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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kahler, T. (1975). Drivers: the key to the process of scripts. Transactional Analysis Bulletin, 5(3), 280-284.