A couple of weeks ago I attended my cousins’ daughter’s 5th birthday party. This has probably been the first kids’ birthday party I have been to in about 10 years. There was loads of cake, sausage rolls and plenty of party games. Due to being a “cool cat” and in my 30’s, I tried to not get involved in all the shenanigans, but the big kid in me was bursting to get out. The one song that seems to get everyone dancing is “The Hokey Cokey”, all that “put your left arm in” business seems to get the kids (and adults) in a state of organised chaos and it’s quite interesting to see the different personalities come to the forefront in a simple dance song.

You may be reading this thinking “What has this got to do with me and my business”? Well let me tell you about Oscar. He is a 5-year-old boy who got the (un)fortunate pleasure of being next to me when we did the hokey cokey. Oscar was confident when playing on the bouncy castle or pinning the tail on the donkey. But when it came to the hokey cokey, I could tell he was pretty nervous, a bit out of his comfort zone.

When we started the hokey cokey he struggled to keep up with the directions, especially when putting back to back body parts together as directed by the song. I also observed that he needed a strong grip from me when I held his hand as we all ran into the circle screaming “ooooohhhhhh the hokey cokey”. However, as we started to get towards the end of song, his confidence was growing, he had more of an idea of what he was doing and when “he put his whole self in”! Well what can I say? Little Oscar was like a boy possessed, he gave his all, engaged in everything and started pulling my hand leading me into the circle.

OnTrack International - Learning and Development

We can learn a lot from Oscar and his journey:

  • Oscar didn’t engage to start with
    • He didn’t engage for a number of reasons, not knowing the direction he needed to go in, the fear of making a mistake and embarrassing himself
  • Oscar needed time
    • As time went on, Oscar’s confidence increased, his belief in himself and the direction he was going in was clearly evident. The hokey cokey is consistent, there is no swaying from the brief and this aided Oscar in getting his rhythm
  • Oscar owned it and took the lead
    • As we got to “you put your whole self in” (the crescendo of the song), Oscar was at his fullest, his personality, expression and aura completely changed. He oozed confidence, energy and direction. He was egging me on to keep up with him on the actions

Oscars journey is a lesson for us as leaders. Our culture, our goals, the vision of where we are going is the hokey cokey. Our colleagues are at different stages on that journey, they could be at the beginning just putting their left arm in for the first time not knowing what the future holds, nervous as Oscar was. They could be in the middle of their journey putting all their body parts in, but not really engaged fully in the process, or ultimately the vision you have set out. But the Oscar who put his “whole self in”, who was fully immersed in the hokey cokey, saw the end and gave his all. This is where we need to support our colleagues, to get to a place where they give their all, they are full immersed in the vision and values of where we as a business are going.

So, the 4 Hokey Cokey principles are:

  • Create a culture of ownership. Describe to your colleagues the full vision, let them understand where you are going and where you want to be. Let them adopt the business vision as their own
  • Don’t be afraid to hold their hand at the beginning. This support will aid them understanding the journey and ask critical questions along the way
  • Let your colleagues lead. Their passion and sometimes eccentric levels of enthusiasm are something to encourage and not supress.
  • Maximise Crescendo’s! There will be times in your business when you will win big, celebrate the wins. Maximise the touchpoints of that success, take a pause as they do in the hokey cokey, let your colleagues get the goosebumps of success.