The SCARF Model®

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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

Developing Gratitude

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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.

Until …

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.

My Thoughts

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?

Let me know what you think.

Be That Guy! (or Girl!)

Be That Guy!

Yes, be that guy! (or girl) in the sense of being the person you want to be.

I don’t mean in a new age, woo-woo manner (though there’s nothing wrong with that either!) What I mean is taking the time to define who and what you want to be in your best role or current role.

How do you see yourself at the moment?

A simple analogy: look in a mirror. Do you like what you see? This doesn’t mean you need to hate what you see or what you are. Just look and see what you’d like to change.

If you don’t think the shirt goes with the dress, change one of them. If you need a new hairstyle, go to a hairdresser.

Now work on the real you: do you get angry easily? How can you address that?

When you give presentations, are you cool and calm and enjoy the process or are you all nerves and flustered? How can you address that?

How do you talk to yourself? Are you encouraging yourself or berating yourself? How can you address that?

There is a saying to “find the job you love”. If you have done that, greatI If not, great: “love the job you find!”

More importantly, “love the ‘you’ you find!”

The ball is in your court.

And here’s a simple way to start moving further along the achievement line.

Grab a piece of paper.

Step One: List down up to 5 things you really want to address.

Step Two: Now pick one of those items you’d like to work on first (or select the one that will provide you the biggest improvement)

Step Three: Using the item you have selected list down up to 3-5 things about it that you do well, or want to do well. For example, if you selected “talk well to yourself”, what 5 things could you do (or are doing) that supports the notion of you being productive?

Step Four: Looking at those 5 items, select one that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Write that one down, or highlight it.

Here’s the fun part:

Step Five: Action: What will you do, each day, to develop that item?

Working example:

List 5 things you want to improve on: presentation skills, meditation, pause before reacting, highlight strengths of others, reflect gratitude

Choose Meditation/Mindfulness

List 3-5 things you do, or want to do, that will help you be more mindful: start mediating in the morning, read books on the benefits of mindfulness, write “be more mindful” in a conspicuous place, remove distractions (social media?)

Biggest bang: start meditating in the morning – will set me up for the day as well as reducing social media in the morning (double win!)

Action: segment my morning routine to allow 10 minutes for meditating, download an app, add to calendar.

While the process above may appear simple, the critical factor is moving towards being the person you want to be.

Following something relatively simple like this will help you see progress and, if you miss an opportunity, you will be able to quickly get back on track.