Momentum is a funny thing.  Leaders spend a lot of time and energy trying to create positive momentum.  Whether they’re doing strategic planning, reviewing progress of key initiatives, or coaching a key staff member, they’re putting things in motion.  It’s what they do.

But in real life, we all have bad hours and bad days.  And they can sneak up on us pretty unexpectedly.  Hard-won momentum can evaporate before our eyes.

The secret isn’t to avoid bad days.  (Actually, if you have the secret to that, I’d love to know it.  Please send it on a postcard.)  The secret is to prevent bad days from turning into bad weeks or bad months – or heaven forbid, bad years. To do that, we have to do another leadership act.  We have to see the pattern behind the bad day and do something to interrupt it before it creates negative momentum.

How to do this? Here are a few ideas:

  • Notice that there’s something bad going on.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this a one-off or is it part of a larger pattern?”
  • Look for the self-defeating cycle that takes a bad day and spins it into something bigger and worse than it already is.
  • Often there’s a lie that keeps that cycle going – a lie you tell yourself or that people in your organization buy into.  Maybe there’s a grain of truth to the lie, but it’s a grain that has sprouted into a Redwood-sized exaggeration.
  • Challenge the lie and challenge the cycle itself.  Bust the lie with facts.  Tell yourself and anyone who will listen that the streak needs to end now.

Then start building the positive momentum again.  Face facts, take steps, get moving.  Then it’s just a bad day…