Are You a ‘Never Enough’ Leader?

Jeff Gaines

Are You a ‘Never Enough’ Leader?

The “Never Enough” Mindset comes from the belief that no matter what you do or have, it won’t be enough. This mindset is buried deep into the American culture and many companies unwittingly reinforce it every day and in a variety of ways.

A good example is workload. The average employee has more to do than he or she can possibly get done. It’s essentially designing failure into each person’s daily experience and then hoping it causes them to try harder.

Why do companies do this? It’s the “Never Enough” Mindset at work. Have you ever had a manager tell you, “Hey, great job! You did enough today.” Instead the unspoken and sometimes spoken message is, “You didn’t do enough.” If you feel like you didn’t do enough, you don’t have enough or you are not enough, the obvious answer is more. The unending quest for more is what fuels the “Never Enough” Mindset. It can be a vicious circle because that more will never be enough.

There is logic to this approach, but only if you ignore the realities of human behavior that emotional intelligence teaches. In other words, it makes sense logically, but not emotionally. There is a maximum amount of work a person can possibly get done in a day. That is a difficult level to assess. The thinking is you don’t want to give a person less than that amount, because then he or she will stop when they reach it. Instead give them more than they can do so that they always have something to reach for, always more that they can work on. In reality, this just ends up de-motivating people. Nothing fuels a person’s drive and intrinsic motivation more than success and few things kill it more than failure.

A while back my wife sat down for her annual performance review. Her boss started by saying, “OK. Everything is on a five point scale, but nobody gets a five.” My wife thought, “Why do we have fives?” She left that review feeling like there was nothing she could have done to have won. And if persons feel like they can’t win, sooner or later, most will stop trying. They will then spend their days doing what they have to do to stay out of trouble.

Burying people in an unachievable mountain of work is just one of the ways the “Never Enough” Leader hinders his or her workforce. Some other common examples are using carrots and sticks to motivate, failing to track the trends around them, using a one-size-fits-all leadership style, not building relationships with the people they lead, constantly giving advice and answers rather than helping people solve their own problems, failure to collaborate, and running from crisis to crisis while not making time to prevent them, often because their boss has buried them in a mountain of work. 

It is a leader’s job to maximize the amount of work that a company can produce. While you do need to strive for more, you don’t have to generate discontent in order to do that. Since most employees come to work with the “Never Enough” Mindset already installed in their brains, it is essential for a leader to learn what that mindset is and how to avoid feeding it.

To learn about the three drivers of behavior and see how to escape the “Never Enough” Leadership traps, visit

About the Author

Jeff Gaines has been a speaker, author and consultant in the field of personal and professional development for the past 18 years. Some of his larger clients have been ESPN, Charles Schwab, NY Life, Yahoo, Head Start, Lojack, Dunkin Brands, and Coke. Jeff also works with many small and mid-size companies, as well as non-profit and government agencies.

His areas of expertise include emotional intelligence, intrinsic motivation, the application of neuroscience to change management, leadership, communication, conflict management, customer service, sales and employee wellness. See more about Jeff Gaines and his book “Never Enough Nation: Managing Your Health, Wealth, and Stress,” co-authored with Jim Sorensen, at