George Washington and his Continental Army had suffered several defeats or had cut and run instead of fighting and likely losing again. They had suffered defeats near Boston and New York. To make matters worse, morale had hit an all time low and in December of 1776, the entire army could opt out or re-enlist beginning January of 1777. Washington, Green and military leaders knew that most would return home and not continue the fight.
Washington had written to the Governor Trumbull that perhaps a “lucky blow” would “most certainly rouse the spirits of the people, which are quite sunk by our misfortunes.” Washington wrote to Robert Morris that “We should rather exert ourselves, and look forward with hopes, that some lucky chance may yet turn up in our favor.” (1776, McCullough, p. 272, 274)
For an opportunity to produce a win for the Continental Army, Washington and Nathanael Green decided to attack, Trenton. On December 26, 1776; 2,400 Americans who had walked all night, cold, wet and their weapons soaked pressed forward. Their unexpected attack caught the enemy off guard and had them retreat down side street and alley ways. They were able to take nine hundred prisoners and only saw four American’s wounded. A resounding defeat for the enemy!
This “lucky blow” started to turn the tide and was their first victory. The men were willing to re-enlist and ensure that the army continued. The news was carried in major papers and word of mouth spread the details of the victory. In fact, Washington said, “this is a glorious day for our country” (McCullough, 282). He took this momentum and attack New Jersey again in just a few days later. His army won again!
Five Keys Washington’s Victory shows us:
1) Pick your battles – It is important to fight battles that you feel are winnable, especially if you are behind or leading a organization that is in need of a turnaround.
2) Small victories can turn the tide – A small win shows those you lead what is possible. The army thought they were losers, but winning began to change their mindset.
3) Momentum leads to more success – It is easier to win the second time or the third time than the first. Truly, momentum is a leader’s best friend.
4) Celebrate your victories – make sure everyone enjoys the win, whether a project, hitting a goal or signing a contract. Celebrate.
5) Pitch it – Washington told his troops about their victory and got them to re-enlist. As a leader use your victory to pitch your next battle, project or share your vision.
These keys are true whether you are involved in managing people, leading in ministry or involved in the community. May your small victories build towards continued success!
This is part 2 of a series on George Washington, click here for part one Overcoming Failure.
This is a great book about Washington and his experiences leading the army in 1776. I highly recommend this book for its vast research and detail. If you are interested in purchasing or previewing the book from Amazon, 1776, then click here or the link in the second paragraph. Amazon Affiliate link.