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The Multifaceted Lens Of Success – How It Shapes And Misshapes Team Dynamics

Written by: Marisa Murray, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Marisa Murray

When you think about the word success, what immediately comes to mind? For a child playing soccer, success might mean scoring a goal before the end of the season For a high school senior, it could be getting accepted into their dream college. For a retiree, it might be finally taking the big family vacation they worked so hard for.

Three arrow on yellow target

It’s completely normal for each person to define success a little differently based on their stage of life and individual goals. No one has a problem with this.


The problem is when someone assumes their view of success is the only view of success. This is where it can all go awry.


One of the most common blind spots I see in the workplace is this concept of Differing Views of Success, which I like to define as “Actions people take or ways they behave because they are focused on different goals.”

Businesses can often assume that when they set a corporate goal, such as a sales metric or another measurable outcome, that they are addressing this blind spot. But even if you have done the work to define a public metric for success, this doesn’t always translate to how individuals view their personal success within the metric. And it’s here—on the individual level—where differing views of success can create friction and derail goals, both for individuals and teams.


The dopamine effect


Many of us form our individual view of success based on our experiences growing up. For example, maybe your parents rewarded you for achieving accolades in school—money for good grades or loads of affectionate praise. Every time this happened, your brain received a hit of dopamine.


And because dopamine makes us feel good, our brains say, “Hey, that was great! Let’s go get some more!” As a result, we continue to seek out dopamine based on what worked in the past. In very little time, this becomes an intrinsic motivator of success, shaping your view of success itself. In computer terms, it codes your brain with a specific “success algorithm."

For many years, too much of my own success algorithm was defined by the job title I held as well as how many promotions and/or how much money I made. What began as game for getting good grades in school simply transitioned to the game of work. For me, success was defined as not only getting paid well but having a coveted title with prestigious companies.


Each win reinforces the dopamine effect, affirming to us internally, “Yes, this is what success looks like.” And while this may serve us well for a while, it can also narrow our vision, making us blind to how others view success, making us too self-aware and not others-aware.


Changing definitions


Whether we are conscious about it or not, our definition of success directs our behavior and influences how we individually express ourselves. Each of us can point to moments in our lives which validate our personal definitions for success. Yet this is what makes this blind spot tricky for leaders to navigate. When your growth is directly correlated to living out your view of success, leaders experience confusion and conflict when stakeholders call out their perceived strength as a character flaw.

For instance, take Phyllis. She prides herself on her ability to take control and right the ship in any crisis. Her quick decision-making and confidence has helped catapult her up the corporate ladder. Yet the final rung up to C-Suite suddenly seems out of reach when members of her team point out that she is too controlling and difficult to collaborate with.


Not only could this be frustrating for Phyllis—it turns everything she knows about success upside-down. She can’t see how the “take charge” attitude that helped her early on in her career is now squashing others. The strength which once made her empowered now seems to make her appear “toxic.”

Simply put, she needs to change her definition of success. It has to become more holistic to include not only her own view of success—but also others. How can she help them become successful?


Getting buy-in


Most leaders want to feel proud of their work and have positive connections with their team members. But a leader’s actions are more influential and can have a greater daily impact on a team because of the responsibilities which come along with their title. When a leader has difficulty seeing how their view of success clashes with the needs of their team members, this blind spot can actually hinder not only their impact, but the effectiveness of the company as a whole.


Thanks to dopamine, The Differing Views of Success blind spot is so ingrained in our minds that it can be one of the most difficult to change. When our view of success has helped lead us to raises, praise, and promotions, it solidifies the view into a fact within our subconscious. Our mind then becomes laser-focused on moving us toward this view no matter what.


Once the mind has developed its view of success, it becomes like a heat-seeking missile streaking toward its target. But when those coordinates are a little off, the results can be disastrous.


The answer is fairly obvious: To change your view of success, you have to work together with others to construct a new target—one that will gain the collective buy-in.

A new view of success


I had a big shift in my own leadership style when I realized my view of success needed an upgrade. I used to sit in project status meetings and would get “in the zone.” I’d fire out questions—bang, bang, bang! My motivation was to get through my questions as quickly as possible to find what I needed to escalate, what needed to be fixed, and everything in-between. I felt like the team meeting was just a necessary evil to quickly obtain the information I needed and then get out.


I’d review the status reports before the meeting and proceed to drill people with questions: “Why is this red? Why is this yellow?” and so on. That’s how I had learned to conduct a successful project status meeting, so that’s just how I conducted them too.

Eventually, I heard through the grapevine how much my team hated those meetings. Some people couldn’t sleep well the night before when they knew their area was struggling. I knew this wasn’t right. I needed to make a change so they didn’t dread meeting with me.


My view of success for project meetings changed from getting into the details as quickly as possible to connecting with my team instead. Taking a few minutes to check on how everyone was doing and find small ways to encourage and help each other throughout the meetings made such a difference!


Every leader wants success for themselves and their team. But when our view of success doesn’t align with those around us, it can actually derail what we’re trying to accomplish and move us further away from being successful.


Often leaders just need to take a step back and look at how things have changed over time since they developed their views on life in general. With some others-awareness and a few tweaks here and there, they can align to an upgraded view of success that encapsulates the view of others.


The main shift you need to make is to take a step back to recalibrate for the right target. To do this, consider the following questions for both yourself and your team:

Self-reflection questions:

What does success look like to me in my role?

Who are all the stakeholders who will judge my success?

What is their definition of success for my role?

What trade-offs do I need to balance so I don’t overdo it?

Team-reflection questions:

How do we define success as a team?

Who are all the stakeholders who will judge our success?

What is their definition of our success as a team?

What trade-offs do we need to balance between stakeholders?

To see some specific examples of how leaders have shifted their views of success, I share three true life case studies in my latest book Blind Spots: How Great Leaders Uncover Problems and Unleash PerformanceOnce you can align your view of success to include success for others, you’ll be amazed at how it unlocks everyone’s true potential.

P.S. Want to gain invaluable insights into your blind spots right now that’s why we built Get the feedback you need for free today.

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Marisa Murray Brainz Magazine

Marisa Murray, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Marisa Murray is a leadership expert and executive coach with three Amazon best-sellers: Work Smart, Iterate!, and Blind Spots. She is CEO of Leaderley International and a TEDx speaker, dedicated to helping individuals and teams achieve superior performance. Her epiphany that "Blind Spots are the Key to Breakthroughs" inspired the creation of, an AI-powered tool democratizing feedback access. Recognized by Manage HR magazine in the Top 10 Emerging Executive Coaching Companies for 2023, Leaderley serves clientele from the upper echelons of Fortune 500 companies. Through Marisa's writing, coaching, speaking, or 360s—her mission is to cultivate leaders that accelerate positive change.



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