D.I.S.C.: What Is It and How Can It Help?

There have been many times in my consulting practice when I have used the DISC analysis to help people understand human behavior. Why would this be important in business? Well, if you have customers or employees (and most businesses have both) I’m sure you can see how understanding their behavior traits might help you deal with them in a better way. It could help you communicate with your employees and get them to “want’ to do the things you want them to do. It certainly could help you build rapport with prospects, which is essential in the selling process. It could help you determine how customers make decisions and therefore meet their needs so as to have a positive outcome of any situation. So what is DISC and how can it help?

The original DISC model was developed back in 1928, by Dr. William Marston, while he was at Columbia University. Dr. Marston’s theory was that all people fall into four primary behavior styles. The four styles are as follows:

D - Dominance

I  -  Influence

S - Steadiness

C - Compliance

Let’s look at each one of these styles and see what characteristics they have to help you recognize who might fall into what style.

Dominance or D’s —  People that fall into this style will be dominant, direct and decisive. They are not very people oriented. They have a no nonsense attitude. They focus on results and the bottom line. They tend to be in a hurry. They want things done right, they want it done now or better yet yesterday. This style of person is one of the better styles for multi-tasking. They are also good at delegating to others. They tend to be very competitive.  “Winning isn’t everything . . . it’s the only thing”

Influence or I’s — These are very social people. These people are about fun, excitement, visibility and recognition. They like to talk about themselves. They are positive thinkers, have a very sunny disposition and avoid conflict. Of all four styles they pay the least attention to details. 

Steadiness or S’s — The key desire for people in this style is harmony, safety, security and close one to one relationships. These are the most people oriented. They are loyal and make great team members. They do not like to rock the boat. They get stuck in ruts at times and tend to resist change. 

Compliance or C’s — People in this style desire order, accuracy, precision and perfection.  “Everything in its place and a place for everything.” They like to make decisions based on logic not emotion. They want facts and lots of them. They tend to ask lots of questions and they “want to think it over” before making a decision. If you want something done correctly you might want to give it to someone with a compliance style.  However, don’t expect it to be on time.  It won’t be done until it is “perfect.”

All four styles are different and one is not necessarily better than the other. They each have their strengths but also have weaknesses. As far as weaknesses, D’s tend to lack tact and diplomacy, the take on too much, too soon and too fast. They may tend to set standards too high.  I’s are inattentive to details, they are unrealistic in appraising people and trust others indiscriminately. S’s will avoid confrontation, dislike change and have difficulty dealing with diverse situations. C’s will get defensive when criticized, will get bogged down in the details and will get overly intense for a given situation.

Now that you understand these styles you should be able recognize those employees, coworkers and customers that you come in contact with on a daily basis. And once you are able to generally peg someone you can change your approach in order to better communicate with them. This is called adaptability. This is particularly valuable in the selling process. For example if you think you are dealing with a D personality style you certainly wouldn’t want to engage in idle chit chat. Don’t waste time and get to the point. However, if you are dealing with an I you may want to ask them how their weekend was and how’s the family. Give C’s lots of facts and be sure to answer all their questions.  Let S’s take their time and if possible give them the same color, size, service, product they already are comfortable with. 

Within your work environment I would suggest each employee take a DISC test. They are easy to do and variations can be found on the Internet. They are relatively inexpensive. Once everyone has assessed themselves it would be productive to discuss the results in your next staff meeting. You’ll be surprised how well communication amongst your team will improve.

As a coworker, manager or salesperson if you can better connect with people, build rapport, get people to like and trust you your job will be that much easier. Understanding and using the DISC model will help you do that.