Introduction to the Law of the Big Mo

Good afternoon and welcome back!  Thanks for coming back and joining us as we continue to look at John Maxwell’s book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  We are taking a look at how these laws as outlined by Dr. Maxwell can be used in the construction and remodeling industries.  

As we have talked about in other podcasts, every construction and remodeling industry member has a toolbox that they store their tools in.  They know when to pull those tools out at the right time and right place.  These podcasts are helping you build your leadership toolbox.  Learn when to apply these laws and build your leadership skills to make yourself more effective in leading others around you.  

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If you are listening to these podcasts through our blog, you can actually find these same lessons as part of a free course on Construct-Ed.  The course explores all 21 laws as laid out by John Maxwell and how those laws can be used to build better team members, better crews and better companies in the construction and remodeling industries.

My name is Chris Jurin and I am the instructor for this course and your guide through these podcasts.  I am the CEO of Construct-Ed.  My mission is to add value to you and help you build your leadership abilities in your particular industry.  I am a trainer and coach with the John Maxwell Team.  I am also the president of a commercial roofing company as well as the president of a roof consulting firm.

Unpacking the Law of the Big Mo

In The Law of the Big Mo – the Big Mo is momentum.  And in construction – momentum is a critical component for a successful project.  Think for a moment about what it takes to be a success in construction and remodeling.  Each team member must be successful – show up for work everyday and look for ways to win.  When team members are successful they lead to the crew or department that they work with being successful.  Teams complete successful projects – and when they string multiple successes together the company overall wins.  

Small and medium wins strung together builds momentum.  Remember the Law of Process – leaders are developed daily, not in a day.  Much in the same way – momentum is built daily, not in a day.  It is the cumulative effect of putting together small wins and successes and then using them to attack the next problem that stands in front of the team.  

A great movie that illustrates the effect of Momentum is Miracle.  Miracle is the story of the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team that won the gold medal in Lake Placid, NY.  The U.S. Hockey Team was an underdog going into the Olympic Games.  The Russians were heavily favored to win the gold, and it was doubtful that the Americans were even going to medal.  

But approaching the Olympics, Coach Herb Brooks was able to lead his team to wins.  The wins, stacked end to end, helped to create the momentum that was needed to overcome the underdog status that they went into the Olympics with.  By the time they played the Russians, which was actually the semi-final game, they were prepared to meet the more talented Russian team and counter their skills with momentum.  

By the time the Russians realized what was happening they could not recover.  Momentum was lost for the Russians and the Americans had the game in hand.  Momentum carried the day and the Olympic Tournament – and the Americans took home the gold medal in the final round against Finland.  

The Russians were overconfident in their abilities. They assumed that talent was enough to secure the win against the Americans.  As John Maxwell has shared – talent alone is never enough.  The talent has to win – and create momentum.  

So how does the Law of the Big Mo play into the construction and remodeling industries?

The Law of the Big Mo is the 16th law in John Maxwell’s best selling book – the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  The basis for this law is that “Momentum is a leader’s best friend.”  For leaders in construction and remodeling, momentum can be the difference between a successful project and a project that tanks.  

For those of you with nautical experience – think about the last time you were on a boat on the open waters.  If you have never been out on a boat, look at some videos of the America’s Cup.  As a boat gets going into open waters there is a lot of chop in the water.  The ride is rough and you feel EVERY SINGLE BUMP.  But then what happens is that the boat begins to pick up speed and the bumps disappear as the boat planes out of the water.  

If you are on a sailboat, the snap of the sails as they fill with wind is an indicator that you are now gaining momentum.  As your sails fill with wind or your boat planes on the water, the captain knows that momentum is with them.  They now have the advantage because the momentum is theirs.  Inertia is gone – momentum has now kicked in.

The choppy conditions are still present.  They have not disappeared.  But as the boat gains speed and momentum, it takes those bumps in stride.  The conditions are the same, but the ability of the boat and the crew to handle the conditions elevates.  

Think back about projects that you have been a part of.  I am sure that you, as we all have, have been a part of some really nice projects – and some projects that are stinkers.  Did lousy projects have momentum – or did it feel more like your feet were stuck in concrete?  For those projects that were some of the best projects you worked on – were those projects without problems – or did the project have momentum that somehow made those problems hurt less?  

All projects have problems.  All project managers and superintendents encounter issues. Critical team members call out sick.  Unforeseen change orders occur due to details that were overlooked.  County inspections don’t go as planned.  All of these problems exist on both good projects and not so good projects.  The difference between whether the project is derailed or is full steam ahead is whether the project has momentum.  

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But how do you create and harness momentum on your projects or in your company?

In the Law of the Big Mo – John Maxwell shares his truths about momentum.  What are the key things to remember about momentum and how can these truths be added to your leadership toolbox to help you create momentum on your project sites and inside your company?


  1. Momentum is the great exaggerator.

Much the same way that the U.S. Hockey Team used small incremental wins to gain momentum, construction teams can use small wins to gain momentum on their sites and in their companies.  

Start by defining success.  And keep your definition of success down to smaller components.  The goal cannot be “let’s have a successful project”.  Define success.  We want to have this part of the scope of work done by this time.  And if the team meets the goal, celebrate it.  Let everyone know that the goal was met.  Put another goal in front of them and shoot for something else.  

Stitch the successes together and start to set more aggressive goals.  Allow them to realize successes and build momentum by achieving incremental goals.  You cannot score a run unless you get someone into scoring position.  

  1. Momentum makes leaders look better than they are.

Many leaders are afraid of building steam in their progress because they are afraid that the momentum will make them look worse.  “Won’t project momentum make it more difficult to recognize problems?”  Don’t get hung up on this.  Momentum will actually have the opposite effect.  

Remember, many of the problems that you experience on project sites are going to be there no matter whether you have momentum or not.  Momentum will actually help you solve the problems that you are facing.  Momentum helps leaders overcome obstacles, it does not derail the forward momentum of the train.

Allow momentum to carry your team through obstacles that they might encounter.  Remember, you have to control momentum so that it does not cause problems.  Momentum can carry someone right over the edge of a cliff.  Learn how to control it and direct it so that it becomes a tool.

  1. Momentum helps followers perform better than they are.

This is similar to how momentum makes leaders look better than they are.  Have you ever had an employee who just cannot get going?  And each and every time they attempt to move they actually cause more and more problems?  This is in part because the team member does not have momentum.  

As John points out – momentum makes everyone – employers and employees – look better than they are.  If your team member appears to be stumbling, look for what might be holding them back.  Work to identify areas of waste.  Eliminate those areas and help that team member build momentum.  

  1. Momentum is easier to steer than start.

Many of us have had to attempt to drive a car that does not have power steering.  Try and turn the wheel without any movement with the car and you have to literally lay into the steering wheel to get the wheel to turn.  But, once the car is moving the wheel changes direction with a lot less force.  

Construction and remodeling teams and projects are similar.  You cannot change direction just by standing around and discussing the project at hand.  You have to get forward movement on the project and then you can steer it.  

Momentum is very difficult to start. Look for opportunities to encourage team members to move.  Recognize their forward movement and encourage team members to jump in and help.  Remember the Law of Buy-in – your team members need to buy into you before they buy into the vision.  Show them how to get momentum going and they will jump in and support you.  

  1. Momentum is the most powerful change agent.  

Momentum is a neutral term. It can be going in one of two directions – positive or negative.  It does not care which way it goes, but once it starts going it is hard to stop.  Have you been on projects where they start going bad and you start scratching your head as to why you cannot stop it?  That is because once it starts, it is hard to stop and it is a powerful change agent.  

As you approach construction and remodeling projects and companies, remember the Law of the Inner Circle.  Make sure that your core team members on your crew, in your department or in your company are aware of the Law of the Big Mo.  Don’t allow them to inadvertently take the project or company down because their negative attitudes affected the direction of the momentum.  

Build your teams.  Help them understand that momentum can be a powerful change agent.  But help them understand that not all change is good change.  

  1. Momentum is the leader’s responsibility.

As John Maxwell says “Everything rises and falls on leadership”.  Swap out one word – “Momentum rises and falls on leadership”.  A critical part of the leader’s job is to recognize the need for momentum and build it so that the team finds victory.  

Recall the Law of Victory – leaders find a way for their teams to win.  In construction, this means in part that the leader has to be able to recognize when momentum is happening and then work to control the momentum so that it has a positive effect.  And when momentum is not on the project site, they need to work to build it.

Again – look for small victories and build on those victories with small incremental wins.  Challenge the team to get their work done by a certain time.  When they have achieved it, build on it with a bigger goal.  You cannot take the battle field all at one time – take it a bit at a time and share in the excitement as you take the ground.  

  1. Momentum begins inside the leader.

Are you having a hard time getting momentum going with your team?  If so, take a look at yourself.  Are you buying into your own vision?  Do you have momentum?  If you are the leader and you don’t have momentum, don’t expect the team that you are leading to have momentum.  It starts with you as the leader.

Practice the Law of the Picture.  Secure small wins for yourself.  Share those small wins – those walks and singles – with your teammates.  Build them by allowing them to celebrate those wins with you.  

Momentum starts with you – if you don’t have it, no one else will.  

Closing –

Leaders are naturally more in tune with momentum.  They can feel it.  They know when it is there, which direction it is going and when it has disappeared.  Momentum is critical for construction and remodeling projects.  It is when the leader says “Wow, it is great when everything falls into place”.  Lose momentum and the leader is muttering “nothing is going right on this project”.  

Much like the wind in sailing, when momentum is in the sails of a project or company things just seem to fall into place.  The choppiness of the conditions you find yourself in don’t seem to matter as much.  Problems still exist – but they just don’t hurt as much.  

Work to get your team members, your crews, projects and company into the groove.  Be sensitive to when momentum starts to slack a bit and learn how to get the wind back in the sails quickly so that you can regain momentum.

Thanks for taking your time to talk about the Law of the Big Mo.  It is my hope that you realize the importance of the Law of the Big Mo and how it affects the momentum of the organization.  We will be looking at the Law of the Priorities in the next podcast – these laws all knit together very nicely.  

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