Building The Mo To Go

January 22, 2018

‘While a good leader sustains momentum, a great leader increases it’

– John Maxwell

It’s amazing what a holiday will do. As many of us have returned to work over the last fortnight we have invariably borne witness to the benefits of what a break will bring:  a renewed sense of energy, excitement and possibility for the year ahead. Even if we don’t subscribe to the notion of new years resolutions, most of us have at least stopped to consider what we want from the year that is 2018 and embrace the notion that it is – or at least can be – a fresh start.

However the key to making this fresh start count lies in understanding how we can convert this sense of excitement and optimism into real momentum. Momentum that will energize, enhance performance and make change easier.

Whist excitement is a core ingredient of momentum it starts at the beginning. Momentum builds at the end. Momentum is the result of a series of successful endings not beginnings. It almost sneaks up on you and comes when you can look around and say ‘wow we are really starting to kick goals’. You can feel the pace pick up and you find a rhythm that starts to carry you rather than you carrying everything. As John Maxell notes, ‘excitement flares up, momentum builds up’.

As 2018 swings into full gear and we already find ourselves looking towards February, committing to actions that build momentum and not just excitement is crucial not just to our own success but that of our team and the businesses that we lead.

It only takes a loss of momentum for us to realize just how critical it is. Without it we are far more likely to find ourselves distracted and doubting our ability to actually achieve what we set out to do. As Jocelyn Glei so aptly points out in her article The Art Of Momentum: Why your Ideas Need Speed: “Our inner critic awakens and we start second guessing ourselves. Other people’s demands creep in, vying for our attention and focus. We start to generate shiny, new ideas that seem even more worthy of execution, tempting us to move onto the next big thing without ever finishing”.

And herein lies the danger – we can’t actually create momentum if we aren’t ever really finishing anything. It is in the success of delivery, implementation and review that we find new ways to grow and improve and innovate on what we do. It is in these moments that we can leverage the momentum we’ve built and redefine or reaffirm direction, goals and actions.

Whilst momentum is built on a series of successful endings it still requires next steps. The minute that you stop or slow down, momentum will wane. It requires a level of ‘fitness’ that allows you to keep moving. As leaders, our role is to help create this level of team fitness but provide the training regime that increases it. To do this we need real clarity about what momentum is and isn’t. Failing to do so will see us kill it rather than build it.

Momentum can be felt and is underpinned by the belief that wins and successes are probable rather than a lucky outcome. It is borne out of belief and alignment. Belief and alignment in the vision, direction and understanding and seeing the value that what we as individuals bring to the team and organization. It is not about simply pumping people up and cheering from the sidelines.

So as leaders what do we need to do to convert the excitement of a new year into real momentum? I would encourage you to consider the 5 tips below:

  • Define the wins: Building commitment to action requires crystal clarity on what the goal is and why it is relevant. Everybody should be able to answer the questions: Why are we doing this and what do I need to do to play my part and contribute?
  • Align strengths, style and drive: Leverage strengths, influencing and communicating styles and individual ambition. People who can not only get the job done for themselves but rally those around them and drive outcomes will build and leverage momentum across a business.
  • Acknowledge the ‘small’ wins: Successful leaders know how to turn small wins into big initiatives. They understand not only the motivational power of celebrating incremental achievements but also the future potential each win can bring.
  • Review: Once completed, the opportunity to evaluate provides insights for future growth, opportunity and innovation. It provides the solid building blocks to build and leverage momentum, define next steps and drive future success.
  • Repeat: Don’t stop! Momentum demands movement. To truly capitalize on the success and benefits of momentum, you need to define next steps and take action.

So as we talk about what we are going to achieve for this month and quarter, let’s focus on what we are going to finish so that we can build and leverage the momentum gained into the remainder of the year.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.