed to something beneficial, but she had agreed to nothing. This situation had nothing to do with the resilience of her school or showing unity among dance schools. It had to do with trust, and she had no more for Shannon. With a renewed sense of confidence, Maura broke all ties with her.

Instinct can be the soul’s compass. We just have to listen to it.

DSL publisher Rhee Gold has owned a dance competition, presided over national dance teaching organizations, and founded Project Motivate. His book, The Complete Guide to Teaching Dance, is in its second printing.