Peer Learning and the SCARF Model- Part One

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“Many great leaders understand intuitively that they need to work hard to create a sense of safety in others. In this way, great leaders are often humble leaders, thereby reducing the status threat. Great leaders provide clear expectations and talk a lot about the future, helping to increase certainty. Great leaders let others take charge and make decisions, increasing autonomy. Great leaders often have a strong presence, which comes from working hard to be authentic and real with other people, to create a sense of relatedness. And great leaders keep their promises, taking care to be perceived as fair.” -David Rock

Safety Not Fear

Safety, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, fairness. Sound like the values of a great place to work. But the reality is that, more often than not, our workplace experience is not as fulfilling and supportive. Uncertainty, anxiety and insecurity in recent years have led many companies to over-control and discourage risk-taking, which squashes creative thinking within their workforce. This has inhibited growth and innovation, both at the employee and corporate level. As a result, it has stifled employees’ ability and willingness to learn and perform. Can we do better?

Lessons from Brain Science

Fear spreads easily and quickly contaminates a working environment. However, a positive, supportive environment can be equally contagious. David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and the author of Your Brain at Work, applies the findings from neuroscience to transform leadership effectiveness. He shows how collaborating with and influencing others offer new approaches to motivation and performance.

His brain-based SCARF model is built on three central ideas:

  1. The brain treats many social threats and rewards with the same intensity as physical threats and rewards.
  2. Employee productivity and performance (the capacity to make decisions, solve problems and collaborate with others) are generally reduced by a threat response and increased under a reward response.
  3. The threat response is more intense and more common and often needs to be carefully minimized in social interactions.

Rock’s research shows how dopamine is one of the primary chemicals that our brains produce to decide when we feel a sense of reward or punishment. He demonstrates how, based on chemical reactions, the human brain is hardwired to respond to five key social needs or domains: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

Each of these elements has a vital role in how managers and leaders approach learning and personal growth, and consequently how they perform in the workplace and affect their employees’ performance and motivation. How can we release ‘organizational dopamine’ and create space for learning and growth? The answer is in Part Two.

Deborah Laurel

Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer

The Peer Learning Institute

By the way, we are presenting at Training 2019 in Orlando, Florida in February. If you’re interested in attending, you can get a $200 discount when you use Discount Code TSP2 for a new registration. Please let me know if you plan to attend and we can arrange to get together.

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