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- Clare Goodman

The Lift Effect Blog

Building brain-based team work

Sometimes being in relationships, either at work or at home can be both pleasurable and painful. Positive relationships at work can make the difference between engagement or disengagement. Gallup has recently conducted research into why people come to work and one of the most important factors is ‘the people that I work with’. So people are important and working in a team environment is essential for success in business.

 “Teamwork remains the one sustainable competitive advantage that has been largely untapped” (Lencioni, 2005)

He goes onto describe a dysfunctional team as;

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Inattention to results

A team that trusts one another, engage in passionate discussions, commit to decisions and hold one another accountable are more likely to set aside personal agendas and focus on the goals of the team (Lencioni, 2005). So it seems obvious that to build an effective team a leader needs trust, passionate, honest conversations, commitment, accountability and a focus on mutual team goals.

David Rock devised a neuroscience model called SCARF that may help explain team work further (Rock, 2008)

  • Status
  • Certainty
  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness
  • Fairness

These five domains are essential in building relationships with others. Our brain is wired to minimize threat or maximize reward and if you can maximize reward across some of these domains then you are more likely to achieve a positive relationship.

“The model enables people to more easily remember, recognize and potentially modify the core social domains that drive human behaviour” (Rock, 2008)

In many respects this SCARF goes further into providing a strong framework for building teams than Lecioni’s. It incorporates Lencioni’s plus adds the importance of relatedness and fairness, which according to Rock are strong drivers in the model.

Practical Ideas for Leaders

Use the SCARF model as a framework to start looking at whether you are driving threat or reward behaviours in your team.

Do your team members feel:

  • Status; that their opinions are valued, that they are important, that they ideas are valued.
  • Certainty; that they know what is expected and where the team is heading
  • Autonomy; do they feel that they have some control over what they are doing?
  • Relatedness; do they feel a sense of belonging to the team? Is there a high level of trust and support?
  • Fairness; Do they feel that they and others have been treated fairly? This could include money, bonuses, work allocation, feedback etc.

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