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Your state of mind will decide the state of your business

Communication is the biggest leadership skill and while you are at it, here are a few tips to navigate ego that can make or break a deal

September 21, 2022 / 06:23 AM IST
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Have you ever felt that your negotiation skills suck? As an SME owner, it is frustrating when others are not able to see your point of view and your colleagues say you are stubborn. And, then there is that nagging feeling that you could have swung a better deal had you been more aware of the other person’s mindset. Perhaps you have been dismissive of a person reporting to you. It all boils down to being self-aware and adaptive.

Communication is at the heart of good leadership. Transactional analysis holds powerful learning in this situation.

Here’s a simple summary of transactional analysis. Eric Berne, a psychologist, identified three ego states—child, parent and adult—that formed the core of any transaction between two people.

Each state has its bright and dark sides. They cannot be separated.

Child State: This is a carefree state, much like the way a child is. It is spontaneous, and mostly, free from expectations. It is also a creative state. The two modes this state operates in are to obey or to rebel—being playful, sarcastic, or even spiteful. A person in this state looks up to authority figures and asks, “What would you like me to do?”


Parent State: Parents are supportive and caring and always look out for the child. They could also be very controlling and set the rules that others, especially a child, must follow. Transactions are based on control, criticism, guiding and nurturing. Their message is “do as I do/say. I know what's best for us.”

Adult State: This is the state of rational and conscious thought. “I will be candid with you and will lay it out on the table.” An adult may not be in the de facto stage. With awareness and investment in developing the adult identity, one can bring it into play more often. The more you treat others as adults, the more you receive the same.

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Since two persons are involved, there are six combinations in which these ego states can interact. An ulterior transaction has two levels of communication. A clear transaction is direct and does not involve hidden agenda based on sharing one's point of view, thoughts, or emotions appropriate to the context.

What should you be looking at here?

1 Do you run your organisation the same way you run your house? “Listen Sunil. It’s high time you drop that client you have been chasing forever. Get on with customers who will give us business for a change!” This aggressive stance is reflective of a parent state. This is the controlling or critical avatar of that ego state. The reaction could often be a sulking or rebellious child state, “I am never appreciated for all the work I put in.” At times, there are situations where one needs to be directive. If this is the predominant style, the collaboration will be elusive.

2 Do the senior leaders behave like they know the best for all others? “I have listened to all of you carefully. I now have clarity on the challenges we must deal with and the order in which to deal with them.” This is also a controlling parent albeit with less aggression. If there were a conversation that centred on collective decision-making like “Let’s discuss the issues and prioritise” or “Let’s handle the situation and then look at how we can ensure that we do not get into this situation again,” it would reflect an adult ego state.

3 Are the day-to-day operations affected by the emotions/issues between senior leaders? “I cannot get that project completed on time because HR never recruits on time. Even when they do once in a while, it is a wrong fit.” This is an example of a child ego state. The blame is being placed on someone else without attempts to find the root cause. If there is no shift from a blame-all-others child ego state to one of a collaborative problem-solving adult ego state, these situations will be repeated several times and over a prolonged period.

All of us have a primary ego state, but it can be adapted to the situational context. Observing, learning, and putting it into practice is the way to go. Watch out for the above-mentioned behavioural issues in your interactions or even as you self-talk.

This is not to suggest that one needs to be in an adult state all the time. The state can be a child state but it should be a conscious one. You will need to be a parent on many occasions, especially when there is a crisis, or a decision to be made urgently.

To develop highly effective relationships with your family members or others, becoming conscious of the ego state that you are in from moment to moment helps you interact more effectively, understand and handle conflict better.
M Muneer is the managing director of CustomerLab Solutions, a consulting firm.
Gayatri Krishnamurthy is a senior HR expert and leadership coach.
first published: Sep 21, 2022 06:23 am
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