Abundance Mindset: Overcoming Culture Erosion to Create Safe & Healthy Workplaces - Part 3 of 4

November 17, 2015 | Lexy Thompson | HCI
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In Part 1 of this series we introduced the concept of an Abundance Mindset and the three different types of work environments: Abundance Based, Uncivil, and Abusive. Part 2 addressed the “Why bother?” and how to start detecting scarcity thinking. In Part 3, I want to focus on the solution piece of all this;

What can YOU do right now to affect positive change around you?

We’ll focus on individual based solutions here, and move into organizational culture solutions in Part 4.

Turn Scarcity Upside Down.

From stress behaviors to Abusive Conduct, there are a million and one ways Scarcity and Deficit thinking can creep in and start to dominate. Unlike Abundance practices, Scarcity behavior seems inherently natural. In the past, negative tendencies of society have been attributed to “human nature”. It’s just human nature to be defensive and/or aggressive.

In a lot of ways, that is true. We’ve all heard talk of our lizard brains; the primitive part of our brains similar in concept and capability to that of an actual lizard’s brain. This is the part of our brain that controls our instinct to freeze, fight or flee. As fortunate as this is in actual life or death situations, it can cause some huge problems in situations that really require our thinking brain to take charge. So, while it’s natural to want to protect ourselves when we feel our livelihood (job, reputation etc.) is in danger, we have a higher functioning capability that has the power to override these instincts.

In other words, calling it “human nature” is just a scapegoat for bad behavior.

On the Road to Abundance, There’s a Pit Stop at “Enough”.

Like all journeys, there are places to rest and detours along the way.  As we highlighted in Part 2, the journey starts with YOU. Taking an inventory of your behavior at work, on your team and in your social networks is a great place to start. Once you have the data points, explore the stories you are telling yourself about the data.  Here is an example of how we can take it a simple inquiry into scarcity in 30 seconds or less.

When your boss says:

“Can you come into my office, please? We need to talk about the Wiley account.”

Your lizard brain is desperately trying to fill in the blanks (our brains hate ambiguity) based on one simple principle: survival.

While your thinking brain would probably tell you:

“Gather all of your notes on the Wiley account and you’ll be ready to answer any questions you’re asked. You know this account in and out and it’s on track. You’ve got this.”

Your lizard brain (which gets to process things first and faster) is saying:

“What could she possibly want to know about that? If she is asking questions, something is wrong. Oh my gosh, you’re getting fired. It’s obviously because you didn’t respond to the client fast enough last weekend. If you lose this job, you won’t be able to pay your bills, which means you’ll be homeless and starve and then DIE! Defend yourself! Blame it on Clark. He sucks at his job anyway and you’ve been carrying his weight this whole time.”

All of that gets processed and sent out in the blink of an eye, before you even have time to rationalize anything. You just told yourself you are going to die based on one little question. So, when your boss asks to speak to you and you notice that flutter in your stomach and the lump in your throat:

  • Take a deep breath,
  • Focus on the FACTS (my boss wants to know about the Wiley account. Period.), and
  • Weed out the STORY (you’re getting fired and it’s all Clark’s fault)

This is where ENOUGH comes in. When you are able to recognize you have enough, you can start to lift your head and look beyond yourself; this is where the flow of Abundance can come into your vision.  It is quite literally the place where you shift from playing “not to lose” to “playing to win”. 

"I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin," says Brene Brown.

"The opposite of 'never enough' isn't abundance or 'more than you could ever imagine.' The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what I call Wholeheartedness ... vulnerability and worthiness: facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough."

Creating room for Abundance to show up

While enough is an important step, it remains close to scarcity and the hold it has on innovation and risk taking can still be very strong.  This is where your personal and organizational mission, vision and strategy should lead to a future state.  The ability to see and eventually feel a new way of being and doing is one of the most vital pieces of living abundantly; an organization reaches a tipping point when more of the team members embody this abundance mindset than are not. It really can start with just one.  All of the conversations about setting and communicating a vision really do matter.  There is no need to carve it into the wall, just be it, live it and reap the amazing rewards that come from it. 

Caution: it is not a one and done event, it is a part of your ecosystem, so it will ebb and flow.  Like anything worth doing, it will be a bit cumbersome at the beginning and easier over time.  We will explore the role of accountability as the key aid to the sustainability of an abundance mindset in our final post, Part 4.