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Posts Tagged ‘DISC behavior’

Good listening: Listen up! It’s more complex than you knew.

Friday, July 6th, 2012

“Well if you would only listen…” “You never listen to me.” “I told you, but obviously you weren’t listening.”

Ah, listening. It seems like such a simple thing to do, but how often have you heard (or said) complaints like those above? Maybe good listening isn’t so simple after all.

So what makes good listening so complex?

If we look to behavioral styles we can find some clues. Observing behaviors through the lens of DISC helps us see that those who exhibit certain styles are demonstrating patterns that can predict how they listen. Many articles like this one on good listening, “How to be a Good Listener”, frame the advice in terms of modifying the behavior to be more effective.

Let’s look at the core styles in the context of effective listening:

High D‘s are oriented around achieving results, and are not shy about making fast decisions or bringing pressure to bear on a situation. If a conversation does not support the high D’s current agenda then that person may lose interest in the conversation. Being forceful by nature the high D is not hesitant to interrupt or walk away when someone is speaking to them. Their observed behavior prioritizes problem solving over social considerations so unless their D is accompanied by a fairly high I don’t expect the high D to be a patient listener. If you want to keep the high D’s attention make your message short, and to the point. Think bullet points, not back-story.

The high I is typically observed to be talkative, but does a talker make a good listener? Not usually. The high I individual is usually counted among the worst listeners. High I’s tend to seek out a lot of verbal interaction, but their focus tends to be more on the appearance they are making, and their social status rather than paying attention to the content of a conversation. When not the one speaking, the classic high I spends the majority of their time thinking of what they are going to say rather than focusing on and considering what is being said to them. A high I with a low S will be talkative and restless in a conversation – they’ll flit around a cocktail party or networking reception making small talk with everyone, but never sticking around in one conversation long enough to absorb much of the conversation because they’re always spotting someone else they “have to say hello to”.

A low S exacerbates the high I’s weak listening ability, but what kind of a listener is a high S? The high S demonstrates behavior that supports good listening: they tend to avoid confrontation, so they are unlikely to interrupt a speaker; they prefer things to move at a slower, steadier pace, and are reticent to upset the status quo – which means you will seldom see a high S walking away from someone who is in the middle of telling a story (no matter how much that story may go on and on). The high S observes, but doesn’t tend to reveal what they have in mind so their focus tends to be on what the other person is saying rather than emulating the high I’s tendency to be thinking up the next interesting thing to say.

Last but not least we have the high C. If high S’s make the best listeners then high C’s are the second best among the core DISC styles. The high C is process-oriented and attentive to detail. A high C makes use of conversations as a form of information gathering. They are very attentive to details revealed in even a casual discussion and will feel compelled to correct any errors made by the person speaking. These could be errors in facts or grammar, but the net result is that the high C can be perceived as snobby for this behavior. The C applies structure to the act of listening, observing rules of politeness and formality, even parliamentary procedure in a group setting. A high C with a fairly high D may interrupt you, but not because of disinterest, they just may feel they have a more efficient way of harvesting the information in the conversation and may tend to turn a chat into a mild interrogation.

Of course other combinations of DISC behavior scores will reveal more complex listening styles, as well as the individual’s preferences for ways of communicating verbally. A high C will prefer to listen to another high C because of the shared affinity for structured presentation and accurate information. One high I may not be listening to the high I that is speaking to them, but they are together more at ease feeding off of each other’s enthusiasm and energy than that same high I might feel in a discussion with a high S.

Going beyond observable behaviors, values and motivators add more complexity to the art of effective listening. If a listener’s values are similar to those of the speaker, then they will be naturally more interested and likely to listen. If they have opposing values, the listener will have a natural tendency to disregard what the speaker is saying. These tendencies may mitigate or aggravate the listening issues predicted by the behavioral styles of the people in question. Once again we find that the Golden Rule falls a bit short when it comes to communication. The effective communicator doesn’t speak to listeners in the manner that the communicator would like to hear, but rather adapts their communication to the listening style preferences of the audience.

To be a great listener able to traverse conversations with colleagues of multiple behavioral profiles and diverse motivations and values generally requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. The more emotionally mature individual may learn how to overcome poor listening skills by developing more empathy for others, and learning to recognize and adapt their behaviors to better suit the situation. They can then be far more effective at listening than one who has not matured yet and is highly self-centered.

Objective assessments give us the ability to measure all of these factors and can be tremendously valuable in predicting effective listening skills and identifying opportunities to coach individuals in improving this ability. For an example of a well-rounded assessment that can be useful in this manner see this sample report.

Ask the Expert: Lowering your S

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

A reader from the healthcare arena recently used our Ask the Expert form to ask:

** What does it mean if you have a Naturally high S, but your Adapted S is significantly lower? **

Art’s answer:

If you are seeing a DISC report with a Natural S that is high and an Adapted S that is much lower then you are actually seeing one of the most common behavioral adjustments in corporate America today. In the DISC spectrum the S reflects our preferences for different paces. When the S factor drops to a strong degree, it typically means the pace you’re encountering is greatly increased, that the variety of the work you are doing has increased (juggling lots of assignments at one time), or possibly your priorities are changing rapidly.

A person with a high Natural S likes to know what to expect – they are more comfortable knowing what’s going to happen well in advance. But if you are responding to the environment with a low Adapted S then it sounds like you might not be able to predict what you’ll be working on from one moment to the next, or have so many things on your plate, you may not be getting the closure you like. I often recommend those making this adjustment either get a bigger staff or do their best to prioritize their projects and takes some things off their plate. This isn’t always easy, particularly in today’s job climate where so many people are being asked to shoulder larger burdens and compensate for the missing productivity of people who have been let go, but not replaced, due to economic constraints. However, forcing someone to sustain an Adapted style that is drastically different from their Natural style can cause severe stress and loss of morale, especially if the person in question is pushed into this state frequently and for long periods of time. Frustration and resentment can increase in these situations.

It is also important to remember that the issue isn’t as much the direction of change, as it is the magnitude of change and the amount of time spent in the Adapted state. We often see executives with lower Natural S scores, who become frustrated and restless if they find themselves in a situation that causes them to have a higher Adapted S. Often an executive in this situation will make a move and quit the position as soon as they are able to because boredom is generally the least tolerable adapted state.

What’s your question?

Data Dome’s resident expert is our founder, Art Schoeck. A member of TTI’s prestigious International Faculty, Art often receives questions through our Ask the Expert form. We try to answer questions here on this blog that are representative of common questions regarding DISC and other assessment tools.

Do you have a question about DISC? If so please submit it via the Ask the Expert form. Although it may not be possible to answer every question individually, we use the “Ask the Expert” category of this blog to answer the DISC-related questions most important to our readers.

Sales and DISC Behavior – It’s Easy to Sell to People Like You

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

(but not necessarily easy to manage them)

As discussed in our previous articles, “Sales Hiring Mistakes” and “Sales: What Makes a Great Salesperson (for You)?“, businesses that can sell well tend to do well – so it is not surprising that there is a lot of interest in making the sales process more predictable. Yet try as they might, salespeople and sales managers are often puzzled as to why some deals seem to go like clockwork while others feel like endless uphill struggles. They blame the market, they blame the people, they look to the 80/20 rule and see that 20% of the people bring in 80% of the profit, but can’t determine how to reliably duplicate the effective ones.

Communication is often the cause at the root of sales successes and failures. The fact is it is generally easier to sell to someone who shares the same communication preferences, that has a similar behavioral style, as you do. Comfortable communication is an important factor in establishing the trust and credibility needed to create a sale. By default we all tend to approach sales communication from the old golden rule “treat others as you would like to be treated,” however that old expression overlooks the idea that “others” may not want to be treated, in behavior or communication, in the way that makes you yourself feel the most comfortable.

DISC opens the door for us to understand that the behaviors or communication modes that feel natural to one person may cause stress to another. With this insight we can amend the golden rule to say “treat others as they wish to be treated” and use this idea to build a better foundation for sales success. Teaching salespeople to recognize their own behavioral styles and those of the clients they interact with gives them the opportunity to adapt to a mode of communication better suited to the client’s need. As the salesperson’s skill in recognizing and adapting to the styles of others increases so will their ability to build trust and credibility in relationships that were previously difficult and puzzling. Although the salesperson’s natural behavioral style will remain their same they will learn when and how to adapt for better results.

Recognizing that people have different natural behavioral styles also helps us understand a mistake that is unfortunately quite commonly made by businesses: they take their best performing salesperson and promote him or her to sales manager. Consider that the track record of the person in question indicates that the behaviors demanded to be a top sales performer are well-aligned with their natural behavioral style. Does a sales manager perform the same behaviors? What would indicate that the roles are interchangeable? As an analogy would a pro football team promote someone to quarterback because they were a great receiver? Not likely – the skills, the reflexes, the behaviors wouldn’t fit.

Let’s examine a scenario from a DISC perspective to further illustrate the point. At Company X the top performing sales people tend to be people skilled at keeping people happy and emotionally vested while driving for quick decisions and buy-in that keep the process moving forward rather than slipping into stasis. Meanwhile the successful sales manager at Company X must assert authority and accountability to the team, following a strictly defined process to assure fairness in hiring, firing, and compensation systems while also tracking the endlessly detailed expense reimbursement process. In the language of DISC that successful sales person is exhibiting high I (Influence) and high D (Dominance) behaviors while the sales manager’s role requires a low I and a high C (Compliance) – essentially opposite attributes. An individual might be able to adjust temporarily to fit the requirements, but quickly the stress and energy drain of maintaining that adjustment so strongly away from the individual’s natural behavioral preferences will cause the situation to either erode or explode. Reverting to natural behaviors the ex-salesperson now manager in question starts to try to make the salespeople she is responsible for as happy as she liked to make the customers she used to interact with, she grows restless handling the details and uncomfortable enforcing the policy and procedures because her C isn’t naturally high. Simply put, the former star receiver ends up being a lousy quarterback through no fault of her own.

At Data Dome we specialize in using the science of DISC behavioral analysis to unlock the keys to better performance, improved team dynamics and creating the best fits for your organization to thrive. Contact us to find out more about training and tools that can improve sales performance while helping you understand the success criteria for different roles in your organization.

Retaining Key Personnel: Understanding The Risk of Boredom

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Keeping your top performers, those key employees that really help keep your organization moving, is an item that is always near the top of any executive’s priority list. Yet the workplace is always subject to change and sometimes yesterday’s motivated MVP can become today’s flight risk.

Shifting circumstances in the work environment can force changes in the default DISC behaviors of your people. This can lead the employee to experience one or more of these four states:

1) Frustration – the individual feels thwarted by the change, unable to act in a preferred manner or feeling that the opportunity to be successful has been sabotaged.

2) Elevated energy expenditure – the shift in the work environment has pushed the individual to adapt away from her natural DISC behavioral style to a new profile of behavior, this requires energy to sustain and can be draining if required for an extended duration.

3) Stress – change brings uncertainty, disruption of the status quo, this can provoke a stressed emotional state that can be expressed in multiple ways such as anger, fear, agitation, impatience, withdrawal, etc.

4) Boredom – change can shift an individual into a state of weariness and restlessness due to lack of interest.

Of the four, the last one, boredom, is the one to watch. It may sound relatively innocuous – certainly stress gets more attention than boredom due to the linkage of stress and health issues – however, it is boredom that is in fact the least tolerable state of the four. It can be a greater indicator that an employee is about to quit or otherwise change their situation than the other three change reactions mentioned above.

Consider for a moment, how well do you personally tolerate boredom? How would you react if confronted on a daily basis with lengthy periods of tedium? Most dynamic leaders squirm at the mere thought of enduring a boring meeting, let alone an extended work session. Many leaders, although not all, have a high score in the D column of a DISC profile indicating a behavioral bias towards action. They feel boredom is a harbinger of wasted time, inefficiency and a lack of productivity and they will do anything to personally avoid it. When boredom seems inescapable the individual will take action to shift the situation, that action is all too often announced with the phrase “I quit!”

Every day talented individuals quit tasks, projects, teams, and, yes, even their jobs because of boredom. The turnover and loss of knowledge and experience is incredibly costly for organizations and much of it could be avoided with timely intervention. But how do you know when someone is bored? It is easy for you to know when you, yourself, are bored, but it isn’t always easy to outwardly observe when someone else is bored. This is an area where DISC profiles can be a valuable tool not just during the hiring process, but in the ongoing development and retention of your staff. Using DISC assessments as part of a routine employee development process allows DISC styles to be tracked over time. When anomalous shifts in behavior profiles occur they will be recognized and may provide the critical insight needed to rescue an employee who is sliding down the funnel of boredom toward the door marked exit.

In the DISC vocabulary S stands for steadiness – If in our tracking we see a strong increase in an individual’s score in the S column it is often an indicator of entrenched boredom. They may shift from a low S dynamic style to a non-demonstrative high S style indicating that the individual may not have enough to do, or may require more variety of tasks. The individual may have grown in skills and is no longer sufficiently challenged by the current activity or they may have been moved into a role that runs contrary to their behavioral profile. For example take the DISC style of a high D person who is used to driving activity in pioneering ways and putting them in a role where they have large amounts of tedious “busy work” and no options to change things or delegate the activity – we’ll see the unchanging grind lead to boredom that is expressed as an elevation in the S column. It is in this state when they feel boredom is inescapable within the situation that they start directing energy toward getting out of the situation.

Without regularly administering DISC behavioral assessments, the bored amongst your key personnel can remain a hidden, yet “at risk”, population in the work force. I’ve compared my observations from teaching in management and leadership development classes, with those of other faculty in management programs; we concur that boredom is a prime motivation for a large number of the participants enrolled in such courses. We estimate that 45 – 60% of those paying for additional education around their current working situation are doing so because they are bored in their current position and are intending to use the educational opportunity to change their current situation. Doing whatever it takes to make a change.

In summary, to keep your top performers keep them interested. To keep them interested recognize when they’re bored. DISC assessments, if used properly, can provide the objective data to help you identify when your best employee is about to yawn their way out the door.

Ask the Expert: Me-Me Conflicts?

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Art Schoeck was recently asked the following question via our Ask the Expert form:

** What do you mean by the Me-Me Conflict? Could you flesh that out a little? **

Art’s answer:

There are certain DISC behavioral styles that pose a “Me-Me” conflict, meaning there exists internal incompatibilities between behaviors. The Me-Me conflicts occur when an individual displays behaviors that are at odds with each other, that interfere with intended outcomes or reframe the behavioral dynamics due to the combination of conflicting behaviors.

To illustrate this idea let’s examine some scenarios:

An individual who wants to like people (DISC profile = high I) and looks at others with warmth and emotion, yet has high standards with which she judges things, data, and… people (DISC style = core C). So she wants to be liked and wants to like others, but she holds others to high standards, which may relegate her associates to those with high standards for instance she may date only those who pass her strict checklist of criteria. Here we see the Me-Me conflict in the competition of the core C behavior with the drive of the high I behavior. However, as in the dating example mentioned, the result might not be one behavior preventing the other, but both behaviors combining, hence the C-driven checklist criteria applied to the I-driven dating.

An individual may have a sense or urgency to get immediate results (DISC style = core D) while at the same time desire perfection (DISC profile = high C), which takes time to achieve. They constantly have internal conflict of rushing to complete, which can increase the likelihood of infractions or errors, vs slowing the pace down adequately to perform in an error-free compliant manner. The high D wants results and action now, which is in conflict with the high C behavior of making sure things are done in adherence to the standard of perfection.

One more example, although there are many more Me-Me conflict variations, can be seen with people who look at things, data, and products in an emotional way, yet look at people logically and analytically. The may buy things based on their emotions, yet look at others with skepticism and a “prove it to me” attitude. Changing situational dynamics can reframe the conflict.

Sometimes people are confused by the mention of Me-Me conflicts in part due to the explanation that accompanies the DISC Success Insights Wheel in some reports. The wheel will sometimes have the word “Cross” on it along with arrows pointing to spots on the wheel (see this post for a deeper look at the Success Insights Wheel) this can indicate the potential presence of a Me-Me conflict, because we are seeing three of the four DISC factors above the line with the individual’s core (or most prominent) DISC factor and the factor that is directly across from it on the wheel constituting two of those three factors that are above the line. The confusion can come from the use of the word “opposite” which in the Success Insights Wheel’s explanation is meant to refer to the style which is on the opposite side of the wheel, however this is not actually an opposite of the DISC style: D and S are across from each other on the wheel, as are I and C, but these are not opposite behaviors. The opposite behavior of a high D is not a high S, it is a low D. Likewise the opposite of a high I is a low I, etc. There can be some similarities between a low D and a high S but the behavioral basis is different.

What’s your question?

Data Dome’s resident expert is our founder, Art Schoeck. A member of TTI’s prestigious International Faculty, Art often receives questions through our Ask the Expert form. We try to answer questions here on this blog that are representative of common questions regarding DISC and other assessment tools.

Do you have a question about DISC? If so please submit it via the Ask the Expert form. Although it may not be possible to answer every question individually, we use the “Ask the Expert” category of this blog to answer the DISC-related questions most important to our readers.

World According to DISC – Guide to Holiday Shopping

Monday, December 6th, 2010

‘Tis the gift giving season so we here at Data Dome want to help you find the perfect gift for all the different DISC profiles on your list. Not everyone has disc profiles as extreme as these, but thinking about DISC styles may help you choose a better behaviorally-fitting gift.

A high D DISC profile is likely to respond well to a gift that helps further a goal, but not if it adds complication to the process: Last year, Danny the High D was looking to start exercising more so his wife thought a new bicycle would be the perfect gift. It would have been if it had come pre-assembled, but Danny wanted to exercise not decipher an assembly manual. He’s now running 3 miles a day, but the bike is still in the box.

A high I DISC profile likes to be around people, interacting, talking and having fun. Good choices are gifts that either prompt a social gathering or elevate the high I’s social status, but follow through and attention to detail may not be strong with the high I. Last year, Irma the high I found out that several of her friends got together once a week for a knitting circle so she dropped a lot of hints about knitting to her husband. He dutifully got her a starter kit of knitting needles, a knitting video, several balls of beautiful wool and a book of knitting patterns. She was delighted and excited to join her friends at her first knitting circle, until she found out how hard it was as a beginner to knit and talk at the same time. She continues to enjoy meeting her knitting circle, but as of this writing she has yet to complete her first scarf.

Persons with a high S DISC profile aren’t very demonstrative and may seem hard to shop for because they haven’t outwardly expressed what they would like. Sam is a high S and last holiday season his wife noticed that the lining was shot on his winter coat. She thought it would be nice to get him a new coat that was more in-style than his old one, but she knew he wasn’t into fashion and that he tended to resist change so instead she got the old coat relined. When he opened the box he was confused for a second to see his old coat in a new gift box, but when he saw the new lining he smiled and quietly slipped the coat on over his pajamas.

The high C DISC profile can be intimidating to shop for because the high C can be meticulous and critical about quality and appropriateness of a gift. Last year, Clara, a high C, was dismayed when her friends in the office gave her an expensive planner from Franklin-Covey – they thought it would be a big hit because she is so organized, but she felt insulted that they thought she needed someone else’s system to stay on top of things. This year they did better, giving her a subscription to Consumer Reports so she can always have the data to make the most informed purchase decisions.

Here are a few more just-in-fun gift ideas –

The gift they want:

  • High D – NASCAR fantasy camp driving lesson, air horn, watch with built-in stopwatch
  • High I – Tickets to the Oprah show, karaoke machine, a huge holiday party
  • High S – Grandpa’s pocket watch, a family holiday dinner, savings bond
  • High C – Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine, statistical graphing calculator, US Chess Federation standard chess set

The gift they need, but don’t want:

  • High D – meditation retreat, biofeedback machine, chamomile tea
  • High I – time management system, accountability coach, Social Media blocking software
  • High S – home organizer session, procrastination-busters class, Toastmasters membership
  • High C – empathy training, improv class, mud-wrestling tournament entry

As always with the World According to DISC series, we like to keep it light while sharing some instructive, yet one-dimensional attributes of DISC behavior. In reality people are multi-dimensional and are influenced by a range of motivators and attitudes in addition to having a mix of behavioral styles.

Whatever your DISC style we at Data Dome wish you and yours a very happy holiday season!

World According to DISC Halloween Edition

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Well folks, it is almost Halloween – that means it is is World According to DISC time again. Time to carve your pumpkins and pick out your costume for the Diabolical DISC Masquerade Party (costumes required, of course). Devils and princesses, movie monsters and pop-stars, comic book characters and astronauts will be in your neighborhood Trick or Treating. What will this year’s most popular costumes be? Perhaps a look at one family through the lens of DISC behavioral profiles can give us a hint:

Young Dennis is a high D according to his DISC profile. He’s set a big goal for his candy gathering escapades: twice as much candy as last year. To meet his goals he has enlisted his dad to take him to the next subdivision up the road where more of the residents have kids and therefore more houses giving out treats. He’s also delegated carrying a spare sack to his younger sister, Samantha, just in case he fills up his first candy bag. Dennis’s costume choice: Darth Vader.

Irene, Dennis’s mom, took a DISC assessment at work – she is a high I and she’s excited because she is going to go to a huge costume party the night before Halloween where tons of her friends will be. She is in the costume shop now having trouble deciding what to wear. She’s chatted with every employee in the store and most of the other customers asking their opinions of what they like best and which costume would most people love to see her in. She knows she doesn’t want a big heavy mask because she wants to easily see everyone who’ll be at the party and she’s afraid that if she wore one nobody would recognize her. In the end she settles for an attention getting Marie Antoinette outfit with a little handheld mask on a stick.

If Samantha the younger sibling were to take an assessment her DISC behavioral profile would show she is a high S. She’s nervous about going with Dennis and her dad to the other neighborhood because she’s comfortable sticking to the neighbors they’ve always visited for treats in the past, but in the end she agreed to stick with Dennis’s plan because they go Trick or Treating together every year. She sometimes wants to be the one to push the doorbell, but Dennis always does that and she doesn’t like to make a fuss about. Samantha was going to dress up as Lisa Simpson like she did last year, but the costume didn’t fit anymore so this year she’s going as Snow White.

Charlie is Dennis and Samantha’s dad. His DISC style indicates he is a high C and not a big fan of Halloween. He gets grouchy thinking about all the unruly kids running across his well-manicured lawn and the inevitable toilet paper that will be lobbed across his carefully trimmed hedges. He has set a rigid timetable up for taking the kids Trick or Treating and he will inspect every piece of candy to make sure nothing has been tampered with. He’s dreading going to the party Friday with his wife, partly because the babysitter always ignores his instructions regarding what time the kids are supposed to be in bed and what TV shows they are allowed to watch. Since Irene is going as Marie Antoinette he thought it would be only right to go as Louis the Sixteenth, but none of the costumes at the shop were authentic enough for his tastes so he is going instead as Cardinal Richelieu.

Well, before we wrap up this lighthearted look at DISC behavior during one of our favorite holidays, here’s a few more quick takes on DISC meets Halloween:

The Wolfman – Low I, Low C
Dracula – High D, Low I, High S
Dr. Frankenstein – High D, High C
The Creature (Frankenstein’s Monster) – Low D, Low I, High S, Low C
Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde – High C, Low D / Low C, High D
Batman – High D, Low I, Low S, High C
Princess Leia – High D
Little Red Riding Hood – Low D, High I

And remember no DISC Halloween celebration is complete until somebody dresses up as Dr. William Moulton Marston’s other invention – Wonder Woman.

DISC Profiles and Stress: The Energy Crisis

Friday, October 15th, 2010

It was a little over a year ago that we discussed five ways leaders who understood DISC profiles could reduce stress amongst their employees. For many companies the climate is even more stress-inducing today: cutbacks have forced companies to ask for even higher levels of productivity from the employees that remain, workers are being asked to take on responsibilities of those who are no longer there – constantly adapting from their natural DISC behavioral style.

Occasionally stepping away from one’s natural DISC behavioral style is usually not a big deal, in fact it is commonplace to see some variance between a person’s natural and adapted DISC profiles. Taking on a new behavior once in a while might actually be a deliberate strategy or a welcome change of pace, but long-term sustained adaptions that push an individual away from their natural DISC style can be trouble.

Maintaining an exaggerated state of adapted behavior takes energy – the person is essentially stepping on the mental gas to keep themselves in a behavioral pattern that doesn’t come naturally. This constant depletion of energy can express itself in numerous ways: irritability, poor morale, aggressiveness, “shutting down”, even physical manifestations – headaches, susceptibility to illness, etc. Unfortunately even with these changes of mood and morale it can still be difficult for an untrained observer to pinpoint causes in manner that provides information for mitigating the stressed behaviors. In the case of high S’s this can be further exacerbated by their reluctance to make waves. The stresses can build and build if the high S provides them no outlet – the situation becomes a powder keg of pent up frustration waiting to explode.

DISC profiles are a great way to see beyond the surface and recognize when there are large gaps between adapted and natural DISC styles. The greater the gap the more energy the individual is expending to reach the adapted behavior. If all four DISC behavior categories are adapting above the line then the person may be feeling forced to be “all things to everybody” – a constant state of crisis. Understanding the DISC profiles gives you a tool to diagnose the situation and take steps tailored to the individual’s causes of stress as indicated by their behavioral profile.

For a quick understanding of what stresses out people with certain DISC profiles check out our previous observations in The World According to DISC: Stress Someone Out in Style and The World According to DISC: The Low Side of Stress Styles.

Complaining about DISC Profiles

Friday, October 8th, 2010

In a recent episode of Boaz Power TV recorded in Washington DC, Boaz Rauchwerger tells a story of a young Abraham Lincoln and how his harsh criticism of a local city official led to that official challenging Lincoln to a duel. Although the duel was averted at the last moment, Boaz uses the anecdote as an illustration of the downside and risk of criticizing and complaining and asks viewers to pledge to completely abstain from criticizing or complaining for an entire week.

But is criticizing always bad? Are there no situations where complaining might be useful?

Let’s take a quick look at the classic DISC behavioral styles and see if the “3 C’s Affirmation: I do not criticize, condemn, or complain. I look for the good.” is really a good or realistic idea for everybody to try to follow.

First let’s look at the high D DISC profile: Regardless of whether avoiding complaining is a good idea, the high D individual is very unlikely to stick to the pledge. He or She might say the words, but as soon as a situation is encountered that calls for corrective action (or at least appears to from the high D’s perspective) an on-the-spot critique is going to occur. The high D DISC profile rankles at things that put objectives at risk and he or she won’t brood about it – the complaint will be gotten off the chest right away and the criticism will be repeated unless or until adjustments to the situation are made.

The high I DISC profile is a completely different story. The behavioral bias of a high I DISC profile makes him or her very likely to embrace this pledge. It’s feel-good message aligns well with the high I’s habits of trying to please people and be thought of positively by those around him or her. However, the high I might actually be avoiding or procrastinating about delivering a needed complaint or critique out of a behavioral tendency to try to be too nice. For example a high I manager might not give a needed critique to an employee to avoid being perceived as a “bad guy”, but as a result a minor problem is overlooked when it may have been easily corrected and now it may fester into a larger issue because it wasn’t “nipped in the bud”.

High S individuals are very reluctant to buck the status quo. In an effort to avoid making waves he or she may bottle up complaints and critiques that are quite legitimate – they don’t need to take the pledge, they already have a natural tendency to avoid complaining, but by holding criticism inside they may be needlessly suffering abuse, or struggling with correctable situations. Their assumption is that time will smooth out the wrinkles and most problems will sort themselves out, however, this is not always the case. The person with a high S DISC profile should in fact be encouraged to critique and complain to make sure that a storm of trouble and resentment isn’t brewing beneath the laid-back surface.

Finally we come to the high C DISC profile, probably the best candidate for Boaz’s advice. High C’s are process and compliance oriented and have a habit of criticizing things and people that disrupt policy and procedure. An extreme high C is often perceived as being harsh because of a natural intolerance for anything that falls short of exacting standards. If the high C embraces the 3 C’s affirmation it may lead to more harmonious communication for him or her and those with whom he or she works. Unlike the high D, the high C may embrace the pledge if convinced, by hard data, of the value of adopting it as a policy or code of conduct against which compliance can be measured.

As you can see, different people’s DISC profiles indicate a diversity of behavioral tendencies. It is rare to find one-size-fits-all advice that actually makes sense across the full spectrum of DISC behavioral styles.

Not that I’m complaining… 😉

DISC profile – “Delivering Happiness” with(out) a High D?

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Zappos.com is one of the most fascinating business success stories in recent years and an interesting DISC profile story too. CEO Tony Hsieh has helped lead this maverick company to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually prior to being acquired by Amazon for approximately $1.2 billion. That’s serious business, but along the way the company has also built an incredible culture that counts humility and weirdness among its core values. Sound strange? Perhaps, but that strangeness has landed Zappos.com on the list of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For.”

So who’s behind this success? Recently Tony Hsieh released his book, “Delivering Happiness“, which is part autobiographical and in part an explanation of the company’s culture and how it got that way. Tony comes across in the book as a highly family oriented and service oriented individual. His DISC behavioral style is hinted at as his tale progresses from childhood experiments in entrepreneurship (and avoiding piano practice), to college dorm life, early success and frustration with Link/Exchange, to the loft years and into the growth of Zappos, certain themes emerge: a chronic habit of gathering a close, tight-knit group of friends – essentially an extended family – and a taste for pranks, bucking the system and choosing his own way of doing things.

Is Tony a High S?
The book seems to support the idea that Hsieh’s DISC profile would indicate a High S: In college his friends gathered around his dorm stayed very tightly knit – long-term stable friendships throughout the college years and into the twenty-something years. The loft Tony bought after selling LinkExchange was a deliberate attempt to mimic the “Friends” style of a clannish group of friends. He even talks quite positively about how moving the company to Las Vegas created a more insular environment for his employees – knitting the team together since they worked and socialized together due to the move. This is not the gregarious friend-making of the High I DISC profile, but a more stable and family-like drive. Zappos.com employees are referred to as “family” throughout the company website, there is a strong promote from within element in the culture, which reinforces this, and some of the senior employees were Tony’s friends from the loft days and earlier ventures. He definitely has a High S behavioral bias toward long-standing stable relationships.

Is Tony a Low C?
Again the book supplies ample evidence that Tony’s own DISC behavior leans away from a compliance orientation: playing pranks on his boss is an early sign, as was quitting the job at Oracle, pursuing untested business models, valuing people’s good judgment above building layers of process and procedure. Even the preface of the book has Tony thumbing his nose at his old English teachers as he describes how he deliberate wrote the book in plain language, rather than adhering rigidly to proper grammar. Later in the book he inserts an email he sent to his employees to answer questions about the then pending acquisition by Amazon. It is clear in the tone and humor of the note that although he must comply with SEC “quiet period” regulations, he is doing so only grudgingly, since his bias is to communicate openly with the Zappos family.

So, what about his D?
Now this is an interesting question – clearly the young entrepreneur has a lot of the drive and decisiveness associated with a High D’s DISC behavioral style: an early example is abandoning his childhood greeting card business after the first sales call to a neighbor. The instant he stopped believing the business would reach its goals he dropped it. Contrast that to a critical point in Zappos.com’s history when it was in a cash-crisis – because Tony still believed in it, he didn’t hesitate to make a bold decision to sell of his assets, even his beloved loft, to keep the company alive. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro speaks to his goal-orientation. Many decisions seem to have that decisive, goal oriented quality – moving the company, dropping the outsourced warehouse they used briefly when they couldn’t outperform Zappos.com’s own warehouse.

Is Tony anti-D?
Tony Hsieh isn’t afraid to pursue an objective or making a firm decision, but he is also noted for being personally highly service-oriented – not domineering in the least. He talks in the book about his fascination with rave culture during his twenties and how he embraced the rave term PLUR, which stood for Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. Zappos.com’s hiring practices are interesting too – there is strong design to bring in cultural fits – many candidates who were otherwise capable have been filtered out by the process for not being humble enough, bucking the “common wisdom” that star performers must be ego-centric, High D DISC profile employees and that they are necessary to build business growth.

Delivering Happiness” is an interesting book about an amazing company, and Tony Hsieh the author and leader will make some readers rethink the DISC behavioral style attributes necessary to build organizational success.

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