More from Managing with the Brain in Mind:
“Five particular qualities enable employees and executives alike to minimize the threat response and instead enable the reward response. These five social qualities are status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness: Because they can be expressed with the acronym scarf, I sometimes think of them as a kind of headgear that an organization can wear to prevent exposure to dysfunction. […]
Putting on the SCARF
If you are a leader, every action you take and every decision you make either supports or undermines the perceived levels of status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness in your enterprise. In fact, this is why leading is so difficult. Your every word and glance is freighted with social meaning. Your sentences and gestures are noticed and interpreted, magnified and combed for meanings you may never have intended.
The SCARF model provides a means of bringing conscious awareness to all these potentially fraught interactions. It helps alert you to people’s core concerns (which they may not even understand themselves) and shows you how to calibrate your words and actions to better effect.
Start by reducing the threats inherent in your company and in its leaders’ behavior. Just as the animal brain is wired to respond to a predator before it can focus attention on the hunt for food, so is the social brain wired to respond to dangers that threaten its core concerns before it can perform other functions. Threat always trumps reward because the threat response is strong, immediate, and hard to ignore. Once aroused, it is hard to displace, which is why an unpleasant encounter in traffic on the morning drive to work can distract attention and impair performance all day. Humans cannot think creatively, work well with others, or make informed decisions when their threat responses are on high alert. Skilled leaders understand this and act accordingly.”