The Conditions
of Conditioning
order to succeed. In dance, rehearsals begin
by communicating purpose and going through
walk-throughs (as dancer and choreographer
Gene Columbus says, “Dancers must know where
they are going and why they are going there”).
Then they focus on conditioning the dancers to
work with and respond to one another as they
refine their moves.
Conditioning is equally important in a part-
nership. It ensures the fluidity that gives a great
partnership its efficiency and sharpness. It doesn’t
happen by accident. When people speak of a
partnership having synergy, they are describing
one of the results of conscientious conditioning.
Goals: Always Know
What the Dance Is
How does a real dance rehearsal
begin? Wise directors open rehearsal by conveying the aspira-
tion or aim of the dance. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are here
for a single intent: to convey the magic of the night before
Christmas to our audience,” begins a ballet director. “The
Nutcracker you will be performing is a timeless expression of a
child’s dream of Christmas Eve. Our audiences will be moved if
we can convey the innocence and wonderment of that expres-
sion. They will be inspired if we can rekindle a feeling of nos-
talgia about their personal remembrance of things past.”
Notice our hypothetical dance director’s emphasis on tone
and feel, destination and intent. Great partnership rehearsals
are similar: they include an explicit expression of the goal of the
relationship. Defining the goal of the partnership is differ-
ent from understanding its purpose. Purpose tells “why”; goal
explains “what.” Partnership purpose proclaims a rationale and
direction; goal communicates a destination and target. As the
director states aim, style, and tone, partners must begin their
rehearsal with a clear statement of objective.
Defining the goal helps partners create a common “big
picture” in their minds. Although rehearsal begins by focusing
on mechanics, in time the steps grow less important as they
become more instinctive and unconscious. At that point
the major moves, the big-picture goal, come to the forefront.
The feel of the music becomes a more important guide than the
technique of the step. Details remain important cues, but
the ultimate focus is on flow and feel.
Making this transition, from the narrow view of technique
to the broader perspective, can be trying. Partnerships stuck
on the steps never enjoy the sweep of the grander flow.
Getting the Big Picture
It’s important to begin by clarifying the ultimate goal, right at
the opening of the rehearsal. The partners must create this big
picture together; it serves as a touchstone against which all sub-
sequent efforts and progress are measured, and it should be
constantly reexamined.
How do great partners talk about the big picture? How do
they decide what the 50,000-foot view of their alliance should
be? We suggest a four-part goal-setting formula for guiding
what can be an awkward opening: feeling, hope, goal, and
promise. Answer for each other the following questions:
What am I feeling right now? What emotion am
I experiencing?
What are my hopes for this relationship? If everything
works perfectly, what are my desires?
What do I see as the goal of this alliance? What are we
trying to achieve with this partnership?
What do I expect to bring to the relationship? What
kind of pledge or promise can you expect from me?
Rehearsing in Action: Goals
You will recall that Cary and Dale had gotten together initially
in an exploratory meeting at Cary’s office. They agreed to go
forward with their partnership. The meeting we are about to
hear was to agree on their working relationship—their “rules
of engagement.”
Listen to the sounds of the four-part goal- setting formula
woven through their dialogue on partnership.
Dale: “Cary, I’m glad we got some time to talk about where
this thing might be going. You know me, I’m a
straight shooter.”
Winning partnerships
have a purpose, and the
partners know it. You
have to know your
partner’s main business
challenges, how your
partner’s success is
measured, and what your
partner’s hopes and
dreams are. Meshed with
your own, these form the
basis of a purposeful
partnership, not just
a transaction.
—Melinda Goddard,
Roche Laboratories

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