Cheer-Leadership or All I Need to Know About Business I Learned from Cheerleading

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Thanks to teen movies, many people have this stereotypical idea of cheerleaders as being ditzy and mean. However, there are a great many life-lessons that can be learned during your time on the team that have surprising application in the business world.

1. Getting to the top of the pyramid means taking a few risks. The person at the top of the pyramid is the one who is willing to take the risks, usually in the form of a backflip or a layout. It helps to be light, nimble, and flexible. Since you are the person with the farthest to fall, you have to be able to rely on the stability of the team suporting you.

Fortunately, in business no one actually tosses you ten feet into the air and expects you land on your feet.

Well, almost never.

2. Step lightly on your way to the top. You can't simply manipulate and coerce your way to the top of the pyramid. Well, you can, but then when it comes time to perform a trust fall, you may have a slight problem.

This corollary of point number one seems to have escaped quite a few people. Some seem to think that "underlings" are meant to be stepped on, climbed over, and not-so-subtly kicked on the way up. It's one thing to accidentally land on someone's foot, but some people leave a trail of crushed clavicles and contusions. These are the same people who discover that when they are in trouble, no one will return their calls.

Make sure you know the difference between who is "underneath you" and who is "holding you up" - it's a big one.

3. Keep cheering loudly, even you are winning. This is a marketing lesson if ever there was one. So you've landed the big client. Maybe you've landed several. Don't stop marketing your company and looking for new clients just because you are currently busy. Projects end, businesses change, decision-makers come and go - make sure you've got new clients lined up. It's the only way to keep your company growing, your cash flowing, and V-I-C-T- oh nevermind.

4. Having the lead at halftime doesn't mean you can slack for the last half of the game. So you were first to market with your product, or maybe you built a better mousetrap.

Right now there is someone out there thinking about how they can capture your market share with a bigger, better, faster version.

Besides, in business the game doesn't actually end - you might be winning at a given moment, but you never can say you've "won."

(I know: that was a stretch for cheerleading. But cheerleaders need to stretch.)

5. As mom used to say, "if you are going to do a backflip in a miniskirt, you'd better be wearing your best underneath." Actually, when mom said it, I think there was a bus involved somehow, but close enough.

Don't call attention to practices that you don't actually want scrutinized. Better still, don't get involved in practices that can't stand up to scrutiny. Sooner or later someone is going to examine what's behind the hype.

Sometimes it's vapourware, and sometimes it's fraud. Sometimes it's just a matter of making an announcement of your latest greatest product so far in advance of it actually coming to market that the buzz comes and goes without paying off in terms of sales.

Whatever the cause, get your house in order before throwing the doors open. Sooner or later, someone is going to ask that question.

For more details, see: Hollinger, Enron, or Worldcom. Of course, it's best not to get mental images of Bernard Ebbers wearing a miniskirt.

? 2005 Gisela McKay. Gisela McKay is Chief Technology Officer of pixcode Inc. Gisela envisions new applications for technology, and then makes sure they become reality. Some of her projects include:,, and Gisela wrote this article to combat that common exclamation: "YOU were a cheerleader? But you seem so smart!"

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