Is A Scarcity Mentality Keeping You From Being A Good Leader?

A Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.

People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. They also have a a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people. Yet it is a scarcity mentality that prevails in funeral service and gives rise to so much of the infighting that holds us all back.

One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to develop people by empowering them.  But this doesn’t mean just giving people the keys to the vault and hoping for the best.  It is hard and complicated work.

Almost 40 years ago an article appeared that has since become a classic.  Entitled: “Who’s Got the Monkey?” it used a charming metaphorical style to illustrate how we often voluntarily become subordinates to our subordinates.  Characterizing problems as monkeys we learn that by assuming every problem is a joint problem we actually unwittingly cooperate in this game of transferring monkeys.

Over time, it becomes harder and harder to tell who is working for whom!

The essence of staff development is teaching people to manage their own monkeys

This makes sense and the article goes on to describe a very precise method for transferring monkeys back to their rightful owners.   Also included is an equally precise outline for the care and feeding of monkeys:

  1. Monkeys should be fed or shot
  2. The monkey population should be kept below the maximum number the manager has time to feed
  3. Monkeys should be fed by appointment only
  4. Monkeys should only be fed face-to-face or by telephone
  5. Every monkey should have an assigned next feeding time

How A Scarcity Mentality Hinders Your Ability To Manage Monkeys and Develop People

25 years after the original publication of “Who’s Got the Monkey?” Steven Covey published a followup article entitled: “Making Time For Gorillas” In which he very accurately observed that we had made little progress in the development of leadership styles beyond the “Command And Control” style that prevailed at the time of the original publication.  “Command and Control” is one of the two dominant leadership styles in funeral service.

Covey’s insight included the observation that for leaders to successfully manage monkeys they must first invest in developing their people.  “Command and Control” types are reluctant to do that.  Worse,

They are actually eager to take on their subordinate’s monkeys.

“…many managers may subconsciously fear that a subordinate taking the initiative will make them appear less strong and a little more vulnerable.” Says Covey

Covey also tells us that surveys report that executives feel half or more of their time is spent on matters that are urgent but not important.  They are trapped in an endless cycle of dealing with other people’s monkeys...reluctant to help those people take their own initiative.

If I were a “Command and Control” type here is what I would do:

  1. Download and read the original articles by clicking on the image below
  2. Let my wife and kids read it so they would have a better understanding of why I never have time for them
  3. Share it with my staff
  4. Get over myself and start making the investment in my people so that I could trust them and I could enjoy my life.
It’s your choice.



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