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How Leaders Gain Momentum

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

Watch the Super Bowl next week and I can guarantee two things: You’ll see far too many camera shots of celebrities at the game, and the word momentum will be spoken by the announcers at least once. You can watch any sporting event and hear that word—momentum—used almost with reverence. It is an intangible force that gives teams that are behind hope, and teams that are ahead even greater confidence in the outcome.

Of course momentum isn’t just a sports phenomenon—salespeople talk about it, stock market watchers study it, and many more do too. Because of this, it isn’t surprising that leaders want to create it with their teams.

It is a worthy goal—why wouldn’t you want to find a force that creates an attraction to, and energy for, greater success? The question for us as leaders is: Can we manufacture momentum?

In short, yes we can.

Momentum in a football game will be mentioned after one play—a long run, a turnover, or any other sort of pivotal play. Think about that. This magical thing called momentum comes from one play.

Ever had to tackle a really big task in your life? Let’s say, cleaning a closet. How do you get the closet cleaned? You pick up one item, or pull out boxes to sort into, or any one thing. Momentum on the task comes action. By the way, cleaning the closet may or may not actually be a big task, but it feels like one, doesn’t it?

If you keep looking at a task and don’t know how or where to start, you don’t start. Yet inevitably, once you take some small action, the job seems more realistic and doable, so you keep going toward accomplishing it....momentum.

You build momentum by starting.

Earl Weaver, the recently deceased baseball manager, talked about momentum this way: “Momentum? Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher.”

You create momentum by getting started.

As a leader, you must lead—including in this way. If you want to build this irresistible force on your team or in your organization, put a premium on taking action, and start with yourself. Here are three tips to help make that happen.

  1. Just do….something. Perhaps the step you take is wrong, or not the best first one, but you start.
  2. Change the items on your to-do list. Don’t write “New product development,” write “Determine product title” or “Make call to customer” or whatever small action gets you started. With a full list already, how likely will you be to make progress on “New product development” today?
  3. Remember achievement mathematics. I’ve written about this formula elsewhere. Here is the key—tie daily action to purpose and important goals. Make that connection in small increments and momentum will be created.

Doing this for yourself will change your world. As a leader you need to leverage this for others too. Do these three things for yourself, then teach others, through your example, to do the same. It will create a new expectation, a new energy, an irresistible attraction to your goals and greater results.

It will create momentum.

I’ll close with a powerful quotation from the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that illuminates this powerful idea. Read it now, and read it each morning for the next week—right before you take at least one action—action that will build momentum.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw backconcerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

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