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  • Mark Zanders

Sharing a S-C-A-R-F

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

The views portrayed in this Sharing a S-C-A-R-F blog are subject to change at any time based upon market or other conditions and are current as of December 4th, 2020. While all material is deemed to be reliable, accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
--Henry Ford

The weather is changing, but this blog is not written about a piece of clothing to keep you warm. It has been written to inspire and possibly help. At AFZA Capital, we continue to be determined to support the East African entrepreneurial market. It is our intention that this blog can hopefully provide some supportive material that can be used within your organization.

It is no secret that if you are a leader, every action you take and every decision you make either supports or undermines the perceived levels of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness (SCARF) in your organization. These are vital components to operating a business and in fact, partially why leadership is so difficult. As stated in previous blogs, we are all maneuvering to find the best path forward during this global pandemic.

Communication is a word that I can’t rely on enough when working with entrepreneurs. As a VC, nothing is more discouraging than a portfolio company going dark or vice versa and only sharing the good. Business is tough and it is okay. The SCARF model provides a means of bringing conscious awareness to interactions. It can help assist entrepreneurs balance the business and human emotion of addressing challenges.

Top-down strategic planning is often inimical to SCARF-related reactions. The reality is that having a few key leaders come up with a plan and then expecting people to buy into it is a recipe for failure. People rarely support initiatives they had no part in designing. At AFZA, we always suggest proactively addressing concerns by adopting an inclusive planning process that can prevent negative results.

As a leader, it is important to understand and acknowledge your team being a part of the everyday and positioning balance at all levels of the organization. A quick breakdown of the SCARF methodology is below.


We are biologically programmed to care about status because it favors our survival. The perception of status increases when people are given praise. Make sure you are cognizant of your colleagues. Coach up and make people better!


People crave certainty! Not knowing what will happen next can be profoundly debilitating because it requires extra neural energy. This naturally diminishes memory, undermines performance and disengages people from the present. Communicate and be transparent.


As long as people feel they can execute their own decisions without much oversight, stress remains under control. Leaders that want to support their team’s needs must give them some latitude to make choices, especially when they are part of a team. Present people with options and inspire them to make choices! No one enjoys working for a micro-manager.


Collaboration depends on healthy relationships, which require trust and empathy. In the brain, the ability to feel trust and empathy about others is shaped by whether they are perceived to be part of the same social group or team. Team management is a real thing! For example, teams of diverse people cannot be thrown together. They must be deliberately put together in a way to maximize strengths. This takes time!


People perceive fairness in relative terms, feeling more satisfied with a fair exchange that offers a minimal reward than an unfair exchange in which the reward is substantial. As history states, the cognitive need for fairness is so strong that some people are willing to fight and die for causes that they believe in.

In closing, we like to encourage people to reach out. We are passionate about people, strategy and business. Positivity brings everyone up.

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