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Engaged HR is pleased to welcome guest blogger and DisruptHR speaker Silke Pleus. She is a highly adaptable Senior Human Resources & Business Leader with proven skills in translating an organization’s vision and desired culture into effective HR strategies. Silke’s blog outlines her talk ‘Cheerleading Winning Cultures” at DisruptHR 2.0 with the full length video available below.

The Thunderclap is one of the most irresistible and effective cheers in the history of soccer. It is so inspiring that the whole world joined in this Viking war chant to cheer for Iceland at the 2016 European Championships. Iceland (population less than 335,000) is the smallest nation ever to compete at a major soccer tournament. It’s loyal fans with their trademark cheer propelled the unlikely team past soccer giants all the way to the quarterfinals. From there, the cheer quickly made its way into soccer stadiums everywhere. In a few short weeks, the Thunderclap changed soccer culture.

That kind of cheering impact is what organizations can only dream of. Ah, to capture the brand of energy and passion of sports fans… Walmart founder, Sam Walton, introduced a locker-room style pep rally in his stores in 1975. It was a novel approach to engaging employees adopted from Japanese factories he had visited. The daily affirmation of values and goals aimed to inspire great service by staff. Today, however, the Walmart cheer is viewed with much cynicism by the very employees it is supposed to motivate.

Work settings are inherently less receptive to cheerleading than sports arenas. Working – exerting effort of any kind – requires a much deeper level of commitment than being the spectator of a game. The foundational element of deep commitment is emotional connection. Employee engagement research points to the positive impact of emotional connection in workplaces. Gallup even suggests that having a best friend at work leads to higher levels of engagement. For employees to feel emotionally connected to the work and the company, someone has to create a spark. In organizations, leaders and HR professionals need to play the role of emotional connector.

To do that we apply, what psychologists refer to as relational energy. It’s the energy generated through interactions among people. As leaders and HR professionals we have countless interactions with people every day. That means countless opportunities to make emotional connections and generate that spark. Often it is very small gestures that enable these connections – like showing genuine enthusiasm for someone’s stylish statement socks or high-fiving a team member who delivered a well-crafted report. You can feel the energy level rise when that happens. Not just for the recipient but for everyone in the room.

Researchers at MIT have studied the level of energy associated with different people in organizations by adding questions about how energizing individuals are to their organizational network surveys. A large oil company used this research to identify leaders with energy sapping qualities and then coached them to adopt energy generating behaviours.

Not surprisingly, relational energy has a performance boosting effect not only on the receiver but on the creator as well. That’s because people want to be around those who create a spark. They seek them out and offer them information, ideas and opportunities. Energy generators simultaneously act as energy magnets.

HR professionals and leaders have the most fantastic opportunities to inject relational energy into workplaces. We can make personal connections with prospective employees during interviews, we can generate enthusiasm through onboarding activities and we can model positivity and energy generating behaviours. We have the power to lead the equivalent of the Icelandic Thunderclap one interaction at a time. We just need to remind ourselves of Maya Angelou’s wise words: people will forget what you said, people will even forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Don’t, for a moment, underestimate the power of cheerleading!

Learn more with Silke’s 5 minute DisruptHR Talk “Cheerleading Winning Cultures”.

Disclaimer: All content provided in this blog is the opinions expressed by the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of Engaged HR.

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