Productivity Management: The Chirpy Cheerleader

“Save the cheerleader, save the world.” — An often-repeated phrase on the NBC-TV series Heroes.

“In the early days, I didn’t have the money to pay decent salaries, so I didn’t get good people. I got nice people, but I didn’t get good employees.” — Louise Hay, self-help author

Recently, I introduced you to my Productivity Management Matrix, a quick way of categorizing your team members that compares an individual’s competence with their level of work engagement. When constructing the matrix, I realized that workers tend to fall into four basic types, which I call Campers, Cheerleaders, Defectors, and Productives.

Last time, I described Campers: the low-performance, low-engagement chair-huggers who come to work for one reason and one reason only: to get a paycheck. This time, I’ll take a look at Cheerleaders, who bring together a happy, high level of engagement with a complete inability to produce.

How to Spot a Cheerleader
Cheerleaders are usually fun people to have around, because they simply love the company. Maybe it’s the money, or the health benefits, or the free gym membership, or the environment—or more likely, it’s the whole package. They’re enthusiastic and dedicated, because they’re working in a super place and they know it. You can count on a Cheerleader to willingly take on just about anything you ask them to do.

Too bad they’re no good at it.

Sadly, the Cheerleader’s lack of performance makes them a liability, though by no means as much as a Camper or Defector can be. As a manager, your job is to realize what they are, and then guide them into becoming as productive as they are engaged.

How a Cheerleader Can Impact Your Team
Cheerleaders are great when you need to maintain a positive atmosphere in the workplace…but it’s not the Cheerleader who gets the football into the end zone, now is it? You can’t carry them forever. Their excitement about and dedication to the company isn’t going to overcome their sheer lack of productivity, so others will end up doing what they should be doing. As with the Camper, this can result in overstressed, resentful co-workers whose own productivity and engagement may start to sag.

How to Handle a Cheerleader
Cheerleaders are generally keepers, but only if you can help them become results-oriented. With a little careful cultivation, a Cheerleader might just bloom into a Productive — and those are the people that you build an organization around.

So closely investigate the Cheerleader’s lack of productivity. You may find that they’re either overwhelmed by their job (or possibly even just a few aspects of it), or aren’t challenged enough to be as productive as they could be. They may not even realize they haven’t hit your productivity milestones until you tell them. That may sound naïve, but it does happen, especially if the individual has just transferred in from an organization with lower standards.

How to Coach the Cheerleader
The best way to help a Cheerleader is to approach them gently. Point out that while you appreciate their enthusiasm for the company, what really matters is results, and that they need to become productive in order to be a full member of the team. Be encouraging and supportive, and don’t lay down the law as you might with someone who’s deliberately being difficult, like Campers and Defectors often are. If you prick the bubble of their engagement, you just might ruin the Cheerleader’s potential altogether.

Explain that they need to fix just a few things to rise to the Productive level, which is generally true. Offer to provide what they need to get there, whether training or equipment, and be willing to invest in them. It’s usually worth it in the long run.

In Conclusion…Cheerleaders are great people who are seriously into the company. Even if they’re non-productive, they love their environment and want to do well—and that’s half the battle. So just tell them what you expect of them, treat them well, point them in the right direction…then get out of their way and watch them go!