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An old man on the street and your motivation.

About two years ago, I found myself unexpectedly...chasing after a man 🏃‍♀️.


Fortunately, he’s not faster me. And this has nothing to do with me…this is because Hans Kruecken, is 88 years old. It's a VERY hot Tuesday afternoon when a friend and I set out for a walk. We encounter Hans on the sidewalk about 10 minutes down the road.


“I’m lost, can you give me directions?" he asks. "Toronto. I need to get to Toronto."


I look around and wonder how far are we from Toronto? About 75km, is the answer. We also discover Hans is about 25 km from home…which, based on the tag on his scooter, is the local Retirement Residence.


Well shoot.


We consider our options…I mean, what are you supposed to do when you find an 88 year-old man lost in the middle of Aurora on his scooter?


We can’t just give him directions and carry on, can we?


But…can we actually put him on the blue bus? (I can see the headlines now....)


We decide to phone a friend! In this case, Hans' Retirement Residence - and they give us purely precious advice:


Get Hans to Yonge St. and point him north. When he gets to the Main Street, he’ll recognize where he is and he’ll make is way home!

My friend and I exchange a "we are definitely NOT doing THAT" kind of glance.


“I need ze blue bus, to get to Toronto!”


Without any better ideas...we stall.


“Hans, do you see that stop sign up ahead? Can you drive there and wait for us?”


“Ugh. Fine.”


He hurries off as we trail along behind…when my phone rings. It’s Hans’ daughter!

She introduces herself and asks me if I still have her father. I assure her we’re all together (mostly…), and then she asks me if I found him on the 404. The 404!


(if you’re not from Toronto, the 404 is an 8-lane major artery feeding the downtown core. It can be a scary place to be in a car…and she would like to know…did I find Hans there on his scooter?!)


“I need ze blue bus!” we hear, as we get to the stop sign. “Ze blue bus! Ze blue bus!”


Hans is clearly losing patience. We arrange a meetup with his daughter, and as I hang up the phone, Hans face is soaked with suspicion. I tell Hans with all the sincerity and innocence I can muster:


“I want to get you to the blue bus Hans, but I don’t know where it is. Can we go to the office so I can look it up?”

(sigh) “Fine,” he replies, with a dramatic roll of his impatient eyes.


We ask Hans to drive to the next stop sign (again), and wait for us (again).


He scoots on ahead of us (again), and then...we see it.


He glances back.

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He glances back (again).

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He crouches down. And he accelerates.

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That’s right. Hans is going for optimal aerodynamics on that scooter. He is on to us.


Hans knows we are NEVER going to put him on that blue bus…and he’s making a break for it.


And now the 88 year-old man we're supposed to be saving, is on the run!


But fortunately, he’s not faster than me 😁.


And this has nothing to do with me…this is because Hans’ scooter is low on battery! We break into a run, catch up to Hans and lure him into the parking lot with a glass of water. His daughter arrives and Hans knows…it is Mission Impossible for today. The blue bus was just not meant to be.


Or at least, not yet....

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And I love everything about Hans.


I love his tenacity. I love his courage. I love his resourcefulness. I love his drive.


Hans knew exactly where he wanted to go that day. And as a matter of fact, so do I.


Are you as curious as I was?


Hans....was trying to get back to work. Hans' mission was to get back to the business he'd started and run for nearly 40 years of his life.


At 88 years old, he is more motivated to get to the office than most 38 year-olds I've worked with!


And I've decided. I want to be like Hans. Not just when I'm 88, but right now. Today. From today, to my 88th birthday and beyond, I want to live life in passionate-pursuit of work that matters. Because that's what it was that Hans was after, wasn't it?


It wasn't the work that he was chasing.


It was what his work could offer him, that he was chasing.


Three things, in fact.

1) At work, Hans felt competent. Every day, he showed up with the ability, knowledge, or skill to be successful at something. He could see the fruits of his own labour.


2) At work, Hans had community. There were people he cared for, and people who cared for him; maybe they helped him reach his potential. Maybe he helped them reach theirs. He was connected to something bigger than himself.


3) At work, Hans had autonomy. He was free from external control or influence; he got to make his own choices. He wasn't completely independent, but he was able to make decisions that immediately influenced the environment around him.


And Hans….is actually just a reflection of what we all want.


He is a living, breathing, example of something called the Self-Determination Theory in action (selfdeterminationtheory.org). Our levels of motivation can be directly (and scientifically) traced to our experience of these three elements. We need to feel a sense of competence. We need to feel a sense of relatedness. We need to feel a sense of autonomy. When all three of these elements are available to us within our work environments, sense of intrinsic motivation soars.


Have you been finding yourself unmotivated lately? Have a look at these three elements and ask yourself...what is missing?

Is your work falling into the extremes of being boring, or far too challenging? You might be missing that sense of competence.


Are you lacking the ability to make choices in your work, or get things done without a lot of influence from others? You might be missing a sense of autonomy?


Or maybe, you're missing a sense of connection and community. Maybe there is a gap in the "meaningful interactions" category.


And if you're a Manager who's noticing a dip in the motivation of one or more of your team members, what do you think is missing from their environment right now?


There are really only three levers you can pull, if you want to invest intentionally in the motivation of your team. We all have a little bit of Hans on the inside. As you lead, acknowledge this and create as many opportunities as you can to increase a sense of competence, a sense of autonomy, and a sense of relatedness for each of your people.


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This month's workshop went deep on how to foster motivation on your team. Check out next month's workshop on holding powerful 1:1 meetings here.


The Skillful Manager Program develops exceptional Managers: Managers who Get Results. Managers who Nurture Others. Managers who Build your Legacy. You can learn more about our training programs here.


For bi-weekly tips to help you thrive in your role, subscribe here.

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