Where Leadership is concerned, momentum can be your greatest friend or your worst nightmare.
In forty years of coaching, the one thing I learned to respect most was momentum. At times, it can be your dearest friend but it can also be your worst nightmare. During the course of a single event, across an entire year or in the development of an organisation over years, positive momentum is a prized possession, negative momentum an unwanted beast of a challenge.
Momentum can carry individuals, teams and organizations to great success and it can also bury your dreams. It is absolutely central to success in any endeavour.
For leaders, the challenge of momentum is two-fold.
First and foremost, to know and understand it:
• In which direction is it going and why?
• How fast?
• What is changing?
Second, a more difficult problem, how to control it:
• Do I let it keep rolling?
• Do I intervene?
• How do I change it, stop it, or turn it around?
SOME KEY LESSONS
Essentially there are four potential scenarios.
As long as you have control keep it moving, adjusting to the pace where necessary. Consistently try to understand why things are going well, reinforce or strengthen those things even further. A word of caution, be careful not to over manage the situation. This is a time to take a more hands-off approach. Maintain control but if it is not broken don't try to fix it.
As leader guide, adjust and support but don’t over manage.
Slow Forward or Stalled
Things are moving in the right direction but perhaps a little slowly. There are two things to look for in this situation. First, identify what's working and focus your effort and attention there, accentuate your strengths.
Second and perhaps more important, ask what is slowing you down. Where is the dirt in the gears? Where can you free things up, making it easier and more straight forward for people to execute?
As Leader, you will need to inject yourself here, bring your personal energy.
This is where a leader’s awareness and instinct is critical. Picking up the early signs of a drop off in performance, undesirable attitudes creeping in or poor execution can help avoid a slide.
The key here is to act quickly and take control of the situation. Identify exactly where the problems are and how to resolve them. The key here is to keep a good balance. You need to really accentuate your team’s strengths, but be very clear about the need for improvement.
As Leader, this is time for direct conversations. Don’t shy away from them.
Time to ACT. This is where leaders earn their money. You need to stop and face the truth and re-assess. What’s working, what’s not, and most important of all what do we need to do differently. You might even have to start again.
As Leader three things are critical in this situation:
• Face the truth. Don’t hide from it.
• Stay calm, focused and relaxed.
• Take control of the situation, but engage your team in the solutions.
TWO FINAL POINTS
1. You must do everything in your power to control momentum. It might not be easy but doing nothing is NOT an option.
2. In the vast majority of cases, I have noticed that momentum changes because of something small. It might go unnoticed at the time but on reflection you know that was the turning point. So… PAY ATTENTION!