According to SDT, these three needs can be supported or thwarted by people around these individuals, including managers and leaders. When these needs are supported people feel more satisfied and when these needs are thwarted, people feel less satisfied. When coaches help leaders support these three needs in the workplace, their employees are happier and more engaged. Engagement, then, leads to greater productivity and team effectiveness.
Until it Doesn’t Work
Although the categories identified through SDT align with our analysis of what makes a leader effective, the concept of support or thwart lends itself to an “either/or” mindset and does not align with our philosophy. As described in the Case Study, this leader supported the need for relatedness, competence, and autonomy of all of her staff; however, her team was becoming more frustrated and disengaged. So, what was the problem?
We believe that SDT accounts for one side of the equation and is limited in that the model doesn’t account for the interdependent pairs in each of the three psychological needs. In other words, the leader was overly supporting her team to the detriment of the team. The team was requesting that she become more decisive and more direct. Although the Leader saw this as a negative, the team actually meant the feedback in a positive way because being Decisive would actually increase engagement. But where is there room for these interdependent pairs in SDT?
This led to our research to show how to expand SDT to include a Polarity lens (a both/and mindset) and create a dynamic leadership model. These were the building blocks to then create an assessment tool in which leaders could assess themselves across a wider range of behaviors that are dynamic in nature and still aligned to the three psychological needs.1K Club