The Four Pillars of Employee Engagement

In an organization where teams perform effectively, timely and consistently, the employees are fully committed to achieve the vision of the organization, attain its goals and fulfill the expectation of its stakeholders.  In other words, they are fully engaged with the mission of the company and eager to contribute to the organizational success by going the extra mile.  In the world of organizational performance, this is described as “employee engagement”.

According to David Macleod and Nita Clarke, authors of Engaging for Success (Macleod and Clarke, 2009), there are four key elements that drive effective employee engagement. In this article I introduce them with a brief statement extracted from Engaging for Success and illustrate them step by step.

Strategic narrative

“I need visible, empowering leadership that articulates clearly where we have come from, where we are now and our vision of where we are going. What is the bigger picture of which I am a part of and how does my role fit in with achieving our shared vision?” (Macleod and Clarke, 2009)

A common denominator that David Macleaod and Nita Clarke observed in organizations with high levels of employee engagement and performance, is strategic narrative about the organization. Strategic narrative refers to the story of an organization highlighting where it startedwhere it is now and where it is heading to. These three stages represent the milestones the organization prides itself of, internally and externally.  Where it started represent the deepest roots of the organization, precisely who and what gave life to it, where it is now illustrates how the organization and its people have managed to evolve, where it is heading to is the ambitious future the organization is working towardsIt is a powerful and authentic story that gives employees a sense of belonging and a clear direction. It encourages them to be part of it, so that they can shape the now and prepare for the time to come.

An organization with an empowering strategic narrative celebrates its people, from the founders to those who accomplished the last project or launched their newest product.  Every significant milestone is a reason to praise and reward people, collectively and individually, for their time and unique dedication to the shared purpose. Every accomplishment is captured in the story of the organization, with no exceptions.

Engaging managers

“I respond best to a boss who makes it clear what my role is and helps me to harness my energy and creativity to play that role optimally. I want my achievement measured and celebrated and I thrive on opportunities to learn, develop and contribute more”. (Macleod and Clarke, 2009)

Leading by example is the only behavior that ensures employees speak and behave as their leaders do. Therefore, when an organization aims to increase its employee engagement, it simply needs leaders that consistently think, decide and act with the aim to truly engage their employees.

Engaging managers use positive language and avoid negations when talking to their team members. They clearly, succinctly and to the point say what to do with encouraging words.  They ask questions and often listen.  In practice, they take the time needed to relate to their colleagues on a daily basis and often build personal connections while keeping healthy boundaries.  For instance, truly engaging leaders never take business trips as an excuse not to be present. They ensure they are available for their team members before and after each trip and keep them updated on the progress they make while offsite. Being present, giving and receiving feedback is crucial to sustain employee engagement, regardless of the physical distance in between or the restrictions brought nowadays by covid 19.

Engaging leaders are grounded and humble.  If you walked into their office, you would not recognize that they are the leaders.  You would simply find them among their colleagues brainstorming with or supporting them in completing their individual or collective tasks. What is more, they love to share their rewards with their teams because it’s never about their personal success but about the endeavor of the organization and its people.

Employee voice

“I like to know that my ideas and concerns are heard and I want to be told what’s going on. I flourish when treated as a human being, not a human resource, and given leeway to share responsibility with my colleagues for our part in this collaborative enterprise”. (Macleod and Clarke, 2009)

The reason why organizations employ people is to have their full contribution, not only in terms of technical skills but also in terms of strategic thinking about the overall mission, values and culture.  You would agree that employees who look forward to a new working week as much as they look forward to the weekend, are filled with passion for what they say and do within the organization.  Employees who come to work dragging their feet, are those whose commitment to what the organization stands for is close to null.

To inspire employees to their highest level, so that they are fully engaged and look forward to participating in the work, leaders are called to listen to and value their perspectives.  After all, employee voice is the means by which staff communicates their views and influence matters that affect them at work.  And, most importantly, it is the way employees contribute to innovation and performance by sharing their ideas.  For this reason, it is vital companies have policies and practices in place which enable employees to effectively voice themselves.

In large organizations, for instance, employees can have their say through collective channels, such as employee representatives, staff councils and forums. They should also be supported to share their thoughts individually and directly with their managers. This way, they are encouraged to speak out but also feel empowered to suggest news approaches of work.

It is important to note that employee voice is also a way to express concerns and highlight issues that can be detrimental to the well-being and reputation of the organization. In such circumstances, leaders are called to create a smooth procedure that allows employees to confidentially inform someone in an appropriate position. Ultimately, employee voice can only be promoted and safe-guarded when it becomes a genuine and respectful two-way dialogue between the employees and their leadership team.

Organizational integrity

“I prefer clear and consistent alignment between what is said and what is done. If the organization claims its people are its greatest assets, please do not use command-and-control tactics leading to bullying, grievances and mistrust. Values alignment matters”. (Macleod and Clarke, 2009)

A big word, which is used to portray cohesion and togetherness when it comes to adherence to the values and principles set by the organization.  Organizational values are beliefs and principles the organization stands for.  Examples of common company values are Fairness, Diversity, Collaboration and Partnership, Discipline, Honesty, Courage.

In essence, organizational integrity is the collective version of personal integrity.  We see personal integrity when an individual’s actions are aligned with what the individual believes in and says.  In the same way, we see organizational integrity when the entire work force behaves according to what the organization believes in and says.

When leaders align their words, messages and actions with organizational values, organizational integrity increases. When leaders treat organizational values as an ongoing priority because they truly believe in them, they spontaneously align their actions with those values. They don’t feel obliged to respect them. On the contrary, they consistently inspire, motivate and incentivize their colleagues to be committed to those beliefs.

As an organizational consultants, I often come across companies where one of the four enablers described by David Macleod and Nita Clarke are weak or non-existent. For this reason, I invite you to reach out to us at bCoached for an initial conversation on how we can support your organization boost employee engagement. Contact me directly:

11 Personality Traits that can destroy a Leader’s Career

Several words can be used to describe what “successful leadership” is, including influence, power and authority.  That said, I agree with the definition that successful leadership is the extent to which a leader can “build and maintain highly effective teams”. No matter how charismatic or influential a leader is, what counts is the know-how to interact with and help teams operate efficiently.

This concept is central in Relational leadership. Here, the focus is placed on the ability of the leader to develop meaningful professional relationships, which help create useful alliances as well as fruitful collaborations. However, achieving collaboration doesn’t just happen. According to Prof. Robert Hogan, it requires a leader to be highly skillful at getting along with others as well as getting ahead by receiving the support needed by teams and the wider organization. For these reasons, leaders greatly benefit from knowing the eleven personality traits that define aspects of interpersonal behavior detrimental to collaboration. To sustain a stable career, it is essential to understand how the eleven traits negatively impact the ability to interact with others and hinder chances of being chosen for senior leadership positions.

In this article I introduce the eleven derailers as presented by Prof. Robert Hogan and explain how they can be managed effectively. Each type of derailer is typified by a manipulative strategy and an unconscious message which directly impacts their teams. Identifying the differences between these is crucial to understanding and then moving beyond the derailer, as I will show.’


No alt text provided for this image

Excitable describes an emotionally volatile person, one that is highly energetic and intense one day, then disappointed and demotivated the other – one that is optimistic about a project now, then pessimistic and skeptical later on. Typically, leaders who score high on the excitable scale can be perceived as very moody and temperamental. For this reason, people often feel they have to hold back with them.

As Prof. Robert Hogan once stated, the manipulative strategy they use to lead and the unconscious message they send out when levels of stress are high is: “Do what I want or I’ll throw a fit”. And the most common questions colleagues ask when dealing with them is “What mood is he/she in today”.

Leaders who score high on the excitable scale, can benefit from emotional management techniques. These include learning to recognize the signs that they are about to lose control and leave the room for a while. Pausing helps them remain calm and clearheaded. It is vital to recognize that emotional volatility can upset colleagues, reducing their motivation and, eventually, their productivity.


No alt text provided for this image

Skeptical describes a person who tends to doubt others and assumes they have bad ulterior motives. Although leaders who score high on the skeptical scale have high political awareness, are astute and perceptive, they often act with mistrust of people and institutions. They can be consumed with what can go wrong instead of looking at solutions and taking decisions.  They believe that “you can’t trust anyone but yourself”.

The manipulative strategy and unconscious message they send out when under pressure is: “Don’t defy me or I’ll retaliate”.

 Leaders who score high on the skeptical scale, can experiment with acting in a more friendly and engaging way.  It also helps them to identify two to three key people in the workplace and begin collaborating with them. While collaborating, they should practice holding doubts and assumptions to themselves. After all, not everyone is a traitor or a wrongdoer.


Cautious typically describes a person who is reluctant to take risks and requires second and third opinions before going ahead with something. Essentially, cautious leaders are afraid of failing and would rather not make any mistakes for fear of being criticized. They can be indecisive and even hesitant to express their point of view. They can come across as unassertive and often avoid taking controversial positions in public. For these reasons, they may delay decisions and prevent teams from progressing as fast as their competitors.

When under stress, a common manipulative strategy and unconsciousness message is…Do what I want or bad things will happen to you.

First of all, leaders who score high on the cautious scale, would benefit from describing the learning opportunities associated to the mistakes they make. Secondly, they could experiment with providing spontaneous suggestions and solutions rather than always offering carefully considered answers. Last, having the courage to stand up for themselves and their teams when needed is something they would need to practice more.


No alt text provided for this image

Reserved describes a person who comes across as independent and detached.  Reserved leaders generally value one’s private time and space and would rather be working from their own private office than from an open plan floor. These are the type of leaders that withdraw at times of intense stress. Essentially, they give the impression of being tough – focussed on tasks rather than people.

The manipulative strategy and unconscious message they send out when levels of stress are high is “Do what I want or I’ll never speak to you again”.

The first coaching tip I would give leaders like this is to engage with their teams one hour every day, be it because of a meeting or an informal lunch. The second one is to practice recognizing the expression of positive or negative feelings others may show during interactions. The third is to practice observing other people’s reactions and discern whether they have been demotivated or encouraged by what has been said or done.


Leisurely describes a person who often come across as co-operative and pleasant to deal with but covertly procrastinates and puts off unwanted tasks. Essentially, leaders who score high on the leisurely scale show passive-aggressive tendencies.  The behavior you see is in fact opposite from what they think inside. In a meeting they may promise one thing but eventually do another.

Their manipulative strategy and the unconscious message they send out when under pressure is: “Do what I want or you’ll be sorry.”

One way to mitigate high leisurely tendencies is to begin to make less promises but ensure that they are fulfilled and followed up. Another exercise I recommend doing is to identify two people within the team each week and practice giving honest feedback. No need to give lip service: say what you think, say it transparently.


Bold describes a person who is unusually self-confident, feels entitled and unwilling to admit mistakes. Despite the fact that leaders with high scores on the bold scale are assertive, energetic and fearless when facing challenging tasks, they are at risk of too much self-promotion and unhealthy competition for the simple purpose of getting ahead. Essentially, their ego causes them to be dominant and, at times, intimidating. They believe that they deserve special treatment and when things go wrong, it is never their fault.

When levels of stress are high, the unconscious message they send out is: “I demand you do what I want. Do it now because I am who I am”.

What helps leaders who score particularly high on the bold scale, is to begin sharing credit with their teams when projects are completed successfully. Naming, thanking and rewarding team members who have helped them achieve their targets is a good practice.  Being competitive within the organization may not be the healthiest way to relate to colleagues, especially because the real competition is outside the organization. And last, use self-confidence and energy to motivate not only themselves but others too.


No alt text provided for this image

Mischievous defines a person who is charming and, therefore, fun to be with. However, leaders who score high on the mischievous scale are at risk of manipulating others to serve their own agenda without showing remorse for doing so. They are those who take risks and often test the limits without considering the consequences of their actions.

When pressure is high, the unconscious and manipulative message they send out is: “If you do what I want, I will love you”. 

Leaders with strong mischievous tendencies would first benefit from partnering with a colleague who is humble and down to heart. Second, they would do likewise from learning to apologize to those they may have used for their own purpose without hiding behind overelaborated excuses.  Third, recognizing that a successful and stable career depends on relating to others with authenticity and honesty, would also have a positive impact. Mischievous tendencies can only create a reputation of being a selfish and unscrupulous leader – a reputation that, long term, is highly detrimental for any type of career.


Colorful describes a person who is sharp-witted, expressive and attention-seeking. A drama queen would be the appropriate description of a person who scores high on this scale.  Although leaders with a high tendency to be colorful make a strong first impression, they often run the risk of monopolizing attention at the expense of others. They are those people who tend to dominate meetings by constantly speaking, interrupting and even talking over others. What is more, they need constant stimulation and get bored easily.

The manipulative strategy and the unconscious message they send out when pressure is high is: Do what I want, and I’ll entertain you further.”

 Leaders who score high on the colorful scale would benefit from practicing active listening, asking questions and paraphrasing what others say during meetings. What can help them as well is to write daily to do lists with clear tasks and specific objectives to increase their focus.


Imaginative refers to a person who thinks highly creatively and, at times, in odd ways. Although leaders who score high on the imaginative scale are very bright and innovative, they have the tendency of throwing millions of ideas on the table that they eventually can’t or don’t execute. The leaders who typically launch several initiatives without following them up. For these reasons, they are at risk of being perceived as eccentric.

When levels of stress are high, the manipulative strategy and unconscious message they send out is: “Do what I want and you will be amazed at the result”.

The first coaching tip I usually give to leaders who are highly imaginative is to partner with a mentor they trust to ensure their ideas are practical and executable before they make them public. The second tip is to work only on those ideas that seem to be well received by the board, their teams and mentors. The third one is to collaborate with a colleague who is good at implementing ideas and has a practical and pragmatic approach to it.


No alt text provided for this image

Diligent refers to a person who is hard-working and highly compliant. Although leaders who score high on the diligent scale have high standards of performance for themselves and others, they find it hard to delegate tasks and often micro-manage their staff. What is more, they can be inflexible about schedules, rules and procedures.

When under pressure, the manipulative strategy and unconscious message they send out is: Do what I want because there are rules. And when rules are not respected, there are serious consequences.

The first coaching tip for such leaders is to practice delegating tasks and leaving teams to work on their own for some time, allowing space for mistakes. The second is to focus on completing projects rather than working on delivering perfection. And the third one is to regularly book one day off in the diary to experiment with creative activities away from the workplace.


Dutiful describes a person who is ingratiating and always eager to please. Although managers who score high on the dutiful scale are excellent team players and supportive of corporate decisions, they are those who struggle to say “no”, especially to their boss. They are always preoccupied with keeping the boss happy at the expense of their teams. Dutiful leaders over-rely on the guidance of advisers before making decisions.

When pressure is high, the manipulative strategy and unconscious message they send out is: “Do what I want because I am in charge. Be loyal to those who are in charge”.

 Leaders who score high on the diligent scale would benefit from showing independent thinking, even when it is not aligned with their boss’ thinking. The practice I recommend here is to begin to say “No” to requests that are unreasonable, no matter whether or not they come from a team member or the boss.

Learning to manage “derailers’ can make a significant difference in the professional life of managers and leaders alike.  As an executive coach, I can say that successful leaders take good care of the way they relate to and are perceived by others, inside and outside the organization.  At bCoached we work closely with our clients to uncover their derailers and support them in their leadership journey.  For more information on how we can support you, contact us directly:

Your Leadership Style: Asking systemic Questions

Let’s admit it: posing questions is not how we usually help others find solutions. Often as leaders we adopt the role of ‘being the expert’ and provide direction on the ‘how to’ – how to solve a problem; how to overcome unexpected challenges etc. This is undoubtedly a valuable skill and indisputably one which leaders are highly regarded for. However, is this giving of advice and providing direct answers the most effective course of action? Are we truly supporting innovative thinking and decision-making processes for our counterparts?

Scientists and innovative thinkers lead with questions to generate breakthrough ideas. Sales people lead with questions to qualify potential clients. Asking questions is indeed a powerful way of discovering facts and data in order for us to take informed decisions. However, often we are afraid of appearing foolish amongst our peers or perhaps simply uneasy on the type of questions to ask. And when exactly should we pose our questions?

In this article, I introduce a simple and yet powerful framework that highlights four types of questions, their intent and the likely outcome. This framework is based on the work of Karl Tomm, Professor of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary and director of its Family Therapy Program. In the field of coaching this is called “systemic questioning”.

Four Types of Questions and their Function

No alt text provided for this image

LINEAL QUESTIONS: these represent the ABC of asking questions and their function is to find out the facts. Simply put, they are the “Who, Where, What, When” of asking questions. They are factual based and aimed at discovering more about any situation or dilemma presented. Asking lineal questions is a viable and straightforward practice for gathering information that will assist us in reaching a fairly neutral picture of the reality being discussed.

Lineal questions can be asked at the beginning of a conversation to build rapport, when we need to become aware of specific details or when we want to pull apart a complex scenario during a brainstorming session. Here are some basic examples of lineal questions:

Who contacted the client first?

What did you propose to the client?

Where did the meeting take place?

When is your deadline?


Circular questions are those we draw upon when we want to find out what relationships exist between people or entities. Their function is to discover the connections and dynamics between two or more parties, including their differences, possible agreements/ disagreements etc. When it comes to circular questions, the same question may be concurrently asked to multiple people to find out what discrepancies or commonalities lay between different people. We typically ask circular questions during debates that involve people who work interdependently, such as team members, and variables that are mutually dependent. Here are some examples of circular questions:

Who intervenes more in the board meeting, the chairman or the CEO?

How is it that we have the same results when we chose two different strategies? Who else has the same results?

Has it always been done this way? Who else agrees that it has always been done this way?

How would that differ from how it is now? Would it more or less than it is now?

How does the compliance team differs from the legal team? If the two teams were in the same office, would they work more effectively?


With strategic questions we enter the realm of directive questions that are aimed at influencing our counterparts. The intent is to lead and prompt the other part to make adjustments. Strategic questions often embed a suggestion and because of their instructive and somehow corrective nature they can be provocative. Their function is to encourage counterparts to consider new possibilities as well as to take ownership of the new options they have discovered. We typically ask strategic questions when our counterpart is at a crossroads, or when doubts of which course of actions to take. For instance, when the counterpart is entirely oblivious of the impact of their decisions and actions. Here are some examples of strategic questions:

What can you do now to acknowledge that your objectives have to be aligned with the organization’s objectives? (A directive and instructive question. The intent here is to prompt the counterpart to take action).

Have you always disregarded the recommendations of the marketing team?

Is the habit of keeping your team in the dark during the decisional process and old habit or a new one?

Why don’t you brief your team on what is being discussed at the management meeting? (A directive question containing a suggestion)

How come you are not willing to share with your team some of the point discussed at the management meeting? (A provocative question)

Strategic questions have to be used with consideration, especially when they are corrective and posed in a provocative way. Although they can be very effective when we notice our counterpart is in need of encouragement or even persuasion, we have to ensure we have created a safe enough and non-judgmental conversational space for them to accept our suggestions or quasi-lecture instructions. Otherwise, we risk to run into resistance.


Reflexive questions have a facilitative intent, which means they help explore deeper levels of fact, data beliefs, ideas and situations. These questions elicit answers in which the counterpart will be expected to re-evaluate their point of view. There are several reflexive questions which Karl Tomm presents in his research (Interventive Interviewing: Part III. Reflexive Questioning as a Means to Enable Self-Healing) and they would deserve a separate article. For the sake of clarity, here is the original classification and a brief explanation of their functions:

Future-oriented question

The intent of these questions is to project the counterpart into a future scenario and stimulate their imagination. The aim is to prompt our counterpart to visualize without setting those boundaries that are normally imposed by our limiting beliefs or pre-conceptions.

How will things be different between you and your boss once you will start inviting her to your clients’ meetings?

Observer-perspective question

These are questions which invite the counterpart to put themselves in the shoes of someone else to think and behave as if they were the other person.

How do you think the head of Sales team would react once she is informed of the adjustment in the commission structure?

Unexpected context-change questions

The intent of such questions is to propose a chance of scenario that your counterpart is not able to envision or hasn’t thought about.

What would it be like if you could offer your sales team a two-week negotiation training once a year?

Embedded-suggestion questions

These questions are real suggestions that help the counterpart consider another option, precisely the one we are suggesting.

Instead of thinking that your boss is uncooperative, what if you thought he is overstretched? How might you approach him instead?

Normative-comparison questions

They have the purpose of prompting the counterpart to make an accurate comparison, especially in those contexts in which they have not carefully compared two or more samples.

Do you think consumers in the Middle East are more inclined to buy online compared to consumers in Europe?

Distinction-clarifying questions

Do you think his decision to leave the firm is about x, y or may be z?

Questions introducing hypothesis

The intention of these questions is to project the counterpart into a hypothetical scenario that may or may not happen. It helps thinking ahead about the possible solutions to adopt in case the assumed situation becomes a reality. Asking such questions is an excellent exercise when, for instance, a team is asked to put in place a contingency plan.

What do you think your team can do to prepare in case of a third lock-down?

Process-interruption questions

When you see that you directions lead you to the wrong place, what do you do next?

Today I have introduced to you four key question types to practically help sharpen the reflexive ability of your teams, to help with idea generation and to help anticipate needs and analyze complex scenarios. I wonder if your perception about questioning has changed? And if it has, in which way. I have endeavored to transition thought from a position in which the asking of questions is viewed as a sign of weakness and vulnerability to one in which is an indication of skillful leadership, to guide and to get the best from your teams.

Do you want to know more about systemic questioning and desire to experience it yourself to enhance your leadership awareness and decision making process? I invite you to contact us at bCoached by using the link below.

Or you can contact me directly


Silver, E. (1991). Should I give advice? A systemic view. Journal of Family Therapy13(3), 295-309.

Tomm, K. (1988). Interventive interviewing: Part III. Intending to ask lineal, circular, strategic, or reflexive questions? Family process27(1), 1-15.

Learn to say “No”

Saying “No” in the workplace is an essential part of ensuring you communicate your intentions comfortably, clearly and without wasting words or unnecessary time.

After all, you would agree that a true and authentic “ no” comes from a person who understand where the boundaries are.

A person that is wise when judging her actual ability, capacity and desire to deliver.

A person that doesn’t end up promising what she can’t or won’t be able to deliver.

 This said, not everyone finds the courage to say “no” when interacting with colleagues.

In this article we discuss how to say “no” from a position of a mature, responsible and assertive person.

The case

During the first two coaching sessions with my client Aneeta, a middle-aged marketing manager working for a consulting firm, I have the perception Aneeta is one of those people driven by the desire to please others.

A desire that often drives her to take on board tasks and roles against her will.

When I invite Aneeta to identify some of the scenarios and motivations that move her to be agreeable beyond the acceptable limits, her answer is:

“I mainly take on board additional requests from my boss and her colleagues.   

 I accept them with the intent to please people and ensure they are happy.  

 The truth is that I don’t like disappointing people, especially if they work with me.

 Deep inside, I am afraid to confront those people who I find particularly dominant.

 Those with whom I would probably end up having a disagreement if I said “no”.

 To avoid unpleasant confrontations, I find myself accepting undesirable tasks or give an in-between answer, which is never to the point and as direct as “no” would be.

 As I prompt Aneeta to recognise the unwanted consequences of her behavior, she admits:

“I resent my boss.

I feel used.

 I’m the victim of my own choices.

 I end up compromising the quality of my work.

  I run the risk of missing important deadlines”.

If you were Aneeta, what would you do differently?

Here are three steps that help you stand up for yourself and set healthy boundaries in the workplace.

1)    Recognize the Need and Desire of the other

 When you recognize the need and desire of your counterpart you understand and acknowledge her perspective, position and motivation.

This said, you don’t have the obligation to align yourself with her position let alone accept it.

Scenario A

I am aware that producing 3000 copies of your presentation helps you finalize your work faster…

Scenario B

I understand that for you it is important to promote John to the position of Finance Director.  I understand that by doing so, you recognize his effort throughout the past four years…  

2)    Express your Preference and Decline the request of your counterpart

 Express your position and perspective and state clearly where your boundaries are.

Scenario A

…right now I am working on our latest marketing campaign.  This task takes  priority in my agenda.

Scenario B

…I personally believe that John is not ready to face the imminent expansion of the company and needs one more year to prepare himself for the role of Finance Director. For this reason, I neither approve nor support his promotion.

STEP 3: Resist the temptation to justify your position

Stay truth to your position.

Keep your final answer.

By staying firm on your answer your counterpart will understand that she can’t persuade you any further.

Ignore any second thoughts you may come up with.

Return to the place and the activity you have defined as your “priority”.

Silvia Bottini is the founder of bCoached, an international coaching practice helping executives and their team strengthen their Performance, Presence and Professional Reputation.

Fo Leadership coaching, HOGAN Assessments & Team coaching contact:

Meetings bloody Meetings!

Meetings, bloody meetings” is the title of a British comedy training film produced in 1976 that has become common language within the office.

Entreprise Media, the company that produced the film, described it as “the best-selling video that defines the five disciplines that transform a gathering into a professionally run business meeting. Declare independence from the drain and drudgery of rudderless meetings with Meetings Bloody Meetings!”

 If you think about it, the film dates back to 1976.  By now, and forty five years after it was produced, you would think the issue of running a business meeting professionally and effectively is a task we can all master.

Quite the contrary.

To date, we are still debating what the ingredients of an effective, engaging and successful business meetings are.

And we will continue to do so.

When a group of people gathers, inappropriate actions and words can sometimes get in the way.

In this article I share with you four common behaviors of a dysfunctional meeting and the ways to tackle them.

Dominant voices in the room

We’ve all been in meetings online or in presence were one person talks too much, goes off on a tangent and even finishes other people’s sentences.

Although such a behavior may be unconsciously driven, it is disrespectful because it prevents other members from participating, sharing their voices and giving their unique contributions.

The best way to deal with a dominant voice in the room is to prevent it from happening in the first place.  Set some ground rules and make them clear to all the participants prior to or at the beginning of the meeting.

For instance, you can indicate in the agenda the time allocated to each participants for presenting their topic. This way, you create a clear structure for your meeting and indirectly give yourself permission to interrupt those that talk beyond their allocated time.

Alternatively, you can encourage people to be mindful of sharing the stage and intentionally do a little math at the beginning of the meeting by saying, for instance:

“we have 12 people in the room for a ninety-minute meeting.  If we speak 5 minutes each, that give us the opportunity to hear everyone’s suggestions before we take thirty minutes to create our solution”.

Always ensure every participants is included in the conversation.

In practice, this means inviting the participants who have not spoken to share their perspective or points the groups hasn’t considered yet.

 Chronic latecomers

 This is one of the behaviors that can become contagious if not addressed properly.

Not to mention the frustration it causes when the organizer feels obliged to summarize the discussion had with the other participants to bring the latecomer up to speed.

Unless the latecomer has a good reason for the delay, such behavior shows lack of respect and poor time management.

The way I personally recommend you address this issue, is to lead by example. By this, I mean that you model punctual behavior by attending meetings always on time.

Request that participants also attend meetings on time by sending them a calendar invitation along with a reminder one day prior to the meeting.

Start the meeting on time.

Don’t feel obliged to “clue in” the latecomer to what he or she has missed.  Continue the meeting as normal.

Instead, handle the situation privately and outside the meeting by asking if there are any reasons for arriving late.

Offer your support and check if you can help your colleague taking steps to arrive early.

Supporting colleagues to adjust their behavior is a component of a leadership style that aims to develop people and help them grow.

The hypercompetitive

 In the workplace we’ve all come across those that uses inappropriate humor with a casual remark or a mocking phrase.  And this happens in meetings too.

When teasing conceals a mean-spirited attempt to discredit a participant, it can quickly become an offensive behavior.

It can make the atmosphere of the meeting hostile.  Even when others don’t see anything behind the casual remark and shake it off by saying:

It’s just a joke.

Just kidding! Don’t take everything so seriously.

 Don’t be so sensitive!

The reasons for making an inappropriate remark can vary.

Some people thrive on conflict and they may say inappropriate remarks to engage you and their counterpart into an argument.

This could happen with hypercompetitive people, when they become offensive in an attempt to put down their counterpart.  Or when, in an effort to rise to the top, they take credit for other participants’ ideas.

When this happens, take some distance if necessary and give yourself the opportunity to see things for what they are.

Once you’ve distanced yourself from the remark and the person who made it, be intentional with your words.

State the importance of sharing perspectives respectfully and collaborating with the purpose of reaching an outcome that is supported by every participants.

Make it clear that inappropriate humor is neither welcomed nor accepted in your meetings.


 Here I refer to people that start side conversations or do other work during the meeting.

It is impossible not to notice them, especially when they create subgroups.

Such behaviors inevitably cause disengagement. And when a few people disengage during a meeting, chances are that others will follow.

There are several reasons that cause people to disengage.  However, one the biggest reasons are distractions.

People who don’t put their devices on mute and check their emails or read through an Instagram feed.

People that start a side conversation with other participants and divide the group.

Whatever the reason, my recommendation is to address it prior to the meeting so that everyone know what to expect when attending the meeting.

Here, I suggest you and your participants establish some norms.

Perhaps you can decide that devices are to be put on mute? Or placed in a basket at the beginning of the meeting?

With those who start side conversation, you can also intervene in the moment by saying: “Is there anything that the entire group needs to hear’.

Finally, bear in mind that having a separate chat about the undesired behavior and naming it explicitly can be a valuable support for the other person.

It may help them recognize the impact of their behavior on the overall meeting and build trust.

Just ensure that your understanding is not mistaken by tolerance.

Tolerance always comes with the risk that other participants take up the dysfunctional behaviors simply because they go unnoticed.

Therefore, be firm and mature when asserting the rules and norms established.

Silvia Bottini, Executive & Team Coach

Silvia is the founder of bCoached and Co-founder of Valore Aggiunto. As an executive coach, Siliva helps executives and their teams enhance their Performance, Influence and Reputation.

To know more about Silvia’s coaching programs for executives and teams, contact her directly:

Listen or counter-argue: what is more effective in a conversation?

Listen or counter-argue: what is more effective in a conversation?

Let’s be honest. During our daily conversations, we often listen for the purpose of counter-arguing and demonstrating that our point of view is stronger than the one of the other person.

Rarely, we listening to capture what’s behind the words of our counterpart and what’s not being said explicitly.  This art of listening, which aims to understand first, is often referred to as reflective listening or listening with intent.

When we listen with intent, we respectfully give the other person time to raise and describe their argument, without taking sides or strongly defending our point of view.  Moreover, we aim to see their standpoint without passing judgement.

When we truly listen, we genuinely hear and try to gain clarity about the other person’s perspective.  And, by doing so, we demonstrate flexibility and the willingness to step into the other person’s shoes.

After all, two people can be talking about the same thing and have independent points of view, especially when they are seeing different realities.

Listening with intent doesn’t imply that we eventually agree with the other party’s viewpoint, but it means that we give each other space to consider wider perspectives.

Approaching the other party by listening can create a pathway for resolving differences and conflicts.  Counter-arguing instead, can intensify conflicts simply because it broadens the gap between two different opinions and creates resistance.

In this article, I highlight some practical steps to enhance your reflective listening skills, so that in your daily life, including the workplace, you can create meaningful interpersonal relationships.

Reflective listening

There are two fundamental steps to consider when practicing reflective listening:


Listen to capture the speaker’s argument by paying attention to the words used, tone of voice, facial expression and body language.  In this context, resist the temptation to interrupt the speaker and allow him/her to finish his/her part of the conversation.  When you can, relax and sit back in your chair and allow your body to stay in a neutral position.


Once your counterpart pauses, reflect back to her the ideas she expressed as accurately as possible.

Here are two important techniques for reflecting back ideas (STEP 2):

Mirroring: repeat key parts of your counterpart’s message word by word, exactly as he or she said.

Paraphrasing: repeat what you heard with your own words. This is the most sophisticated version of reflective listening.

When you paraphrase or mirror, you basically try to capture what the speaker wants to transmit through his/her words without allowing your own judgement to interfere.  It is like giving your interpretation of the message received without letting your opinion or personal facts corrupting it.

When you reproduce the speaker’s message, it helps to pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues, such as tone of voice or feet, legs and hands movements.  For instance, you can ask yourself if the tone of voice of the other person denotes optimism instead of pessimism, distance instead of warmth, anger instead of joy and much more.  This way, you try to figure out how the other person feels about the matter she is talking about.

What definitely doesn’t help when paraphrasing or mirroring is to offer advice.  This is not what reflective listening is about.

Both paraphrasing and mirroring show that you are interested in understand correctly and paying attention to what is really being said and meant by the other party.


Once you have paraphrased or mirrored back to the listener their own message, allow them to confirm that what you have repeated corresponds to what they intended to express.  By doing so, you are seeking confirmation that you understood them properly.

When this is not the case, the speaker will most likely counter-respond by correcting your own words and further explaining the meaning of his/her argument.

Here are two examples of paraphrasing, the most sophisticated part of reflective listening:

Example 1 – Speaker: my boss writes me countless emails per day to the point that I can’t concentrate on my tasks and complete my work.

Listener: so, I understand you are frustrated because you feel overwhelmed by the constant messaging and feel like this is affecting your performance.

Example 2 – Speaker: I went to a well renowned cardiologist in New York and he could not even give me a date for my next appointment let alone provide me with a copy of my medical report….

Listener: it sounds like you are disappointed with the way the cardiologist’s office managed your follow up visits and general communication with you…

How to practice

Reflective listening is a precious skill to have.  It does take some time though to perfect it and make it a habit.  When you want to master it, I suggest doing the following:

  • Practice with an accountability partner – it can be a colleague or a friend – and together listen to short dialogues taken from TV series.  Otherwise, read parts of a dialogue taken from your favorite book.  Paraphrase them step by step and ask your partner to give you feedback.
  • Less is more: in your daily conversation, keep it simple and short. This means, paraphrase one thought at a time with the aim to connect and establish rapport.
  • Pay attention to body language: remember, people speak with their voice and their body at the same time.  Therefore, when you listen, observe the speaker and try to capture their posture.  Is the speaker smiling and nodding when you paraphrase or is he/she hesitating by pausing?
  • Enjoy: the main point here is to create fruitful interpersonal relations, where both party can connect step by step.  See it as a process and an ongoing relationship rather than your only chance to get it right.

If you want to know more about reflecting listening or are keen to elevate your soft skills, you can contact Silvia directly:

Silvia Bottini is the founder of bCoached, an international coaching practice that provides customized one-on-one as well as team coaching programs for executives and their teams. As an Executive Coach, Silvia supports leaders who aspire to sharpen the soft skills by which Performance, Influence and professional Reputation are elevated. As a Team Coach, Silvia helps teams establish their objectives, roles, tasks and responsibilities at the beginning and mid point of their formation.

For an initial consultation, you can contact silvia here:

Your Life Script: what you need to know and why

Do you keep getting into the same situations many times over? You could be bound to your “life script”.


Very early in our lives, we learn to build a narrative that informs how we make decisions, how we think about ourselves, and what we think of other people and the world around us.  In psychology, precisely in the branch of Transactional Analysis, this narrative is referred to as “life script”.

A life script can be described as a template we use to organize what we think and do and shape our self-image.  Although life scripts helps us make sense of the world around us, especially at a young age, they can prevent us from making choices which are aligned with who we are deeply and can limit us in a number of ways, personally and professionally.  And yet we seldom realize where they comes from or even know that they exists at all.

Unless we uproot our unconscious stories, we can spend our entire lives rehearsing and performing our life scripts.  In this article, we explore in further depth what life scripts are, how we can recognize our own, and how we can work with them to change our thoughts and actions.


Between the ages of 0 and 7, our perception of the world around us and our understanding of the future is based only on our experiences to date.  Our emotional (or limbic) brain starts to form a non-verbal and often limited understanding of how life works based on our actions and the consequences family and society show us.

We may learn that if we cry, an adult gives us attention or that if we throw a tantrum, they become frustrated and withdrawn. We recognize that in order to be safe (and therefore loved) there are certain things we need to do; we also learn attributes about ourselves.

For example, if a boy frequently knocks things over, he will eventually be told that he is clumsy.  If people regularly tell him this while laughing at his blunders, he may draw the connection that “being clumsy makes people laugh” or, on a more negative note, “people don’t care when I’m hurt.”

Life scripts have a particular use, especially when we are children: they help us make sense of the world that surrounds us. They provide us with a template we can use over and over again to give meaning to the recurring situations and events we experience.


All script messages received by a child have been shaped by their caregivers. As such, they will contain the parent’s fears, unmet needs and unresolved conflicts. For instance, if a mother has anxiety about taking care of her child as a result of being told growing up that she was careless, she may frequently tell the child it needs to be more careful.  As a result, the child will inherit that same script message: “I am careless. In order to be loved, I need to get everything right.”

While script messages can be both positive and negative, it’s important to outline that the intentions and thought processes of our caregivers often have no correlation with the script messages we form.  If a mother is very busy, for example, and cannot give full attention to her child when it is crying, she may seem distracted.  Though she may be saying “I love you,” the child may receive her distance as a message that they are unwanted.


We create a script when we experience an event that forces us to make a specific decision or act in a certain way. We then produce the same decision or behavior many time over in future situations, even when they are no longer appropriate.

No alt text provided for this image

Script messages are conveyed verbally and nonverbally; nonverbal messages can actually be more powerful when they show a mismatch between words and actions. For instance, if a mother tells a child she is listening to them but does this while cleaning the house, the child can interpret “I am unwanted” or “I am too much.”  Picking up on these non-verbal cues is critical to a child’s survival in an evolutionary sense, but can prove damaging when they are unable to understand the situation entirely.

Across verbal and nonverbal cues, there are a few main ways in which script messages are imparted and strengthened.


Direct instructions can have a big impact on our life scripts, especially when accompanied by non-verbal cues.  For example, if the mother in our previous example was to say “leave me alone” and “don’t pester me,” as well as showing physical signs of unavailability, the child would be even more likely to receive messages like “I am unwanted.”


Children learn by copying other people’s behavior; ideas about how one should act are learned by watching the results of what others do.  For example, if a child’s mother often gets what she wants by giving the silent treatment to the father, the child will learn to ignore others in order to get a reaction from them.


If children are regularly told something about themselves, they will most often decide that it is true and act in a way that affirms it.  For example, if a daughter is often described as “the caring one,” she may find herself paying less attention to her desires and needs and put the ones of her younger siblings first.

These attributions can be even more powerful when stated to a third party.  For instance, if a boy’s mother tells a friend that their son is “a troublemaker,” they may be more likely to live up to this idea.

If she tells other family members that their first child is “the golden child”, it is likely that they feel they can’t make mistakes or mess up.   Children are often given family roles to play, and this can heavily impact upon their life scripts.


While often script messages take a few repetitions to become embedded, a single traumatic event can construct a significant part of a life script.  The death of a parent or loss of a sibling, for instance, can lead the child to feel profound desolation and a sense that life is not worth living

Emotional abuse, for example, can lead a child to feel shame, distrust for others and a sense that life is innately cruel.


Whether we had mostly positive or negative script messages imparted on us (and for most of us it was mixed), life scripts will continue to impact us as adults unless we stop to observe them.

When it comes to our career and professional life, we may find ourselves following ambitions that are not ours, for example, or trying to hone qualities that we have been told we have that may not actually come naturally to us.

For example, if a child is told that they are a lot like their father Marcus, a successful lawyer, they may find themselves becoming articulate and well-spoken, and even following the same career path of their father until they realize that it doesn’t actually interest them.

They can also, of course, impact us in a number of negative ways.  We may find ourselves chasing relationships that do not fulfill us based on messages we absorbed as a child, for instance.  If we feel that we are “too needy” for example, we will unconsciously seek people who affirm this belief and who may be unable to meet our needs.

Overall, if we continue to revert to our life script, which we will inevitably do when we cannot recognize it, our ideas of what we can expect from other people and the world are limited to the experiences we had as a child.



When we understand the concept of life scripts, we can explore which ones are active within us. This way, we can decide to re-write a particular script and, most importantly, change its outcome. While it is impossible to ever get rid of our life scripts, we can learn to unearth and challenge them.

One way to revisit our life scripts, especially when we have a good reason to think that they are at play in our professional or personal life, is to seek the support of a professional coach.

Coaching gives us the opportunity to create space between our adult selves and the stories that repeat from our childhood.  With the support of the coach, we can recognize when stressed or triggered that these narratives come up, and decide to create and consider instead other beliefs about the world, ourselves and others. This gives us the autonomy to act other than our script messaging.

If you feel you could be bound to your life script, professionally or personally, I invite you to reach out and discover more in a fully confidential chemistry call. Use the link below to get in touch

Or write directly to


Steiner, C. (1990). Scripts people live: Transactional analysis of life scripts. Grove Press.

Lapworth, P., & Sills, C. (2011). An introduction to transactional analysis: Helping people change. Sage Publications. Do you keep getting into the same situations many times over? You could be bound to your “life script”.

Does personality predicts leadership performance?


One of the sentences that has stayed with me since I began working in the field of leadership development is “who you are is how you lead”.  Not by chance, the author is Dr. Robert Hogan, an American psychologist internationally known for his innovative research on personality assessments and how personality impacts leadership and organizational effectiveness. Before we enter the domain of personality assessments, I would like to take a step back to consider the meaning of personality and what it implies for organizational performance.

A widely accepted explanation of what personality refers to is “the long-standing traits and patterns that drive individuals to consistently think, feel, and behave in specific ways. Our personalities are thought to be long term, stable, and not easily changed”. When this is the understanding of what personality is, it would be common sense to take personality into account when we hire and develop leaders within organizations. As a matter of fact, personality is as important as job competence in predicting and measuring job performance.

In spite of the good news that job competence and personality can be tested, we find that the only aspect being thoroughly examined by organizations today is the first, at the expense of the latter. Furthermore, personality is often limited to desirable qualities listed on a job offer and assessed during job interviews or reviewed during annual 360 evaluations without specific scientific criteria or instruments.

If we all agree that we wouldn’t hire a civil engineer for a cardiologist position within a hospital, would we recruit a Finance Director with the behavioral tendency to become moody and excitable within an auditing firm?

The Hogan Assessment Systems are testing measures created by Dr. Joyce and Dr. Robert Hogan to assess normal personality for business that are widely used by Fortune Five Hundred organizations. They use well researched inventories, informative and customized reports and expert consulting services.

Let’s examine how these systems acknowledge and measure normal personality within the business community and what advantages they bring to leadership and overall organizational performance.

The Hogan viewpoint on Personality

 According to Drs. Joyce and Dr. Robert Hogan personality has two dimensions: personality from the inside and personality from the outside.

No alt text provided for this image

Personality from the inside is the way we describe ourselves to the external world; basically this is the person we think we are and is what Dr. Hogan defines as “Identity”.  Precisely, ‘Identity” is the story we tell others about ourselves and is based on our self-representation.  It is important to note that when we speak about our identity, the personality traits we attach to ourselves are often overestimated and based on personal hopes, dreams and ambitions. Here are some examples of how we may tell the story about ourselves: “I am a multi-tasker”; I can definitely show empathy”. “I am well organized”.  “I have a good sense of humor”.

No alt text provided for this image

Personality from the outside is the way others describe us; basically this is the person external observers think we are and is what Dr. Hogan calls “Reputation”.  Precisely, “Reputation” is the story several other people, not just one person, tell about us. When we refer to reputation, our personality traits are evaluated by several external people after they have observed our behavior when interacting with others numerous times, not just once. Here are some examples of how they may tell the story about us: “She’s a people person”. “He’s an empath”. “She’s the expert when it comes to time management”. “He’s a Yes Man”.

 What the Hogan Assessment Systems measure is Reputation. As quoted by Dr. Robert Hogan “Freud would say the you that you think you are is hardly worth knowing, because you made it all up”. It is your own perception of the person you think you are, without having asked several others what person they think you are instead.

 In an interview a candidate may re-iterate to be highly ambitious but if you were to ask several of his/her former colleagues they may tell how little interested the candidate normally is in competing with peers.  As a matter of fact, there may be discrepancies between the way we describe ourselves and the way others describe us.

According to Dr. Robert Hogan, knowing personality, alias reputation, is an important element for both the individual and the organization alike. On one side, it allows the individual to become aware of how his or her behavior is perceived by the observers, so that he or she can make behavioral adjustments in order to enhance the quality of his or her interactions.

What the Hogan Assessment Systems help highlight, are those aspects of our interpersonal behavior that need improvement and that we often are unconscious of.  For this reason, they provide highly efficient and reliable ways to highlight these issues, so leaders can learn to manage them.

On the other side, they help organizations in their talent selections process, so that they can predict what kind of employee they will be employing during a recruitment process.

The Hogan Leadership Forecast Series

 As a leadership development consultant, there are three Hogan assessments I highly recommend using for leadership development and talent management. They are called the “Leadership Forecast Series”.

No alt text provided for this image

ogan Personality Inventory – HPI –  This test measures “the bright side of personality”, which comprises the aspects of our personality that others see in us when we are at our best. It is also referred to as our ‘day-to-day personality’ or ‘productive behavior’. These are behavioral tendencies that can be seen in a person every day and that tell us how we react under pressure, relate to and collaborate with others, approach our work and solve problems.

 Essentially, the HPI measures normal personality and interpersonal characteristics that are essential for career success and progression. It reveals important aspects of an individual interactional style that the individual may not have self-awareness of and that can cause personal or occupational challenges.

This gives an objective and comprehensive portrait of an individual strengths and weaknesses. It is important to note that the Interpretation of HPI results is job specific. Scale scores that are more successful or effective in one job may be detrimental in another job.

No alt text provided for this image

Hogan Development Survey – HDS – This test measures “the dark side of personality”, which comprises the personality traits that others see in us during time of increased stressed or when we have a bad day. Precisely, these are behavioral tendencies that are only seen in situations when a person is not managing his or her public image, the so called reputation, such as high stress, change and transformation, multitasking, task saturation or accomplishment. Essentially, it defines as “the dark side of personality” or our “counterproductive behavior”.  This dark side is characterized by interpersonal behaviors that are strengths but, when overused, can cause problems at work or in life. Strengths that are overused are referred to as “de-railers” and are real personality risk factors that can hinder and, at their worst, destroy careers. Two examples of overused strengths are self-confidence that turns into arrogance and influence that turns into manipulation.

Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory – MVPI – This test measures “the inside side of personality”, which comprises an individual profound values, motives and interests which drive career choices and eventually bring job satisfaction. They are at the core of what we believe in and determine our choices before, during and after our working life.

The MVPI test is extremely useful to determine the fit between individual and organizational culture. The MVPI assessment helps a hiring manager establish compatibility between a candidate and organizational culture as well as helping a manager motivate his or her team members according to each individuals’ MVPI results.

As a leadership development consultant I highly recommend using the HPI, HDS and MVPI for talent selection and leadership development. I strongly believe that finding the strengths, limiting the risks of personality derailment and discovering the values of your most precious employees is a must for improving organizational performance.

Whether you are a leader or work in talent management, reach out for an initial conversation on how my team and I can support you in using the Hogan Assessment System. Contact me directly:

Five Factors that drive human behavior


In our everyday life where much of our mental energy is consumed by interacting with people who have a variety of perspectives and cultural backgrounds, understanding what drives human behavior is a competence leaders can no longer ignore. The best place to start is the concept of “Behavioral Driver,” created by the American psychologist Taibi Kahler and used worldwide in Transactional Analysis.

Behavioral drivers are essentially mental forces which tell us how things should be done for us to be aligned with our culture and accepted as members of the system we live in.

Their function is to make us act in such a way that we feel ok and validated by others. We internalize these drivers during our childhood, when our parents  give us indications about which behaviors they would either praise or reproach.

There are five drivers:

·      Be Perfect!

·      Try hard!

·      Hurry up!

·      Please others!

·      Be strong!

Let’s explore each and understand how they influence the way we act.

No alt text provided for this image

Be perfect: this driver is the internal force telling us to be faultless, flawless and impeccable.   Those who act under this driver are the so called “perfectionists”, who set high standards of performance, pay attention to details and maintain an immaculate exterior. In the attempt to achieve perfection, “perfectionists” risk becoming highly critical of themselves and find it difficult to accept their mistakes. The internal voice they are unconsciously motivated by is “you should be better”. 

No alt text provided for this image

 Try hard: what matters to those motivated by this driver is the amount of effort put into what they do, regardless of results.  They focus on their own attempts rather than on putting the right amount of energy into completing a task or a project.   The internal voice they unconsciously hear is “you are not working hard enough”. Hence, they often turn small tasks into huge ones for the fear of being criticized for not trying.

No alt text provided for this image

 Hurry up: for those motivated by this driver, everything is urgent and time is limited.  They speak, move and work fast, often disregarding valuable pieces of information in order to complete their current tasks and move to the next. It is not unusual for such people to be double if not treble booked and make demands on others to hurry up as well. The internal message they are motivated by is “you are not good enough when you don’t hurry”, which often leaves them with a hectic agenda to manage and no time to think.

No alt text provided for this image

Please others: with this driver we step into the territory of those who feel compelled to meet the demands of others, including their unexpressed desires.   Those who act under the pressure of this driver tend to prioritize the needs of others at the expense of their own.  The internal voice that unconsciously motivates them is “you are good enough only when you take care of others”. Since they feel pressured to create good relationships and get on well with others in order to feel accepted, they find it difficult to deliver criticism and to turn down those requests they know they can’t meet.

No alt text provided for this image

Be strong: this driver is the internal force telling us to detach ourselves from our emotions and desires, so that we can face the hardship and pressure of everyday life. Those who act under the weight of this driver hardly show physical and mental fatigue and often put up with tough working conditions.  The unconscious internal voice that motivates them is “I am good enough only when I don’t show weaknesses”.  Although they often display strong nerves and are good negotiators in a crisis, they risk bottling things up and overwork until they burn out.

Knowing what the five drivers are and the type of behaviors they generate, allows us to become conscious of how we tend to act when we are under pressure. Eventually this knowledge and awareness gives us permission to adopt strategies that can mitigate these strong driver forces, when needed. Also, it becomes easier for us to recognize these forces in others, e.g. our colleagues and team members, and eventually adjust our interactions to form more effective relationships.

Principally, we have two dominant drivers and one weak.  For this reason, I always encourage my clients to complete the “Driver’s Questionnaire” to understand what their dominant forces are.

To identify your two dominant drivers, I invite you to complete the “Drivers’ Questionnaire”, which I can share with you personally.  Contact me directly:


Kahler, T. (1975). Drivers: the key to the process of scripts. Transactional Analysis Bulletin5(3), 280-284.

Conflicts in the workplace: the way forward


Interpersonal conflicts in the workplace are unavoidable.  However, when they become a recurring scenario, it is crucial to go to their cause and find a way forward.

Conflict in the workplace can often come down to an interchange call The Drama Triangle.

The drama triangle is a model of social interaction which describes a power game between three personas: Persecutor, Rescuer, Victim. Consciously or unconsciously, we can find ourselves playing one of the three roles depending on the context.

The triangle was first introduced by psychiatrist Stephen Karpman in 1968 and is also known as the Karpman Triangle.

In the workplace, the dram triangle often occurs when roles, reporting relationships and division of tasks are neither clear nor owned by stakeholders. In such circumstances, a sense of confusion steps in.

This goes hand in hand with the emotions that people feel and their unspoken needs of validation, affiliation, security and professional identity. Needs that people may not fully be aware of.

Moreover, we know that separating emotions from the real issue can be a challenge, especially when things are taken personally.

It is at this stage that we risk getting entangled in the Drama Triangle by adopting one of the personas described.

In this article I explore how the triangle shows up in conflicts and and how you can challenge it.


The Persecutor

The persecutor is the persona that is perceived as critical and self righteous; the one that keeps the other person down (the victim). The persecutor acts like a “critical parent”, a very strict father/mother who is rigid and controlling.

Such a persona often blames the the victim without giving any solution or guidance and can, at times, turn into a bully by oppressing the victim.

The persecutor thinks “It is all your fault.”

The Rescuer

The rescuer is the persona that always feels compelled to rescue the other (the victim) even when he or she deep inside doesn’t want to. The one that is well intentioned but with his love for help keeps the other person constantly dependent.

The rescuer can’t stop thinking “Let me help you” and by doing so neglects his/her own issues.

The Victim

Here we are talking about the persona that has the tendency to depend on someone else’s support and is often stuck in a codependent relationship. The one that feels helpless, hopeless, powerless and is inevitably seeking and attracting the attention of the Rescuer as well as the Persecutor.

The victim thinks “Poor me”.


John (Head of Sales): Have you submitted my expense report?

Cathrine (John’s secretary): not yet. I was up until late last night trying to complete the Sales forecast.

John: sigh…I thought we had agreed that my expense report is to be submitted well in advance and before the deadline.

Cathrine: I know…I’m sorry. It’s the third night in row I spend on the Sales forecast.

John: well, when you get your priorities wrong, there’s nothing I can do to help you.

Maria (Sales co-ordinator): how many expense receipts do you have to submit on behalf of John?

Catherine: about 300

Maria: let me take it over from you. It shouldn’t take me long to complete and submit the report.

John: thanks Maria. If it wasn’t for you, I would find myself in caos.


What to do if you ever get tangled in the Drama Triangle?

Transitioning to the Empowerment Triangle is the answer.

In the empowerment Triangle the three roles shift to:

Persecutor to Facilitator: The one that respectfully approaches and treats her as a competent and professional adult without the needs of belittling. The ones that moves from a position of arrogance to the positon of humility.

Rescuer to Coach: the one that waits for the other person to ask for support. The one that asks questions and helps the other party to independently come to a solution. The one that empowers instead of rescuing all and give the opportunity to learn and grow.

Victim to Creator: the one that articulates and clearly explains the situation/issue. The one that owns her feeling of uncertainty and takes responsibility for doing things differently and find a way forward with the help of the coach and the facilitator.

Want to know more about conflicts in the workplace and how to manage them? You can contact me directly for an initial consultation by using the link below:



Karpman, S. (1968). Drama Triangle Script Drama Analysis. Transactional Analysis Bulletin7(26), 39-43.