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Strategic Management and Business Consulting

Are You SCARFing Down?

That title is anathema for Christians during Lent. We often give up our favorite foods and drinks, going without for a bit over forty days. (Apparently we don’t count Sundays in the forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.) The idea is to help us re-evaluate our relationships. We add some prayers to help with our relationship with God. We fast from food, drink, and activities to improve our relationship with ourselves. We give of our time and talents with almsgiving to improve our relationship with others in our lives that are sharing life with us in our communities and on this planet. Just as Lent is a good time for Christians to evaluate progress, it’s nearly the end of the first quarter of 2019, an excellent time to evaluate your business progress. 

Relationships are especially important in the business world. SCARF is a new acronym coined by neuroscientists studying the brain. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or Pyramid has been supplanted by scientific evidence of how the brain works. For instance, physical pain is felt in the brain the same as the pain of rejection in a relationship. It’s as if Maslow’s Pyramid has collapsed and the esteem at the top has fallen to the base of physical needs. It’s time to dress up, re-evaluate how we do things in the business world, and put on a new SCARF.

S is for Status. All of us like to be respected and acclaimed, even praised. My two-year-old grandson basks in applause and positive comments for just about everything he does, including required biological activities. My wife is exceptional in relaying good words to others and building people up. No matter how “down” a person is, she can find a way to accentuate the positives in a person and raise them up in status, at least to themselves. Being a driven kind of person with logical training, this has been hard for me to learn, let alone accept. However, I’ve seen the evidence from neuroscientists and my own observations. Leaders that praise others and share the glory are much more likely to get people to do things and to have people stay with them.

C is for Certainty. Change is very hard to accomplish. It does not happen overnight or with a single event. Study after study has shown that it takes discipline over a period of time, perhaps 21-days, to accomplish the start of change. A colleague of mine just started such a 21-day program of short videos in e-mails to help people overcome the anxiety of change because we are so attached to the comfort of certainty. Imagine coming home, going to your clothes closet only to find someone has moved everything. You’ll likely go crazy for a bit of time even if the new arrangement is better in some way. The same thing happens at work. Maybe moving something from the left to the right at a work station makes sense. But, it won’t be easy to accept until some time later. Try changing your diet, exercising more, altering a golf swing, reading more. It’s all too easy to regress to the old ways. We need certainty in our lives for relaxation and security.

A is for Autonomy. It won’t be long now before my grandson refuses to let parents and grandparents help him do something. He’ll want to do it himself and will recoil from us to get his point across. We don’t grow out of the need, it just changes. It’s been shown that people in an assisted living facility live longer if they are given the simple choice of meals for themselves rather than someone else choosing for them. That’s autonomy to the end. In the business world, I think I have yet to meet a salesperson that preferred time at headquarters versus being out in the field. Many CEOs want to be Chairman of the Board as well, so that they can control things better. That’s autonomy in action.

R is for Relationship. The Bible indicates we do not live by bread alone. In fact, it has been proven that infants will not survive without love and holding that help them to be related with another. Lonely people are not as healthy as those that have friends and interact with others. In business, as with family and friends, we have many relationships that must be constantly, repeatedly nourished, not with food, but with time, effort, and caring. 

F is for Fairness. Who has not heard on the playground at school or in the classroom, “That’s not fair!” When legislatures pass laws requiring workers to be better informed of pay differentials, that’s a grown-up version of “that’s not fair.” When it’s found that someone cheated the system to get into college, people rightfully exclaim, “that’s not fair.” Young or old, fairness is something we seem to innately expect. Just be careful that the quest for fairness does not become socialism and overrides the need for incentives to improve performance and status.

As we approach the end of the first quarter, check yourself in the business mirror. Are you making the progress you expected. Do things look good? Or is it time to adjust your SCARF?

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