There are multitudes of personality and behavioral assessment tools used around the world. Many of them are common such as Myers-Briggs, Hogan, Birkman and Strengthfinders – just to name a few. Of these, the DISC tool based on esteemed behavioral scientist, William Marston’s seminal research and has been used for business and personal application for over 30 years, is arguably the most popular. In addition, it is likely to the most copied or imitated assessment tool in the work today.
The DISC personality and behavior assessment tool started off as a one-page, self-scoring model that was used as a tool to help people learn more about each other and was used typically as an icebreaker preceding group interactions or training sessions. It uses the four basic and identifiable human behavior traits that every person demonstrates in one way or another. DISC gives us insight into the following observable behaviors:
D = “Dominance” How one responds to problems and challenges.
I = “Influence” How one influence others to your point of view.
S = “Steadiness” How one respond to the pace of the environment.
C = “Compliance” How one respond to rules set by others.
The tool tells us that each person has a very unique blend of the aforementioned 4 factors. It is Marston who famously suggested that “all people exhibit all four behavioral factors in varying degrees of intensity.”
Human behavior can be a mystery both at home and in the workplace. More specifically, human behavior and personality are often misunderstood and usually become areas of stress affecting work productivity, and individual happiness. DISC enables a person to understand how he or she behaves. It is the most basic of self-awareness tools available. More importantly, the tool enables a person to identify the behaviors of other people and, even more crucial, adjust their own behavioral styles to make an impact with that other person. Therefore, everyone who interacts with others – particularly in the workplace – will be able to adjust their communication style accordingly and would begin to build stronger and more productive interactions with them.
DISC is a simple tool and even in the modern online versions of it can be found as a cheap solution to better understanding our won behaviors and that of others. The modern and most comprehensive version of DISC is produced by a behavioral assessments company based in Arizona, USA called Target Training International (TTI). TTI developed a robust, regularly validated, scientifically reliable, business centered version of this tool.
I started using not just this version of DISC but also combining it with adjunct tools such as those that unveil human motivators, emotional intelligence, the acumen level of people and the 25-most widely accepted leadership skills (see below). Even when I deployed this enhanced version of DISC alone with the individuals I coach, the tool was highly accepted by them and in every instance increased their satisfaction levels. Most importantly, my clients and their teams were overjoyed with the results they enjoyed in terms of financial, strategic and customer metrics.
Even when Marston began to share the results of his expansive research into human behavior, he pontificated that by merely observing people proves the impact and validity of DISC. Each work day provides the perfect laboratory where people can be observed and where one can learn how to ramp up their ability to communicate and collaborate better. Behaviorally science research has undeniably demonstrated that all people – while they are uniquely different in most regards — have commonly similar idiosyncrasies and characteristics in terms of how they act, behave and react in certain everyday work situations. By studying these characteristics and by reading the DISC “tea leaves,” we can enhance communication qualitatively and thereby increasing the understanding of each other.
As a leadership coach and performance consultant, I use this DISC assessment frequently and every time — without exception – the individuals take the results of the tool back to their companies and use it with their own work and project teams. The results of DISC gives them deep insight into the value of utilizing individual strengths, recognizing the differences in the behavioral styles of people, and bringing these factors together to enhance teamwork. They typically interpret DISC results like this:
- A High D will be fast acting, quick to respond, often with a “ready-fire-aim” approach, a quick decision-maker, demanding, and someone who possesses a headstrong “all-systems go” or “full steam ahead” style.
- A High I communication style reveals an enthusiastic, influential, outgoing, connecting, talkative (sometimes a little too much talking), someone not so good at listening, and one who is careless with details
- A High S is a patient soul and one who is logical, deliberate, loyal, somewhat slow to respond to demands, one who is good at processing communication, a thinker, and who hard to read, stable, empathetic
- A High C is focused on quality, detail-oriented, analytical, process-driven, self-admonishing, does not possess the “gift of the gab,” and who can be cold at times, one who rarely feels wrong about things and one we must be careful criticizing.
Of course, there are important combinations of the aforementioned traits and the variations therein provide even greater insight into the behaviors of people. Perhaps the most important takeaway someone can glean after taking the assessment is to understand appreciate and do something about their blind spots. That said, it is usually the coach – me, in this case – who often points this out to the person. The DISC talent profile has around 10 or so different areas that behaviors fit into and contains a plethora of rich and insightful material that can help people have a better understanding of the impact—both good and bad—they can have on people.
When my clients think about the different behavioral styles of the people they work with and the different ways they behave, it is no wonder that taking DISC allows them to equate these behaviors with the different ways they communicate with one another. Once we learn to appreciate, understand, and internalize different behavioral styles, we can maximize the effectiveness of our own communication approach and style accordingly. The key then, of course, is considering how we can adapt our own behavior to enhance communication and doing it in the actual workplace.
Behavioral differences always vary among people. Some people like to work privately or individually or in in quiet environments, others thrive in noisy environments with gaggles of other people in the mix with with a lot of interaction. Some people need the space and time to pontificate and evaluate a possible new idea, while others are ready for action and jump on the bandwagon of an idea immediately. People have different communication preferences, and enjoy certain aspects of their jobs more than others. DISC helps identify these differences and how to best manage the traits that come with diverse personalities.
The age-old adage “seek first to understand before being understood” truly embodies what DISC offers. It sounds so simple and easy to implement but there is enough conflict, turmoil and stress already in all workplaces that this is harder to do than it sounds. People – especially when faced with tight deadlines and the rigors of the modern workplace — are usually moving so quickly in their communication that they are formulating a reply while the other person is talking, instead of fully listening. If we were all better listeners, communication breakdowns would occur less and less frequently. Ineffective communication causes plenty of problems at work. It creates tensions between people, misunderstandings and assumptions. Team dynamics and efficiency suffer. Companies see an increase in errors and coinciding expenses, so profitability goes down. Communication is so crucial that at the end of the day it impacts the bottom line, relationships, teams and effectiveness.
Taking the DISC assessment – as a first step – alleviates this workplace noise and by learning its language and applying it to the workplace enhances team management, customer satisfaction, drives up leadership skills, takes communication to levels of brilliance and drives up sales and productivity.
The 25 Leadership Competences (adapted from The Complete Leader by Ron Price):
- Innovative Thinking
- Abstract Thinking
- Planning & Organization
- Continuous Learning
- Self-Disciple and Management
- Personal Accountability
- Goal Achievement
- Understanding & Assessing Others
- 1 Oral Communication
- Written Communication
- Diplomacy and Tact
- Building Personal Relationships
- Persuasion and Influence
- Negotiation and Mediation
- Managing Conflict
- Teamwork and Collaboration
- Employee Success
- Customer Success
- Demonstrating Authenticity