I am not really in shape to do an Ironman Triathlon. Just the idea of having to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles without a break makes me shiver.

Three years ago I watched a few of the more than 2,500 athletes from 33 different countries participate in an Ironman race. That was very impressive.

Impressive was of course their athletic accomplishments. Equally impressive were all the spectators who cheered them on. The role of these cheerleaders is critical. As the winner of the 2014 Ironman race, Justin Daerr, said:

“It gives you a reason, every time you hear a word of encouragement, it just kind of refocuses you back to getting the job done.”

(TV 9 News) August 3rd 2014

As a leader you often need to be the cheerleader. But do you cheer on your employees enough? Do you cheer them on so they can refocus on the job to be done?

If your answer is no, try one of the following tips:

1 – It’s the effort

Do you think that the spectators only cheered on the front-runners? Do you think that the vast majority of contestants didn’t get any encouragement? Of course not. The spectators in the street where I was watching the race cheered on every participant by banging pots and pans, shouting words of encouragement, or clapping their hands.

Do you do that as a leader as well? Do you look at someone’s efforts and celebrate those? Or is a successful project the only thing that is worth a celebration?

2 – Become your own cheerleader.

Are you aware of how much you cheer yourself on? Do you celebrate your successes? Or do you focus on those things that could have gone better? And keep on nagging yourself about that?

Become your own cheerleader. Celebrate your efforts. A huge advantage is that you know best what tasks are most challenging for you. So, cheer on! Cheer so you can get what Daerr’s got from all the cheering during his Ironman: refocus and get the job done.

3 – Become your employee’s greatest cheerleader.

If you are on a mission to become a leader in cheering, you’ll find out two things about your employees:

1 – What is most challenging for your employees? What requires their greatest efforts?

Ask your employees what requires the most of them. If you do, you’ll be surprised by their answers.

2 – How do they want to be cheered on?

Sometimes leaders assume that recognition in public is the way to go, for instance in an all-staff meeting. That’s not true. Some like recognition in public. For others, that feels more like a punishment. Therefore know how a person likes to be acknowledged.

Leadership challenge: watch yourself this week. Become aware of how many times you cheer yourself on.