Building Momentum

Past performance increases confidence more than ability.

I was recently asked by a consulting partner for tips on building positive momentum. His team is incredibly talented and fairly experienced in generating new opportunities. But they are in a slump, and he believes lack of confidence is one of the drivers.

While we haven't fully explored the problem yet, chances are that he's right.

Past performance increases confidence more than ability. This might sound counter-intuitive, but it's backed by extensive research. Increased confidence significantly affects subsequent performance, leading to better results.

I wrote about psychological momentum here, here, and here. And answered some questions from readers here. Many consultants are not aware that momentum is not just a sports phenomenon:

  • In every election candidates are frequently gaining and losing momentum, and specialists often highlight that this affects how strategic alliances and political concessions are made.
  • After economic recessions, companies often postpone capital investments and the hiring of new employees arguing the need to wait to see if the economy was “gaining momentum” and truly recovering.
  • Over the short term, stock prices are mostly driven by investor sentiment rather than companies’ performance (“fundamentals”). High-momentum stocks are heavily traded and often have unreasonable price-to-earnings ratios.

Initial success creates, reinforces, and lengthens momentum. And the longer the psychological momentum can be sustained, the more likely is the success.

In a business development context, we consultants feel and experience a psychological momentum when (1) we feel competent and in control of our abilities to generate new business opportunities, (2) we recognize that we're doing it better than our competitors and peers, and (3) we perceive a higher likelihood of reaching our growth goals.

These perceptions combine to form momentum, which becomes a psychological force or wave that can carry you to further success.

The key to sustaining that force lies in combining two things: the intensity and the frequency effects. The stronger the momentum, and the more positive momentums you can accumulate consecutively, the longer it will last.

If you're struggling with confidence, here are two questions for you:

  • What's a big win I can have this week that is growth-oriented and completely in my control?
  • What's a big recurring activity that I've been avoiding, and how can I break it down into ridiculously smaller tasks?

Start small. Pick only one thing and execute it. Getting started is harder than keeping going.

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