We sit down with Kent-based Chris Bensted to talk about the industry’s public image, how important positivity is to ADIs – and why in-lesson harmonica playing can help pupils learn to deal with peer pressure.

What kind of ADI are you? From day one, I’ve been a ‘conversational instructor’. I understand people and their problems, and have a knack for translating big world ideas to individuals. In my business, I try to be as open to opportunities as possible. I have immersed myself in the community of my peers, which has provided support and education along the way.

What’s your favourite part of the job? Learning something new from every pupil, as well as from all the ADIs I get to speak to delivering training and advice. Least favourite part? We never seem to get anywhere – the need for government decision-making prevents progress. However, I think an increasing focus on public perception is the way forward.

How is government decision-making preventing progress? We, the ADIs, are on the front line every day. So who do the government call when there is a road-related issue? The unqualified ‘experts’ from IAM, RoSPA, etc. We do not even feature on the professional radar.

We were consulted, which was shelved. We were promised motorway training, which was discarded. Part of this is because we are so fragmented and disconnected as an industry. Part of this is because it is not a vote winner.

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How about the public perception of the industry? I think the perception issue is two-fold; the public’s perception of ADIs and ADIs perception of themselves. The public do not value the skill of driving, and the difference a good ADI can make, never mind a great one. While anyone can train a driver, the difference is made in challenging, educating and developing the drivers’ opinions – and helping them self-assess in the future.

As for our perception of ourselves, ADIs do not value themselves. I can get you 20 hours for £289 – that’s less than £15 an hour. But it would cost me £260 to deliver. And I wonder what ADIs decide to spend the £29 (£1.49 an hour) on – the mortgage? Food? The kids? Until we solve this issue, how can we ever be recognised as a valued service?

Is that one of the reasons why you set up Positivity Week?Positivity Week came about after seeing constantly negative posts on Facebook and hearing comments at the test centre. I wanted to encourage the sharing of this amazingly positive world we have the privilege of being part of.

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why? I am a big believer in learning from every opportunity, so my biggest learning experience was probably my hypnosis training. As well as discovering a new skill set, I discovered myself. My point? Don’t limit your continuing professional development – look for ways to grow and the benefits will appear.

How has hypnosis helped you become a better ADI? We work in a world of words. While I don’t use a traditional hypnotic approach – putting pupils into a trance is just asking for trouble – I do use the language patterns, relaxation techniques and understanding of therapy techniques in my lessons.

Hypnotic language and an understanding of the subconscious are very useful for what we do. I regularly recommend the ‘Inner Game of’ series of books to ADIs, which challenge the subconscious and conscious parts of the process.

You specialise in NLP – what is it and how can it help ADIs become better teachers? NLP (Neural Linguistic Programming) is looking at people; how they process the world, how they can achieve, and how they act and react. Every pupil has their own language and approach. The better we can understand and communicate with them, the more effective we can be as instructors. NLP delivers this and so much more.

photo 3 > Modern driving instruction is about influencing the decisions that cause collisions.” > > – ADI Chris Bensted of CB’s Driving School and co-founder of Better ADIs.

How do you deal with nervous students? I use a variety of techniques including hypnosis, NLP and humour! But the biggest tool is a future-focused approach – in other words, learners are normally nervous of failing. By starting with their future success and working backwards, they have no reason to fail.

Performing magic and playing the harmonica in lessons – why do you do it? Because it engages the individual, creates interest and makes them think. If I can make them think then that’s half the battle won! One pupil was asked by a friend: “Isn’t it distracting?!”. Her reply? “It’s great practice to help me deal with you (her friends)!”

As a longterm user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students? Theory Test Pro is accessible, visual and effective. It adds value to my business and allows me to offer support. ADIs should use Theory Test Pro and other services to add that value. If they do, prices will go up – and so will your success. As I said, ADIs need to stop cutting prices and fighting over scraps.

And finally, what advice would you give someone starting a career in driving instruction? Think long and hard about it. Train to be amazing and the tests will look after themselves. Diversify and sell on value, not price. Oh, and stay safe out there!