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The Art of the Science Behind qChange Series: Self-Determination

Updated: Dec 4, 2021

Using the Three Core Needs of Self Determination Theory to Help Leaders with Their Leadership Journey.

The Art of the Science Behind qChange series highlights the Science behind qChange, while also describing the Art of applying that Science. In previous weeks we focused on utilizing Nudge Theory to prompt positive behavior from leaders right before critical meetings. Then we walked through how we use Neuro-Linguistic Programming to talk to leaders in a style that resonates with them.

This week we focus on Self Determination Theory (SDT). Self Determination is a theory of human motivation developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. They focused on what moves us to act – motivation, and the inherent, positive human tendency to move towards growth.

There’s a lot to this theory and the research behind it, but here I’ll focus on the three core needs that facilitate that growth. They are Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness. Simply stated, the need for Competence is to feel like we did a good job. For example, your likes and positive comments on this blog series motivate me (hint, hint). The need for Autonomy is to feel like we have control over what we do. With the pandemic people feel less in control than in more normal times. Relatedness is the need to connect and have meaningful relationships and interactions with other people. As organizations sort through hybrid, remote, in the office, combos of all, the need for relatedness will be critical for culture.

There’s plenty more to this theory but also a lot to unpack with just these three core needs. At qChange, we recognize that everyone wants to feel Competent, and know when they’ve done a good job. That’s core to our Leadership Experience (LX) solution, providing leaders a low friction method to understand what leadership areas they excel in and which they need to focus on. We also give the leader the chance to recognize effective feedback they receive from Influencers (those helping the leader grow) to let them know that they are making a positive impact on the leader’s developmental journey.

Autonomy is also central to our solution. Throughout the LX cycle our AI and machine learning provides the leader with recommendations but always leaves the choice up to that leader. For example, we recommend Areas for growth, Influencers to provide ratings for feedback, etc. But we leave the choice point up to the leader. The leader ultimately selects what to focus on, whether or not to ask for written feedback, which Influencers to include in the process, etc. We believe it is that leader’s personal journey, and that leader should be in the driver’s seat.

Finally, Relatedness is especially important to our LX offering (and qChange as an organization). Within our LX system there are three major Themes that organize our Leadership Dimensions and Areas (our LEAD model). One of those Themes is called Strengthening Trust & Relationships and is very focused on the need for Relatedness. As we sort through the new “normal” leaders that can help their team create meaningful relationships, connections, and interactions will be the leaders that excel.

To explore more, check us out at:

John Howes, Ph.D.

Chief Leader Experience Officer

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