There is an interesting aspect of human behaviour, where sometimes, we can overdo our strengths, so that they become weaknesses.
Understanding our strengths and weaknesses, how they affect our style of communication and the impact they have on others goes a long way towards explaining the dysfunctional relationships we can co-create – and how we can use our strengths to complement those of others.
Taibi Kahler (1975) asserts that we are in driver behaviour (so called because we are compelled to behave in this way) 90% of the time. In my teaching of drivers within organisations I concentrate on the behavioural aspects of the drivers and what they invite in others, and I balance that from a developmental point of view with Working Styles (Hay 1996). It is important to highlight here the positive aspects of each style, because of a tendency of many to default to the negative, and only hear the “bad” bits.
In the explanations that follow, I will briefly take each driver and describe the negative and positive aspects of accompanying behaviour.
People with a Hurry Up driver talk fast, think fast and are highly productive people. They are always looking to accomplish a task in a shorter time, or do three tasks at once, constantly looking for the short-cuts. In the negative end of their driver, they can be intolerant of those who do not think as fast as they do, they do not always listen attentively (because they are too busy processing and thinking about what they are going to say next) and because they have so many plates spinning at once, they make mistakes.
In a training situation, the Hurry Ups in the room will often be the “pen-clickers”; they will flick through the workbook ahead of the trainer and often be dismissive of others who want to debate or discuss. Hurry Ups are big picture people, they grasp the scope of a subject or project and do not concern themselves too much with the detail. Their speech pattern is to speak quickly, using phrases like “Let’s get on with it”.
People who have a Be Perfect driver are the opposite of the Hurry Up. They are detail people who are careful and methodical, well-organised with high standards for themselves and for others. In their driver end they can be pedantic, split hairs and expect a high standard which is not always necessary. They will also “beat themselves up” long and hard over a mistake that many people will not see as important.
In the training room, they will evidence Be Perfect behaviour by using a straight edge to underline notes, by seeking points of clarification, by taking longer to complete exercises than others and by making sure they have got the detail of the subject. They use words like “obviously” and “as I was saying”, and they speak slowly and deliberately, often using “brackets” to give extra information.
The Please People driver manifests itself with the person being kind, caring, nurturing and sensitive – the focus is on other people, often to the detriment of self. They read body language to a higher degree than most, seek the approval of others and work so hard to please, that they read your mind for you and do whatever it is they think you want – and then get upset when it turns out not to be what you wanted at all.
In the training room, they will give the trainer their full attention, smile and nod a great deal, work hard to come up with the answers, hold doors open and fetch the water for the group. They use phrases like “You know” and “sort of”.
Try Hard people love learning and new ideas and have good interpersonal skills because they see others as a source of new information. They volunteer for new projects and will give 110% to set up a new system, but they easily get bored and rarely finish things (they leave that to the Be Perfect in the team!). Their commitment is to trying, not to succeeding.
In the training room, they evidence this driver by volunteering information and their services for exercises, they embellish their exercises with colours and designs and they often waffle or go off at tangents - they use the word “try” a great deal. They have lots of enthusiasm, which is attractive, and will often be the first person to engage with the trainer – which is useful!
Be Strongs are task-oriented, they have a strong sense of duty, tend to see things in a black and white way and do not like to disclose personal thoughts or feelings. They can be dismissive of those who do. They see asking for help as a sign of weakness, and do not like to admit they cannot cope. They get on with the job without fuss, and see the task through to the end.
In the training room, Be Strongs can sometimes distance themselves from the trainer and from the group. In my programmes, which often require self-reflection and examination, Be Strongs can sometimes struggle to overcome what they see as the “pink and fluffy” subject areas.
They also manifest this driver by being overly jovial, joking and using humour to keep people at arm’s length. They de-personalise their thoughts in their speech patterns - “It seems to me” rather than “I think”.
Trainers have drivers too! And that might be the subject of my next blog ......
Last week, I re-launched Triangle TA Group (TTAG) by running a workshop on Channels of Communication.
While we were a small group, we were very international with representatives from Wales, Scotland, England and The Netherlands! This is a multi-level group, some are working towards their Certified Transactional Analyst, others thinking about taking the Triangle TA Practitioner Award route. TTAG is also for those who simply want to network, meet new people and learn more about human behaviour.
On Day one, after fairly comprehensive contracting, we covered different aspect of Ego State theory. Through discussion and small group exercises a great deal of depth was reached and new understandings examined and managed.
Multi-level groups generate such a richness in the learning. Those who are more experienced lead the way for those who have just started their explorations in TA theory. The more experienced flex their TA "muscles" by supporting the less experienced, and by realising how much they know, and maybe what they might need to check out. Teaching others is such a good way of learning I always feel!
Lev Vygotsky (1934) stressed the role of social interaction in the learning process, and the role of the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) along with the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) are two central pillars of his work.
The MKO refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, and that through the social interactions, they co-create their learning and I believe both benefit. Not just in the syndicate work, but during the theory inputs and during the breaks too.
Day two of TTAG workshops are open to the participants to create the agenda. The contract is that people can bid for sessions to either have supervision with me in front of the group, or teach some theory and receive feedback, or coach a participant and receive feedback on their coaching style and approach.
So on Day two of this workshop, we had an interesting discussion on organisational culture; a participant coached an individual and received feedback, and I ran supervision sessions where the concepts of TA are used to analyse a situation or a problem. Group supervision sessions include a process review, where the audience can talk about what they observed in the process. This allows for a greater depth of learning for all - often people in the audience do their own work while observing others.
I was really struck by the atmosphere we had co-created. For such a cross-cultural group, meeting for the first time, the sense of connection was palpable. The open nature of the group, the willingness to show vulnerability and authenticity was impressive.
I thank all those who attended for their commitment to professional and personal development, and for the fun we had, and look forward to the next time!
In his 1963 book, Structures and Dynamics of Organisations and Groups (SDOG), Eric Berne talked about leadership and membership. SDOG is not an easily accessible book to read, and not one I feel I can recommend to the many managers I have worked with over the years, but if you are willing to mine for them, it contains hidden gems.
Although Berne mainly focussed on organisational structures and group dynamics in this book, he also has a few things to say about culture (the subject of a later blog for this year), and leadership.
Mainly, he identified three types of leadership: Responsible, Effective and Psychological.
Responsible: the person who has the title and authority within the organisation.
Effective - the one who actually gets the work done.
Psychological - the person people turn to, ie the union shop steward, or in some cases a previous leader who is still around but has maybe moved to another department etc.
I show them using a Venn diagram.
Ideally, all"types" need to reside in one person ..... but this is sometimes not the case:
Pip Larsson may hold the status of Manger (Responsible), but Kim Pearson is the one who gets things done (Effective).
And Chris Wu is the person to whom the team really listen (Psychological).
I firmly believe in relational leadership - leaders need followers - and the tools of Transactional Analysis can increase communication competence to enable leaders to embody Effective, Responsible and Psychological leadership traits.
It has been a busy few weeks lately.
At the beginning of July I flew to Geneva for the European Association for Transactional Analysis (EATA) Council meeting. Along with Cathy McQuaid, I am a delegate to EATA and we represent four national UK associations: the Scottish Transactional Analysis Association; the International Association for Relational Transactional Analysis, the UK Association for Transactional Analysis (UKATA) and the Institute for Developmental TA (IDTA).
Council meetings are held over three long (and hot!) days. We only meet as a whole council once a year, so often there are a great deal of proposals to approve and topics to explore. In this time, the committees also meet. Cathy and I are on the Commission for Certification (COC) which oversees the running of exam centres across Europe. We manage to meet twice a year, but if I tell you that in the last 12 months there were 12 exam sites from Russia to France, passing 191 Certified TA Practitioners, 6 CTA Trainers and 20 Teaching and/or Supervising Transactional Analysts - you will realise the amount of work that is undertaken by this committee.
Geneva is a lovely place. I managed to take a boat trip around the lake before Council started. The beautiful backdrop of the Alps and the expanse of clear blue water made this excursion memorable for me.
After the Council meeting, we moved on to the exams. Exams last two days in all and I was an observer for a supervision exam, and on a TSTA teach board. Both candidates passed, I am happy to say, and both were rigorously challenged!
And then it was three days of the conference itself. Workshops, keynote speeches, book launches ..... it is always wonderful to see old friends and make new ones. The extra element is that EATA is made up of 27 European countries - I have friends all over Europe! Council and conferences are often the only time I get to see them. So I always come away with my head buzzing with different conversations, new ideas, new projects and the possibility of working with new people.
I was struck this time in Geneva by how there were "waves" of people: first wave was Council delegates, then many left as a new wave of examiners and examinees arrived, and then some left and made way for a new wave of conference presenters and attendees. It is no wonder that my head spins at the end of it all!
In amongst all the work, there were the evenings for sociable dinners in interesting restaurants with different groups of people from different cultures.
And Brexit was hardly mentioned ......
When I ask a group to name the skills and qualities of a good coach, usually somewhere near the top of the list will come listening skills.
Most people are aware of active listening skills, those of paraphrasing, reflective listening, rapid repeat techniques etc. These are all good communication skills for use in any walk of life, personal as well as professional relationships. We all know how good we feel when we know we have been listened to!
A Transactional Analyst goes further, listening at a deeper level in order to understand the personality "behind the words". Transactional Analysis (TA) provides the coach and trainer with a set of tools to "unlock the code" of a conversation, and in order to do this the coach focuses on what is being said, and how it is being said.
Grandiosity is a manifestation of discounting: it is where we say things like “It was a huge problem” (when in fact, it was a minor irritation) or “Accounts always get things wrong” (when in fact they make no more mistakes than other departments). Discounting is an internal mechanism, so coaches can only know that a person is discounting, by listening to their language as well as watching their behaviour. “I can’t ask my boss to let me take on that responsibility” might elicit a response of “What is it you think s/he will say?” from a coach who is listening well, and using the TA concepts.
Ego States can be used to “de-code” a conversation. A coachee saying “People like us don’t do things like that” or “They should know better …” alerts us to what might be behind the words. In fact, using words like “shoulds” “coulds” “ought to’s” and “musts” are a clear indication that the Parent ego state is in the executive (control). Hearing these words and knowing some TA theory will inform the coach in their thinking, and in their next intervention.
A coachee may project onto the coach, manipulating you into the Parent place “What do you think I should do?”. Recognising what is happening, staying in the here and now and crossing the transaction (or sometimes not, it depends) may break the attempt at symbiosis.
Drivers have recognisable speech patterns. A Hurry Up speaks really quickly and uses phrases like “Let’s get on with it”. A Be Perfect will use the correct words, and over-detail. A Please People may say “Do you know what I mean? (checking with you – if I am not pleasing you I can change it!). A Try Hard uses words like “struggle” and “trying”. Be Strongs uses passive language …..
Challenging the language used by a coachee can help them to monitor themselves, address their discounting, over-adapting etc.
I call this “listening between the lines” or cracking the code – but we really have to be grounded, self-supervising, clean in our own language ….. and of course, listening to what is being said.
Click he_re for another short blog on minding our language.
Back in August, I attended the ITAA Conference in San Francisco.
I had had the good fortune to take (and pass!) my CTA oral exam in SF, and I was happy to be returning. It is the birth place of Transactional Analysis and I was looking forward to seeing some of the TA gurus whose work I have followed for more than a decade.
I was not disappointed. Jean Ilsley-Clarke, Muriel James, Claude Steiner, Leonard Campos, George Kohlrieser, Bill Cornell ..... it was great to attend workshops ran by some of these TA greats. Muriel James and George Kohlrieser even attended the day long organisational symposium I was invited to take part in! What an honour.
This day was lead by Sari van Poelje and the programme was vibrant, exciting and very well received. If you would like a more detailed article of how the day went, click here.
This was my first time, taking part in such a different workshop format and I enjoyed being part of delivering something new. We had a graphic recorder, whose work was fascinating - she listened to the speaker and captured the essence of what was being said on giant posters, which by the end of the day decorated our room. The posters attracted great interest and comment for the rest of the conference! See below for some examples.
I was out of my comfort zone - not in total control of a workshop in the way that I usually am was an interesting experience - and I really enjoyed it!
Preparing for conference workshops
I am leaving the south west tomorrow to attend the UKATA/IDTA conference in Blackpool.
The actual conference starts on Friday and the programme of speakers and workshops looks really good – a diverse range of approaches, subjects and activities is lined-up and I feel excited at the prospect.
At conference I connect with TA friends from different countries, different fields of TA, working and applying TA in different contexts. I make new friends and colleagues and am stimulated and engaged by the latest thinking and developments in TA. The social side is fun too!
I am running two workshops this year. One on my own and one for the first time with Evelyne Papaux. Evelyne is an educational consultant from Switzerland and it is the first time we have delivered a workshop together. The title of the workshops is “Permissions: Rolling the wheel across the fields” and I am very pleased to be working with Evelyne in this way.
The Permission wheel was devised by Gysa Jaoui and Evelyne has developed it in the context of early years education. Our aims in the workshop are to acquaint practitioners with the model, and look at ways of adapting it for their professional context. As this conference is entitled “Tending all our fields” we are offering a workshop which hopefully will attract educationalists and those who work in organisations as well as psychotherapists and counsellors.
The Permission Wheel promotes autonomy and is an affirming diagnostic and developmental tool which can be used in any context to give permissions to enable the stuck to become free to develop beyond the barriers laid down at such an early age.
The other workshop I am running is called “Going for Growth” and it is about Frame of Reference. It is about awareness of what is in our frame and what therefore might be getting in the way (and then we can use the Permission Wheel to move on!).
Developmental TA is about growth and psychological strength, using our abilities and attributes in a way that promotes personal well-being and community cohesion, whether that community be a school, a neighbourhood or an organisation. In the organisational context for instance, each individual will have a different frame of reference – if people are more self-aware then opportunities to connect are increased.
So, difference is in the air! It’s okay to be different! I can be aware of my frame of reference and enter into yours as we connect to find out more about each other, learn together and be creative together.
I am really looking forward to the conference. The meetings that take place give us a chance to further projects and taking part in the exam process is a privilege – seeing a practitioner achieve Certified Transactional Analyst status after years of hard work and application is inspiring! Good luck to all of you who are taking exams in Blackpool.
See you there!
I passed my TSTA exams in Oslo in July 2013. The culmination of 11 years of study, supervision, reflection, application and insight. Not to mention relief!
I was a management educator and coach long before I knew about TA. I had been running my business in the south east (and then moved to the south west nearly 11 years ago) delivering successful management development programmes and coaching leaders in areas of confidence and communication skills.
I was rather successful - so successful in fact that I was very busy, covering a lot of miles for the business and also bringing up a young family. I felt pulled in many directions, trying to please everyone and wearing myself out in the process.
There came a point in the late 1990s where I began to have panic attacks.
First of all, I did not know what was happening, I only knew that it was very scary. Each person's panic attack is different, but with mine I thought I was dying - collapsing, shaking, unable to breathe, losing vision and sensation in my limbs and sometimes blacking out altogether. Vomiting would keep me in the bathroom for a long time, and when it was over, I would feel lethargic and sick for 24 hours or so.
A visit to the doctor confirmed the panic attack diagnosis, and ever one to turn a negative into a positive I decided to do some research about how to help myself recover.
A friend and colleague told me about Transactional Analysis. I had heard of Parent, Adult, Child - or at least I had received about a 30 minute introduction to the model sometime before. I had come away thinking it was useful, but did not like the implication from the trainer that I needed to act like a robot at work. My first realisation that not everybody who teaches TA actually understands the theory!
The more I researched TA, the more fascinated I became. I soon realised that the tools and models would not only be of use to me, but to my clients too. I realised the power of the framework of concepts, how they linked together and made sense as a cohesive whole and how applying the tools would increase self-awareness, build confidence, lessen stress in my life (and the lives of others!) and help me to develop psychological strength.
I teach the tools to managers in training sessions and when working as a coach. I use it to help me understand what is going on in a group situation, to help me prepare to pitch for business and in lots of other situations where I am in contact with others. Primarily I use it to monitor myself, to stop giving myself a hard time, understand where I might have over-stepped a mark and what my options are about rectifying the situation.
I use it to help me appreciate the positive side of my drivers - so I do not over commit as much as I used to and land up feeling bad.
I gain a great deal of satisfaction sharing these models and concepts with others, who in turn make changes in their behaviour that ripple out not just in their professional lives, but their personal lives too.
I just love my job!
Lynda Tongue TSTA-org
TA musings, happenings and theory explorations
Introduction to Transactional Analysis - two day workshop, internationally accredited. Click here.
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