Month: April 2023

How much do you have today?

How much do you have today?

Building on the topic of change from two weeks ago, it strikes me how constant change is and yet, many things never change.

On April 17th, the Wall Street Journal did a “Journal Report on C-Suite Strategies”. The topic? “Thanks. Why it’s important to show gratitude at work – what’s the best way to do it” (tiered subscription)

Really? No matter how things change, gratitude never goes out of style. Is this topic worthy of big section in one of the nation’s leading news outlets? Apparently. One stat: there is a 15% increase in the time spent helping someone when they are appreciated, according to the author Sara Algoe.

Sara goes on to share research that showing “gratitude before a task, showed improved cardiovascular response”. When giving thanks, be specific and genuine, expressing your care and concern. Giving thanks correlates with helping colleagues feel valued, which brings me to the SCARF framework.


You don’t lead by hitting people over the head, that’s assault, not leadership.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

As promised, from my last newsletter, here is Part 2 of How to WIN at Leading Change by Deb Graham. SCARF is such a GREAT framework, worth considering and implementing whether you are leading a change initiative or not. Read on:

Expecting pushback on an upcoming change? It’s normal to face resistance, as people naturally want to protect the status quo.

This reaction is not planned, but rather an emotional response to perceived threats. It’s important to understand how people might react to change, as it varies depending on the individual. One useful framework is the SCARF model, developed by Dr. David Rock and the Neuroleadership Institute, which identifies five common triggers:

Status: I am valuable
People want to feel valued and important. If Status is their trigger, they want to stand out from the crowd. Changes that negatively impact their title, office size, involvement in decisions, or perception of expertise can threaten their status.

Certainty: I know where I stand or what will happen to me
People want to know what’s going on and what to expect. Uncertainty around roles,
responsibilities, and the outcome of decisions can create anxiety. Change inevitably brings lots of uncertainty. Providing information such as the date the changes will be announced and what isn’t changing, can provide some stability and certainty.

Autonomy: I have a choice
People want to have control over their work. Micromanaging can threaten autonomy, while providing space and trust can increase it. Changes that limit autonomy may be met with resistance. If Autonomy is their dominant trigger, they will want to know whether the new way of doing things will give them more autonomy or less. Involving them will be critical to finding solutions that work for all involved.

Relatedness: I belong
People want to feel they belong and have supportive relationships. Changes that affect team composition or dynamics can create discomfort and resistance. Opportunities to get to know each other can help build trust. Also, leaders can use language such as “we” and “us” instead of “you,” “me,” and “they,” which signals a clear boundary between groups.

Fairness: I am treated fairly and others are treated fairly
People want to be treated fairly and perceive impartiality. Changes that seem unfair can trigger resistance. Lack of transparency implies you have something to hide, thus triggering the sense that things may not be fair.

Understanding these triggers and addressing them proactively can help reduce resistance. Providing clear communication, involving employees in decision-making, and promoting a sense of fairness can help create a smoother transition.

And Finally...

Earlier this week, I coached a sales leader who is going through a tremendous amount of change at her company. We talked about the SCARF framework, and it really resonated with her. She felt both Status and Relatedness were fine but needed work on Certainty, Autonomy and Fairness.

For Certainty, she felt she could ask better questions, be more proactive and add dates. For Autonomy, she said she needed more clarity about what matters to her new managers. She thinks she knows… but realized during our session that she is following her instincts and is not really sure. Fairness was an issue too for a similar reason. She is managing her team based on what she thinks, she “knows better”.

What is the insight? When you are facing change in your organization (and we all know that change is constant), maybe try the SCARF framework to see if you are on track and managing your teams to sync up with the company’s new direction.

If you would like to learn more about how Deb and I can help your team leaders more effectively manage change, reach out.

Have a great week.
Mary Jo

To learn more about my 1:1 executive, communication or business growth coaching, custom virtual workshops, the Career Transition program or just to connect, you can reach me at [email protected]

What is your plan?

What is your plan?

Last week, a client spoke passionately about their personal development, especially since they were in a new role. Taking time to intentionally think about what you are doing to grow professionally, and then consistently acting on it, matters.

Often, we focus on the day-to-day work in front of us and lose sight of areas where we can develop. Maybe take an improv class if you have a fear of public speaking, or take a university course or one on Coursera. You could also join a mastermind group or (shameless plug) work with an executive coach.

Each year, I try to do one or two big things to elevate my skills or expand my learning beyond reading books or listening to podcasts. This year, I am excited to announce that I am expanding my business by partnering with Deb Graham, who is very experienced in organizational change.


You don’t lead by hitting people over the head, that’s assault, not leadership.

John Maxwell

I am thrilled to share an article, written by Deb Graham called: How to WIN at Leading Change, to get you into the topic of the work we will be doing together:

Have you ever wondered why people resist change? According to Gartner, 45% of HR leaders say their employees are fatigued from

so much change.* Yes, it’s possible that people are tired. It’s also likely that our approach to change isn’t working. In our hurry to implement another new program, policy, or strategy shift, we lean on telling people what to do and assume they will do it. That may work for a bit but as soon as we move on to the next priority, people revert to the old way of doing things. Instead of telling people what to do, WIN.

Why – Do I know why this change matters and how it fits in with the other changes that are happening? When the process, system, or who I need to work with is different than the norm, it takes extra time. I already have a lot to do so why is this important? Also, what’s in it for me? Is my job going to get easier? Will I learn a skill that makes me more marketable? Or will there be job eliminations? The answer to how change will impact me can motivate or demotivate.

Involve – If you’re changing a process or system I’ve been using for years, it’s likely I have some ideas to make it better. Ask my opinion. Involve me in the discussion. Let me know you hear my concerns. People like to influence change but they resist having change done to them. If you can’t involve people in ‘what’ is changing, involve them in the ‘how’. Be clear what can be influenced and what can not.

Needs – My response may be a reaction to how the change will affect me. Our brains react defensively when we feel threatened. In contrast, our brains receive a blast of dopamine when we feel rewarded. The Neuroleadership Institute describes five domains of social threat and reward that trigger our behaviors. Our sensitivity to these five SCARF domains varies from person to person, they are: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Restriction and Fairness. Autonomy may be a big trigger for me but Certainty might be more important to you. When you understand and meet an individual’s specific SCARF need, their threat response is calmed. We’ll dig deeper into SCARF in How to Win, Part 2.

You may be thinking ‘this takes time’. And you’re right, it does. When it comes to organizational change, going fast may feel good, but it’s rarely sustainable. Taking the time to engage people and meet their needs ensures a sustainable WIN.

*Gartner: Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2023

To learn more about our work in business transformation click here, or to learn more about Deb, click here.

And Finally...

The type of environment where someone wants to work will matter differently to different people. One of my clients recently shared that he felt the company was too over the top focused on making sure everyone is “happy and engaged”. He said: “I just want to do the work but nobody seems to really focus on it. We are having far too many meetings on things other than the actual work.”

Another client was lamenting about the CEO and his strategy, realizing that she is not aligned with how he runs the company, which has created (in her opinion) a culture of stressed out, beaten down sellers. How can she move forward?

This all syncs up with How To Win at Leading Change, as Deb wrote up. Stay tuned for more on the SCARF model in the next edition.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments or thoughts, reach out anytime.

Have a great week.
Mary Jo

To learn more about my 1:1 executive, communication or business growth coaching, custom virtual workshops, the Career Transition program or just to connect, you can reach me at [email protected]