Shifting from a Scarcity Mindset

Pas de place pour deux -- Not enough space for two

Last week, I met someone who talked about how Philadelphia wasn’t a great city. When I asked her why, her answer was that the lack of money was the root of its problems. Most people I have met talk about what a wonderful city it is and how the community has worked together to make it better. I have been thinking about that for much of this week as I dealt with budgets and allocated resources to various projects and initiatives.

My thoughts have been around how the core belief that resources are scarce is at the root of so much of what we do and think. The quote from Lynne Twist. In her book The Soul of Money, defines the mindset of scarcity really well.

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of.… Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack.… This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.…”

As I have been mulling this over this week, I thought about the concept of abundance that I read and learned about in my MBA program. The idea that we just need to be creative to make the pie bigger so that there is more to divide is still rooted in the idea of scarcity and focused on getting MY share of the limited quantities of stuff that are available.

Brene Brown defines scarcity as the “never enough” problem and proposes that to move away from a scarcity mindset, we need to develop a belief that we are enough that is satisfied internally rather than externally. This core belief gives us the courage and confidence to share our ideas and ask for what we need without being dependent on external praise or deflated by criticism from others. It also opens us up to incorporate different ideas and truly partner with others. The real magic happens when we feel as much joy in others’ success and good fortune as we feel in our own.

This rings very true for me and my experience. I spent years doing what I call the ego hustle. Constantly feeling inadequate and focused on what I didn’t have. I struggled to drive my agenda and get through my long list of to-dos, believing that if I just worked hard enough, I would be successful and feel better about myself.

I have learned to recognize the thoughts of “never _____ enough” that consume my energy and divert my focus. When I can redirect my energy and focus on being a positive leader, then I am able to discern the most important things I need to accomplish, have the focused attention to get them done, and find others very willing and able to help. How I work now is so different than how I have worked in the past and it is so much more fun and effective.

My challenge to you this week is to notice whether you have a scarcity mindset. How much time and energy do you spend worrying about “never ____ enough?” The first step toward changing is always awareness.


Photo credit: Gilles Gonthier –

The Shiny Factor


One of the great things about starting a new job and moving to a new place is the “shiny” factor.  When things are new, they are shiny and exciting and give a sense of wonder and possibility. As you can imagine, I have experienced many new things as I have made this transition. Here is my short list.

The people
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of meeting new people. I don’t have history with any of the people that I am meeting, so we are “shiny” to each other. Every new interaction is an opportunity. It gives me a chance to hear stories and learn about the individuals, and thus about the place since culture is formed by the shared stories. I am approaching these interactions with freedom and authenticity and curiosity. Instead of being worried if the other person likes me, I am focused on understanding and learning about them. I have been very conscious of even my small actions when meeting others because every interaction is a chance for me to define myself as a positive leader to the other person.

The mass transit system
As I was leaving work yesterday, I casually mentioned to an out-of-town friend on the phone that I was going to catch the subway. Her reaction was, “That is so cool!” That has been my reaction as well.  I love the easy access to transportation and have found that taking the subway is a non-stressful way for me to get quickly to and from work. I was also able to take the train into New York this past week. It was so easy and fast. I was nervous, so I got to the train station early, but didn’t need to. It reminded me of how air travel used to be with quick boarding and the ability to show up just before you are scheduled to leave. I was in New York in just an hour and twenty minutes.

The food
Philadelphia is a foodie town and I am loving it. The variety and excellence of the food choices is wonderful. Because there are so many options, I expect the shininess of this to last a long time.

The biking
The Schuylkill River trail is only a couple of blocks from my house and it is beautiful. I can easily get a 30-40 minutes workout in the morning before work. There is also an active biking community with lots of organized rides and events. And there are serious hills here to challenge me and improve my biking!

The museums
Philadelphia has many high quality museums and most are within walking distance from my house. My husband and I went to the Barnes Foundation on Sunday afternoon. The first Sunday of every month is free to the public and we took advantage of the offer. It is such an amazing collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork that rivals any Paris museum.

What I have noticed is that the shiny mindset happens because I am open to a new experience and curious about what is going to happen and usually quite hopeful and optimistic about the possibilities. When I am familiar with things, I think I already know what is going to happen and stop being open and curious. I also have noticed that I tend to focus on what I don’t like when things become routine. So the key to sustaining a shiny mindset even when things are not new is to remain open, curious, and optimistic.

My challenge to you this week would be to try to approach one relationship or activity as if it were shiny and new to introduce some wonder into your world.


Photo Credit: Amtrak 30th Street Station – Von I, Mtruch, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Crowdsourcing Culture Change

My first week at Temple has been great. Everyone has been very welcoming and I loved getting to meet individual team members and hearing their ideas. Many of the ideas that I heard this week, and also in the weeks before I started, were about changing the culture.

Establishing a supportive and innovative culture is my most important job as a leader.  It is also one of the most challenging things to do. This is not something any one person can do alone. Each group defines its culture together, either intentionally or unintentionally.

This week, we started to intentionally create a new culture together by crowd sourcing ideas from the entire Computer Services team. I invited everyone to come to a meeting and we did two liberating structure exercises to identify the top things that the team would like to change.

The first exercise was to identify what we should STOP doing. We did this by having each person in the room design the most demotivating work environment that could imagine. The power of asking the opposite of what you want to achieve is that it is unexpected and opens the thinking of the group. The second step of this exercise was to identify which demotivating things we were currently doing as a team. The final step was to prioritize the top two things we would like to stop, with a concrete first step on moving forward. Each step of the exercise is done by having each individual do their own thinking, then share their thoughts with one other person at their table, then discuss the ideas as a table before sharing their ideas with the entire group.

The report out from the tables was fun and it was very clear immediately that the team wanted  to stop requiring salaried employees to clock in and out each day,

The second half of our all team meeting was to generate bold ideas of what we could do. This exercise is done by having each person generate one bold idea of how to make the culture of the team better with the first step that they would take to make their idea happen.  The ideas are written on one side of an index card. Then everyone in the room stands up, exchanges cards and rates others’ ideas on a scale from 1-5, with 5 representing a terrific idea that they could fully support.

This exercise turned out to be a little chaotic with so many people in the room. While not perfect, the exercise did work and the group generated several ideas that got top ratings.

Like the first exercise, the majority of the ideas centered around one theme. The team really wanted to establish flexible work schedule options, including telecommuting. This is something that is important to me as well and we will work together to define guidelines for the team in the coming month.

I have already taken concrete steps based on the suggestions from the meeting. Eliminating clocking in and out for salaried employees was an easy thing to accomplish which I did by sending out an email at the end of the week. One team member tweeted about clocking out for the last time, which made me smile.

We will all meet again next month and will assess the progress that we have made on the creating more flexible schedules for the team. We will also work together on other aspects of the culture.

My challenge for you this week is to think about the culture that you are either intentionally or unintentionally creating in your team and identify if it is the culture you want. If it isn’t, think about how you can involve the entire team to start to shape your culture more intentionally together.

Photo taken by ITU pictures –