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Ask the Expert: Comparing DISC Profiles – Awareness and Attitude

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

A recent DISC question from a reader arrived via our Ask the Expert form:

** I know 2 very different managers with exactly the same red score of about 45/100. One is angry and impatient yet lacks ambition, motivation and drive. The other one is highly driven but cool, v. hard to anger. So my question is, based on the fact that DISC has an algorithm, can we infer a high “drive” / motivation score for someone with a medium red score who just doesn’t get angry ? **

Art’s answer:
I want to first take this opportunity to discuss the format of this question before exploring an answer:

We often get questions like this, which are unfortunately vague regarding some of the details needed to provide a precise answer. The reader may not be aware if they have only been exposed to one version of DISC that there are in fact many publishers of DISC assessments – and not all of them present information the same way. This question refers to a specific red score of 45/100, but does not specify which DISC system they are using, nor which DISC category is represented by the color red. Although the some DISC publishers use the colors red, green, blue and yellow they don’t all use that palette – some use brown, red, blue and yellow, and some DISC consultants impose their own color branding on the DISC categories. Thus red may represent I in one company’s assessment report, but it represents D in another. Likewise, some DISC reporting algorithms only able to generate a dozen or so reports based on variations of the behavioral scores of an individual while other DISC systems can assign an individual to one of literally hundreds of report variations. For more information on some of the differences in DISC systems I recommend our article Good DISC vs. Bad DISC.

When submitting a question through our Ask the Expert form it will help if you can provide the following information along with your question:

  • The name of the DISC publisher who produced your assessment
  • The DISC distributor or consulting company who administered the assessment
  • If you are asking about a specific profile please provide the complete score in all four areas as well as Natural and Adapted scores if provided.

Following these guidelines will make it possible to provide more accurate answers to your queries.

Now, on to the answer…
Regardless of the vagueness of the question that was submitted, there is a point that can be made based on information inferred from the narrative provided by the asker:

In the description of the two managers there are a couple of words used that give clues to information that was left out of the question – the words are “angry” describing the first manager and “highly driven” describing the second one. Although there isn’t really enough information here to know for certain, on the surface it appears that both managers have a strong D, but they are expressing that D in different ways.

If you are using a DISC publisher that can only provide a few possible reporting variations, you are going to get an over-generalized report. It will be stretched over too wide a variety of DISC combinations. For instance, there is a big difference between a very high D with a low C – someone with the force of a runaway train with no tracks (or rules) to guide that force – and a very high D with a high C – a far more controlled individual who is deliberate and less likely to show anger, etc.). Likewise, a very high D with a low S is far less patient and much quicker to anger than a high D with a high S who tends to suppress anger (until it comes to an explosive head). So, a DISC interpretation with fewer report variations is not going to give you as detailed an analysis as one whose algorithms produce many report variations, in fact the fewer the reports a system provides the higher likelihood of inaccurate results.

The other factor that is important to consider when two people share similar scores in one or more areas, but exhibit divergent behaviors, is what I call “Awareness & Attitude”. Is the high D aware of how they come across, and what is their attitude towards adjusting or adapting? Emotional intelligence profiles among other approaches address this factor, and it is very important in analyzing how we apply ourselves behaviorally. For example, consider the difference between a high D that wants everyone to change for them (a “my way or the highway” person) vs. a high D that realizes how counterproductive their high D can be in a team setting, and is willing to adapt/adjust to other styles to be more collaborative and less dictatorial.

A DISC report in itself reveals behavioral tendencies, not necessarily how one is applying those tendencies. And the more intense their tendencies are, the more important it is to understand their “Awareness and Attitude”.

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 – Thanksgiving Edition

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that means it is time for another episode of our continuing series – the World According to DISC. DISC profiles are an invaluable tool to help understand an individual’s behavior at work and at home, when relaxed and when stressed. Let’s meet one family and see how their behavioral styles influence their holiday celebration.

Don is a high D who works in sales. It’s been a slow year and the imminent arrival of Thanksgiving is a big reminder that most of the year is gone and time is running short if he is going to make his numbers for the year. He’s frustrated that so many people will be off of work, because every day between now and the end of the year counts so much toward hitting his targets. The one saving grace in his opinion is football. He’ll have a hard time keeping his seat at the dinner table because he’s focused on getting in a big dose of big screen football time. Since he can’t make any sales call on Thanksgiving Day anyway he’ll be diverting all his attention to cheering on his favorite teams.

Irene, Don’s wife, is a high I. She loves Thanksgiving mostly because it means the holiday party season has arrived and she loves to go to parties. She’s actually doing her best to try to turn the family Thanksgiving celebration into a party – she has invited just about every neighbor on her block to drop by and share dessert with them after the big turkey dinner. In fact, she’s starting to worry that she won’t have enough desserts and she’s rushing to the store to do a last minute shopping with her daughter, Sally in tow. Although Sally’s not enjoying the hectic scene at the supermarket, Irene is in her element – she’s run into several friend’s and is now happily chattering away with the cashier.

Daughter Sally is a high S and although she seems calm on the outside, she’s cringing on the inside at the turmoil in the supermarket. She didn’t really want to go, but her mom was in such a sudden panic about not having enough for dessert that she didn’t want to make a fuss. She’s looking forward to seeing her uncle and cousins who come to their house for Thanksgiving dinner every year. The lead-up and preparation is always a bit too hectic for her and her sister, Connie, is always snapping directions at her. Sally feels more comfortable after the big dinner when everything slows down. The football fans crowd into the den to cheer their favorite teams while Sally visits quietly with her cousins as they take their time clearing the table and putting away the leftovers.

Connie, is Sally’s older sister and has a high C disc profile. She has been snapping and fussing all day trying to put things in proper order for the big feast. She can’t understand why Sally takes so long to set the table when the process should be clear. She would do it herself, but she’s too busy because a few years ago she took over the cooking duties from her mother. Irene is a friendly person, but she can’t follow a recipe and Connie is now in charge of the Thanksgiving menu. She’s also planning on asking Don if she can carve the turkey this year – she thinks he makes a mess of it and she has been studying the proper procedure online for how to get the most meat off the bone in a neat and efficient manner. She’s set up a work area on the dining room sideboard with a platter and all the carving tools. She’s timed the turkey to be ready at 5pm exactly and she’s going to throw a fit if the bird is dry because Irene and Sally are late getting back from the supermarket.

Despite Connie’s worry, Irene and Sally manage to get back in plenty of time with a sackful of holiday cookies and an apple pie for the dessert crowd. Connie thinks that a homemade pie would be more appropriate, but agrees there wouldn’t be enough time to make one. She’s delighted that her dad has agreed to let her carve the turkey, and Don is delighted to have one less distraction from the day’s football watching. Sally finishes setting the table with the help of her cousins. As they quietly put out the fine linen napkins they save for special occasions and her mother’s good china, Sally takes comfort in the familiar objects and relishes the calm moment before the chaos of a crowded table. Irene forgets all her anxiety about being unprepared as she happily gets caught up on all the family gossip with her brother, who arrived while they were at the store.

Looks like it’s going to be a pleasant Thanksgiving after all. We at Data Dome hope you enjoy the lighthearted looks at prototypical DISC behavioral profiles that we feature in the World According to DISC series, and we wish you and your family 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… ;)

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