What are the keys to building momentum in a business or a team?

Photo by Nadir sYzYgY on Unsplash

The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is simple. Successful people know how to make it happen. They take action. And it starts with you!

In my Army days, I worked in a cubicle on the first floor of the Logistical Management Center, running the Army’s petroleum products and lumber supplies warehouses in Fort Hood, Texas. We had a senior noncommission officer, a Master Sergeant, who would walk down the hallways on our floor and yell out  in a motiving, enthusiastic, heavy Spanish accent that everyone could hear: “Make it happen! Make it happen, make it happen!” I’ll never forget it. Even though everyone found the Master Sergeant’s words very motivating, summoning up the energy to sprint to the finish line two hours before quitting time was tough. However, sometimes I try to motivate myself to create that continuous flow of motion to make it to the end of the day. Sometimes that forward motion stops cold.

Again, successful people make it happen! Regardless of the obstacles in the way, successful people get the job done because they are motivated, enthusiastic, and committed. Their motivating beliefs catch on like wildfire in others, and they all run with them.   

However, if you have momentum without positive outcomes, in the long run that momentum will cease.

John Maxwell once said, “People cannot stay happy without results. But if you build momentum, you develop results. If you can produce, you will always have a high momentum.”  I’ve never seen a winning team that had low momentum. Anyone who watches sports – baseball, football, or basketball etc. – knows that momentum plays an important part in team performance.

There were several studies done in the 1980s on different sports, including basketball, car racing, tennis, etc. These studies centered around momentum in my favorite sport, basketball, and the “hot hand” phenomenon of passing the ball to the man or woman who has the “hot hand.” Every time they shoot, they make the shot. That’s momentum. Or a football team that has a winning season. That’s momentum.  

Many times, I had the privilege of seeing winning teams up close after they had won a game or a collegiate basketball tournament. I’ve never seen a winning team go back into their locker rooms with their heads down, needing encouragement from the crowd. Never. If you follow them into the locker room you see enthusiasm and champagne bottles being uncorked. It’s impossible stand still. You just have to join the enthusiasm.

So, what will get your co-worker, employees, or team members motivated to create that kind of momentum? Here are three tips.  

Number one: As a leader, take personal responsibility for your own momentum, motivation, and morale. Momentum begins with YOU. Socrates said, “know thyself.” That means the CEO, manager, team lead, supervisor etc. You get the picture. People look at you. They do what you do. If the boss is motivated and follows his own rules, the employees will follow that lead. The Army has a saying: “Lead from the front.” You want the people in your group to take up the mantle with you, but it starts with you. John Maxwell says: “Everything rises and falls on leadership. Leadership is all about influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

The individual must have an intrinsic motivation to get things moving. Momentum isn’t a group thing, it’s an individual thing. Carl Jung: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” That means becoming aware of your potential, abilities, and motivations. Take an inventory of yourself!

You can’t be one of these people who just want their people to get excited. No one needs to get me motivated or dedicated to get the job done. No one gets me out of bed and says, “Derrick, its morning, wake up get out of bed, let’s start your day.” No, I’m motivated by my own goals and growth journey. In all my leadership jobs, my folks were motivated to succeed because I was interested in doing the mission myself. In every area I was responsible for, productivity soared through the roof.      

Number two: Know your employees. As a leader or business owner, your focus should not only be on the establishment, but your employees, team members, etc.

Sure, keep them engaged and fired up about the mission. But to do that, you need to know your people. The Army always taught us to know your soldiers, and not only in a passive way. You had to know your soldier’s family, birthdays, anniversaries, even their kids’ names. You get the picture. I recall talking to an investment broker who was trying to sell me an investment product. We had previous conversations on the topic. However, on this day before we started our business discussions, he asked me how pizza night with my wife had gone. Because of the COVID-19 quarantine we are 1700 miles apart, so every Friday do date night via Zoom. The investment guy remembered this meant a lot to me. Now I’m leaning towards getting his investment product. The lesson: build relationships first. It goes a long way.   

On the other hand, you might work with others within your workplace who are cynical and negative about everything. These individuals must be separated from the others to prevent their beliefs and disbeliefs from spreading. Get rid of these people.

Number Three: Most importantly, starting momentum and keeping it going depends on the environment within the organization. What you see comes from the core of the organization’s shared beliefs. I like to say that when you look at the culture within an organization, you’re looking at its personality. The culture is the sum of all the organization’s shared norms, values, assumptions, and ideals. To sustain momentum, the organizational culture must support it.  The workplace must have a spirit of encouragement – and the leader sets the tone. The leader must demonstrate it.

Celebrate the small wins, because those small wins will grow to big ones. John Maxwell gives an example of leaders who don’t care who gets the credit and also share in the celebration by telling a story about sales manager. Before he completes the sale, he looks for a person in his department who needs a win under their belt, brings them in on the deal, and lets them close it. The leader does the work, but allows someone else within the department to get the glory. That’s how you create an atmosphere of momentum in the organization.

To sum up:

1. The leader must communicate and give clarity on the vision and mission. Equipping your team, employees, or co-workers to buy into the vision and mission starts from the top. If you want high performance, productivity and momentum in your organization, it starts with top-down influence. Productivity depends on upper management. A manager can influence the productivity of his or her team members or area of operation. They set the tone and pace of the organization. 

 2. Technical ability is important, but leaders always ensure that their employee’s behavior aligns with the organization’s culture. For example, the behavior of Southwest Airlines employees always aligns with the goals of the organization. Zappos will pay $2000 to an employee who feels their values don’t line up with the company to quit. I visited that company in 2019. I wanted to leave my job and work for them immediately. I loved the atmosphere.

3. Help those who don’t fit the cultural norms of the organization seek other employment.

I hope these suggestions help you get your organization started on momentum – and sustain it. Let me know what you think.


Maxwell, John C, (2011), The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential, (CenterStreet).  

Mokua, Benard, (2015). How to Create Unstoppable Momentum in Business. Retrieved by https://selfmadesuccess.com/how-to-create-unstoppable-momentums-in-business.

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