Motivation: The Importance of Cheerleading

Motivation: The Importance of Cheerleading

I was described as the chief cheerleader at a company where I worked. I do not look much like a Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleader, nor do I act out in such exaggerated ways. But the description fits because an important part of what I do inside any company I work for is to encourage and celebrate the team’s (company’s) moves and plays, successes and efforts. When I am not tossing around my pom-poms, people have also commented that I must have special glasses that have a rose tint to them, implying that I perceive reality in a more positive way than is realistic. I am a realist and see things as they are, both positive and negative, but my ‘critics’ are right about my positivity because I choose to be positive and work through difficult situations with the goal being to find working solutions through hard work and study as soon as possible.

There is a place—a valuable one—for cheerleaders in an organization and I am not in the slightest unhappy with the comparison. After all, in all but the most extreme situations, there will be things under your control that can improve the possible outcomes, if you only think positively.

Things do get tough at many different times of the year—end of the quarters, end of the fiscal year, budget-setting times, the end of big projects—and people will be under many different pressures. When things get tough what should you do? Sit around and moan? Give up and shout out in despair? Be depressed? No matter what the problems that arise, everything will pass at some stage: a solution will be found or the importance will diminish as other things take precedence. So, focus on that—the expected eventual positive outcome—and have that drive your thoughts and actions. If you have confidence that everyone who works for you will stand up and put forth their best effort during a time of pressure and crisis, or that you can drive people to stand up, then you have increased your chances of early success ten-fold.

You must also always put things in perspective and ask yourself what will happen if you do not solve the issues completely or at all? What will the real impact be and how bad will it be? Rarely are the consequences a matter of life and death; usually they are a time delay on a project, or a prolonged period of feeling uncomfortable and having little control.

Pom-poms work on a football field but, in-house, people like to see the cheerleader with pizza for obvious reasons. Could it be that people like to be fed something tasty, rather than endure the bitter taste of misery? Instead of relying on a glittering, sequin-covered outfit to change the mood, maybe the situation can be improved with the occasional joke. Instead of jumping up and down like a lunatic to encourage better performance, maybe take some time to recall the last issue that was successfully resolved without loss of life. It would help to improve the situation and get the team on the right track. If none of these suggestions work, you can always find the other cheerleaders on YouTube.

It is crucial to the spirit of any team, group or individual to have a leader who can help show the way in a time of crisis. If you are the right type of leader, then you will not only have the experience but the natural demeanor to encourage people through thick and thin. We’ve all seen movies in which the coach gives a rah-rah speech that is taken to the extreme. You know the scene I am talking about: there is one minute left in the game. Your team is behind by a single score and the coach is in a huddle with the team on the field, in the locker room, wherever. The team is downbeat and all but defeated, yet within the very few minutes of the break, the coach recalls their childhood, something about an old dog and the father they never really knew. The team is inspired, teary-eyed even, and off they go ‘pumped-up’ and ready to win. While this film version of rousing the troops has gone to an extreme, there is still a place for the rallying cry.

This story is bitter sweet but a good illustration of how difficult situations can be dealt with to get to a win-win for most people and how cheerleading can help. I led a great team of developers in a company producing some leading edge world class software, our only problem was 1,500 miles away in our corporate headquarters. The problem was not technology, not people, not politics, it was real estate, we just had too much of it and needed to consolidate locations. We had 9 months to make the move but we also had to deliver our next generation product at the same time. Many in the team would choose not to make the move and inevitably the final team size would be slightly less. So a difficult situation, but not uncommon. My role was to ensure that business went on while people were packing boxes and while the countdown was on everyone’s minds. This is exactly when the cheerleader is needed. I spent a lot of time talking to the team, being positive but realistic, encouraging them to finish their time with the company on a high by delivering a great product that we would all be proud of. We could have spent all of that time moaning and groaning, but that would have gained us nothing. By helping the team concentrate on the positive outcomes and being that cheerleader they did succeed. Everyone worked at full speed up until the final move day and they produced a great product that is still in use today, and actually saving lives.

Be a good leader and make sure that you stay positive; it is well known that a positive attitude or a negative attitude from a leader is infectious. This means that the response you get from your team will be a reflection of how you present yourself and how you handle situations. In fact, there is a biological explanation for the mechanism of mimicking others’ behavior. Check out ‘mirror neurons’ if you get bored.

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