Cheerleaders date back to the late 1800’s. A university of Minnesota student named Johnny Campbell recruited a few of his buddies, grabbed megaphone and hit the field to lead the home crowd in chanting the school anthem as a way of showing school spirit and energizing the team. Other schools soon adopted the practice, organizing their own “pep clubs” with motivated “yell leaders.” Eventually, women joined in the fun and, as a result of World War II, began to dominate the activity. Today, cheerleading is considered a sport in its own right with teams competing all over the world.
When it comes to coaching, the Cheerleader has three key goals. The first is keeping the team energized and focused on moving forward. Some people have a natural inclination to stay on task, while others are easily distracted or discouraged. Sometimes the finish line is so far off, it’s difficult to see. This can be the result of a long campaign cycle or a project with an extreme level of complexity. Sometimes setbacks occur and individual or team morale takes a hit. It’s the job of the Cheerleader to step in and rally the troops when they sense energy levels getting low.
Cheerleaders are also responsible for recognizing and reinforcing positive results. When something goes right, it’s important to capitalize on that forward momentum. Recognizing one accomplishment can catapult a team member into the next one. Individuals who receive positive feedback are more likely to repeat the reinforced behavior. So when you see someone doing something you like tell them – cheer them on.
A third goal of the Cheerleader is highlighting examples of desired behavior for others to emulate. Make no mistake; your employees are watching to see what behaviors and results get your attention. I once publicly recognized an employee’s weekly sales production on a particular product line. I didn’t offer a reward – I simply mentioned their name during our weekly sales meeting and told them how impressed I was with their efforts. I shared with the team how one person could make a big impact on the organization and let them in a short round of applause for the highlighted individual. The next week, every single salesperson posted improved numbers.
Being an effective Cheerleader requires you to be on the lookout for good things that happen and act on them. Sadly, most managers struggle with providing positive reinforcement. For some reason, most find it easier to identify issues that need fixing. But the results from positive reinforcement always overshadow those from punitive action.
So grab your pom-poms and let’s hit the field. Are you with me? Two, four, six, eight; who do you appreciate?