How to create a positive mood in a team

“A positive mood supports a team’s flexibility and resilience.  “A team with a strong positive mood will be hopeful about the future and grateful for what is going well today,” wrote facilitators Marcia Hughes and James Bradford Terrell in Team Emotional and Social Intelligence  (2009).  Team members and leaders must also be sure, of course, to reality-test their optimistic ideas or they run the risk of unchecked expectations, leading to burnout.

“The authors list seven key ingredients that contribute to a positive team mood:

  • Curiosity
  • Perseverance
  • Positive, can-do attitude
  • Hopefulness
  • Attitude of abundance
  • Playfulness
  • Zest

“To promote a positive mood among your team, try gathering team members in pairs or small groups to answer the following questions; then discus responses as a large group:

  • How do you demonstrate a positive attitude as a team?
  • How do you demonstrate a long-term view and keep things in perspective?
  • Are playfulness and a sense of zest encouraged in your team?  If so, how?”

Quoted from page 119 in Bennett, L. M., Gadlin, H., Marchand, C. (2018). Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide. 2nd edn., National Institutes of Health Publication No. 18-7660, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, United States of America.

Hughes, M. and Terrell, J. B. (2009) Team Emotional and Social Intelligence:  Participant Workbook. San Francisco, CA:  Pfeiffer.


“How many times we have heard or even told students at a career fair, “If you do what you love, you will love what you do.”  It sounds so trite, so simplistic, and yet there is something about that phrase that people enjoy holding onto.

“When thinking about this in the context of the laboratory and a great collaboration, what is the driving force behind this commitment to solve a research quester together?  This is where passion comes in. We have used the words commitment, vision and mentorship--all of which are vitally important, and all derive from an inner passion and a relentless curiosity.  What could be more fun and more satisfying than finding other people with similar passions and interests with whom to unravel complexities and make new discoveries. 

“It is not just successful problem solving and discovery that lead scholars to work collaboratively.  Although it is not often discussed, one of the most compelling aspects of collaborative work is that it is fun. Anyone who visits a highly cohesive laboratory quickly notices that people work well together, there is a welcoming and enthusiastic environment, and the laboratory members are clearly comfortable working with each other.  In informal discussions with scholars, they often refer to having fun and point to the satisfaction that comes from being part of a team that works well together Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in economics, describes the delight he discovered in his collaboration with Amos Tversky:

“[W]e met in Jerusalem to look at the results and write a paper.  The experience was magical. I had enjoyed collaborative work before, but this was different.  Amos was often described by people who knew him as the smartest person they knew. He was also very funny, with an endless supply of jokes appropriate to every nuance of a situation.  In his presence, I became funny as well, and the result was that we could spend hours of solid work in continuous murth…[A]nd we were not just having fun. I quickly discovered that Amos had a remedy for everything I found difficult about writing.  With him movement was always forward…[A]s we were writing our first paper, I was conscious of how much better it was than the more hesitant piece I would have written by myself.” (American Psychologist, 2003)

“Kahneman’s remarks point to many of the best things that research collaborations can offer:  Complementarity in styles and abilities, enhanced quality of the final product, a deep satisfying connection to a colleague, and substantial doses of fun.

“Interestingly, recent research in the relatively new area of positive psychology supports these informal observations.  In a wide variety of settings, there are very strong correlations between people’s happiness in their work and their commitment to that work, their relationships with colleagues, and productivity. 

“More broadly, there is also research demonstrating the adaptive value of positive affect.  “Beyond their pleasant subjective feel, positive emotions, positive mood, and positive sentiments carry multiple, interrelated benefits” (Frederickson & Losada, 2005).  These benefits are both behavioral and physical. Among the noteworthy behavioral benefits of positive affect are an expanded scope of attention, increased creativity and intuition, and broadened behavioral repertoires. “

Quoted from page 128-29 in Bennett, L. M., Gadlin, H., Marchand, C. (2018). Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide. 2nd edn., National Institutes of Health Publication No. 18-7660, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, United States of America.

This material was written in the context of team science.  Our emphasis is broader.  Therefore we substituted "scholarship" or "research" for "science" in the text.  We left the title of the manuscript quoted as Team Science so it can be found.

Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678–686.