Effective Goal Setting

broken glass on wooden surface
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Imagine you come home from work tomorrow night and, as you pull into the driveway, you notice a window has been broken. Not cracked, there is a hole in the window. The weather can get in, as can nosy neighbours and some ne’er do wells!

What do you do? You (hopefully) take action to fix the window.

Why? Because a broken window is classified as “wrong”. A fixed window is “normal”. A broken window is not.

When it comes to goal setting, you want to either:

  • get back to normal (i.e. fix the broken window) or;
  • create a new normal – do  something new with the window

As humans, we gravitate to normal, our comfort zone. Normal is deemed as safe. But what I view as normal and what you view as normal is likely very different. Therefore, normal is not arbitrary. This is great news because we can pick the new, better normal and work towards that. Maybe I’d like to have more of what you’re thinking.

And to create a new normal, we need a new problem.

As with the broken window, if we see a problem, we look to fix it. It’s automatic. See broken window, fix broken window.

We work to fix the things that are without or control.

And problems, like the broken window, create energy, an impetus to fix the problem. 

What is my point?

With regards to goals and making plans for things to change, we need energy. Ergo, we need a problem!

“Tell me what you want, what you really really want!”

Spice Girls

If we want to travel overseas for a holiday, most of us have to change our spending and put funds aside for the trip. This, in itself, becomes the new normal. It’s hard at times but we need to decide if we really want the trip and to make the necessary changes. If funds are short week to week, it can cause conflict. It’s called sacrificing and we all have different levels of sacrifice!

But we make the sacrifice if we want the holiday! And then, one day, we step on to that plane … 😀

And so, with goal setting, we need to change what is normal in order to achieve the goal.

Different isn’t always better but better is always different!

unknown

The “Holiday”
Imagine the change you want is the holiday. How do you plan for the holiday?You probably:

  • select a destination
  • check flights or journey options
  • review your budget
  • look up places to visit
  • book accommodation
  • create a spreadsheet to track things like packing, destinations, costs (no-one does that do they? *cough*)
  • you talk to people about it (endlessly!)

All of these actions to a greater or lesser degree, create energy. This energy provides the fuel to make your goal a reality. Hey, even planning for a well deserved holiday can be stressful and sometimes we think it’s just not worth the hassle – but it is and we endure!

What is your goal?
Can you adapt the above points to your goal? More than likely.

How much do you want your goal?
If the energy is there, you’ll achieve your goal or get very close to it. Even a holiday might need to be changed if something doesn’t work out and you can’t influence it. (I’d be on the next plane to Germany if Covid cases weren’t on the rise!)

Conversely, if there is no energy to change, the goal is likely to remain a goal. But, in the same way, if your goal is something you are prepared to sacrifice for, talk about, track progress and make it part of your “normal”, it’ll happen almost magically.

How do you achieve your goals? Let me know in the comments.

Using SCARF to Develop your Team

A new SCARF based staff development/coaching template is now available on the Resources page here.

The template uses the SCARF Model to help leaders determine where their staff are in relation to the five factors in the model. The template uses a rating scale of 1 through 10. This allows a leader to determine granular levels of each factor. You can also use an either/or approach. This means you can assess whether a team member is in threat mode or reward mode.

Look for Trends

It is important to have data to support your views or you may be off on a wild goose chase. Also note, people can have bad days and weeks, so also look for trends over time. A quieter day in the team may simply mean they’ve had an argument with their spouse.

Go Deeper

Another aspect is to go a little deeper than outward appearances only. This takes a little more care but you don’t need to be a psychologist. This might be what is referred to as “Will vs Skill”. If a person has the skills to complete a task but doesn’t, then it may be a “will” issue. There may be something internally preventing them.

Will vs Skill

A simple example I have come across many times is sales. People join organisations for a purpose and then sales comes into the role. (Or perhaps it was there all long and they have avoided it). Regardless, they now need to jump on the sales train.

Some people are averse to this approach with customers and avoid it. Leaders will consider all sorts of strategies to win them over.

The point about going deeper is to understand the aversion to sales itself. This may comes down to beliefs, attitudes and habits around the concept of selling. There could be many reasons for this:

  • family background is adverse to sales people
  • have been scammed before vowed to never do that to others
  • don’t want to be seen as a salesperson in the worst sense (many people use the “used car salesperson” metaphor)
  • Won’t people see me as pushy?
  • What if people say no? We all hates rejection.

In relation to the SCARF model, this might be seen as a threat and so they may use common behaviours to deal with the threat:

  • Fight – push back (e.g. why do I have to sell?)
  • Flight – avoid “selling” and describe is as better customer service (without the required results)
  • Freeze – reduction in contact with customers (in a contact centre this may look like shortened call times, hanging up on customers)
  • Flinch – using most of the process with out closing the sale (aka asking for the order)

The point is to assess where your individual team members are on the scale and work towards supporting them to the more beneficial side of the equation.

Character Development

pink paper origami
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When we think of personal development, we think in terms of taking new things on: taking on new skills, taking on new behaviours, as well as new attitudes and beliefs. This can be scary and take us well out of our comfort zone.

This is because, when we start to take on these new attributes, we’re rarely competent … at first. We get to (re)learn about the competency ladder.

  • Unconsciously incompetent – we did know that we didn’t know!
  • Conscious incompetent – we now know what we don’t know!
  • Consciously competent – we focus and become better at our new skills
  • Unconsciously competent – we do it without even thinking about it!

Acting as if …

In his commencement speech at the University of the Arts 2012, Neil Gaiman finishes off a great speech by suggesting people be wise. “But”, he says, “If you don’t know how to be wise, think of someone who is wise and just pretend to be like them.”

“Acting as if” leads to acting, or behaving and thinking, like the character trait you want to be competent in.

According to the site, Ranker, Daniel Day Lewis is known for staying in character off camera. Reportedly, he would send text messages as “Commander in Chief” and talk on the phone as Abraham Lincoln when he was filming Lincoln.

He was acting as if he was Lincoln!

What skill or behaviour are you looking to develop?

An actor will take the time to research their character. Particularly if it is based on true events, they will go to great lengths to find out about their character, as stated by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Tom Hanks.

And yet, here is how Hanks describes the situation:

When we are looking to lead people, or influence others, what traits do we need to take on in order to be successful in the role or the situation? Think about someone you know who has the attributes you are seeking. Have a conversation with them, taking note of how they approach a situation. Then reflect on how you might adopt that skill.

For example:

Imagine for a moment, you get triggered very easily by certain situations or certain people. Perhaps a leader in your organisation is unethical but keeps getting accolades and acknowledgments. Each time you interact with them you find yourself thinking about their flaws and it can distract you from the task at hand.

Speak to someone you know and trust. Ask them how they deal with difficult personalities. (I suggest NOT mentioning your trigger person). Hear your colleague out and imagine yourself managing the situation the same way. What skills and attributes would you need to take on? Write them down.

Now “act as if” you had those skills. Can you do this for a few seconds? A few minutes? A whole meeting?

This is different from “faking it till you make it”. Faking it calls out the fact you are faking it. Therefore, it could mean you’re being duplicitous with yourself. And there is no need to be.

An analogy in two parts

  1. When we learn to drive a car on the road, we’re learning at the same time as doing. You’re not faking it.
  2. Sitting in a lounge chair, making car noises with hands on an imaginary steering wheel is faking it!

It’s the same when dealing with new and challenging situations. You’re actually “driving the car” no matter how nervously or how you feel inwardly or how many mistakes you make … you’re driving! 🙌

Truth be told, the person you went to for guidance, at one time, “acted as if” as well. Maybe they still are! 😧

Conclusion

We do this every day! We act as if every day of our lives. We do it subconsciously to fit in, deal with a difficult client, even drive to a brand new location because just getting there can be stressful.

Now the skill is to do it consciously, on purpose, with an expected result. If you don’t get it exactly right first time, you go again. You can’t be version 2.0 of yourself within being a Version 1.0! Not even Apple, Microsoft and Google can do that.

Develop your character they you want it to be! To benefit you and those you work with.

To help with this I have created a simple template you can use and re-use for skills and attributes you’re looking to develop this way. It is free and you can get it here.

The $1 Experiment – Update

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Happy New Year! 🥳 I hope everyone is well and started the New Year with a bang!

I am sipping flat champagne out here on the patio as I write this at 10:13am. A bit early but we thought the bottle was empty and, as there was one glass left, I wasn’t going to waste it! Cheers! 🥂

So, if you have been here before, you’ll know I am running an experiment called the “$1 experiment”. The premise being I am looking to provide value free of charge but would welcome any donations people may wish to contribute if I add value.

As this is Day One of the formal experiment, December being the “soft launch”, I thought I’d give you an update of how it’s going. You can check out the details here!

Over the Christmas period I did drop my level of posts but I’ll kick that up a notch now the New Year is here.

How much have I earned so far?

So far I’ve had two donations! This has equated (after fees from Stripe) to $2.04 into my account. Thanks to Ryan and Glenn! 🙏

I’m certainly not retiring any time soon. But it’ll be fun to see how this goes over the next 365 days.

Plans to increase the value for 2022

My aim is to provide new tools every week, so 52 new tools by year’s end. These will cover topics such as:

  • leading people
  • managing teams
  • developing habits
  • personal effectiveness
  • developing a better mindset
  • dealing with different personalities

If there is something you’re interested in that may fit into one of the above topics, let me know in the comments and I’ll do some research and maybe develop a tool people can use to improve their effectiveness.

The blog part of the website will always be free with donations accepted if you feel there is value in what I provide.

I will be developing some products for payment but they will be clearly defined and apart from the blog.

Have an awesome 2022 everyone.

Do We Need a “Do Not Care” List?

woman jumping wearing green backpack
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We all know of the ubiquitous “To Do” list. Most have heard of the “Not To Do” list. But how many of us have a “Do Not Care” (DNC) list?

A DNC list is a way to consciously decide the areas we consciously give energy to and areas we consciously don’t give a toss about!

Allow me to explain…

There are many thing vying for our attention and many of them are promoted to be important. But they’re not!

Scientists have measured the amount of data that enter the brain and found that an average person living today processes as much as 74 GB in information a day (that is as much as watching 16 movies), through TV, computers, cell phones, tablets, billboards, and many other gadgets. [Source]

That’s a lot to manage. 😳 Fortunately, a massive percentage of that goes straight to the subconscious. It bypasses our conscious mind, thank god! But we still feel overwhelmed.

Having a DNC list can save a lot of time and energy; energy we need to cope in the world we live in.

Here’s an example:

The wife and I were discussing Christmas planning. Where and when we had dinner, who was cooking what, who was bringing what and how it was all going to work out. She had her view, I had mine. But the conversation took longer than it needed to! It all ended happily, and we are looking forward to the day with the kids. (I’m sure we are the only people on the planet who get into these types of discussions! 😉)

As I reflected on the conversation, I realised the points I had been making were unimportant. I didn’t really care how Christmas was planned. All I cared about what who was there. I was just trying to be helpful by limiting and unnecessary effort in what is already a busy time of year. But I really didn’t care. I realised I didn’t even value my own opinion. As long as the family is happy and it all makes sense, sure! At the time, I felt I had to have an opinion, and, once given, that had to be given consideration. But, I didn’t really care how Christmas went as long as we were all able to be together at some point and have a family meal. (One part of the family is in Covid quarantine so this isn’t a normal Christmas!)

Now, to I say I don’t care, I’m not meaning to be unfeeling or cold towards others or circumstances. What I mean is, it’s okay to allow others to take the responsibility if that is what they want to do. We don’t have to be the “captain of the world!” Perhaps a situation is out of our control and we have no influence whatsoever over the outcome. Why care?

Another example might be television.

There is some rubbish on the telly, isn’t there? So I’ve decided not to care. I’m not going to scroll endlessly though my subscriptions to Netflix, Prime and YouTube to see if there is something on. I don’t care.

Back to the Do Not Care list.

***This is not intended to be cold and callous***

It is about choosing where I put my emotional, mental and physical energy. It is a form of self care. Why get anxious about things I have no influence over?

A suggestion …

  1. Open up a page in a notebook and think about areas we might normally allow to affect us.
  2. Write down as many items as you can think of in 2 – 3 minutes. (you can add more later)
  3. Now review the list
  4. Put a ‘+’ or a ‘-‘ next to each item.
  5. A ‘+’ means you want to continue paying attention to the topic.
  6. A ‘-‘ signifies a conscious decision not to pay attention to the topic.
  7. The list with ‘-‘ next to them become the DNC list. Each time this come up develop a plan to drop the topic as quick as you can. And move to something you want to focus on.

I’ve started developing an internal statement like this:

“I do not to think about or discuss ‘topic’.”

The Benefits of a DNC List

I remember my Mother-in-Law speaking about someone who had just died. She seemed really upset and I wondered who had passed away. My wife was consoling her but something seemed bit weird about the conversation. My wife quickly let me know: “It’s okay, we’re talking about Days of Our Lives!

I see and work with many people who get distressed about factors and events which they have little to no control over. By deciding what to care about and what not to care about can save a lot of stress anxiety. It then allows room for more joy and happiness to we focus on the things we want to. It also means there is more energy for the things we choose to focus on.

I think it’s time to create a Do Not Care list and be very conscious of where and how use our time.

Over to you …

Do you have a Do Not Care list? Have you had it for a while? Do you think it might benefit you? Maybe you have something like it but refer to it as something else.

Let me know in the comments!

If you found this and other material here useful, consider dropping $1 in the cup! And tell a few friends! 🙏

Closing the Learning Loop

One of the dilemmas of trainers is in ensuring people to retain and apply the learning they have experienced.

This is one of my bug bears where I don’t want to spend time with a group, get great evaluations and feel they’ve “got it” only to find very little has been applied. I mean, application is the whole point.

I feel there is an open loop to learning that can be easily closed.

It’s back on the job, where the pressure of the work day and volume of requests do their very best to limit the time and effectiveness of embedding the learning.

People want to apply what they have learned because they remember what the benefit is. It’s having the time and clarity of what to do.

To that end, I have created a “Today I Learned” template.

This is a simple tool designed to allow a learner to have conversation on paper to make sure they are closing the loops to their learning.

It starts with a simple:

Today I Learned… and asks the learner to write down what the learning was. It could be a concept (Today I Learned … how to create an effective meeting agenda) to a whole workshop (Today I Learned … CPR).

So Now I Can … It then asks the learner what that means. This clarifies the purpose and benefit of the learning.

  • So now I can … set up meetings effectively … to help me stay on track.
  • So now I can … administer CPR if it’s needed … and save someone’s life.

I also suggest writing this in a format where you can explain it to others. This also helps in embedding the information.

But now back to work …

So you’ve just completed the best course you’ve ever attended and you’re keen to get stuck into it back at work (maybe CPR (above) was the wrong example to be keen about! 🙄)

But now, back at work with the pressures and demands, Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve comes into mess things up! Elements are forgotten. We lose confidence and focus on the information just learned. It all becomes too hard and we hope we don’t need to administer CPR for at least 12 months.

To counter this, I’ve added the element of:

But I have questions … this allows the individual to acknowledge they had the training and gained some value. But now what do they do when they need to apply the skills/knowledge? It can all get a bit fuzzy, which means questions will arise.

  • Do I pull out the checklist first or do I go straight into CPR?
  • What if I get a stage the wrong way round?
  • “What if …, What if … What if …”

This section allows the learner to write down what’s in their head. Often in writing it out, the answer will become clear. Other times it may require contact with the trainer. (I’d be more than happy to help clarify concepts with a learner after a workshop. Their effectiveness back at work is the whole point, after all!)

The last two sections are:

  1. What is preventing me: a list of things that might be getting in the way
  2. What I plan to do is: a set of steps to overcome the preventions and create momentum

Finally

This is also intended as a coaching plan. Using it with a learner, it helps clarify the issues that are preventing improved performance or blocks to developing a skill. A good coach can work through each section and allow the learner to develop their own solutions.

You can find a copy on the Resources Page. I hope you find it helpful.

I’d be keen to get your thoughts. Have you developed something similar?

If you found this and other material here useful, consider dropping $1 in the cup! And tell a few friends! 🙏

S&S – Growth Mindset!

Saturday and Sundays will posts are hereby now known as S&S.

Though short (and sweet), hopefully insightful to give you a shot of energy and focus to do “the thing” you may have been putting off, or re-starting that “thing” you know has value but you’re stuck somehow.

Today is about the growth mindset! Simply put, the growth mindset is a perspective that you can achieve what you want through learning, failing and trying again.

Whenever you mess up, and say you can’t do something, add the word “Yet” to the end of what you just said:

  • I can’t run 5km … Yet!
  • I haven’t achieved my goals … Yet!
  • White Men Can’t Jump … Yet! 😉

It’s the opposite to the fixed mindset that suggests all your abilities are … fixed … and there’s little point in trying.

As Henry Ford is well known for:

If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right!

Okay, this is now too long! I give you … Sesame Street!

Enjoy your weekend!

The SCARF Model®

person holding a green plant
Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

The SCARF Model was developed by David Rock in 2008. It may seem a deceptively simple model at first, but it creates a broad range of conversations to help develop you develop as well as the people around you and the team/s you lead.

SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

The model depicts the possible reactions to the 5 areas when threatened or rewarded. In other words, if we recognise or help establish someone’s Status within a team, they will be more engaged. Threaten the Status and they may be less engaged, less productive and a flight risk!

First some definitions:

  • Status: Concerns an individual’s social standing, where do they fall in the pecking order.
  • Certainty: our brain’s ability to make accurate predictions about the future. Even if that prediction is that you’re sure you don’t know what’s coming.
  • Autonomy: The power to exert control over your environment.
  • Relatedness: feeling connected to other people—in particular people we identify as being similar to us.
  • Fairness: Humans have a hardwired desire for fairness. We seek a fair exchange of information, services and ideas. We also seek a fair exchange of respect, acknowledgement and a sense that we have been heard.

Applying SCARF

There is certainly more than one way to apply SCARF but I see benefit in the following:

  1. Delivering SCARF
  2. Developing SCARF

Delivering SCARF

Delivering SCARF is about providing each element to others. This might be seen as the role of a leader but it applies to anyone.

We can all raise the status of others. Acknowledge them, give them positive feedback, show appreciation, asking them to speak up in a meeting if you know they have something to contribute. It’s not difficult.

How can we provide certainty to our colleagues? What can we say and do that will help them be more confident and sure about the future? What information do you have that would be helpful? Do you have information you don’t fully understand and therefore not share it? If your team are relying on you, you may be putting certainty at risk!

How do we help them build the skills so they can achieve greater autonomy? What guidelines can they can work towards? Do you plan a direct report’s development with providing greater autonomy in mind? Do they know that?

How are we developing our relationships so they know they have something like a “best friend” at work? In the book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, Wagner and Harter propose that,

“Something about a deep sense of affiliation with the people in an employee’s team drives him (sic) to do positive things for the business he (sic) would not otherwise do.”

To support this, you will likely find, when completing and reviewing exit interviews, the most common expression people provide is, “… the people were great … “

How can we ensure they know they are being treated fairly? This can be hard. Perhaps we use an internal compass. Do you suffer from the “horns or halo effect” where you consciously or, worse, subconsciously play favourites? (Worse be because you may not be aware that you do!)

Developing SCARF

Another aspect is taking responsibility to develop our own SCARF characteristics. These are similar questions but the responsibility is on ourselves to develop each elements of the model.

How can we raise our own status in order to make a greater contribution?

Can we take steps that will increase our own certainty? What research can we do? Who can we speak within the organisation? Is there product material we could read? All with the aim of being more confident within ourselves and, when the time is right helping others with this information.

Are we learning more about our role and responsibilities to allow greater autonomy because the boss trusts us? What are we demonstrating? What initiative are we showing?

Are we building our relationships with others in the team and across other teams?

Are we treating others fairly? How do we know and what can we do to ensure we meet this expectation?

The Consequences

One of the consequences of failing to consider these elements is staff turnover. I’ve seen this occur and I have been responsible for … fixing it!

I worked in an organisation where we had 40%+ staff turnover. It was just above the top of the industry range. We were turning over our whole staff every two years. As this was the resources industry (Mining & Gas) the cost of this was astronomical. Lose a good person and you had to replace them. If salaries were averaging $150k that meant recruitment costs were between $15k ands $30k. Do the math!

Twelve months later we were at 19%, just below the industry norm!

What did we do?

  • We increased out connection with your people.
  • We communicated what opportunities were available internally.
  • We developed recognition systems that truly valued people’s contribution.
  • We allowed the team to promote their areas to “recruit” internally.

Connection

We redoubled our efforts to remain in contact with people on site. We received feedback that once we placed them, we forgot them. More regular visits and news from “head office” were welcomed, rather than what was happening before. This showed we valued them and their opinions. They were connected to the company and felt part of something bigger. All of a sudden the greener grass elsewhere began to fade. (Status, Certainty, Relatedness)

Communication

We made sure they knew what was going on in the company. Many of these people knew colleagues on different projects and sites. And they talked. If we left a gap, they filled it in with their version of the “truth”. We worked to open the communication channels to get ahead of the rumour mill and keep in touch with those at risk. (Relatedness, Certainty)

Recognition

This was crucial. We developed mechanisms to recognise years of service, outstanding project work and anything else worth a mention. And when a client sent through a compliment, we shared it far and wide. Not just a “thanks” back to the client. (Status, Relatedness, Fairness)

Team Promotion Expo (see note below)

This started off as a beast of a project to organise but was an outstanding success. The premise being an internal expo. Teams were invited to set up stalls to promote what they were doing. “Be as creative as you like”. They promoted what they did at their site and used all sorts of methods to do so. Some showed skills in presentation we didn’t know they had! They let people know what skills they used on site, what skills were still needed or would be needed soon. This allowed others who were rolling off projects to look at options internally. This was a huge relief to many, as they didn’t want to go on to the open market. Having roles come up internally provided a great deal of peace of mind. And those needing the skills, gained people who knew the culture and the basics of the project already, this limiting a downturn in project productivity. (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness)

Conclusion

Admittedly, we can reverse engineer any successful strategy. However, looking at what we accomplished without SCARF in mind, demonstrates the benefits of the model. The principles hold true.

Reviewing these tactics, and how they significantly impacted turnover, provides a template for what to do across a number of critical organisational strategies.

Note: The expo, in many ways, demonstrated support for Deming’s 14 Total Quality Management Principles, in particular:

  • 8 – Drive out fear
  • 9 – Break down barriers between staff areas
  • 12 – Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship

Thoughts?

Have a Growth Mindset … for others!

person holding a green plant

I was speaking with an ex-colleague a few months ago, and they shared with me something that happened to her at work.

Her supervisor told her to “… get a growth mindset. You have a fixed mindset and you need a growth mindset!” Her response, not sure if it was verbal or just to herself, was, “My mindset is my own business!”

Telling is not developing!

It made me think of how we assess others. When I think of fixed vs growth mindset I apply it to myself. What areas do I need to grow in? (still looking at you, touch-typing!)

But this interaction made me think how managers and leaders (and co-workers for that matter) consider those around them. Do they have a fixed mindset about others, even if they have a growth mindset about themselves?

Does considering oneself to have a growth mindset, create a level of false superiority over those one thinks have fixed mindset. I say false, because anyone with a true growth mindset would be considerate of others and work with them, not talk down to, or about, them.

Consider terms like:

  • that’s the good old Tom we know
  • she’ll never change
  • they’ve always been like that
  • you need to have a good think about your future (meaning someone is fixed in their current situation)

If we are in a fixed mindset about others, our coaching and interactions will bear this out. We will coach with a limited view of achieving outcomes. Because “they’ll never change” we don’t look for alternative solutions or coaching methods. And even if we do sometimes, it’s simply to prove they can’t change! The good old, “I’ve tried everything!” approach (personal experience!).

If we are providing feedback to our manager on our team’s performance, our report will be governed by our view of them. This goes both ways, by the way. It’s called the “horns and halo” effect.

There is a great video on the Ladder of Inference by Cheryl Williams. Suffice to say, we behave in accordance with our assumptions of others.

And then, what do you do when you’re in this situation? It can be difficult to change our views because we have built up such database of evidence in coming to our conclusions assumptions. We develop blindspots to what people do well, so their fixed mindset behaviours are highlighted while their growth mindset behaviours are diminished.

Conclusion

We absolutely need a growth mindset around our own performance.

We also, perhaps more importantly, need to have a growth mindset with our colleagues, direct reports and those we interact with at work.

Photo Credit: Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

The R in SCARF

Why the R in SCARF is the most important element.

SCARF is a great tool for anyone, leader or not, to help improve the environment at work. (You can use this in your personal life as well.)

The basic premise is we operate by threat or reward. If something seems threatening, we work to avoid it. If something looks rewarding, we’ll move toward it.

When it comes to work environments, businesses and teams often look at material rewards to gain people’s cooperation, be it bonuses, gift cards, chocolates and time off, to name a few.

And they all have their place. (I am an anti “either/or” person. Things are seldom that black and white.)

But, using everyday human considerations, as described by the SCARF model, would go a long way to improving a workplace without additional monetary costs. Plus, it’s just a good thing to do.

But there needs to be a word of caution for anyone looking to adopt the model without investigating a little further.

The key is the “R” (Relatedness) in SCARF.

Relatedness is a feeling of being safe in the presence of others (trust vs distrust). We can flesh this out quite easily to say that good relationships at work are essential.

In addition, Todd Wagner & James K. Carter, PhD, cited in their great book “12: The Elements of Great Managing” the need of having a “best friend” at work. That is, good relationships.

Get the Relatedness element wrong, and you may struggle to see the results you are looking for. And many times the leader doesn’t know why.

Here’s why!

Let’s look at how a less than ideal relationship might affect the other aspects of SCARF. Remember, if it is not ideal, it can be seen as a threat. And people try to avoid threats.

Status

Is the relationship being used to create a win-win or a win-lose scenario? If it’s perceived as win-lose, then the status level of one party (Individual/Team/Division) is going to be diminished (i.e. threatened). If status is threatened, goodwill reduces. Teamwork fades and performance dissipates. Will the relationship break completely once one of the parties has achieved their personal goal? How will that affect the organisation?

Certainty

How would a good relationship build certainty? If one party sensed the relationship wasn’t strong, how would that affect certainty in a role, in a team, in an organisation? Often, when there is uncertainty, people begin to fill in the gaps in the story. And, again, because this is a threatening situation, people tend to retreat. It can then be a self fulfilling prophecy of an adequate performer becoming a poor performer, not because they don’t have the skills, they’re in protection mode!

Autonomy

I have seen and experienced this myself. Be on the right side of the person and life is good. Be on the wrong side and it can go horribly wrong. All of a sudden you feel like you’re being watched and yet you may not have any real idea of what you have done … because there is no significant relationship. So, with less autonomy, they begin to follow the rules. If they follow the rules they are safe. Less initiative is shown, less risk and this can be viewed as poor(er) performance.

Fairness

I hope it’s obvious what the lack of a good relationship will do to affect the fairness element of the SCARF model. And, more importantly the performance of the business.

What does this all mean?

Must every leader need to have a strong personal relationship with every member of their team?

From a logistical point of view, and when talking about large numbers, it’s likely not possible. But a leader can lead by example with their immediate team where it has more chance of flowing across the business.

Even leaders who do good things and with good intentions need to be aware e of the perception of their actions.

A humorous example is that of the late Colin Powell, as an image in his autobiography, A Soldier’s Way, shows. He often used the “six-gun” method when calling on reporters at the Pentagon. He’d done it for years and no-one told him. Then Saturday Night Live got a hold of it!

(On a More Serious) Case in Point

Two managers I know, different companies, make a point of walking through their business each morning to say hello, be available to talk with and be visible. It’s a quick walk and not intended to take a lot of time but the effort is made to engage with the staff and if an issue needs to be raised, they stop and listen.

One manager gets a great response. People look forward to the morning “chat with the boss.”

It’s a bit different with the other manager. His staff make a point of “hiding” when the morning walk begins. Some staff message others to say, “The boss is coming!” … it’s a warning!

Same activity, two very different outcomes.

It all hinges on the relationship.

Over to you. What have you seen that works well? Do you agree or disagree? Happy to have a conversation.

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