Have you ever worked with someone who had a scarcity mentality? In business and in life, these people believe that opportunity is a finite resource; if somebody else is successful, they feel the sting of their own failure rather than empathetic happiness for the other person. In fact, their whole belief system is governed by winning at all costs—even at the expense of friends, colleagues, customers and family members.
As a leadership keynote speaker, I meet all kinds of people, including many like the unfortunate composite drawn above. I’ve met high-level leaders who can’t acknowledge the people who did the actual work, because they feel it diminishes their own contribution. I’ve met people who can’t share recognition, profit or power—whose own significant insecurities prevent them from celebrating anyone else’s success.
But as Steven Covey, best-selling author and one of the founding fathers of the leadership keynote speaker circuit, said: “The abundance mentality is the paradigm that there is plenty out there, and enough to spare for everybody. It results in the sharing of prestige, recognition, profits and decision-making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity.”
Leading from this place creates and environment of openness and innovation—which ultimately leads to a stronger business. Here are three tips for fostering an abundance mentality in your company.
1. Approach Mistakes Like a Coach.
When an employee makes a mistake—whether it’s a poorly written memo, a budgeting error or a badly thought-out strategy—use that moment to coach rather than criticize. What’s the difference? A critic will get angry; point out shortcomings without suggesting solutions; even take the task back and re-do it themselves! This is when the sports analogy is particularly fitting, because a coach is never actually IN the game; he or she is always on the sidelines, fostering wholly independent choices in his or her players.
There is nothing to be gained from re-doing your subordinates’ work, or making them guess what you want. And, while we’re going down this path, there’s everything to be gained from being accountable for your own mistakes! If your employee’s do-over is due to a lack of direction from you, own up immediately, then make it right by providing what was missing in the first go-round. If the original direction was solid, I often begin by asking the employee to take a second look at what was asked of them, then coaching as needed.
2. Encourage Creative Solutions.
Particularly in companies that have been successful for many years, it’s easy to rely on established ways of doing things—it’s got you this far, after all. As a leadership keynote speaker, I come across these situations so often, and my advice is always the same: complacency is an absolute killer. Regardless of what’s been successful in the past, you should encourage curiosity and reward creativity.
One example I found particularly compelling is Kaylin, a creative director for a travel gear company. When asked to find an external agency partner to produce a series of videos, she instead called a meeting with her in-house photography team. Though nobody on the team had personal experience in creating video, their existing equipment did have the capabilities to produce it—and they were all willing to learn a new skill.
Kaylin’s decision to keep the project in-house not only shaved about $120K from the annual marketing budget, it also demonstrated to her team (a) that she believed in their abilities to stretch beyond what was normally asked of them, and (b) that outside-the-box thinking was an instinct they should follow. The resulting video series went on to net the company $12M in less than a year. Now that’s a win/win!
3. Give Recognition and Reward.
In a scarcity environment, recognition of another’s success is only calling into stark belief your own lack of accomplishments. But is that an environment in which anybody wants to stay? Recognition, whether it’s for a creative solution, a particularly well-executed task or even just pure dedication—even if it’s not tied to something specific—is one of the most effective leadership tools you in your arsenal. What is even more amazing is how few organizations do this well.
Bob is the General Manager for a large, successful retail store, with more than 50 sales associates on his team. At a recent leadership keynote speaker event, he insisted that his company’s “Associate of the Month” award motivated the team not because of the financial bonus it carried, but because of the peer recognition and praise they received from their managers and colleagues. “It is a HUGE motivator for our team,” Bob said. “I can’t understand why anyone with a team of people working for them wouldn’t do something like this to recognize their top performers.”
The Bottom Line
A CEO of a multi-billion dollar software company put it best when asked about the many things that his organization had achieved during the past ten years. He was quick to praise his management team and said, “We take it as a given that you need to have the skills and the experience to come and work as part of our team. Then we look to hire those who have a positive outlook and an attitude of abundance. This is what helped us to grow revenues and profits even during the tough times of the recent economic downturn.”
If you can lead in a way that encourages collaboration, then you will build an abundance mentality which promotes what is best for the organization and its customers. More creative ways of doing things are discovered, and a win/win philosophy becomes the norm. The three practices above are a great start.