September 30, 2010

A Self Determination Theory perspective on effective management

As you may know, I am a fan of Self Determination Theory (SDT) and I am convinced there is strong parallel between SDT and the solution-focused approach (read my article in which I explain this). The two researchers who have done most of the pioneering work in SDT are Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. Bestseller author Daniel Pink (of Drive) describes their work as "an absolute treasure trove of research on human motivation”.

A new article by Karen McKally, Self Determined, features Deci and Ryan's work and describes an interesting SDT perspective on management. It is good food for thought.
What’s a Boss to Do?
Self-determination theory does not offer a license for permissiveness, say Deci and Ryan. Nor is it meant to promote individualism, an idea that assumes the needs of individuals and the community are in conflict. Instead, the theory relies on shared commitments and responsibilities. So how do you, as a boss, a teacher, a parent, or a doctor, encourage autonomy while ensuring that goals are met? Here are some guidelines:

  1. Share decision making. It’s not practical in all circumstances, but it is in more cases than we often assume. If goals are non-negotiable, allow people to determine how they will get there. The more people participate in the decisions that affect them, the more engaged they will be.
  2. Explain the reasons for goals and rules. Unless you’re dealing with a small child, explaining why a rule exists, or how a task is important to a larger objective, is almost always useful in promoting engagement.
  3. Adopt the other’s perspective. Once you understand another’s perspective, it's easier to work out—together—how you might help achieve valued aims.
  4. Foster an alliance. Hierarchical relationships have their place. But work-related or behavior-related goals are often shared. The manager is not responsible for an employee’s mistakes, but she is responsible for the final product. Make your mutual interest clear—as well as your offer of support.

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