The Self-Determination Theory.

Managers and leaders have long debated the best ways to bring the best out in their people. From micro-managers to coaching types, right through to light touch supervision, the world is full of management and leadership theories, learnings and frameworks. Recently a friend introduced me to one I’ve never heard of before, The Self-Determination Theory.

Now to be fair, said friend is a highly intelligent academic woman who has endless knowledge in this space, but what you’re going to get is Jason’s explanation for dummies on something I think is just good common sense and very simple to try and apply to any given leadership situation.

To catch you up, The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) was developed by clinical psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. The theory revolves around motivation, breaking down what drives people to act a certain way or their willingness to perform a given task. The SDT works to address three common, intrinsic needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. According to the SDT, if these needs are met, then people will develop and reach their potential.

Petty simple stuff at a high level. Let’s break down the 3 main needs that make up the theory:

Competence: Common sense right? You want someone in a role who has the capability to perform the tasks assigned to their job.
Autonomy: This is the big deal. If you’ve hired someone to do a job, they have all the skills to perform the role, then let them do it!
Relatedness: Your people must feel some sense of relation or ownership, whether that’s internal relationships or a buy in to a common direction or creed. This is why your company/team culture is so important.

There are also mini theories around SDT and likely important parts that I’ve missed, particularly around intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. I suggest that if you’re interested in learning more, do what I’m doing and check out http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/

Let me know your thoughts. Interested to hear how this could be applied to your team.

JD

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