In the student leader year, momentum naturally occurs at the beginning. There is a lot of energy and excitement and a sense of “newness.” The buzz and dynamics of having everyone back on campus creates a strong sense of togetherness. But momentum will soon fade if it’s not nurtured, managed, and fed with an intentional plan.
If you think about it, momentum is a student leader’s best friend. When you have it, you appear better than you really are. When you lack it, you look worse than you really are. When a team or organization has momentum, it can overcome obstacles easily and without much effort.
A great illustration of the power of momentum is a moving train. When the train is standing still (no momentum) you can keep it stopped with a small block of wood wedged in front of the wheels. But that same train, moving down the tracks with some velocity can break through a six foot wall of concrete with little effort.
The seventh priority is to capture your momentum.
Momentum is often elusive and mysterious. It takes tremendous energy, either all at once or over time to build and gain momentum. Sometimes you need something big, like the incredible thrust that it takes to get a spaceship off the ground. Other times, it takes a persistent effort, like the swinging of a pendulum back and forth – each time moving a little closer to the edge.
Once you have momentum (like at the beginning of your student leadership year), it’s important to do everything you can to capture it and keep it. Here’s some things to think about when it comes to momentum…
1. Momentum can be captured by launching something.
People get excited about new things. Whether it’s the start of the new year, or a new event, or some type of new reward. The beginning of the school year has some natural momentum built into it because there is a strong sense of “newness” – new students, new classes, new events. Take advantage of this time to include others and get them involved.
2. Momentum can be captured by leveraging something.
Use the momentum from one event, activity, or success to create momentum in other areas. For example, a successful event generates momentum. Think about what you can offer or do as a follow-up to the event to sustain momentum. One question that’s helpful here is to simply ask: Now that we have this, how can we use it to help us achieve what’s next?
3. Focus on your #1 goal.
Oftentimes, a team loses momentum because they’re focused on too many things. If this is the case, then it’s time to refocus the team’s efforts on one or two goals. Focus is the friend of momentum. Momentum is can be captured through focus. When you focus your efforts in one area, you are able to exert more of your energy toward achieving that goal. It’s hard to create momentum if your jumping from task to task and idea to idea.
4. Acknowledge and celebrate every step in the right direction.
There are steps you can take that will kill momentum (see #5) and steps you can take to capture momentum. One step in the right direction is working toward continual improvement. Jim Collins, in his book, Good To Great, said, “Tremendous power exists in the fact of continued improvement and the delivery of results. Point to tangible accomplishments — however incremental at first — and show how these steps fit into the context of an overall concept that will work. When you do this in such a way that people see and feel the buildup of momentum, they will line up with enthusiasm.”
5. Avoid momentum killers.
There are certain practices that will kill momentum…every time. For example, if you always wait until the last minute to get things done, you’ll give yourself less options for excellence. Mediocrity also kills momentum. Whenever you or someone on your team experiences a crisis in their character (through poor choice or lack of integrity) it diminishes momentum. Indifference is another way that people and activities slowly lose their energy.
At the start of every student leadership year, you will have momentum. Your job as the leader is to capture it. Momentum is much harder to start then it is to maintain. This is why you demonstrate your leadership by building, growing, developing, capturing, and maintaining momentum on your team and in your organization.