As any cyclist can attest, the difficulty of a race depends largely on the terrain. The strenuous challenge of peddling up a mountainside exhausts a rider, but the thrill of cruising downhill requires little to no energy at all. Wind also factors into a cyclist’s journey. Driving into a howling headwind saps a cyclist’s strength, while a friendly tailwind makes the ride much easier.
Momentum functions for a leader much like the wind and terrain do for a cyclist. With the advantage of momentum, financial results come effortlessly, opportunities abound, and growth happens naturally. Unfortunately, we find ourselves living at a time when the American economic engine has stalled and momentum has shifted unfavorably in the marketplace. Spending has slowed, capital is scarce, and almost no one is hiring. Many leaders have the wind in their faces, and find themselves peddling harder than ever just to keep up with the rest of the pack.
Facing an uphill struggle, what can leaders do to recapture momentum?
1) Focus on the seeds you sow rather than the harvest you reap
Farmers can’t control the weather, but they can control the care and attention with which they plant and cultivate crops. Sooner or later, if they sow diligently, the weather will comply and a prosperous harvest will be gathered.
To resurrect momentum, prioritize effort and don’t get caught looking at end results. Find the intrinsic satisfaction of doing an honest day’s work and improving in your chosen field. Make consistent contributions in your personal growth and development. Even if results don’t come immediately, you’ll position yourself for future gain.
If you’re searching for a job, don’t consider yourself a failure if no offers come your way at first. Work hard to strengthen your interviewing skills, polish your resume, and network more strategically. Take pride in how you conduct yourself during the job search. By giving your best day after day, you not only increase your odds of landing employment, but you also boost your self-esteem.
2) Keep hope alive
Have you ever watched a sports competition and seen the team that’s behind on the scoreboard give up? Already defeated in their minds, they quit playing hard. In doing so, they give themselves no chance of rallying for victory.
When business slumps, people are tense, emotions are frayed, and bad news quickly escalates into panic. Overhanging worry and stress tempt people to abandon hope. As a leader, your circumstances may be grim but your face doesn’t have to be. Smile and be upbeat. Give encouragement. Look for successes to celebrate. Inject humor into the mood of meetings and into conversations. Above all, don’t whine and complain or tolerate defeatism in the attitudes of those you lead. People are relying on you to jumpstart momentum in your organization, and your response to adversity can set the tone for everyone on the team.
3) Foster unity
When you’re winning, relational problems can be glossed over, but when times are tough the fissures between people are exposed. If you’re trying to regroup your team, nothing extinguishes the spark of momentum like infighting. As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Before you can build momentum as a team, you have to iron out relationships. This means working through conflict until you reach a place of resolution and mutual respect. For a leader, it also entails using communication to link unity with survival. Teammates must be told, in no uncertain terms, that the future success of the organization depends upon their ability to pull together.
There are no rally caps in the business world. No magic dominoes either. The only place momentum will begin is with the influence of leaders who are determined to move their teams forward in spite of the present challenges. Practically, this involves the following behaviors:
1) Focusing on sowing seeds instead of reaping harvests
2) Keeping hope alive
3) Fostering unity