I’ve recently published several posts about how DISC influences individual preferences toward customer service, learning, and even delivering performance reviews. While I received several comments and emails about the content in the articles, a majority of readers inquired about more information about the DISC model and DISC profile tests.

DISC EnergyI realized I might have put the cart before the horse – or in this case, DISC before the course! So let me rewind a bit and offer a few basics or what I like to call the ABCs of DISC.

What follows are brief descriptions of the four classic patterns of behavioral preferences, commonly called DISC. The acronym D-I-S-C merely represents how these four distinct personal styles might be observed by others when a person responds to the four Ps: Problem, People, Pace and Procedures. There are no good or bad styles, just different preferences toward dealing with people and tasks.

It helps to think about each of the behavioral styles as four energy cells. Each of us run better and more efficiently when using 1 or more of the different cells. In other words, some of our cells (D, I, S or C) are fully charged while others are partially full or empty. When we use the our preferred styles, our behavior is energetic. When forced to use one of the other cells, we have to work extra hard; and we de-energize easily.

So what is DISC? What follows are descriptions of each of the four cells, or behavioral styles, and the example of things that energize and de-energize them.

D(irectors)s are the controllers of people and situations. They tend to be energized by taking charge of the problem – big or small. They live and die on beating the odds and jumping the hurdles. Given the choice between troubleshooting a customer’s problem and following up on yesterday’s list of things to do, a “D”s choice is simple: troubleshooting wins nearly every time. Problems energize the D and fixes are the reward. Fixing a problem provides immediate gratification, even if the solution is short-term. “D”s shift gears often and expect results fast. They live their life on the edge and prefer to do it their way or not at all. While “D”s view their behavior as bottom-line oriented, others may find their disposition as aggressive and impatient. The emotion driving D behavior is anger. “D”s live by the motto: “winning is everything, it’s the only thing.”

I(nfluencer)s are the persuaders. “I”s tend to be energized by influencing other people. This dispositional type is more energized by talking more than listening. They enjoy influencing other people, especially to their viewpoint. They value relationships over tasks and can strike up a conversation with almost anyone. For the I, the world isn’t filled with strangers but a world of friends, many of whom they just haven’t met yet. “I”s are energized by sharing stories, selling their viewpoints, and gaining acceptance. They lived a life of building alliances through social networking long before Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn hit the scene. The emotion driving the “I” disposition is optimism and trust. They see the glass as always half-full and prefer to take people at their word. For this reason, many “I”s prefer not to let data and facts get in the way of a good friendship or solution turning a pre-disposed strength into a potential weakness. “I”s live by the motto: “altitude is determined by attitude.”

S(teady relator)s are the accommodators. Like the “I”s they see the world through people but are much more reserved in how they show it. Their trust must be earned, it’s not a given. And building trust takes time. They prefer a stable, constant environment (unlike the fast-paced, constantly re-prioritizing world of the “D”s). “S”s are patient, loyal and “sticky.” They are often stereotyped as not liking change. But that viewpoint is not fair nor accurate. They accept change as long as they have time to plan ahead. “S”s are energized by following through with what they started. Whether it’s typing an email, finishing a chapter in a book, or completing an assigned project, “S”s must find a comfortable stopping point before they shift focus. The “start-this, no- do-this, now -do-this” management style just drives them crazy. But as accommodators, “S”s go with the flow, displaying nothing but calm, and avoiding or minimizing risk. Because they want to be good team players and prefer a low-key approach to communication, you never see what is about to happen (even though it’s as predictable as the sunrise and sunset): they slip the dreaded resignation under your door. How do managers miss this predictable behavior? The emotion of the “S” is non-emotion: not un-emotional but non-emotional. “S”s share their emotions with only their closest circle of friends and family. But everyone has a breaking point. Unlike the “D”s and “I”s who are open books, the S prefers to keep their emotions to themselves. The S motto might be “everything in moderation but tolerance.”

C(onscientious) are the compliant types. They tend to be energized by complying with procedures and process. (That doesn’t mean they like the rules – they just are more inclined to follow them.) They seek to be in complete control of the facts, details, and information and relish the moment when they have dotted the last “i” and crossed the final “t.” In other words, the “C”s thrive in environments that function like clockwork. Caution and logic rules their decision making process. They take a CSI-type approach to solving problems and believe subjectivity and emotions only distort reality. Even if they disagree with the rules and regulations, they still receive self-gratification by getting the job done on time and/or under budget. Come tax time, “C”s might submit their returns early, even if they owe money, to be able to cross one more task off the list and avoid any chance of missing the deadline. Fear is the emotion driving C behavior. “Trust no one but yourself” might be a good motto for the C disposition.

As you might have figured out already, each personal preference has its own inherent strengths…and limitations. They don’t infer right or wrong, good or bad. Each style just describes how an individual prefers to approach Problems, People, Pace and Procedures.

While reading the descriptions of each style, you may have recognized a little of yourself or others. You might like or not like what you read. A few characteristics might have brought a smile to your face. Others might have raised a few hairs on the back of your neck. Welcome to the club. These are the same reactions that peers, colleagues and co-workers feel toward you every time you interact with them. And each time some agree with your disposition and others do not.

What’s your style? How do you judge other people? How do they judge you? How effectively do you communicate with your clients, employees and bosses?  Click here to contact us about using DISC in your organization.