The “Drivers Tool”

A “Driver” is an important concept in Transactional Analysis. It was created by the American psychologist Taibi Kahler and is now used worldwide.

By identifying and overcoming Drivers people can significantly improve their wellbeing as well as their effectiveness, creativity, communication and relationships.

The concept of Drivers is a powerful tool that can help achieve personal growth and change.

The 5 Drivers are:

  • Please Me!
  • Be Strong!
  • Hurry Up!
  • Try Hard!
  • Be Perfect!

Drivers are messages we receive from our parents and incorporate as dysfunctional problem-solving strategies during childhood. We activate them when we feel challenged as to our basic OK-ness in order to regain our balance, but the result can lead to problems in the short or long term.

Descriptions of the Drivers

  • Be Strong, leads to an attempt to solve problems by being strong, carrying heavy loads, to put up with more or less unbearable conditions, etc. The internal message that you give to yourself is that you should not let others think that you are weak. People with Be Strong Drivers often does not always see themselves as fully responsible for their thoughts and – especially – for their feelings. Still the person often appears rational on the outside.
  • Please Me. A person that is in an active Please Me Driver often cares more about others and other peoples needs than about him or herself.  The internal message is that one can be good enough only by taking care of others, and that doing so will make others appreciate you – the main goal for a person in a Please Me Driver! People with this Driver tend to see themselves as responsible for how other people feel.
  • Hurry up, can lead to rushing things when it is not necessary and sometimes even when it would be better to take ones time. The internal message that people with Hurry Up Drivers gives themselves is that they will be late for something (makes you think about the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, doesn’t it?). Maybe a person with ‘too much time on her/his hands’ is perceived as idle? Anyway one feels that one is not good enough when not in a hurry.
  • Be Perfect. This driver makes a person seek perfection in one or several ways. Often in terms of maintaining a completely flawless exterior, maybe in trying to achieve  ‘perfect’ speech, ‘perfect’ arrangements etc. The internal message is “You ought to be better”. One is not good enough if one happens to make a mistake. Instead a person with this Driver will constantly try to improve himself/herself hoping to one day become accepted. By whom? We do not know, but in order to be perfect one should probably be accepted by all.
  • Try hard is ruled by the motto that it is the effort that matters. People with this Driver feel OK when they work very hard, whether they actually accomplish something or not. At least they tried. They have a tendency to make things complicated and to lose themselves in details instead of seeing the broad outlines.  The basic message is that you are not working hard enough.


Using the Tool

From a Coaches perspective, its useful as a tool perhaps at the “reality” or story telling part of the Coaching journey, along with supporting clients to reflect on when they might exhibit these behaviours and how to work on this. From a clients point of view, it may well help greater self awareness of “liability type” behaviour, along with a responsibility for tackling the worst excesses.

The Drivers Working styles questionairre and summary can be accessed here and saved as a word document.The concept of ‘driver’ behaviour was developed by two transactional analysts, Kahler and Hedges (TAJ 4.1 p.32), and written about by Mavis Klein in “Pain and joy” (Boyars 1993). This questionnaire was created based on the work of those authors by Mary Cox, and due acknowledgement is given here.