I recently mentored a team of students from Skidmore College competing in the fourth annual Kenneth A Freirich Business Plan Competition.  The students, Alexander Nassief ’16 and Zach Rohde ’14 of Rum Dogs Inc, were exceptional to work with and earned a second place finish in the competition finals last month.

I still keep in touch with Alexander and Zach as they transition from competing in business plan competitions to running a brand new start up.  Watching them make this leap reminds me of my own experience working on new projects.  Reflecting back, I now recognize that one of the most important things to do when leading a new project is to create and sustain the momentum of the team.

Good leaders can harness the energy of a nearing deadline or rally the team around a quarterly deliverable – but great leaders continue to drive that momentum after that deadline is passed and after the quarter ends.  Whether your running a company, a department or a small team, keeping sprits high and managing continued momentum can be what makes or breaks a leader and a team.

It’s always important to find that next milestone, the next challenge, or the next opportunity to put points on the board and keep the team focused on taking the next step forward.  It’s equally important to fervently celebrate the victories when they are achieved and remind the team that through collective effort, great things can be accomplished.  But more than just guiding the team and celebrating success, momentum is about creating emotion and passion.

Employment and competitive pay may buy the effort of your team from 9-5, but if you really want to create a great team you need more than that.  You need to create and nurture a common emotional ground that your entire team can get behind:

  • Appeal to competition: How are we going to beat our competitors?
  • Appeal to rivalry: How are we going to be better than our rival department?
  • Appeal to greatness: How are we going to do something that has never been done before?
  • Appeal to a higher purpose: How are we going to make the world a better place?

These are the tools that great leaders use to keep their teams driving forward and achieving success.

Creating and Sustaining Momentum
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