I recently discussed Attitudes and Behaviours with the brilliant Mark Terrell for his podcast –  the reluctant leader podcast  – which I can highly recommend tuning in to!

During our conversation we spoke specifically about a challenge leaders and managers often face – handling an employee’s behaviour and attitude at work. For some leaders, adopting a positive mindset before managing difficult situations comes naturally. For others, in fact for many of us, it doesn’t!

The task of trying to shape an employee’s attitude or behaviour can be incredibly daunting. Especially so when a natural reaction for the employees themselves, who feel as if they are being ‘got at’, is often to deflect problems onto circumstances or colleagues.

It is paramount to remember, as a leader and employer, your task should be to focus only on the outermost layers of the onion – attitudes and behaviours. Which means explicitly communicating what the specific issues are.

Just touching on the Onion Model, you will notice personality and values sit right at the core, the essence of you are, and your deeply held beliefs. As a leader you have no right to try and change an employee’s values or fundamental make-up. You only have to comment on whether the person’s behaviour is appropriate for the current situation, and whether their attitude towards you, their colleagues, your clients, is what you would want.


Here is where we introduce the ‘OK Corral’ model coined by Franklin Ernst. A truly brilliant, and widely cited model, which can help us in adapting our perspectives and adapting our communication.

Based on Transactional Analysis by Eric Berne, the ‘OK Corral’ or ‘OK – not OK’ model proposes that situations, moods and behaviours, trigger one of four reactions. The model establishes that when faced with these conditions, we have a choice in 1) the way we see and perceive ourselves and 2) the way in which we perceive and react toward others.


“Learning is a process, that is often relational in the sense of relying on interactions between people to determine what needs improving & how to do it.”  Carmeli, Brueller and Dutton (2009)


I’m OK, You’re Not OK

In this situation a person presents themselves as self-assured, even bordering on smug.
With this attitude, people will develop unhealthy competitiveness with others and will often look for opportunities to highlight other’s mistakes.

I’m not OK, You’re OK

In some instances, employees may have feelings of inadequacy to the extent of feeling powerless in their role. This is when you will often see employees withdraw from their role and even undermine their own abilities to do the job.

I’m not OK, You’re not OK

With this mindset, the result can be hopelessness and negative dialogues in response to a situation, mood or behaviour. You might also note an element of stubbornness from employees when asked to complete certain tasks.

The final reaction is I’m OK, You’re OK

By adopting an ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ attitude, you allow room for optimism and collaboration.

You as a leader will come across as more self-confident in your own abilities and create a good team environment in which employees are less likely to self-criticise or critique their colleagues.

Ultimately, this reaction is the goal for all forms of communication!
It conveys mutual respect and allows for both parties to find a constructive approach to issues.

In some circumstances, both parties may never be able to reach this mutual OK framework.
However, if one person is ‘I’m OK, You’re Not OK’ and the other is ‘I’m not OK, You’re OK’,  the mirrored sentiment can still help to find solutions and allow for a stable dialogue.



So, we have a great model in our toolbox… but how do we utilise it?

Using the OK Corral requires a certain amount of self-analysis, as you will need to first question:
– How do I view myself, when I am ‘OK’?
– How do others perceive my OK status?

In order to adopt the ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ reaction, it’s important for you to revaluate your own emotions before entering a discussion. You can do this by checking in with yourself and ensuring you are feeling confident. If you are feeling frustrated by a situation, begrudged by an employee’s behaviour or feeling apprehensive about the meeting, then put quite simply, the chance of having a constructive and collaborative conversation is limited!

Take a moment…, make a drink, check in with yourself…
Are you ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’?


Take the first step on your leadership journey…

Intrigued by the Cool Visioning Exercise? Find out more great tools, techniques and best practices for leading and managing people in my Amazon bestselling Book, ‘Insight’s into Liberating Leadership’.

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