As individuals, most of us operate to some degree of either an abundancy or scarcity mentality. Our mindset alone can mean the difference between massive success, abject failure, or something in between. Entire organizations function under one or the other approach, too. Likewise, the approach can mean the difference between massive success and endless mediocrity. In her article, Seven Ways a Scarcity Mindset Holds You Back, Lucy Smith methodically explains things we do as individuals that keep us from reaching our full potential. Consider what happens when those with a scarcity outlook advance to leadership positions.
Leaders who operate in a state of scarcity can stifle entire organizations, discourage their teams, and deflate morale. Worse yet, they tend to attract people with the same mindset, creating a cycle of negativity and underperformance. If negativity persists inside your organization regardless of the incentives you offer, it could be time to shuffle the deck. Take inventory of leadership styles from top down.
Are members of your leadership team truly open to new ideas? Paying lip service to employees is not a winning strategy. Regularly soliciting input without ever implementing suggestions or giving associates the latitude to explore their ideas will eventually leave employees demoralized and distrustful.
Rather than responding “no” reflexively to suggestions, try asking “what does that look like?” or “how can we make that work?” Employees who have to dance around an idea until their managers make it their own will eventually grow weary of managing up and either become unproductive or leave the organization.
Leaders with a scarcity mindset aim to make themselves look good at the expense of their team. Under the guise of authority, they devote an inordinate amount of energy on blame, projection, and manipulation. They have constant turnover on their teams because they tread water rather than coach. Instead of celebrating teamwork, they fear it and may even mock it. They take credit for the work of the team and only share recognition when the accolades reflect upon them. Fear is their primary motivator, making them defensive and self-centered.
Team players, on the contrary, tend to have an abundance mindset. They are confident about the contributions of each team member to the overall goal and they seek to share in the effort and reward. They are positive and motivated by common goals, operating under the mantra “a rising tide lifts all boats.” When looking to promote from within, look first at teams with members who are loyal, committed, and operate with a sense of purpose. Look at those who go out of their way to help coworkers succeed, even at the expense of their own reward and recognition. Sales guru and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “You’ll get everything you want out of life if you help enough people get what they want.” Identify individuals in your organization who put others first; they are your future leaders.
Think you can’t infuse an abundant mindset into employee development? Think abundantly! Begin with one individual at a time. Introduce the topic, reminding valued employees that developing an abundant mindset is not difficult, but it takes commitment. The trick is to heed the advice of grandma—count your blessings. Zig Ziglar demonstrates a form of this in his talk “I hate my job,” where he challenges a disgruntled employee to make a list of all the things she loves about her job and then read, morning and night, each item on the list in the sentence, “I love my job because ….”
Another version of this gratitude exercise is to make a conscious effort at the end of every day to identify at least three things that went well that day and for which you are grateful. Keeping these in a journal is recommended and there are gratitude apps to assist. Why not encourage and challenge employees to do this? Perhaps hold daily stand-up meetings devoted to pointing out workplace positives. We hold meetings around some of the most mundane topics. How motivational and fun would it be to throw into the mix an alternate type of meeting?
Given the state of society in 2020, it appears too many have been lulled into a scarcity mindset. In extreme cases, negativity has morphed into victimhood mentality. It seems most of us have stopped counting our blessings, smelling the roses, and seeing the forest for the trees. Recently, I came across a blog by Alyssa Ahlgren, “My Generation Is Blind to the Prosperity Around Us.” While I agree with the premise, I do not agree that this blindness is limited to her generation. Rather, the lack of gratitude for that which we as a society have accomplished on many fronts is an unfortunate phenomenon gripping all generations.
Just as individuals will realize success by adopting a mindset of abundance and an attitude of gratitude, entire organizations can do the same. It starts with strong leaders. Choose and develop leaders wisely, and if the ship is headed toward high ground, steer it in another direction. Take a page out of Jim Collins’s famous work and go from Good to Great by putting the right people in the right seats on the bus.