How to Replace Inertia
Four strategies that will keep your momentum moving in the right direction.
by Dr. John C. Maxwell
One of the biggest temptations leaders of successful organizations face is to stop thinking big. After a taste of success, even the best and brightest leaders suddenly start to think complacently.
How many times have we seen our favorite sports teams lose their momentum and then lose the game because instead of playing to win, they began to play not to lose? They get ahead, but then they pull back and stop playing with the intensity that earned them the lead.
The same temptation traps company executives. With the organization exceeding expectations and making record profits, the leadership gets excited. The organization appears to be cruising toward its best year ever, when all of a sudden the focus shifts from gaining momentum to sustaining momentum. The moment leadership changes focus, momentum vanishes.
I like to think of momentum as the great exaggerator. When you have it, people think you're better than you are. You're on a roll and everybody is amazed by your success. When you lose momentum, people think you're worse than you are. Momentum magnifies your performance, and positive momentum can be a potent force to push you forward.
When things are on a roll, don't sit on the ball—run up the score! As I wrote in "Thinking for a Change", "We are today where our thoughts brought us, and we will be tomorrow where our thoughts take us." When we stop thinking big as leaders and dwell upon protecting past successes, we start to think conservatively. The big thoughts that gave us a big year are replaced by conservative thoughts which will give us a mediocre year.
Let me give you four strategies that will keep your momentum moving in the right direction.
1. When you're doing well, go shopping.
When you're doing well, instead of patting yourself on the back, go shopping. Look around for somebody that's bigger, better, faster, and smarter than you are. Study their successes and benchmark your results against theirs. I put this practice to work early on by consistently aligning myself with smart people. Immediately, I realized the way to refocus wasn't to compare myself against everyone I was beating, but to compare myself with somebody better than I was.
2. Stir up inspirational dissatisfaction.
Inspirational dissatisfaction does not mean you are never pleased or satisfied. Nor is it a license to beat yourself up or come down hard on your people. Instead, it's a creative awareness that you can do better. You can do more to improve personally and to invest exhaustively in the growth of your team. This state of mind unlocks your comfort zone and prompts you to keep on stretching.
3. Develop a daily dose of paranoia.
There's a difference between a daily dose and an overdose of paranoia. An overdose makes you and everyone around you miserable. A daily dose is an inner rustling—a pebble in the shoe—that creates just enough discomfort to keep you continually alert and engaged. In fact, the best leaders act as though someone is out to get them, like they're on the verge of losing every customer every day.
4. Continue to set goals that stretch your team.
If you can reach your goals with a "business as usual" approach, then your goals are too small. A goal is only effective when it forces changes, big decisions, and bold action.
The thinking of a leader is contagious to the team. As a leader, you broadcast your way of thinking and people pick up on your signals. Unsuccessful leaders focus their thinking on survival—"If I can just make it through the year." Average leaders focus their thinking on maintenance—"If I can just hold on to what I have." Successful leaders focus their thinking on continual progress.
If you're a manager who concentrates more on holding your own than on moving forward, it's time to seize the offensive. Don't settle for what conditions force upon you. Great leaders don't just buy in, they create.
About the Author:
John Maxwell has sold more than 14 million books as an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker and author, and his organizations have trained more than one million leaders worldwide.