The Antidote to Toxicity and Burnout? Celebrate the Small Wins

For over two decades, I’ve worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes, from Coca-Cola to a small window cleaner in Edinburgh. I’ve occupied every rung of the ladder, from being powerless at the bottom to steering from the top. I’ve complained about poor management and have also been the kind of leader I once criticised. I’ve lived and learned. These experiences have taught me that personal growth is universal regardless of where you are or who you are.

Every leader wants to achieve something meaningful. I don’t believe anyone starts with ill intent. If they seem malicious, it’s often due to inexperience or ignorance. Most of us learn from our mistakes, even if we get burned a few times in the process.

In pursuing growth, the critical lesson I’ve learned is this: celebrate the wins, no matter how small.

It’s all too easy to focus on failures, to magnify mistakes, and to dismiss successes as inconsequential. However, this approach sets a dangerous precedent. When we fail to recognise and celebrate wins, it breeds a sense of resentment. Morale plummets, negativity takes hold, and even the most dedicated team members start to question their value. The impact on team dynamics and individual self-worth cannot be overstated.

Wins don’t come easily, especially in uncertain economic times. Frameworks like OKRs add more pressure to already-strained teams. When your team projects 2X growth, demanding 10X isn’t the way to inspire them. Some challenges require more time, resources, or a different approach. It’s crucial to find a balance.

Set goals that include both small and large bets. The small wins provide the immediate gratification that keeps the momentum going, while the big bets keep the broader vision alive. Teams enter a long, bleak stretch of losing battles without those more minor achievements. Even the most resilient will struggle to stay motivated, and when morale cracks, the fractures will only deepen.

Strive to be the kind of leader who sets high standards but also values and celebrates small victories. I’ve unfortunately witnessed leaders who bring unresolved trauma from their past into the workplace, pushing their teams to the brink in an attempt to replicate the strict standards imposed on them. This pattern inevitably leads to a toxic environment.

There’s a reason teams loathe goals and KPIs. These often end up being unfairly wielded against them. They face these experiences directly or through a demoralising network of stories from friends and colleagues. Neglecting to celebrate small successes creates a breeding ground for toxicity, which spreads like wildfire. A burned-out team can drag down your entire business, potentially even reversing growth. Is it worth it?

Instead, listen to your team. Understand their challenges and give them a purpose and a path to achieve them. Recognise their effort and give them the time and resources needed to succeed.

Find the positives and celebrate them. It’s the antidote to toxicity and burnout that can help you and your team achieve your growth goals.

» Need a Strategic Growth Partner to help grow your business sustainably? Check out what we achieve together. I offer my services through my business, Unlock Growth.