Motivation theory in real life – with Daniel Pink’s “Drive” and Kolind/Bøtters “Unboss”

Preamble: Jacob Bøtter (@boetter) asked me to translate my Danish version of this article to English, in order to share it amongst the UK speaking Unboss fora. Hereby done 🙂

This article describes how I use Daniel Pinks “Drive” and Kolind / Bøtters “Unboss” in my work as a people manager.

The article is written “short, sweet and to the point”, just like my other writings. The purpose is to allow the reader to skim and adopt the content and messages within 3-5 minutes.

If you find this useful, please pop me an email. 🙂


Motivation – how?

I’ve created this poster that hangs size A0 on my wall behind me at work:

The method is boldly snatched from Daniel Pinks book “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, which is very recommendable (and very easy to find on and Amazon). Daniel Pink examines the theory here, in this famous TED video. In addition, it is seasoned with inspiration from Kolind (@Kolind) and Bøtters (@boetter) “Unboss“.

I have people management responsibility for a couple of handfuls of employees, and I use the terms from this motivation model daily, at department meetings, at 1-to-1 conversations with employees, and at employee development interviews.

The model describes the three factors needed to create inner motivation. The book meticulously examines the individual factors, decomposed into elements, very well documented.

I had a need to bring it into a Danish context, which resulted in the poster (translated for you here). I expect that it is self-explanatory. 🙂

Unboss plays a big role in my breakdown of autonomy, mastering and purpose.

  • I try – as often as I can – to offer the tasks in plenary, and increasingly the employees volunteer for the tasks themselves. However, it is a long journey that I am very careful with, because people are not used to it.
  • To me, mastery is about the task being juuust a little too big, so there is an intellectual, discipline-related, domain-related or communicative challenge in it.
  • I often talk about the purpose, “The WHY”, as the vision and benchmark for our work. (“We produce green electricity and help making the world a better place.”). Then we talk about the task and how it adds value to systems or projects.



As people manager, the task is to figure out what it takes for each employee

  • to get stressed,
  • to get annoyed,
  • to kill motivation,

so we actively can engage in dialogue to avoid such impacts and situations, and remedy them when they occur.

Personally, I get stressed if someone robs me control over my own time. And I am most annoyed by micro-management. And highly unmotivated if I cannot use my creative intellect for problem solving.


One thought on “Motivation theory in real life – with Daniel Pink’s “Drive” and Kolind/Bøtters “Unboss”

  1. A few years ago Steen Hildebrandt – a Danish specialist in leadership – asked and published the question “How does a leader lead employees who know more that the leader himself?”. A very interesting question! At the time when the question was asked, I was pondering certain aspects of leadership myself and I asked him a counter question: “How do non-leaders lead leaders who know less than oneself?”. The reason for my question is the obvoius observation that often a business leader is very good at managing and giving out orders but very poor at leading employees – that is motivating them, engaging them and making them perform at their best. An other observation and personal experience throughout many years is that some leaders often take it personal if employees give them pices of advice – and that is no matter how great the pice of advice is. Any comments out there?

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