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SCARF—a tool to understand reaction to the pandemic?

Updated: May 5, 2020

Threats and rewards are a topic in many of our workshops—they are a way to understand what drives people to behave in particular ways. When I began this blog, I was thinking about team interaction. As I write it today, I'm thinking about how we respond to the threats posed by Covid 19.

We use David Rock's SCARF model to explore threats and rewards. Rock suggests five needs that drive people to move towards rewards or move away from threats. The five needs that make up the scarf are:

  • Status

  • Certainty

  • Autonomy

  • Relatedness

  • Fairness

Last week we used the SCARF model for a team session. I included the model in my Tea & Toast presentation on Influence at work. For the team, we used it to understand how we interact, and react differently to the the same circumstances.

We all did the free online assessment from NeuroLeadership Institute. Like all good facilitators, we wrote up the results! The scoring is 1 low, 7 high.

The lowest score was Hilary's need for Certainty, at 2. We talked about how this possibly contributed to her ability to establish a business from nothing and keep it going through periods of uncertainty.

Which is where my draft for this blog evolved. On Friday we also talked about our response to Covid 19. Today, I suggest the model is a useful way for any team to discuss their reactions to the situation.

We are all looking to experts. Is this meeting their need for status? The threat to certainty is perhaps the most obvious, although some will feel it more keenly. And the Prime Minister's announcement on Saturday may have provided them welcome certainty. For others, the situation may be seen as a threat to autonomy—about freedom of movement for starters. Self-isolation may threaten people's needs for relatedness. Doubtless, the response to the Government's emergency package will raise questions about fairness, as individuals and business work out what is in it—or not in it— for them.

SCARF gave us more information about each other, as individuals and as a team. Consider using it to start a discussion this week about how your family, friends, and colleagues are reacting to the rapidly changing situation in which we find ourselves.


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