Flywheel Leadership



Every month I have the privilege of participating in an event called “Leader Core.”  Each month we take a topic, and with the shared knowledge, we “mastermind” the answers to the topic posed for teams in business, coaching clients, and nonprofit organizations.  These calls are intriguing, challenging and build both skill and knowledge for those in attendance and participating.

During June, our group discussed the concept of “Becoming a Morale Maker.”

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote, “No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop.  In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no one single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.”

What are the small wins during and post-COVID that your business, your team, or nonprofit can build on for one of these small turns of the flywheel?

Morale is the key here to keep the flywheel moving in the right direction.  2020 was a year of low morale for most of the United States and the world at large.  Statistics have born this out by the rate of depression, death, and suicide.  What we see is we shift to the more practical matters because they are based on assumptions that people should know when and how to get along as adults and come out of hibernation.  What we see now is that this assumption is wrong. 

A study in World Psychiatry assessed the impact of a recent diagnosis of a mental health disorder—including ADD/ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia—on the risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and mortality. This study analyzed electronic health records of 61 million adult patients from 360 hospitals nationwide through July 29, 2020. Patients with a recent diagnosis of a mental disorder had nearly a 50% increased risk of dying from COVID-19 (8.5%) compared with people with COVID who did not have a mental illness diagnosis (4.7%).

People with a mental health problem were also at significantly higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and being hospitalized (27.4% vs. 18.6%). This link was strongest in people diagnosed with depression or schizophrenia. The investigators also found that women with mental disorders had higher odds of COVID-19 infection than men. The gender disparity was highest in those with ADD/ADHD. And African Americans were more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than Caucasians, with the largest ethnic gap seen in those with depression.

Leadership by assumption rarely ends well. No organization or business wants to be in the “Doom Loop.”  It falls to the leadership in your business to be the “Morale Makers.”  It takes a fresh look at the organization.  No one wants to be “labeled” in any context.

How do you accomplish this post-COVID?

That is a great question. 

What is working in NYC, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix, Seattle, and Las Vegas may not work in your area of the country or your country.  The culture, people, and mindset of those in the other areas are quite different. 

How do we determine what will work?

A mindset shift is needed.

A new culture of accountability and responsibility is needed and will yield different results.   

An offsite where everyone leaves their egos, titles and preconceived notions left at the door is needed.  Perhaps a team-building exercise of FUN and BRAINSTORMING is what is needed.  Use an outside facilitator, so no one in the organization oversees the activities.  Everyone in attendance has been impacted by COVID in every way possible, and you, the leadership, will not know all of those “ways.”  You only know by asking, going first, being transparent, shedding a tear, and being real, not “the boss.”

Every member of your organization is valuable and brings real talent to your business.  Celebrate each one in front of the entire organization.  Yes, this takes time, but it will yield huge results.

How do you build high morale post COVID? 

A simple gesture and a one-word slogan will also work.  Do not overthink this. Something as simple as “BELIEVE” is enough, with hands raised.  They must see it again and again and believe it. Make sure it is used and posted everywhere your employees will see it. 

To improve morale, here are seven simple steps.

  1. Provide good visible consistent examples of good morale.
  2. Provide “enthusiasm” for good work in private and in the group setting.
  3. Provide “expectations” of good work in the workplace.
  4. Provide winning experiences Small and tangible will yield big results as word spreads. The goal here is not to move mountains but rather to move the confidence of your team and congregation.

Remember, a leader sees more and before the rest of the team.

  1. Provide your winning team with the right “equipment.” High morale teams are highly resourced teams. Find out what the right tools are needed most and then prioritize them to produce the outcome.  Not all equipment needs to cost money.  Providing training for your team to grow, being an encouraging leader who is visible, offering your insight or experience to the problem-solving discussion, and admitting when you do not have a solution or answer, and brainstorming with your team can really boost morale.
  2. Providing evaluation” is not about grading people like in school; it is about building awareness in the minds of your team so they know what is going on around them. Building an observational mindset into each member of your team will help them effectively define reality in the area of the country they work.

You get what you inspect – so if you skimp on evaluation, you will have less data with which to make critical decisions.

  1. Execution is the seventh item for building your team’s morale. This is doing things that matter with excellence. Activity, events, and programs do not equal accomplishment.  Having a busy team does not mean they are executing the actions and tasks that matter to the mission, vision, and bottom line of the business.

This brings up an important point:  You, the leadership, must execute the vital leadership tasks that position your staff, your board, and your employees for success.  Nothing improves morale like consistent success.  The flywheel must get and maintain momentum.

Consistency is the key to healthy morale.


  • How is your “Flywheel”?
  • Where do you rate morale on your personal scale of leadership concerns?
  • Which of the seven “E’s” listed in this note have you used as an effective tool with your team?
  • Which of the seven “E’s” does your team need to key in on right now?
  • When was the last time you visited your team’s scoreboard?
  • How are you tracking “consistency” with your team?
  • What metrics might the team be missing?
  • Examine your KPIs to see if they have changed since re-engaging from the lockdown of COVID.

Keep talking and engaging. 

~ July 2021