Friday, 15 April 2011

Diary of a TA Trainer - issue 1

My name is Lynda Tongue, and I am a Learning and Development Consultant and a Provisional Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst (Organisational field).

To celebrate the launch of my new website I have decided to write a regular piece as a blog which aims to give information along personal development themes, and to encourage interest in Developmental Transactional Analysis.

Some time ago I sent into the ether via Blogspot a couple of blogs to “test the water”. And since then I have noticed a reluctance to commit myself to regular offerings. I wonder why? Is it because I have not had time? Or is it because I have some hesitation about how it will be received? Probably the latter. What if nobody reads it? I have one follower so far (thank you Amalia in Romania!), but I hope that following will grow because I have a mission: to introduce the tools and concepts of a psychological framework called Transactional Analysis to a wider audience. Well, as wide an audience as I can reach – the world wide web should do it!

Is anybody interested? Well, Amalia is, so I am going to continue!

I run leadership development programmes in organisations and I always introduce the framework of a psychological approach to communication called Transactional Analysis. I run workshops for trainers and coaches, or anybody who has a desire for personal development, and I also provide a qualifications route for those who want to qualify as Transactional Analysts.

Transactional Analysis (TA) is a theory of personality, a theory of child development and a powerful communications tool which can be used to enhance relationships. For more information, visit the website:

I have just had a challenging and interesting two days working with a group from a manufacturing organisation. The contract with the organisation broadly speaking was for personal development and to enhance communications within the team. A launch of the four day programme had taken place two weeks before the first day of the programme. The launch (a two hour session), gives us all a chance to get to know each other, and for participants to ask questions.

The Launch is designed to help with the Time Structuring process – so I was rather surprised when the contracting session with the group on Day 1 was a rather difficult and protracted process. The group did not want to be there!

Now this is not exactly an unknown situation for me – people arrive on training courses often feeling worried, or confused as to why they were asked to attend – or even feeling scared as to what this might entail.

I normally manage the process with appropriate use of Ego States – some Parent to offer protection and reassurance and some Natural Child to encourage engagement with the group. I could see some of the participants relaxing and looking more comfortable, but a couple of people brought their Rebellious Child out to play …….. and they continued to play for two days, really challenging my ability to stay grounded in my Internal Adult!

I had various options which I considered, and I chose to confront appropriately and firmly, addressing the contract and being mindful of the other participants who definitely were there to learn.

And it started me thinking once again about how we can put barriers in the way of our own progress, and stop ourselves from seizing opportunities for development when they present themselves. But more of that in a future blog …….

I finished the couple of days feeling as though I had been challenged, but also looking forward to Module 2 when we will be looking at Discounting, Games, and Ego States.

Perhaps the individuals concerned will find something useful to apply to themselves and their lives – or maybe I will finish the module realising that just because I find the personal insights TA brings me are enriching, life enhancing and just downright practical – not everybody feels the same!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Games Organisations Play

This month’s Triangle TA Group workshop was entitled “Games Organisations Play – Seek and Destroy!”

I researched some of the work of Rosa Krausz and Oswald Summerton and found their ideas worked really well together. I run the workshop so that we cover theory in the morning and then run supervision sessions in the afternoon, where we analyse issues and situations and hopefully gain a greater understanding.

So we started with Krausz’s article “Organisational Script” (1993), in which she refers to Berne:

“A script is an ongoing program, developed in early childhood under parental influence, which directs the individual’s behaviour in the most important aspects of his life” (Berne, 1972)

…. and goes on to say that individuals create organisations as part of their ongoing programs, based on theories of how to succeed or fail. So founders of organisations, consciously and unconsciously mould their organisations according to their belief system – warts and all!

These belief systems become ideologies that form the “personality” of the organisation and individuals are attracted to that organisation based on any perceived alignment with their own individual script.

Krausz says there are four issues which she identifies as relevant in the analysis of organisational functioning: work; time; people; and money. In each of these areas she describes effective and destructive behaviours.

We had some fascinating discussion about the way a script can be handed down for decades and how people can adhere to it even in the face of economic crisis such as that which we are now experiencing - when here-and-now, grounded, accounting problem solving is what is really required!

In the second theory session, we explored Summerton’s Game Pentagon (1992). His model is based on a systems approach to the “relationship knots” that occur in organisations and it recognises that while Berne identified, in his book “Games People Play” unconscious games (played outside of the player’s awareness), he also described conscious games.

Conscious games are played through angular transactions and are played to deliberately manipulate others.

The Game Pentagon takes account of conscious and unconscious games and adds to the roles of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer (Karpman,1968), Stage Manager and Spectator.

In the group we explored the model, relating it to situations we have observed (or been part of!) in organisations and found it to be a really useful model for helping people to recognise alternative behaviours. As an example, if someone understands they were a Spectator in a game, they can be encouraged to take responsibility for action where appropriate.

It allows those in coaching, consulting or training roles etc to analyse situations in order to shed some light onto what has happened, and to then diagnose potential actions as a result, or once again whatever is appropriate within the contract.

We found the model to be rich in its possibilities and very helpful.

The works of both Krausz and Summerton are really interesting and I have a feeling we will be returning to learn more from them!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Culture – a family affair?

My role as a management educator and coach takes me into different organisational cultures, and I really enjoy that privilege.

I can be with librarians or police officers one day, construction workers the next and the following day working with entrepreneurs running highly successful businesses. It is fascinating to get to know these different walks of working life, the different ways of “how we do things around here” and the challenges those “ways” may pose for individuals.

And no matter which culture I work in, Transactional Analysis (TA) helps me to solve problems and build better relationships and to be more confident “comfortable in my own skin”. Now that has got to be worth knowing about!

Eric Berne (psychologist founder of TA) wrote a book in 1966 called Structures and Dynamics of Organisations and Groups and among other gems in there he wrote about his concept of group culture based on his model of individual personality, Ego States.

If you are familiar with TA, you will recognise the Parent, Adult, Child model. When diagnosing an organisation’s culture, Berne said it was possible to see that the rules, traditions, beliefs, values, rituals and prejudices were located in the Parent of the group, and this he called the Etiquette.

The tools, knowledge, skills and methods of the organisation could be located in the Adult, and this he called the Technical.

The emotions, friendships, fears, hopes etc were located in the Child, which he called the Character.

If we look at the Houses of Parliament, the laws of the land, the oath that Members of Parliament swear, the dress code and the rules they follow around Maiden speeches for instance are all part of the Etiquette. The Technical is the debates, Prime Minister’s Question Time etc and the Character comes out in the shouting and loud challenges to front bench spokes men and women!

The Character also has a flavour of “what can we get away with under the rules”. The scandals of 2009 to do with Members of Parliaments’ expense claims is a useful illustration. Allegedly, claiming a certain amount of money for expenses was something that some MPs had done almost as if they had a right to it. The claims office had been sanctioning these claims (Etiquette), the expense forms were the Technical means, and the Character came out in the beliefs of the MPs who saw this money as theirs by right, and something they “could get away with, under the rules”.

This model can be used to diagnose a “cultural personality” (Drego, 1983). She took the Etiquette, Technical (which she calls Technicalities), Character model and introjected it into the structural ego stage model, and called it The Cultural Parent (Drego, 1983).

So it is like the group acting as one – with a dominate personality that is the culture of the group, or organisation. If you are a Star Trek fan, think of The Borg – a very predominant Cultural Parent!

I have worked with organisations where the Cultural Parent is nurturing, where staff are provided for (generous holiday arrangements, opportunities for job share, consideration given for bereavements etc). Many local authorities certainly used to be described in this way, and although things are a little different these days, much of this culture still remains.

Other Cultural Parent personalities are more controlling (staff have to clock in and out, ask permission to leave their work stations, receive only the minimum quota of holiday etc).

Many family run businesses can be a fascinating mixture of both controlling and nurturing.

In many cultures, senior managers can often complain that staff members will not take responsibility but when their systems are looked at more closely, it can be seen that individuals have little control or power, are often not really aware of the limits of their job role and receive little guidance from their managers.

Pearl Drego identifies that an unhealthy Cultural Parent wants to:

• keep things the way they are
• repeat old history without change
• assume responsibility for others that those others can well assume for themselves
• keep power over others and destroy anything that threatens their (the managers) control
• provide punishment for new and untried behaviour, even when it is working

In today’s challenging climate it is imperative that managers and staff have the skills and the support to achieve individual and organisational goals. The more complex the organisation, the less it can be micromanaged (Bernd Schmid and Arnold Messmer, (2005). People need to be confidently competent and able to take responsibility for carrying out tasks effectively.

So how can a culture of responsibility prevail?

Senior managers can be supported to communicate clearly with their staff. They can be coached and tutored into managing performance regularly so that a positive relationship, with clear dialogue is fostered throughout the management structure. They can learn to delegate effectively so that their team members will take responsibility in a safe and supported way.

By apparently giving away power, the power of the manager grows as the team benefits. This is much more comfortable than the manager spending much of his or her time fire-fighting – which is a clear route to a stress-filled day!

If you want to change a culture, it is the Etiquette that needs to be worked on – changing the rules, the codes of ethics and making sure they are adhered to will have a long-lasting effect. It will not happen overnight - changing a culture takes time. It can be quite a painful transition period while the organisation is moving through that change and systems have to be put in place and refined and given time to bed-in.

Above all, there needs to be a steady hand at the top of the organisation, someone who has drive and energy, who is supportive but not smothering and who models the behaviours they want to see throughout the organisation.

Others will take their lead (literally!) from the top and will bring about change through consistent application of performance management systems, taking all opportunities to give positive strokes, contracting clearly and accounting for staff.

In this way, the organisation nurtures its talent to achieve its goals and go beyond!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

What am I ignoring?

I teach the tools of Developmental Transactional Analysis to managers and trainers, consultants and coaches, health professionals and youth workers.

What is Developmental Transactional Analysis (DTA) you may ask?

Well, you know sometimes we can get ourselves into situations when we think – “Blimey! I’ve been here before!” Or, “How did I let him say that to me?” Or, “Why did I just say yes – when I really don’t want to join that committee, or take on that responsibility?!”

DTA gives us a set of tools to work out what is going on for us, and what might be going on for others, and how to avoid awkward, or even damaging, repetitive situations that leave you feeling low, or stupid, or angry.

Take the following example.

Janine is the manager of a very busy team in a local authority. She came to me saying that she could not understand why a couple of members of her team were being so difficult. They were giving her the bare minimum of effort that they could get away with and were so grudging all the time!

“They are so negative! I have got so fed up with them I just ignore them most of the time. They are not worth the effort.” Jane and Michael are much more helpful, so of course I am working more closely with them. They are much easier to be with!”

As Janine’s coach, now was the time to share with her the TA concept of Discounting. “Nothing to do with getting money off!” I said, and went on to describe what Discounting is all about.

This TA concept is very useful when leading and managing people as well as being a very helpful model when faced with a problem.

We can discount ourselves, other people and a situation (we may not even be aware we have a problem), so this is a very useful concept to highlight our self-limiting beliefs, our sometimes faulty views about others and our blocking out of a piece of information which is stopping us from solving a problem.

From a leadership point of view, having an understanding about discounting is important not just from a personal standpoint, but also because developing others is a responsibility of leadership. To be able to spot the discounts when coaching team members enables the coachee to achieve their full potential – and ensures the success of the leader as a coach.

Discounting is interesting because we are not aware we are doing it! We ignore a piece of information which if we bought it into our awareness, we would solve the problem, reach a resolution etc. And while this sounds weird, we do it to maintain our frame of reference, our way of looking at the world, and our place in it.

It is an intra-psychic process, but the language people use will tell us that they could be discounting. Phrases like “I always get left out” or “I can’t” or “the youth of today are lazy” indicate discounts through grandiosity - exaggeration of an aspect of reality. They indicate that feelings or abilities are being diminished, and therefore discounted.

Janine was discounting the feelings and abilities of her “difficult” staff members by ignoring them, giving her attention to others and in the way she described them to me!

Accounting for others, recognising their feelings and abilities and vocalising your recognition enables people to be comfortable around you, and to fulfil their potential.

So I ask you, what are you discounting about yourself? Or about other people?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Living Life on Purpose - Introducing Developmental Transactional Analysis

Funny how sometimes things just click, isn’t it? I have wanted for a long time to write a book, but somehow, have not got around to it. Not enough time! Too much to do! Training to deliver, meetings to attend, essays to mark etc etc.

Well, at the start of 2010 I have finally entered the world of cyberspace. I sent my first “tweet” two weeks ago (my son Chris said “Blimey! My Mum’s on Twitter. I’m not even on Twitter. Up is down, black is white …..”). And now I have decided to write what I see is an “immediate book” – a blog.

So my intention here – it’s odd, because at the moment I am writing this to myself – is to write a blog that describes aspects of my work as a Transactional Analyst (TA). I intend to write about Developmental TA and show ways of building self esteem, more meaningful relationships and confidence.

TA helps us to understand what makes us tick, what impact we have on other people and how we get ourselves into situations in our personal and professional relationships which are not always healthy or helpful.

My intention is to post regularly, once every week or couple of weeks depending on whether I have something to say, and the format I decide.

Watch this space!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year!

I am finding my way, writing a blog for the first time and feeling excited about it. I have always enjoyed the writing process, and see enormous potential for connecting with friends and colleagues from around the world.

So this is a test blog, to try out the process.