Becoming Ebenezer Scrooge: The Scarcity Mentality

It’s insidious. You’re sitting there alone in your counting house counting all your money, with the gleaming stacks of gold coins piled around you–just as they should be, eh? Your VP of Marketing (i.e., Bob Cratchit) has just left the room after reporting on a particularly successful year, and you didn’t give her the recognition and praise she so richly deserved (i.e., no more coal on the fire; it’s wasteful!).

“And, oh by the way, if you’d worked harder you could have gotten even more done, and you’re just not good enough all around! Stop feeling good about yourself and enjoying life right this instant! Did I say that out loud? Yikes!”

Oh no, it’s happening–you’re becoming Ebenezer Scrooge! When did you become so stingy with your praise and approval? Is there not enough to go around so that you need to hoard it for yourself? When did your business world become so miserly that you can’t share the wealth?

When did you adopt this scarcity mentality? Didn’t you once possess an abundance mentality, in which your business world seemed full of limitless possibility? What happened?

It’s easy to slip into the scarcity mentality. You have budgets and deadlines to meet, and you may have a manager or chairman breathing down your neck whose own scarcity mentality is limiting your options. It’s easy to let unrealistic fears of failure, disapproval, and loss of status start to limit your thinking so that you unwittingly start to become Ebenezer Scrooge. Bah, humbug indeed!

Remember, how you think leads to how you feel, leads to how you act, leads to the results you get. As a leader, you create your own self-fulfilling prophecy every day. If you think the business world is a place of scarcity, then you’ll feel afraid, you’ll act accordingly, and the results you get will be limited by your thinking. If you think the business world is a place of abundance, then you’ll feel optimistic and confident, you’ll act accordingly, and the results you get will be far superior.

Can you overdo the abundance mentality? Of course you can. Like anything else, it’s a matter of balance. If you adopt a Polyanna perspective and don’t acknowledge legitimate downside risks in people and situations, then you’ll get burned. You still have to be realistic and sensible in your business outlook; just not niggardly.

However, in my work with leaders I see much less of the Polyanna Syndrome than I do the Ebenezer Scrooge Syndrome. We men are the worst, too. We tend to spend so much time being “tough” and “frugal” with our emotions (especially our approval) that we miss many opportunities to capitalize fully on the emotional and financial wealth within our reach.

This wealth is called happiness and success. Give it to yourself, and then share it with others.

What’s the worst thing that can happen if you’re generous with your approval? Will you be seen as “weak” somehow because you care about others? Will your followers become “cocky” and “lazy?”

The answer is “no” on both counts. What will happen is that your followers will become more energized, more optimistic, and more ambitious in striving to achieve their goals and those of the business. These don’t sound like things to fear.

Truly, who’d want to follow stingy old Ebenezer Scrooge anyhow?

Techniques

  1. Choose to see your business world as full of abundance and possibility–don’t let unrealistic fears limit you unnecessarily.
  2. Be nurturing toward yourself–you usually treat others like you treat yourself.
  3. Be nurturing toward others–it’s the number one determinant of leadership success or failure.
  4. Be generous with your praise and approval–everybody wins, and it’s the cheapest motivational tool you’ll ever find (Ebenezer would be proud!).
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