In sports, momentum is not a literal force helping a person score more, jump higher, or mount a comeback. “Uncle-Mo” is real, however; as Andrew Demick and Jim Taylor define it in their Multidimensional Model of Momentum in Sports, psychological momentum is:

“…a positive or negative change in cognition, affect, physiology, and behavior caused by an event or series of events that will result in a commensurate shift in performance and competitive outcome”

In other words, when someone has a hot hand in basketball, the basket isn’t any bigger and the person isn’t any more open. But they are more confident in their shot, think less about mechanics, shoot faster, and let it go. It is mental.

Psychological momentum is no different in a business setting. You have personal goals, team goals, company goals, short term and long term objectives, competition to overcome, etc. In all of that, you have ups and down, good days and bad, and sometimes things just aren’t going your way.

In sports, to bust out of a slump, shooters need to keep shooting, hitters needs to keep swinging, and golfers need to keep putting. But in order to change your confidence level and thought process you need to change something from a mental standpoint. A basketball player might need to focus on defense to create a turnover or make a great pass to another teammate with a hot hand. In baseball, lay down a sacrifice bunt, steal a base, or turn a double play. Whatever it is, focus on something positive rather than dwelling on your struggles and you will be able to overcome them faster.

A business setting is no different. When things aren’t going well, you need to take a step back, reset, and focus on something that will get you back into the zone, build your confidence, and change the way you approach the difficult task. Take it upon yourself to create the event that Demick and Taylor discuss in their article to catalyze that “shift in performance”.

For example, if you are in sales and you lose a few deals or you just can’t get any meetings set up, take a step back and focus on what has worked. You need to have positive conversations. Call a client to see how they are doing. Find out how you can help them and then lend a hand or make an intro. Or maybe you should call a few folks in your network you know will answer the phone, catch up on their world, and ask for referrals.

Likewise, if you are in a leadership position, call your mentor to pick her brain on how she approached similar situations. Find colleagues and see how you can help them overcome their challenges. It is critical to find small wins to build your confidence to get back in the zone.

At the end of the day, the idea of momentum is real. When things are going well, you feel like you can accomplish anything, but when you are in a slump, it’s hard to stop thinking about your struggles. If all you think about is the wall you’ve hit, then you will just keep trying to go through it without any luck.

When you are in a business slump, reset and figure out where you can get some small wins, have conversations, help others, build your confidence and swing psychological business momentum back in your favor. As you get the ball rolling, the small wins will add up and you will be able to attack your challenges with a high level of confidence and enthusiasm.

Cue Spike (and Go Blue!)