Scarcity Breeds Clarity

    By John Spence

    John Spence

    We are currently facing a time of great uncertainty. Political, economic, environmental, and social issues are creating significant stress on organizations worldwide. During periods such as this, employees focus intently on the words and actions of their leaders. They long for stability. They want to be reassured that their leaders have a steady hand on the tiller.

    In July of 2022, Alphabet (Google) CEO Sundar Pichai sent a memo to Google employees to let them know how the leadership team was addressing the coming storm. Here are some excerpts that I think are especially noteworthy:

    Hi Googlers,

    Hard to believe we’re already through the first half of 2022. It’s the right opportunity to thank everyone for the great work so far this year, and to share how my Leads and I are thinking about H2.

    He starts by recognizing how hard the team has worked and that he appreciates their efforts. In this atmosphere, you should triple down on giving genuine and specific praises to the employees at your credit union.

    The uncertain global economic outlook has been top of mind. Like all companies, we’re not immune to economic headwinds. Something I cherish about our culture is that we’ve never viewed these types of challenges as obstacles. Instead, we’ve seen them as opportunities to deepen our focus and invest for the long term.

    He doesn’t dance around the issue. He admits that things will be difficult and reminds them how they have successfully faced these difficulties in the past.

    In these moments, I turn to our mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. It’s what inspired me to join the company 18 years ago, and what makes me so optimistic about the impact we are able to have on the world. Knowledge and computing are how we drive our mission forward. That’s the lens we use to decide where to invest—whether it’s in areas like Search, Cloud, YouTube, Platforms and Hardware, the teams that support them, or in the AI that enables more helpful products and services.

    We help people and society when we focus on what we do best—and do it really well.

    Here is where Pichai creates stability. Highlighting the mission and his passion for pursuing it, he makes a compelling reason for people to remain steadfast in their commitment to the organization. He points out that what they do impacts the entire world and outlines what they must focus on to continue that contribution.

    Moving forward, we need to be more entrepreneurial, working with greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger than we’ve shown on sunnier days. In some cases, that means consolidating where investments overlap and streamlining processes. In other cases, that means pausing development and re-deploying resources to higher priority areas. Making the company more efficient is up to all of us—we’ll be creating more ways for you all to engage and share ideas to help, so stay tuned.

    Here is where he rallies the troops. He lets them know that everyone will have to work harder and smarter.

    Scarcity breeds clarity—this is something we have been saying since the earliest days of Google. It’s what drives focus and creativity that ultimately leads to better products that help people all over the world. That’s the opportunity in front of us today, and I’m excited for us to rise to the moment again.

    – Sundar

    The memo finishes on a solid note. Again, he reminds them that the work they do helps people all over the world. He frames these challenges as an opportunity that they can overcome together. You’ll notice that throughout, he uses the words “we” and “us” to underscore that this will be a team effort.

    Through this note, Pichai has delivered a Master Class and how to prepare your business for the inevitable difficulties that lie ahead. He demonstrates vision and determination balanced by empathy and optimism. He lets people know what to expect without mincing words while expressing his complete faith in their ability to move the organization forward.

    I believe that the mission of credit unions is no less important than that of Google. You have a massive impact on the financial well-being of your members. The work you do touches every part of your community. Now, more than ever, it is critical that every leader in your organization be a living example of what you need the rest of your team to do to successfully navigate the rough seas ahead. 

    John Spence is widely recognized as one of the top business and leadership experts in the world. He has been working in the credit union industry for more than 20 years and serves as one of the lead instructors for NAFCU’s Management and Leadership Institute. To find out more about John, go to