Overcoming Safe Success Cultures


Ambition makes it nearly impossible to enjoy the success of others. You can shine, just don’t outshine me.

In addition, insecure bosses feel threatened when someone outshines them.

Furthermore, it’s hard to help others outshine you when you’re in the middle of an organization. A “shiner” might be promoted over you.

Safe success:

Organizations are filled with people who avoid threatening the boss. They practice safe success; success that doesn’t outshine the boss. Everyone knows you can shine just don’t shine too brightly.

Beyond honoring high performers:

Make it safe to help others shine. It’s easy to see performance and harder to remember those who helped it happen.

You get what you praise. The more you praise those who help others shine the more shiners you’ll get.

Avoid fixating on high performers and neglecting performance-helpers.

Help performance-helpers by honoring, acknowledging, and praising their efforts. Create cultures that lift those who enable the success of others.

  1. When someone’s subordinate shines, immediately go to their manager and lather them with praise. Say, “Mary, its incredible how you bring out the best in Bob.” Ask, “What are you doing to bring out Alice’s best?”
  2. Praise those who enable performance in private. Don’t dim the spotlight shining on high performers.
  3. Remember support staff. See and name their competencies, efforts, and achievements. Avoid saying stupid things like, “We couldn’t do this without you.”
  4. When it comes to leaders and managers, it’s not about what you do. It’s about what you help others do.


Walk around today praising those who help others perform. Don’t shift the spotlight from high performers, add a new one.


How can you lift those who lift others?