As part of a work team you often have several roles to play: instigator, critic, supporter, cheerleader, or ditch digger. Most of these roles are pretty clear cut you know each is unique and can tell who is playing which role at any given time. However, it can be a fine line between supporter and cheerleader. There are times when we think we are providing support when all we are really doing is cheering someone on. Maybe that is all the support they need, but what if they need more help.
The difference between supporting and cheering is in the meaning of the words and how they show up in teams. Support means to advocate, assist, help, corroborate, or maintain. Cheer means spirit, animation, welcome or something that gladdens. So when you get down to it supporting your team means getting your hands dirty (figuratively) and helping get stuff done. Cheering the team on can be a form of support when morale is low and people need some encouragement to keep going, however it may not be enough to really help move things forward.
My office was next to Judy’s and she brought a lot of life and fun to the department. You could always count on her to find something to laugh about and her energy level was so high she brought the rest of us up whether we wanted it or not. While she was great fun when we had projects to pull together and it was all hands on deck to help, she would be tied up with other duties or in meetings elsewhere. At times it was maddening because another set of hands would have cut our time down significantly. Another person in our group was Karla, who was a very positive person and would always look for the positive in any situation. Karla’s energy wasn’t even close to Judy’s yet she was in many ways the rock of the department. If you were tackling a big project, or working to figure something out you could count on Karla to show up and pitch in, often unasked. There were more than one occasion where Karla would set aside her work to help out; just to make sure things got done in a timely manner.
I can tell you I dearly loved working with both of these ladies, they were wonderful people and I learned from each of them. I can also honestly say that I would work with Karla any day and often wish she was around to help me get unstuck now. Judy was fun and enjoyable to be around yet I don’t find myself wishing she was on my team today.
Judy was a cheerleader first and foremost. Karla was a supporter before she was a cheerleader. While teams need some of both roles the supporters are the ones who are most valuable to the team. Anyone can be a cheerleader when it’s needed, however it’s hard for some people to be supporters. Thinks about your interactions with your team, do you support first or cheer first? Offer your hand to help more often than you give pep talks. That is just as encouraging and often more needed.