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When Stanford GSB professor Jeffrey Pfeffer studied successful executives and analysed the qualities they all had in common, the number one quality wasn’t IQ, talent or people skills. It was their energy levels (1). This energy comes from feeling like there’s a purpose to what we’re doing, where our efforts contribute to the greater good.

There’s no denying that at one, or many points during a day, you have felt and shared the energy of another and this has had the instant effect of altering your mood. Maybe you felt uplifted by a colleague’s smile or drained by hearing about someone’s argument. Either way, even a few words or a particular gesture has the power to affect yourself and others around you. Therefore, imagine the enormity of positive power by using some of these ways to motivate your team by sharing success.

The answer is to identify a tangible success and share this with others in order to help them find the drive to succeed. This sharing gives others the energy for motivation and provides a value and purpose to what, as a cohesive group, you’re doing; as a leader, it also keeps your vision alive.

By sharing the successes along the journey, the vision not only keeps in mind, it gives meaning to all involved. What happens? When people know how they are contributing to this vision they feel that they matter, engagement and motivation will soar. So, what practical ways can you motivate your team by sharing success?

Wrap yourself around a positivity crew

It may be that within a large organisation, you’ll have to start small. After all, as the saying goes, mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Build up a team, that could be friends, family, specific colleagues, who you can rely on to support, encourage and raise spirits. Exchange the positive energy between you by telling inspiring stories, focussing on achievements (however small) and being grateful even for the little steps forward along the way. Keep up the momentum by consistently feeding this positivity and watch this success and happiness grow.

If you work alone, try exchanging positivity online via social media. Positively comment on other people’s successes, thank them if you’re a customer and give them a boost if they start posting negatively. What if you’re continually faced with negativity within your organisation? Negative energy can be incredibly draining; however, it tends to come from those who are fearful of change or trap in negative cycles of their own. However just as negativity is contagious, so is being positive.

As a leader, you can use even the smallest of success stories to infuse motivation. It’s also vital to live and breathe positivity so that you lead by example and allay any fear that may be taking hold.

Become an inspirational story

Sometimes negativity can take hold of us personally and doubt and anxiety are a natural outcome. By reminding ourselves to take a look at where we were and where we’ve come, and to focus on our own small success stories, we can re-focus and get back to the path of our journey towards our vision.

Even if things are not going to plan at the moment, you can use small successes as a tool to lead yourself in a positive way. By using ways to motivate your team by sharing success, you can take your energised positive self to work and practice optimism, gratitude and positive communication with those around you.

Try starting meetings by sharing good news and asking others to do the same. Perhaps if that feels too uncomfortable, try sharing a few positive stories with a few at lunchtime or simply praising a couple of new employees. The most effective leaders are those who are able to overcome adversity by planting positive seeds, fertilising them with optimistic energy and watching success grow and spread. Related: How to become a visionary leader

Ground positivity with reality ratios

One of the ways to motivate your team by sharing success is to look at the positive-to-negative ratios within your organisation. Psychologist John Gottman did some exploratory work on positive-to-negative ratios and, depending on these ratios, work and personal life are impacted. He suggested that the 5:1 (five positive mentions/moments to every oine negative) was the ‘Magic Ratio’ particularly in the longevity of marriages (2).

A recent study by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson and mathematician Marcial Losada identified that in organisations, teams with a positive-to-negative ratio greater than 3:1 were significantly more motivated. However, the studies also showed that the upper ratio was 13.1, in organisations where positivity was seen as completely blind optimism, employees found the enthused positivity as annoying and not a correct portrayal of reality (3).

So, what does this tell us? When looking to use success and optimism as a way to improve happiness and motivation in an organisation, keep it truthful and honest. Encouraging words, anecdotal tales and being thankful, can be enough for a leader to raise the levels of positive emotion and have a healthy ripple effect.

Effective leadership requires the need to look out for excellence in action. Rather than checking on others to see if a task is being done, instead their role should be to casually energise all those around them. Positive leaders shouldn’t be concerned with what they can get out of their employees; instead, they should be focussing on strengths and individual success stories.

Reframe the questions

In his blog post, ‘Attitudes are contagious, are yours worth catching’, Richard Branson talks about his simple tool for breeding positivity: reframing his questions. The entrepreneur explains: 'It’s how you ask the question.'

When launching his three airline companies, when asking customers questions, he never focussed on the negative aspects of the competition. Instead, they asked the market what they liked about flying and what they would like to see from airlines. 'Simply put: positive, proactive behaviour spurs positive, proactive behaviour' (4).

By reframing the questions, you can find ways to motivate your team by sharing success. Success can come in various forms including: opportunities of good in the world, proactive approaches to problems, comments on positive outcomes and saying yes rather than no.

As you can see, motivating others isn’t about ‘carrots and sticks’. Instead the exchange of positive energy using success as a dialogue can make others feel good personally and therefore good about their work.

At HotHouse we look at creative leadership and how innovative thinking can enable the sharing of success within a relevant context. Looking at nature and its environment as inspiration, to reframe some of the questions as leaders we are currently asking. Questions such as: how can we motivate those around us? How can we communicate what success looks like for each and every individual within our organisation? How can we turn negativity into positive energy around us, plant the seeds and watch it grow? By facilitating this creative thinking, as leaders we can increase happiness and workplace satisfaction and build towards our vision with enthusiasm and drive.


  1. Jeffrey Pfeffer, ‘How to ‘Lean In’ to power’ 
  2. Gottman, John; Gottman, Julie Schwartz (2018). The Science of Couples and Family Therapy: Behind the Scenes at the "Love Lab". New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393712742. 
  3. Postivity, by B. Fredrickson. Pages 101-104. Published online. 28 January 2010. 
  4. Virgin blog by Richard Branson, ‘Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?