How the SCARF Method is Boosting Leadership & Influencing Culture

If leaders cannot create a safe and growth-enabling environment for their team, can the team really be successful? Such an atmosphere can only be created if leaders are emotionally intelligent in all areas of their life and through this, they can better understand their team. Enter David Rock’s SCARF® Model, a brain-based model for collaborating With and influencing others. Developed in the year 2008, it is a model that is steeped in neuroscience and reveals the five social domains that people activate when they come in contact with threat and reward responses. The 5 domains are status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness and these are what we rely on for our survival whether we are in the workplace or elsewhere. The SCARF concept is also strongly connected to Barbara Frederickson’s Broaden and Build Theory which finds that if people are happy and they feel safe, they perform better. 

Coming back to the workplace, if people feel left out, it threatens their status and relatedness and as a result, there is a spike in their cortisol levels, the stress hormone. On the other hand, when they are appreciated or rewarded for their work, it elevates their status and certainty. The SCARF model is built in such a way that coupled with emotional intelligence, it can be used to minimize negative outcomes within the way people feel and increases their feelings of positivity. Here’s how leaders can apply it.

Status | How important people feel

Make people feel that they are important and that you value them and their inputs. Do not put them down, particularly in the presence of others, rather, make them feel safe, so that they will be able to trust you when they ask questions, feedback, and share their ideas. This also means that leaders will be able to provide direct feedback without having to fear that there will be negative consequences since they trust their leader to be honest with them. They also know their leaders want the best for them and their careers. 

Certainty | Their future predictions

There are no doubts about the fact that we are living in an uncertain world in uncertain times and one of the worst things that leaders can do is to leave their team guessing, which leads to a lot of stress and anxiety. Hence there is nothing like clarity and surety wherever leaders can give it. So, set clear expectations about what you want from your team, create short and long-term goals, and share them in such a way that they will be easy to understand.

Autonomy | Whether they feel in control or not

Micromanagement is the biggest enemy of autonomy and therefore, you need to trust your team when you give them assignments. Also, include them in the decision-making process and give them stretch assignments, and delegate wherever you can. Encourage them to become more independent and give them the freedom to try out some new ideas that they come up with

Relatedness | How connected they feel

Isolated and lonely is what no one wants to feel in the workplace even though it’s a professional environment. Ask your team how they are doing, talk about topics that are not related to work, ask them about their family. Organize team-building activities and celebrate birthdays, milestones to make them feel part of the group. 

Fairness | Do they believe they are being treated fairly?

Treat your team members in a fair manner, don’t play the game of favorites. Be open and honest with everyone and avoid excluding people. Oftentimes, unfairness occurs when there are no clear-cut rules, instead set clear rules and goals so that you get your team’s approval and respect.

Picture credit: Unsplash

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