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Transactional Analysis for Managers

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Have you ever had a conversation where the other person left you feeling a bit like a small child?

Or maybe you have felt like kicking yourself at the end of a meeting because you spent the whole time criticising someone.

Have you found yourself being over protective of a colleague, or perhaps you have seen someone stamp their feet and rebel against a perfectly reasonable request?

What all of these situations have in common is that you can easily understand them, spot them coming, and take control of them, when you understand a simple model of communication, called Transactional Analysis, or TA.

Transactional Analysis - Parent, Adult and Child ego states

Eric Berne developed TA and suggested we can think of all of our communication as coming from one of three ‘ego states’. When we speak, we speak as a parent does, as an adult does, or as a child does. We all encompass all three, but address others from one state at a time, depending on the relationship, how we feel, and how the other person is acting.

Parent Ego State

Parents are both worldly and experienced, and therefore speak critically of anything that does not match their learned view of the world, or they are caring and try to nurture and protect us.

Child Ego State

Children can both do what they want and rebel against any kind of authority and they can conform; adapting themselves to the wishes of those around them. Their responses are primarily driven by the emotions they are feeling.

Adult Ego State

Adults behave rationally, looking for the best outcome and trying to find the most effective way to achieve it. They think things out, rather than repeating past lessons or acting purely on emotion.

Transactions

Transactional Analysis - Parent-Child Transaction

In the workplace, Adult-Adult transactions are nearly always the ideal: both of you are speaking respectfully, looking for the best result. However, if you find yourself annoyed by something I have done, it is easy to find yourself slipping into Critical Parent ego state and addressing my Child state. If I respond accordingly – either by arguing petulantly (Free Child) or by being too obsequious and over-apologetic (Adapted Child) then we will get stuck for a time in that Parent-Child structure.

Likewise, if you feel guilty about asking me to do something so instead of asking assertively, you plead with me (Adapted Child), I will respond from Parent state, by either telling you off or reluctantly agreeing (Critical Parent) or by condescending to act in a patronising manner (Nurturing Parent) thereby taking control of the situation.

Parent-Child transactions work well in communicating, even if what they communicate is rarely healthy for a mature workplace relationship. Consequently, they can persist and become ingrained patterns that repeat over and over again, reinforcing inappropriate power balances.

Other transactions are possible too, such as:

  • Parent-Parent – let’s moan about her
  • Child-Child – let’s play a trick on him

But not all transactions are universally unhealthy:

  • Parent-Parent – let’s gossip about yesterday’s football – a healthy way of passing time in the appropriate context
  • Child-Child – let’s come up with some new ideas – the Child state is the state from which we become creative.

There is a whole lot more to TA than Parent, Adult and Child states and a whole lot more to Ego States than we have covered here. It is a rich and rewarding source of understanding for any manager.

Further Reading

Management Models Pocketbook

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Management By Objectives: Delegating Outcomes

Management by Objectives

Management by ObjectivesPeter Drucker is the originator of Management by Objectives. It’s a Big Idea that, in various forms, still dominates much of the corporate world.

It’s not sophisticated, nor very clever. It is the simplicity and directness that makes Management by Objectives a powerful tool for any manager. However, as a corporate culture, it may have passed its sell-by date.

So, let’s see what Management by Objectives is, how it works, and what its strengths and weaknesses are, in today’s world.

Continue reading Management By Objectives: Delegating Outcomes

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Memes: Ideas that Spread and Evolve

Memes: Ideas that Spread and Evolve

Memes: Ideas that Spread and EvolveNo. An article on memes is not an excuse to re-post a bunch of funny internet memes. We’re more grown-up boring than that, here at Management Pocketbooks.

And it’s not as if we think you don’t know what a meme is. Of course you do. So, why have we made it the subject of one of our Big Ideas articles?

Because a meme is an idea that sticks around. It is a Big Idea!

Continue reading Memes: Ideas that Spread and Evolve

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PDCA Cycle: Continuous Improvement with Shewhart and Deming

PDCA Cycle

PDCA CycleThere aren’t many ideas so big that we use them every day – often without thinking. But the PDCA Cycle, Plan-Do-Check-Act, is one.

The PDCA Cycle comes with many names and none. It’s pretty much something humans have been doing since the dawn of time. But that doesn’t diminish the idea.

So, what is the PDCA Cycle, and how has it evolved?

Continue reading PDCA Cycle: Continuous Improvement with Shewhart and Deming

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The Trust Equation

The Trust Equation

The Trust EquationThe Trust Equation is an attempt to highlight the key features of trust in a professional setting. And it does a very good job.

And this is super-helpful to any professional, manager, or team leader, for a simple reason. Trust is your stock-in-trade. If your team, customers, and bosses don’t trust you, you have nothing but a job title. The extent to which you can get things done in a leadership role depends largely on trust.

But how do you inspire that trust? This is what the Trust Equation will show you.

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The OODA Loop – Colonel John Boyd’s Insight

The OODA Loop
The OODA Loop
Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop

The OODA Loop is is an idea that arose within the US military in the 1960s. It was developed by Colonel John Boyd. But the principles are broader than military theory, and managers can get a lot from them.

When I first learned about the OODA Loop, there was very little available to read about it. A few highly technical papers by military strategists, and copies of Boyd’s original seminar notes.

Now, there is a lot more available on the web. But almost all of it still focuses on the military applications. I want to see what the OODA Loop offers us more widely.

Continue reading The OODA Loop – Colonel John Boyd’s Insight

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Logical Levels of Awareness

Logical Levels of Awareness
Logical Levels of Awareness
Logical Levels of Awareness

There are few models that are as beloved of management trainers as Robert Dilts’ Logical Levels of Awareness.

It is popular among those who have learned it as part of formal NLP training, through reading books, or by osmosis. The logical levels model is pervasive and hard to miss if you are alert to these things.

So, in this article, I want to explain what it is, how it came about, and why it is a big idea that merits your attention as a manager.

Continue reading Logical Levels of Awareness

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Holacracy: Circles within Circles

Holacracy

HolacracyFor hundreds of years, there has been little to challenge traditional hierarchies for their ability to organise at scale. Holacracy is doing just that.

It’s a form of Adhocracy, which we covered in an earlier article. But, whilst we are way past ‘peak adhocracy’, it seems that holacracy is is thriving.

Holacracy is a modern attempt to reform traditional hierarchies. It keeps the aspect of senior level overviews and subordinate focus. But it gives a far greater autonomy to individuals, and a more substantial decision authority to small teams at the focus of operations and change.

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Adhocracy: Organisational Structure without Structure

Adhocracy

AdhocracyWhen did bureaucracy become a dirty word? Almost certainly when the idea of adhocracy emerged.

The two are polar opposites: radically different ways to co-ordinate an organisation.

But, while the concept of bureaucracy goes back to the nineteenth century; adhocracy is new. But maybe not as new as you think.

Continue reading Adhocracy: Organisational Structure without Structure

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Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership
Situational Leadership
Situational Leadership

There are more models of leadership than you can shake a stick at. So how should you know which is the best? That’s the question that is answered by Situational Leadership.

The principle of Situational Leadership is simple. There is no one best approach to leadership. To lead well, you must adapt your approach to the situation.

Situational Leadership has deep roots. And let’s start by setting aside our certainty that people have been managing and leading by adapting their approach to the people in front of them, for centuries. The academic study of this approach goes back to the 1950s.

Continue reading Situational Leadership

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