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.
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.
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.
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
When we learn to drive a car on the road, we’re learning at the same time as doing. You’re not faking it.
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! 😧
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
There is certainly more than one way to apply SCARF but I see benefit in the following:
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!)
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?
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.
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)
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)
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 PromotionExpo (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)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
Note: Links to resources in this article do contain affiliate links. This means I may get a small payment if you use the link. The resources do not cost anymore to you.
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:
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?
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? 😉
I’ve been working with a business group over the past few months. We start off each session with 3 things we are grateful for. It can be a challenge at times. Some people don’t know what to write. Some think it’s corny. Some draw a blank and feel like they may be failing. Others just don’t care for it. To be honest, I find it hard sometimes.
I’ve been thinking a little deeper into my my model of life: Bamboo SL. One thing that has been missed in the model is the influence of feelings and how they drive us toward or away from things. They are kind of there but need to be brought more to the surface so I’m working on that. Stay tuned.
On the subject of feelings, gratitude is part of that. I thought it would be useful, rather than to try to think of things from the top of my head, I’d start to document what I am grateful for. And to document from both the physical and non physical aspect.
Let me know what you think.
The image above is of one of our spare rooms. It is also the room our granddaughter sleeps in when she sleeps over.
The point is to illustrate how I am learning to have gratitude.
This is the spare room. I’m grateful we have the room because it means Alex can sleep over. Having Alex sleep over means we get to see her develop and have fun with her. She is a super articulate kid. She’s got a bit of cheek and quite often she’ll come out with words and phrases we don’t expect a kid of four to have learnt (Not cuss words, normal words like “Grandad, I am very frustrated at the moment!”) I’m grateful for that too.
The pictures on the wall have been created by my daughter and my sister. I love the paintings and am reminded how talented they are. Each time I see my daughter’s painting (on the left) I get a real sense of warmth and love for her. It’s a relatively simple painting but is also quite expressive and a joyful image.
The picture by my sister is also quite playful and bright. It’s a cheerful image for which I am also grateful. It’s also a but quirky, like my sister! 😉
The bedspread was made by my wife. She has created a few of these and they are projects in themselves. We actually bought a cabinet to store them all! It takes, patience and an eye for colour and coordination. It’s a work of art in itself. I am of no help at all but the kids get involved and it becomes a team effort.
Lastly, on the side table on the right hand side of the bed is a small drawing of boats. It’s by my grandmother, Portia Bennett, who was a well regarded artist in her day. I have a few of her paintings.
And so, from one room, I can highlight quite a few things I am grateful for. The physical items have meaning for me as do the people associated with them. There is a lot of talent in the family and also the fact that people will do things for others to help make life a little nicer. And they bring joy to me and those who receive them – if we’ll slow down and recognise that.
If you are struggling to find things to give gratitude for, can I suggest an exercise?
Go through each room and list the items in the room. Perhaps just list the items at first. Maybe in a notebook down the side a page. And then, over time or when the thought strikes you, write alongside the item what you are grateful for.
What does the item do for you? How does it, or what it does or maybe just infers, make you feel? Could you be grateful for that?