Tag Archives: Organizational effectiveness

Combating a culture of scarcity.

Water drop in glass by Nick Kean

Growing up poor, I understand the scarcity mentality.  Never having enough money makes you view the world in a particular way.  There’s the sense of impermanence – what you have today likely won’t be there tomorrow.  The constant fear of upheaval.  Learning not to expect much.  Decision-fatigue.  You hear stories of hardship making you stronger, and maybe that’s true, but mostly it makes you anxious and unsettled, even when things are good.

The same is true in an organization.  An atmosphere of scarcity leads to an underdeveloped infrastructure and undervalued employees.  It also creates limiting behaviors across your team.  Scarcity makes people risk-averse.  It teaches them to protect what they have.  To fear failure.  And these are not characteristics you want in your team.  You want your team focused on what they CAN do, not on what they don’t have.  Your team needs the confidence to try new things, to risk failure, to shoot for crazy goals.  Without that, you’re not going to get the results you need as a manager.

So how do you combat a culture of scarcity?  You probably don’t have control over resource allocation decisions at an organizational level.  But you can have an impact on how your team responds to their situation.

Start with yourself and recognize when you use scarcity language.  Stop talking only about what you lack and focus on articulating what is possible.  The “Yes, and…” technique is amazing for reframing your language and opening up creative possibilities.  Share your grand vision and set bold goals.

We often respond to a sense of scarcity by assuming we need more help.  Have you ever been on a team that didn’t feel overworked?  I haven’t.  We always assume that if we could just hire one more person – maybe an admin to pick up all the little tasks that bog us down – we could get on top of it.  But work expands to fit the number of people there are to do it.  So look for efficiencies within your current head count.  Perhaps it’s training on time management.  Or a workflow analysis to highlight non-value-added activities.  Find the person on your team with the most effective approach to a process and then share that out.  Encourage your team to learn from each other to foster a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment.

A scarcity mentality is fed by a lack of information.  Human nature tends toward worst-case scenario thinking.  When we don’t have all the details about a given situation, we fill in the blanks from our imagination.  Or from past experience – Last time we fell short of quarterly numbers, there was a layoff.  So this time, the same thing will happen.  Avoid this by creating a culture of transparency and share as much information as you can with your staff.  You may not control all the decisions that affect your team but you can earn their trust and respect by being a resource and an ally.


How about you?  How have you experienced a culture of scarcity?


(Photo by Nick Kean via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)



Get on the list: Email you’ll look forward to reading.

Mailbox Peak by Rodrigo Hermann (cropped)

We hear a lot about how people are overwhelmed with email – how they dread the barrage of constant information.  But I’m not sure that the amount of email is the whole problem.  I think it’s more a question of quality.  There’s mundane, useless email and then there’s thoughtful, content-rich email.

Below are a few folks that I look forward to seeing in my inbox because I’ve found them to consistently add value.


iDoneThis is not only a great daily productivity tool for individuals and teams, but they also offer a well-curated weekly newsletter.

What you get:

  • An “appetizer” selection of links from the iDoneThis blog
  • An “entree” exploring how people and companies do their best work.
  • A “dessert” question, quote, or other inspiration

(There was mention of possible changes to the schedule recently, so don’t hold me to the weekly part).


Ann Friedman is a freelance columnist who writes about politics, gender and culture.  I look forward to The Ann Friedman Weekly arriving in my inbox every Friday.

What you get:

  • Links to Ann’s own writing
  • Links to what Ann finds interesting in pop culture
  • Pie charts
  • GIFspirations


Jeff Goins, of Goins, Writer, offers a variety of advice on “better writing and living” and his passion for the work comes through in his email newsletter.

What you get:

  • Thoughtful essays on writing, creating value and building a community
  • Insider access to the author’s eBooks and other resources


I’ve recommended Satya Inayat Khan‘s Unfolded Note before but I find the format so original, I have to keep telling you about it.  I don’t always read them when they arrive at 3:00am but it has happened.

What you get:

  • Reflections on parenting and human connection
  • One beautifully written story per email


I also like:
Tara Gentile
Sarah Von Bargen

How about you?  What email lists would your recommend?


(Photo by Rodrigo Hermann via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)