1: We have three basic psychological needs related to our work: 

o Autonomy in how we do our work 

o A sense of competence 

o Positive and meaningful relationships 

These needs are at the heart of what psychologists call Self-Determination Theory.

“Social environments that support these three needs create high levels of intrinsic motivation, psychological and physical wellness, and enhanced performance in all of their people,” write Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy in Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork.

We tend to focus on one of the three drivers: autonomy. By itself, however, it is not sufficient.   

“Put simply, autonomy without clarity is ultimately a disaster,” Dan and Ben write. “Research has found that teams who have high levels of autonomy but low goal clarity, as well as little performance feedback, actually perform worse than teams with low autonomy.”  

2: To succeed, teams require: high autonomy, high goal clarity, and regular feedback on their results.

Which has important implications for leadership. And for delegation.

“Lack of clarity of vision and inability to articulate that vision leaves [team members] with no identity and no clear purpose,” the authors write. “They become frustrated and lose their confidence.”

In this scenario, it’s not a lack of resources or capability that cripples the team. Rather, it’s bad leadership that doesn’t provide the vision.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to be crystal clear on (1) the desired outcome or goal; and to (2) provide clarity, feedback, and direction as needed.  

3: One tip: Begin the project by asking what has to be true when the project is finished. “According to Expectancy Theory, one of the core motivation theories in psychology, motivation requires a clear and tangible outcome, as well as a path to getting that outcome,” Dan and Ben write. “Boundaries help clarify our path toward our desired aims.”  

What’s NOT required? Explaining how the work should be done. The individuals or team should have complete autonomy in how they achieve the desired outcome. The success criteria established by the leader are essential “for motivation because they clarify the path” and “provide complete autonomy in how they create the result,” write Dan and Ben. 

More tomorrow!


Reflection: Consider an upcoming project. How might I specifically provide a clear goal and boundaries while leaving the team complete autonomy on how the goal is achieved? 

Action: Journal about it. Then, experiment with this approach.

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