Performance | 3 tips to unleash the power of psychological momentum in your team

3 tips to unleash the power of psychological momentum in your team
Promoted by 3 tips to unleash the power of psychological momentum in your team

One factor that gives high performing teams an ‘edge’ over teams that are simply effective is their ability to utilise psychological momentum.

Psychological momentum is a phenomenon that is heard in many different walks of life. From presidential candidates gaining momentum with their campaigns, celebrities gaining momentum with their careers, to sports teams increasing their momentum after a goal or stocks building momentum after being heavily traded.

Defining psychological momentum

Psychological momentum refers to the psychological sensation performers and teams experience when they feel like things are going unstoppably in their way.1 People feel like they are performing with the wind behind their sails, that they are invincible, and it is only a matter of time before they succeed.

Teams with psychological momentum are able to perform at a level not normally possible because this ‘psychological power’ heightens their sense of confidence, control, competence and importantly their belief that they can succeed.2 For example, studies in the context of sport show how teams which report more psychological momentum were more cohesive than teams that did not and report lower levels of anxiety.3,4

Here are three top tips for unleashing the power of psychological momentum in your team:

Top tip: kick start momentum by generating a quick win and make sure it’s put down to team performance (not luck or good fortune)

To trigger a sense of momentum, be sure to capture and celebrate a quick win early on. Anything that signals an early success or that the project is going successfully in the direction planned will do. Furthermore, make sure this success is attributed to the team, not luck or good fortune; discuss explicitly how members of your team personally contributed to the achievement.

Top tip: sustain success by chasing the next goal

When attempting to sustain performance the natural instinct is to want to keep or protect your achievements. But, to sustain high performing teamwork and momentum, it is important your team stays focused, or refocuses on, new inspirational challenges.5 After a success, pay close attention to your team’s mindset; are goals focused on defending what you’ve already won? Has complacency set in? Or, is discussion around how you’re going to strive for better performance and future success?

Top tip: create flow by finding the balance between challenge and skill

Flow, a concept closely linked to psychological momentum, can help teams to maintain their performance. Flow is a state that people experience when they feel effortless concentration, enjoyment and motivation to perform.6

One of the conditions research has identified that can create team flow is a balance between challenge and skill. To enter a state of flow, people’s skills must match the challenges they face. This acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing goals or challenges.

To create a team flow experience, every team member must have a personal challenge that matches their level of skill. Do you or your team know every team members’ strengths, interests and skills? How do they complement one another? Do your team goals match the skills in your team? Or support the co-ordination of skills?

To find out more about what gives teams the edge click here or the button below

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[1] Iso-Ahola, S. E., & Dotson, C. O. (2014). Psychological momentum: Why success breeds success. Review of General Psychology, 18(1), 19.

[2] Smith, P., Blandford, A., & Back, J. (2009). Questioning, exploring, narrating and playing in the control room to

maintain system safety. Cognition, Technology & Work, 11, 279.

[3] Eisler, L., & Spink, K. S. (1998). Effects of scoring configuration and task cohesion on the perception of psychological momentum. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 20(3), 311-320.

[4] Den Hartigh, R. J., Gernigon, C., Van Yperen, N. W., Marin, L., & Van Geert, P. L. (2014). How psychological

and behavioral team states change during positive and negative momentum. PloS one, 9(5), e97887.

[5] Yukelson, D., & Rose, R. (2014). The psychology of ongoing excellence: An NCAA coach’s perspective on winning consecutive multiple national championships. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 5(1), 44-58.

[6] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper and Row.

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