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Drivers and how to support children and workers, not break them



There has been a LOT in the press lately about the impact of the pandemic and home-schooling, with an apparent need for students to ‘catch up’ with longer days and extending the term over the summer holidays. I’m not going to lie, it makes my blood boil. When I set up my business, The Talent Cycle, I named it that because I was working with education and businesses. I could see that what we do and learn at school, has an impact on us in later life, whether it be workplace skills, career choices or simply mental health.


This was put better by Taibi Kahler (1975) who identified that we all have personal drivers, which are ways we learned to behave as children by the expectations placed on us. These drivers can have both positive and negative impacts. Kahler defined 5 main categories of these drivers:


“Hurry Up”

Want and can get a lot done in a short space of time, they are driven by tight deadlines. This need to get everything done so quickly can backfire as they can be prone to making mistakes in the rush.


“Be Perfect”

Desire to always do the ‘right’ thing, seek perfectionism, check for inaccuracies and can see ahead to potential problems. They also have a fear of failure, losing control and are overly critical of others.


“Try Harder”

Are very enthusiastic, getting involved in lots of things and put themselves forward. Can be frustrating for others as they go off on seemingly random tangents or make small projects into much bigger ones as they open multiple ideas.


“Be Strong”

Stay calm, driven by the need to cope with a crisis and take control when one occurs. Can be seen by others as having an aggressive attitude and use strong language.


“Please People”

Love harmony, good at reading others, often great at helping teams ‘gel’. Their need to keep everyone ‘together’ means they may not challenge even when they think it is needed which means a lack of constructive debate or even resentment.


This model is something I use a lot in coaching, often getting a ‘wry smile’ from a client as I reach one or other of the categories. The reason I regularly use this model with clients is that it is often a good starting point for exploring the limiting beliefs they are holding about themselves. If you have a deep-rooted driver for perfectionism, it’s not surprising that you’ll feel like an imposter in a workplace where being perfect all the time, is an impossible standard to live up to. So, I’ll work to break down these barriers with clients, by asking three key questions:


· Which of the key drivers do you recognise most in yourself?

· What are the possible implications of this?

· What strategies might you employ to gain control of your drivers?


And make no bones about it, these drivers are learnt and reinforced as children. With school being a big part of any child’s life, what we teach them there will have an even greater impact. So, telling children they must catch up, reinforces drivers of perfectionism, hurrying up and trying harder, which can all negatively impact their health and wellbeing, not to mention actually reduce their productivity so lesson their chance of being able to ‘catch up’. The reality is, these young people have tried hard enough, for long enough, in the midst of a scary and tiring pandemic. Not only does this impact these amazing young people, it also sets the cycle for creating workplaces of stress rather than employee wellbeing. When employee wellbeing is known to improve performance and morale, it is time we protected the workforce of the future, whilst also supporting those already in it.



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