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Unleash Team Ambition: Powering Up Workplace Culture for Optimal Results


12 June 2023


Imagine a scenario: a team that has been collaborating for quite some time, yet they find themselves constantly stuck. They are trapped in a cycle of resentment and resignation, unable to break free no matter how hard they try. Their motivation is at an all-time low, and innovation seems like a distant dream.

Does this sound familiar? If you're a leader, chances are you have encountered a team like this at some point. But fear not - there is a way to break this cycle and cultivate a culture of ambition and innovation within your team. In this blog post, we will delve into how leveraging the ambition model and emotional intelligence can transform the atmosphere of your team, fostering a mood of ambition and innovation.

The Ambition Model

In any situation, you are faced with two choices that determine your response. The first choice involves assessing whether what you are confronted with is an unchangeable "fact," or if there are possibilities to explore.

If you perceive something as a fact, you will not invest efforts into changing it. However, if you see possibilities, you may choose to invest in trying to create change.

For instance, considering the speed limit of the road you are driving on as an unchangeable fact is a useful assessment, as it would not be worth your time and energy to try and alter it. On the other hand, if the speed limit on the road where you reside endangers you or your family, it would be more beneficial to perceive possibilities and take action to change the speed limit.

Once you have made the first choice of viewing the situation as unchangeable (fact) or having possibilities, you must make a second choice - how you position yourself in relation to the situation.

There are two fundamental ways to position yourself: you can oppose the unchangeability or possibility of the situation (depending on your initial assessment), or you can accept it. The interaction between these two choices gives rise to four emotions, as represented in the grid below.

Table 1. Ambition Model: Emotions that result from your interpretation of a situation

OPPOSE Resentment Resignation
ACCEPT Peace Ambition


When does Resentment arise?

Resentment arises when you oppose something that you believe you cannot change. For example, some individuals assess that they are unable to change their job, yet they constantly complain about it. Opposing something that is unchangeable is a tremendous waste of time and energy. When individuals on a team are consumed by resentment, it becomes nearly impossible to accomplish any productive work. They endlessly discuss how things should be different, but take no action to initiate change.

Acceptance can lead to peace

On the other hand, accepting things that you perceive as unchangeable leads to a sense of peace. Your energy becomes available to focus on areas where you believe you can make a difference. While this shift may seem simple in theory, it often requires significant effort, self-awareness, and self-management - two foundations of emotional intelligence - to transition from resentment to peace.

Why does Resignation arise?

Resignation is similar to resentment in that it is oppositional. However, in the case of resignation, it is opposing things that we might have the ability to influence. You can recognize resignation when you or others dismiss any possibilities that are presented. Phrases like "That would never work" or "No one would go along with that" are telltale signs of resignation.

Seeing possibilities can create a mood of ambition

When you shift away from opposition and accept that there are possibilities, you find yourself with choices instead of feeling like a helpless victim of circumstances. Your energy becomes available to engage with these possibilities, and your emotions shift from resignation to ambition. Similar to transitioning from resentment to ambition, shifting your emotional state from resignation to ambition requires significant effort, self-awareness, and self-management.

We have observed that these four emotional states are likely to manifest in various situations. Resentment and resignation act as major obstacles throughout the Cycle of Leadership and severely impact a culture's performance. On the other hand, peace and ambition infuse a culture with energy. Learning to recognize these emotions, discussing them openly, and actively working to shift them is an essential skill for achieving high performance.


Take a moment to consider the following:

  • Where in your life do resentment and resignation often emerge?
  • Do you notice these emotions appearing in others at work or home?
  • What are the consequences of these emotions for yourself and others?
  • What value would be gained from establishing a cultural norm of choosing peace and ambition within your organization or family?
  • What steps would be necessary to establish that cultural norm?

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