This is Part 2 of a 3 part series. It might be beneficial to read Part 1 (last blog post) before exploring Part 2.

As a reminder, an idea I touched on in Part 1 is that people are inherently good, hard working people who are doing the best they can given the multitude of competing priorities they contend with physically, emotionally, and mentally on a daily basis.

The second idea I invite you to explore is that one of the keys to INSPIRING, INFLUENCING, and MOTIVATING others lies in STIMULATING THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS. This idea is based on grounded theory and has a useful application in building relationships. My experience suggests that WHEN LEADERS stimulate the hearts and minds of PEOPLE EFFECTIVELY, they are communicating consciously in order to cultivate a positive, fear free atmosphere in which their employees feel VALUED, ENTHUSIASTIC, CONFIDENT, EMPOWERED AND INSPIRED!

Imagine if all your employees felt VALUED, ENTHUSIASTIC, CONFIDENT, EMPOWERED AND INSPIRED— What do you think will happen to their levels of engagement?

Pause for a moment, right now, to reflect on the ways you engage your employees heart’s and minds of your different direct reports.

We all know that when it comes to communication, it’s not only about WHAT we communicate, but also HOW we communicate. Furthermore, our capacity to communicate effectively either builds or breaks trust. So let’s explore a communication framework that has been proven to CULTIVATE A POSITIVE, FEAR-FREE EMOTIONAL ATMOSPHERE. This model helps us understand the MAIN DRIVERS THAT DETERMINE HUMAN BEHAVIOR—IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT MAKES PEOPLE TICK. When we understand what makes people tick, it helps us increase our effectiveness as leaders, managers, supervisors, partners, and even as parents.

The model, called SCARF, was developed by David Rock, an expert in the emerging field of neuro-leadership. The SCARF models highlights 5 domains that when either positively or negatively affected, can have a major impact on an individual’s motivation and engagement levels.

The domains are:
S: Status C: Certainty A: Autonomy R: Relatedness F: Fairness

Our brains are wired to look at anything within these domains as either THREATS, which are negative, or REWARDS, which are positive. When we are feeling threatened in any of these domains, it creates response, which causes us to WITHDRAW. When we withdraw, we are UNABLE TO PROCESS COMPLEX THOUGHTS, THINK CLEARLY OR TAKE IN NEW IDEAS. Some people mistakenly think they have slowly acquired ADD or ADHD when, in fact, they are perpetually feeling threatened and do not know it.

When we feel POSITIVE or REWARDED in any of these domains we have what Dr Rock refers to as a TOWARDS RESPONSE which means we become MOTIVATED, ARE HAPPY, ABLE TO THINK CLEARLY, MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS, HAVE INSIGHTS, AND MAKE LESS MISTAKES. Studies show that employees who experience high levels of POSITIVE REWARDS have ENHANCED LEVELS OF ENGAGEMENT.

For practical understanding and application, I will highlight the first 2 domains in this post and the remaining 3 in the next blog post. For each domain I will share COMMON UNIVERSAL FINDINGS found in RESEARCH about inspiring others that YOU CAN IMPLEMENT TO MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES FEEL VALUED, ENTHUSIASTIC, CONFIDENT, EMPOWERED AND REWARDED by using the SCARF framework.

Before we go there, I’d like to ask you to close your eyes again for two to three minutes. Focus on the breath…the inhale and the exhale, feeling the air as it passes through your nostrils and into your body……
I’d like you to answer this question:

On a very basic level, even if you choose not to embrace the SCARF model, you can likely recognize the connection between what motivates YOU and what you can ROLE MODEL for your direct reports to inspire them.

NOW LET’S WRAP THE SCARF AROUND THE UNIVERSAL FINDINGS. Even though I will present them in a linear fashion so they spell SCARF, please note that in terms of building rapport with others they are interdependent domains, and you may be dealing with any of the drivers at any given time with a different direct report.

As I share each domain, I invite you to identify a tip that can enhance what you are already doing either with a specific individual or with your entire team.

S stands for STATUS: Our brains are naturally drawn to things that increase how we feel about ourselves in relation to others. If we feel ‘better’ than someone, our reward circuitry is activated. Studies show that it can be surprisingly easy to accidentally threaten someone’s sense of status. The simple act of giving advice or instructions, or suggesting someone is slightly ineffective at a task can turn into a status threat. Performance reviews often generate status threats.

People want to know what they do makes a difference or matters, and they inherently want to be authentic when doing so. When employees are allowed be their authentic best selves in the workplace, their feelings of inspiration and motivation go up.

1. Ask your EMPLOYEE “WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOU THAT LEADS TO YOUR HAPPIEST TIMES AT WORK?” Then look for ways to give them opportunities to shine. Challenge them to use their talents to contribute to the team or organization. Then give them positive feedback, and when possible, public acknowledgement.
2. People also feel a status increase when they feel they are learning and improving and when attention is paid to their improvement. Acknowledge the improvement. When possible, allow people to give themselves feedback on their own performance.
3. Collect feedback from customer serving team members about what they are experiencing, ie problems, opportunities, and general observations. If a front line employee feels their insights are being heard and valued it deposits a reward in their STATUS domain and will go a long way in making them FEEL VALUED, ENTHUSIASTIC, CONFIDENT, EMPOWERED AND INSPIRED.

C stands for certainty. We all know how it feels when uncertainty is looming…it can consume our thoughts. It can propel people into a threatened state, and what Dr Rock calls an ‘error response’, which takes attention away from one’s goals. I wonder if anyone here has ever had an experience in which your manager’s communication may have been vague or ambiguous, leaving you wondering what to do in your role, or what they expected of you, or whether or not they noticed your performance, the little things you do to contribute? How did it feel? For many people it can be highly debilitating.

1. Break down a complex task into small steps and establish clear expectations of desirable outcomes. Simple things such as stating clear objectives at the start of your discussions in addition to utilizing the old adage—Tell people what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.
2. People need to know where they fit in to larger picture. Be sure to emphasize the value they add to the organization and how their role aligns with the overall goals of the enterprise.
3. Provide praise and positive feedback. Shockingly, in a study of employees at Fortune 500 companies revealed that positive verbal reinforcement—praise—was rare in their organization. However, most admitted enjoying being recognized for accomplishments and abilities and receiving positive feedback—provided such attention was sincere and not overdone.

Application Invitation: Right now, take a moment to contemplate and write down a couple of ideas of how you can challenge or encourage your direct reports to use their talents or contribute to the team (fostering status) and also identify individual compliments you can give your direct report or explain how they fit in.

When you share your findings with them, it demonstrates you are interested in your employee’s well-being and his or her growth potential. If they believe you are investing in them, they feel more secure in their status, more certain, rewarded, more valued.

Have fun playing with this concept and feel free to share any ideas you have that work for you…it would be a treat to learn from each other!

Stay tuned for Part 3….coming soon.



  1. Florence Haridan05-30-14

    As ever, your insights are powerful and ignite inquiry within myself. I am creating a new team and am working to be sure these principles are at the heart. I know what they are like when in full operation, creating from ground up has been a new adventure. Thanks for this to use as a touchstone!

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