The stuff that happens in between

There are many reasons to love tango. The music. A flowing waltz. A playful milonga. And of course, the shoes.

But it’s the stuff you can’t touch that is the magic of tango. The connection between the dancers, many of whom have never met until their first dance.

You can’t touch the connection created between tango dancers, but you know when it’s not there. A bit like trust between partners.

The stuff that happens in between partners, stakeholders or community groups is just as important as any outcome. It can have an impact beyond decisions made, agreements reached, action plans developed and reports concluded.

The in-between stuff is what happens when partners spend time in each other’s organisation, shadowing each other, gleaning valuable insights about operations, culture and strategy. It’s the disability manager investing a day at the offices of her government partner. Sitting in on meetings, observing staff training and service planning workshops.

It’s in the small talk probably has little to do with the workshop or meeting topic. Sharing what you like doing at weekends, what you enjoy doing after work, what interests each other and what you care about. It’s a natural part of building connections between people and the same goes for partners, stakeholders or community groups who are trying to work together for a common purpose.

There can be immense pressure on partners to deliver an agreement, get the project up or get the grant for the project. But creating the space and making the time for partners to just get to know each other is vital so the stuff in between can happen. There are countless facilitated processes to do this but as any good facilitator knows, it’s about the room set up, where people sit and a couple of well-timed and open-ended questions to kick start conversations. And it takes practice, just like in tango.

The in-between stuff can be overlooked because it can’t always be counted, measured or reported. But in the words of sociologist William Bruce Cameron (not Einstein):  

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

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