Monday, March 31, 2008

Abundance vs. Scarcity Mindset

If you have ever read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you may remember the discussion of the abundance vs. the scarcity mindset. I haven't read it in a while so I am paraphrasing here. But the gist of it is, if you have a scarcity mindset, your view of the world tells you that opportunity is limited and that you need to compete with others in order to achieve success. If you have an abundance mindset, your view tells you that there are plenty of opportunities available to you, so it will not hurt you to help others along the way.

One of the sessions I attended at the Penn State Powerful Women Paving the Way Conference this weekend was a panel session called "Discovering your Leadership Style." In it, a woman in the audience discussed her fears that today's women are entering the workforce with a competitive attitude and are stepping on each other to achieve success. Her fear is that this creating an environment for women in business that is worse than the male-dominated environment it is replacing. Some women disagreed, but I was one who can see her point. I have been lucky enough to work in an environment where the women supported and helped each other, to the benefit of all. I have also worked in an environment where the women were cliquey and where I felt that I had to "watch my back."

I am not sure if this phenomenon is truly unique to women (think Mean Girls), or if we just notice it more or take it more personally because we don't expect women to be competitive with each other. Either way, I believe a competitive environment can create a toxic situation. Let me be clear though, I think "competitive" can carry both a positive and negative connotation. The positive meaning suggests that someone is capable and driven to succeed. I'm referring to the negative meaning, which suggests that someone views their coworkers as adversaries to be beaten in order to achieve personal success. I can tell you from my experience that it is not fun to work in such an environment, and it can hamper productivity.

Where does this scarcity mindset come from? Many people probably have a tendency to approach the world from one mindset or another to begin with. But I also believe that much of it comes from leadership. The team I worked on where the women supported each other? The leader of that team fostered an environment where the team's goals were all of our goals, and our individual accomplishments needed to support that goal. A failure of any one member would have meant failure for the team, and we were encouraged to help each other. The job where I felt the other women were competing with me? The leader of that group did not work to foster the team spirit. As cheesy as corporate team-building can sometimes feel, people notice when it is absent and make assumptions about leadership's priorities. Our goals were structured based on our leader's goals, and as a result people realized that individual accomplishments were what got you ahead. I assume many of these people felt that helping others achieve their goals would be to the detriment of their success.

So readers, I believe it is up to us, the future business leaders of the world, to make sure that we are fostering an abundance mindset at school and at work. Don't let Mean Girls happen to your team!


Ms. May said...

Awesome post! I've always worked in an environment full of women who for the most part have helped and supported each other along the way. I'm off to Kellogg this fall and must admit, having worked in academia since graduation, that I am slightly nervous about the cutthroat attitude I heard about especially when recruiting time comes around - yes, even at Kellogg, the supposedly touchy feely one of all the schools. My goal is to puruse a career in consulting when I graduate and I hope to God that I won't have to deal with scarcity minded women while simultaneously having to deal with the old boys club, or whatever the equivalent is called in the consulting world. Great blog!

tinydancer said...

Hi ms. may,
Thanks for your note! For what it's worth, I think consulting is a great place for women. Very progressive vs. other industries, at least based on my experience! Good luck at Kellogg!

Anonymous said...

I am a 40-yr-old large and round man, living my fantasies

I am a 40-yr-old large and round man, hoping against hope

I am a 40-yr-old large and round man, and I think the world's blind

I am a 40-yr-old large and round man... okay I'm running our of spontaneous ideas - will come back later :-)

Anonymous said...

and yes that earned u the blog listing - you can now even put it on your resume, it'll surely help get u your dream internship next yr ;-)

Chris Sherrod said...

I've never met a successful business person that had scarcity consciousness.

Chris Sherrod -

Bill Dueease said...

Tinydancer, you described what it takes for a team to win through supportive teamwork when you wrote: “The leader of that team fostered an environment where the team's goals were all of our goals, and our individual accomplishments needed to support that goal. A failure of any one member would have meant failure for the team, and we were encouraged to help each other.” Most men experience this process while they grow up in sports, where the only measure of success if for the TEAM to succeed. Members of a championship team are champions, regardless of their stature within the team. True leaders focus on the team winning. This is team abundance. Others in leadership positions, only focus on their own gains, (at the expense of others) This is team scarcity.

tinydancer said...

Bill -
Someone at the panel suggested that women traditionally have not learned how to succeed in teams because we haven't participated in sports to the extent of men. If this is true, the hopefully again my generation will change this because more and more women participate in sports these days.

Bill said...


Participating in team sports will help women to understand the teamwork concept. But it is not the only way. Think of the many collaborative activities girls and women participate in as they grow up. But the real key is for the leader of the team, whether male or female, to be team oriented to communicate and focus on the team vision, and not be selfish. Look at how many male CEO's lead their corporations to disaster recently by concentrating on risky, instant rewards to boost their own compensation at the expense of their corporations. They were NOT team leaders.

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Terry said...

I have a scarcity mindset and I see an abundance of opportunity...for others but not for myself.

Yes, I see opportunities all over the place. I spent a weekend in the Bay Area and identified two money-making opportunities which most people wouldn't even notice. (I noticed them because my local travel was mostly on foot and in a specific neighborhood - these opportunities would probably not be noticed by people driving cars or in most places outside the Bay Area.)

But since I have neither skills (no money to go to school to get skills and can't get financial aid), money (I am unskilled and unemployed and live on a poverty-level income), nor credit, I have been unable to exploit any of the myriad of opportunities I see around me.

andrea chiu said...

Scarcity is the most common problem of the society now a days due to poor government, graft and corruption. In able to supress this kind of problem we should do a move and help hand in hand .Also, we should always be open-minded in any situations.