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When looking at creating sustainable action in your team, you must consider momentum. Understanding it and analyzing how it affects your team is essential.

There are three general forms to be aware of. Stagnancy, Positive Momentum, and Negative Momentum. Let’s examine each individually through the example of a train heading toward its destination. It takes incredible force to get a train moving. These first few inches require a tremendous amount of fuel and power, but as it begins moving, momentum helps keep it going until it faces resistance. Resistance comes in the form of headwinds and obstacles, such as inclines in the terrain. The more resistance it faces, the more fuel and power are required to push it forward to overcome the resistance.

We can translate this example easily into our business world. The train represents our organization as it is working toward our objectives. The fuel and force are our leadership and team efforts. Resistance is what gets in the way of progress toward our objectives.

With Negative Momentum, we regress from our objectives. Here we are facing massive resistance that moves us in the wrong direction. Any effort put out by the team detracts from the destination we seek. Negative momentum can ultimately bring down entire teams and organizations.

With Positive Momentum, we progress toward our objectives. The fuel of our leadership is producing the right measure of power from the Team, our engine to keep our organization moving forward, even as we face resistance along the way.

With Stagnancy, nothing is moving. We are at a general standstill regarding any action being produced to drive toward our objectives. In many regards, stagnancy can be our most fierce obstacle as it can remain unseen for long periods, leading people to feel unmotivated and apathetic toward any directions a leader provides. This can create a very un-driven culture within the team that frustrates and confuses those who want to excel.

While negative momentum and stagnancy are certainly damaging to any progress toward achieving our goals, the additional risk here is the damage caused to the culture of our teams. Damage to the culture is a problem that is much harder to course-correct and may result in replacing senior leaders to make a true change. As leaders, setting the team up for success initially and then keeping a pulse on the team’s mindset is critical to preparing them to take the right action while identifying any momentum shift at an early stage so we can more quickly adjust our leadership behaviors to address them.

So how do we do this? We can look to the Habit Ladder structure and our Leadership Rhythm as our guide.

  • Habit Ladder: Leverage your knowledge of the Habit Ladder to properly prepare your team with the necessary knowledge and skills. Validate effective communication, understanding, and agreement. Dedicate proper time to practice, coaching, and ongoing mentorship. And set an expectation of achieving Habit Level with the behaviors that matter most.

  • Leadership Rhythm: Then establish a leadership rhythm that seeks out evidence of momentum shifts. Focus on your results as evidence of the team behaviors you have built expectations around. Build this into your weekly calendar and daily cadence. Be dedicated and transparent with your team on it so they understand what is important to you. This evidence is like looking down the track to anticipate terrain changes and headwind shifts. Monitor potential obstacles that may impact and derail everything you have worked toward and course-correct as needed.

Just as a train conductor balances his focus on feeding fuel to the train when needed and by driving it safely down the tracks, effective leadership requires understanding our team and their needs to provide the proper balance of direction and support to keep our organizational momentum moving forward.


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