What Drives You?

Kevin Mahoney

Coaching Member
Feb 24, 2017
I recently started reading George Kohlrieser’s (2006) book Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance. The book utilizes the author’s experience working as a police hostage negotiator to explore the emotional states present in hostage situations. Those emotional states can reflect emotions people experience in being held “hostage” in their day-to-day personal and professional lives. Per Kohlrieser, the key to surviving a real, or imagined (hostile boss/ coworker), hostage situation is overcoming the feelings of hopelessness and bonding with the hostage taker.

Another important factor in successful navigation of hostage situations, real or imagined, is knowing what drives us. Kohlrieser (2006) states “most people are driven by fear or by avoidance of pain. Only a few are driven by benefits” (p. 21). In challenging environments, if we only focus on avoiding fear and pain we are likely to feel powerless and be taken “hostage”. However, if we focus on potential positive outcomes, we will feel empowered and greatly increase our chances of survival and growth.

Kohlrieser explores the roles an individual’s mindset and language play in learning to be driven by a situation’s potential benefits. Do you pay attention to the language you use during challenging times? Are you able to “choose” your mindset? If so, what steps do you take to that end?

Kohlrieser, G (2011). Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.
Apr 24, 2017
I've had a fairly uncomfortable discussion with a psychologist friend of mine. Though to be honest, most of my discussions with him were uncomfortable because I was always wondering if he was just trying to psychoanalyze me. That kind of thought smacks of vanity, though at the time, it was mostly just fear.

Fear of being found out I suppose. I was struggling with an hidden addiction at the time. But that ended up not being what made the conversation uncomfortable.

No see he talked about that very thing, being trapped by a mindset or our attitude. It's been a while, so I don't recall it fully, but what I had ended up talking about was my job in a grocery store. I felt unfulfilled, my feet hurt all the time, my back ached and generally speaking, I didn't really like my job. Now what he did was point out how I had become trapped or rather, voluntarily held by my attitude. I had been using those same complaints as a way to garner sympathy from other people, but even more importantly, as a reason not to try any harder to improve my life.

Basically I was making excuses. I wouldn't go look for a better job BECAUSE my feet hurt and my back ached. I wouldn't go out with friends or do things because I was so miserable from an undesirable job.

It was strange to have it pointed out, but by thunder, I see now he was right! I was just holding myself hostage, I was giving myself an excuse not to try.

Of course, once the Emperor had been told he had no clothes, I had to go find some pants, if you catch my drift.

So yeah, I can totally see this. And I think I will have to add that book to my reading list.