Creating and Maintaining Positive Momentum
I’ve saved the best for last in the third post of the “Newton’s Laws of Motion as it relates to business” series. I’ve addressed them out of order because, well, it tells a better story. His second law is a mouthful, so out of respect I will quote directly. However, I ask that in the same way you indulge your grandparents when they tell you the same story for the 100th time, stick with me and keep reading. I promise to make some worthwhile points: “The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors; in this law the direction of the force vector is the same as the direction of the acceleration vector.” Whew! So in business, let’s assume “object’s mass” is a company’s team members, “acceleration” is opportunity, and “applied force” is drive. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Object’s Mass = Company Team Members
In the services industry, our people are our strongest asset. Every organization has a top 20% and a bottom 20% of performers. It’s the quality of the middle 60% that often drives the forward movement of the company. When the “personality” of this group embodies enthusiasm, a desire to learn and a “positive force for good” vibe, a company can overcome the typical challenges of dynamic, evolving environments. When team members approach every obstacle as a challenge to overcome and learn from, using what they’ve learned as a catalyst to affect permanent changes and sharing their knowledge, a company can continue forwards. Momentum breeds momentum. When a team member becomes overly distracted by negative thoughts when, say, a process is no longer working well or a client is demanding or unreasonable, unproductive energy can take the wind out of their own sails and that of colleagues as well. By inviting colleagues to their pity-party, they can stop the productive forward momentum of their team, department or even the entire company.
When a company has positive momentum, leadership teams need to proactively remove obstacles that could stop progress in its tracks. This includes eliminating barriers like staff with high inclinations for negative thinking. Parting ways is the obvious option, but companies are simply groups of people working towards common goals, and humans are flawed. It’s not realistic to expect everyone to be 100% onboard all the time. When a Negative Nelly provides real value to the company in other ways there can be other solutions. While working with them to improve their attitude, sometimes leadership can minimize the immediate impact by creating a bypass system to isolate negative influencers. Perhaps by limiting their need to work on group projects or by assigning them to teams with strong leaders that support the company agenda, negative attitudes can be dealt with and changed. Leadership should also continuously and proactively assess and adjust business processes and trends to make it easier for the core team to contribute and advance company initiatives. Broken processes can weigh down even the most enthusiastic team member.
Acceleration = Opportunity
Once the ball is rolling, individual team members need to see a clear path to achieving goals for both the company and themselves. Career paths should be discussed openly between team members and their managers, with clear expectations and agreed-upon milestones. These are a combination of exposure to specific opportunities to grow and promotions/title changes that are a more public acknowledgement of achievement. For example, if a junior social media director wants to become a senior director, they should ask for and receive clear direction on the skills required to earn that designation. They should seek opportunities to insert themselves into projects that will expose them to new areas. This will allow them to begin building the knowledge and skills necessary to be considered as leaders for other projects down the road. Managers should also be on the lookout for opportunities to involve aspiring team members on projects that are consistent with their goals. When an entire company embraces this philosophy, positive momentum accelerates and can be maintained more easily.
Applied Force = Drive
Even when the above factors are all in place, if there isn’t real drive and determination at the individual level, the engine will eventually run out of gas. For those in the critical middle 60%, leadership and managers should feed the drive of those who desire to move up in the company. By acknowledging team members when they deliver great work and rewarding them not only with perks like promotions and raises, but also by assigning them more challenging projects, their confidence grows and encourages them to reach even higher. But ultimately, drive, grit, determination, whatever you like to call it, comes from within. No motivation pep talk or blog article can create sustainable inspiration if someone isn’t determined to contribute to company and their own personal growth. Let’s face it, not all team members are go-getters all the time. Leadership needs to recognize those that are ready to step away from the crowd and eliminate barriers that could discourage their enthusiasm.
So in applying Newton’s law to keeping momentum in business, when you have a positive, unified organization to get the ball rolling, deliver attainable and desirable goals and rewards to keep team members pushing ahead, and have a driven, dedicated team, the company in motion stays in motion.