Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed how the DiSC assessment works and what information it conveys. The DISC assessment is a powerful tool for understanding ourselves and our own strengths and weaknesses. (If you haven’t taken it yet, you can get your own personality profile instantly!) When we know our own personality styles, we can better ask for what we need to be productive. But the other aspect of the DiSC, and one that’s just as valuable, is knowing and understanding the personality styles of the people around us. Our coworkers, employees, and leaders each have their own profiles on the DiSC. Understanding them is key to successful communication.
So let’s look at a hypothetical example, but one that probably rings true for a lot of us. Carla is a web developer at an engineering firm who does excellent work. Most of her colleagues have no idea about coding, and Carla prides herself on being indispensable, knowledgeable, and producing accurate work. But Carla strikes a lot of her coworkers as “awkward;” she doesn’t engage in small talk and seems uncomfortable when she’s in a group that’s not discussing work directly. Sometimes Carla will give feedback or make comments that come across as too critical or harsh. She will sometimes join the others for lunch breaks, but stays relatively quiet. However, Carla lights up during staff meetings when problems or new tasks are discussed. She often jumps right in to new projects and never misses a deadline.
If you’re familiar with the DiSC personality styles, you might guess that Carla is a C type. C types are motivated more by tasks than relationships, and they’re more reserved and systematic than other styles. C types are often introverted, and they have little patience for social niceties or “team building” exercises.
So how would Carla’s coworkers who are not C types communicate successfully with her? How would they help her to feel like a valued member of the team while strengthening their relationships? Since Carla doesn’t really respond to personal small talk or compliments, what are some other ways to keep her motivated?
While it may seem counterintuitive, C types might respond better to more reserved styles of communication: slightly more formal language and tone, downplayed body language and energy level, and little to no time spent on personal matters. The coworker who thinks, “Wow, if I’m super friendly to Carla, maybe she’ll warm up!” might actually making exactly the wrong choice. Carla will see that behavior as false, overwhelming, or both. Yet Carla might respond better to direct appeals to her expertise. Instead, walking into her office and asking “Carla, if you have a moment I need your help with this issue” will almost certainly yield a better response. Pace is another consideration: as a C type, Carla likes to analyze her options before making decisions. She will shut down or become overly critical when she feels rushed or stressed. Rather than walking into her office and forcing her to make a significant change immediately, it’s better for her if her opinion is solicited and if she’s part of the decision-making process. This gives her some autonomy and also allows her time to process the need for change.
Being able to read the personality styles of others is a key skill for successful leaders and colleagues. It all comes back to adapting behaviors to the people with whom you work, being conscientious of their personalities and needs in order to create success for everyone.