The SCARF Model®

person holding a green plant
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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?

Avoid These Two Coaching Mistakes

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Imagine your team. Imagine their performance mapped along a bell curve. It’s likely you’ll have a fairly common distribution.

You’ll have some at the right hand side, killing it. Mostly having good days, weeks and months. A good proportion will be in the mid range. What Kim Scott in Radical Candor* calls Rockstars! (Ch. 3, p 43). And on the left hand side of the bell curve are those who are not quite making it.

It’s these team members I want to address here because I have done what I’m about to describe (to my shame). If you make these mistakes it will cost you time, money, productivity and customer service.

The good news is … it’s all avoidable!

Mistake OnE: Fixed vs growth mindset!

Not theirs, yours! As coaches we can have an opinion of a direct report that they:

  • cannot grow
  • will not come to terms with a change
  • have always been this way
  • will never change

With this mindset, how do you think the coaching will go? Even if you are determined to be a good, objective and supportive coach, can you overcome the mindset? I’d suggest it’s harder than we think. I know most, if not all, coaches don’t want to be in this situation.

How to change the mindset to coach effectively?

As always, the following is going to depend a lot on your relationship with the individual. If you have a good, respectful relationship, options open up.

  • Have a conversation with your direct report and be open about your concerns.
  • Be open about you own thoughts and ask them for help – it may be more of a molehill than the mountain you’ve imagined.
  • Even if they agree with you, don’t take the easy way out too quickly. That’s just a path of least resistance. Stay with them and work with them on the solution. This is, in part, how you become a good/great coach. It’s when others look at your results and wonder :“How the hell did you get through to them? I’ve been trying for years!”
  • Dig deeper into what could be the learning, attitudinal or habitual issue. Many times we have performance issues due to a habit or belief. We don’t realise it because it’s in the subconscious. You don’t need to be a psychologist or therapist. Learn to ask good questions.

Over to you: what would you suggest?

Mistake Two: Average is the Enemy

Let’s imagine for a moment we have a person working for us who is on the left had side of the middle of the bell curve: they are considered a low performer.

At a minimum, we’d like them to hit the middle line. We’d like them to meet the goals of the role. We help them do this though coaching, performance management, counselling, training. A myriad of technologies.

Some people take to this like a duck to water. A little bit of coaching and development and they close the gap. Others take longer, like crawling across cut glass.

But let’s assume a happy ending and the performance gap closes.

What happens now?

What normally happens when we coach someone from the left hand side to the middle? From low performance to acceptable performance?

We stop the coaching and start monitoring and supporting.

We have just coached a below average performer to be … average!

The result being they will hover between just below and just above the acceptable level. As a leader we will deem this “okay”. Or, worse, we will be watching them like a hawk to re-start the performance management process again. That’ll make them feel comfortable! 😉

Why stop there?

You’ve just helped someone improve their performance. They may be keen to go further, to become a high performer.

What are your next steps?

Here are some thoughts.

  • Continue to engage with them about broadening their skills around particular aspects of the role. Aspects they may be able to improve quickly.
  • If it’s sales and service, help them with questioning and listening skills. Role play tough situations. Help them get comfortable with higher performance, so it becomes the new norm for them. So even with some dip in performance, they’ll still be above average!
  • Continue to provide feedback when they do something (positive) they hadn’t done before.
  • Partner them with a high performance colleague who has a bent for coaching and developing others. (Caution: some high performers hit their targets because they are left alone to get on with their work. Unless developing others is part of their development, I’d avoid these, at least at first! Again, first hand experience!)
  • Get them to log their achievements. It’s not an extra task, journaling is a very effective way of improving performance. This helps them reinforce their progress. These insights can also be used as tools in coaching sessions when looking to help them replicate good practices and habits.

Over to you: What have you seen work effectively?

Summary

As a coach we need to own our actions and mindsets. These mistakes cost you, the direct report and the company, money and misery.

As I confessed earlier, I’ve made these errors. (And maybe it’s just me!)

A common phrase these days is #IYKYK (if you know, you know).

Be on the lookout for your own mindset and, when you’re coaching someone who’s below par, enjoy the process of coaching them to high performance, not just average.

What have been your experiences? Have you seen this/done this? Prepared to share? 😉

*affiliate link

Be the G.O.A.T.

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The term G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) is often applied to superstars of sport and business, of stage and screen.

But did you realise that if you are better than you were yesterday, you are your own G.O.A.T. of that!

Perhaps you are thinking that doesn’t count. Maybe it only counts when there is an official record of the achievement. The Guinness Book of Records or front page of the paper.

If that’s the case, do you realise how many people achieve great things who don’t get recognised?

Here are some you may not have heard of:

  • Nellie Bly: around the world in 80 72 days! One her own. Note: She took with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She knew how to pack!
  • Cleisthenes: Though many people credit Thomas Jefferson as the father of democracy, the honour actually lies with the Greek philosopher Cleisthenes. Who? Yep!
  • Pope Leo I: All popes are famous aren’t they? Pope Leo singlehandedly persuaded Atilla the Hun to back down from his invasion of Italy. Did he get a gong? Nope! Should’ve!
  • Percy Julian: Pioneered the drug industry. After he developed the chemical synthesis of hormones like progesterone and testosterone, he became the first African American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. His research also laid the groundwork for the modern day steroid.

So if you’re waiting for recognition from others … breathe in … hold … no keep holding …

This means the recognition of your achievements, the possibility to be the G.O.A.T. is in the hands of others. Not everything is statistical like:

  • Most number of wickets (cricket)
  • Most number of 3 pointers (basketball)
  • Most number of Oscar wins
  • Most number of Oscar nominations (without a win!)

And what if others don’t want to recognise your feats? What then?

This is my fourth blogpost in four days. That is a record for blog posting streaks in my household. I am the G.O.A.T! Tomorrow, when I post my fifth, I’ll be the G.O.A.T. again. You may think that is unremarkable. But if I am to post every day for 100 days or 1,000 days, I have to do the four day streak and then the five day streak.

Over to you … what have you done today, or plan to do today, that will make you the G.O.A.T? How will you be your G.O.A.T. tomorrow.

Let me know!

Don’t belittle your achievements.

Intro to Bamboo SL

This is a model I’ve been playing with lately. I’ve been learning a lot about mindset, habits and behaviours and this is an attempt to learn something by putting it into my own thoughts and provide it to others.

It is developed as Bamboo SL based on the elements that create the outcomes (Satisfaction & Lifestyle) from the inputs:

  • Beliefs
  • Attitudes
  • Mindset
  • Behaviours
  • Observations
  • Outcomes

I’m planning on developing it further and the construct may change as things become clearer. (maybe Observations come after Outcomes).

Background

What got me thinking about this was that we, generally, mostly concern ourselves with external factors, particularly in business when it comes to performance and feedback. These are the behaviours, the observations and the outcomes. “I saw you do this”, “Let’s discuss the sales results”.

The Behaviours are the things we do that we and others can see. We can comment on them, whether they are good, bad or otherwise. You can get feedback on them. I’ve run workshops on performance management based on SOBs – Specific Observable Behaviours.

The Observations are similar to the behaviours but in this instance we are trying to take a step back and observe ourselves or reflect on what we did. We can then make adjustments if we want to.

The Outcomes are, perhaps obviously, the results of what we see. We overeat and the scale goes up. We diet and the scale goes down. We put in a good day at work and our boss is happy with us. We put in a bad day and the boss is less happy. (I have a friend who got a commendation the same day they got a first and final warning!) Organisations, like people, can be fickle.

My observations here are that we tend to focus on the obvious. How we feel about our day and our lot in life. Very simple observations and conclusions for the most part.

We do mull over the Satisfaction stage. Am I satisfied with my job, relationship, income, goals? Sometimes we may look at social media sites showing people who seem to be doing better than we are. Even though we know this is people on their best days, they can still trigger us and cause some dissatisfaction with our own life.

I’ve referred to Satisfaction as “The” Measure. If we are “satisfied” with our lot in life, that becomes our life. There is no need or sense of urgency to change. Even if we are dissatisfied. Read that again. We we can be satisfied with our dissatisfaction. Why?

Life is defined at the top of the image above with examples from Relationships to Finances. Feel free to substitute your own.

The Subconscious Program

Lower down we have the Subconscious program. This encapsulates our beliefs, habits and attitudes that, in many cases, reside there without scrutiny. Again we may mull over them occasionally but perhaps not as much as the external factors.

Our subconscious program, as I have (re)learned has, on the whole, been given to us by others when we were very young. We may vote the same way our parents vote. We are comfortable with similar foods (healthy or unhealthy). We may undertake similar pastimes as our parents or peer groups. Alternatively, it could also be you eat completely differently because your parents ate junk food!

Because our beliefs have been given to us, or we have been highly influenced by others, we can take life as it comes without examining some of these factors. We would do well to examine some of these and see if they hold true for us and help us achieve the Satisfaction and Lifestyle we are wanting. If not, it may be our beliefs are keeping us from achieving the goals we seek, or once sought, and now we’ve accepted our “lot”.

Example: I have a close friend who doesn’t like Mitsubishi cars. No reason! It’s a belief or attitude they have to Mitsubishis. Many years ago, when they were contemplating a new vehicle, Mitsubishis were off the list. 🤷‍♂️ Just a belief that really has no grounding and, in this case, not an issue.

But what if we have beliefs that are issues that we hold on to that limit our progress and limit our real potential. That, to me, is worth exploring.

Summary

I believe the areas that can most influence our Life at the top of the image are, in fact, the elements at the base: Beliefs, Attitudes and Mindsets.

These elements will influence the Behaviours we are prepared to engage in, which in turn can affect our Outcomes if we are prepared to examine (Observe) those Behaviours to see if they are working towards our goals or away from our goals.

My point being, the areas we really need to examine, we generally don’t. (Or perhaps I am the sole troglodyte here!)

The good news is, once we know this, we are free to choose new beliefs, attitudes and mindsets. And, from there, begin to review our potential and re-assess the goals we want to pursue!

Now that I’ve published this I’ll find all the spelling errors. Feel free to point them out! 😉

Self Efficacy and Self Talk

So there’s this thing called self efficacy.

“Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997). Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.” (Source)

There is another concept called self talk.

Self-talk is our internal dialogue. It’s influenced by our subconscious mind, and it reveals our thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas.” (Source)

Most people talk negatively to themselves most of the time. If it’s not negative, then it is neutral, with little to no power to progress.

In order to make progress

We need to improve our self efficacy, the ability to cause something to happen. Otherwise we will remain waiting for something to happen. Waiting on others, or waiting for a windfall.

To improve our self efficacy we can look to improve our self talk. Note from the source above, it can be influenced by some deeply held beliefs we may need to challenge or at least question.

What do you hold to that may not be true?

We could be talking ourselves out of the very things we want to happen in our lives, career, relationships etc.

As Henry Ford said,

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

What do you want to have happen?

How are you talking to yourself about it?

The Wrong Question

There is an oft quoted challenge: “If money and time weren’t an issue, what would you do with your life?”

I don’t think that is a good question. I think there might be a better question.

It presumes that time and money are the only variables.

Time and money are tools. We can accumulate and use both.
But we should not be defined by those two variables.

I get the point of the question but it limits our options.

It presupposes something like the following: “Well, I don’t have the time … or the money. So what can I do?”

And it potentially absolves us of responsibility.

Perhaps a better question might be:

“If I was who I really wanted to be, what would I do?”

Find out what that is and find a way to do that!