Gaining a competitive advantage with DISC
Ever chosen a job you thought would be a good fit and later found that it wasn’t your cup of tea? Or maybe you are job hunting and looking for that position where you can continue to grow over the next 5-10 years. If you are looking for some insurance that you are applying for the right positions, you might want to use the DISC process to measure the opportunity and your fitness for that job?
What is DISC?
DISC is a natural work style preferences assessment that groups workers into four categories: D – I – S – and C based on traits like task or people focused, and whether you are assertive or reserved. DISC considers that your past behaviors and tendencies are a good indicator of the way you will prefer to work in the future.
While this may not always be true, it is such a reliable tool that some companies have included DISC tendencies as part of the internal job description and use the assessment as a portion of the initial screening process. The ideal person for a position in the finance department may be a high C or conscientious type and if your assessment shows you to be a high I or Influencer, you may be immediately screened out of further evaluation for the position. That being said, it is not advantageous to game the test as you will only find that you dislike the work in the end.
You will, however, have a distinct advantage by knowing your DISC profile and the jobs that align with your strengths. So let’s take a dive into understanding DISC.
There are four quadrants to DISC moving from top left clockwise those are Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S) and Conscientious (C). Ds and Is are assertive, they will make decisions and feel that they have power over their environment. Ss and Cs, on the other hand, are more reserved and feel that their environment dictates what is and is not acceptable.
At the same time, Ds and Cs often feel that they work in an unfavorable environment, while Is and Ss are generally more optimistic. Is and Ss also prefer to work with people and believe that there is a person who can solve any problem. However, Ds and Cs are task focused and think that people execute on well planned and developed solutions. Now that you have an understanding of DISC basics. This chart will help you to solidify the differences between the personality types.
Defining Work Style Preferences
Dominant types prefer to focus on accomplishment. They feel that there may be several answers to a problem, but only one right one (theirs). For a high D, recognition comes in execution of the plan. They act quickly and welcome risk/reward situations. Ds will often challenge the status quo and don’t go along just because “that’s how we’ve always done it. If there is a problem, a high D wants a solution. You can keep your reasons and logic to yourself. Just give them the solution. Quick, clean and without drama. That is how Ds operate.
The Dominant person wants to work in an environment where they are given authority and challenged to succeed. With that success will come prestige and the opportunity for promotion. As a result, many top managers have strong D traits. Ds like direct answers and will throw down a challenge to test their counterpart’s resolve and commitment to a solution.
High Ds like to work with people who weigh the pros and cons before making decisions. Once that is done, they prefer their counterparts to, like themselves, decide and take action quickly. Since Ds are risk takers, they like to make a decision and move on to the next activity. As a result, they may have a wide knowledge base and enjoy many types of activities. They are leaders, not followers. So they really have little need for others except to execute plans that have previously been decided on.
Colleagues and direct reports of Ds may see them as being overbearing and with a need to always be right. Ds want conversations to be brief and to the point. This can be difficult for those who are more personable.
(Is) like people. Unlike Ds, (Is) believe there is a person who is right to solve any problem. They feel that influence is gained by winning over the crowd. A high I’s strength is the ability to communicate persuasively and motivate others. They are eternal optimists and will trust others to a fault. As a result, (Is) may be overly indirect to avoid offending others.
(Is)will quickly volunteer for any project and love team work. Unfortunately, they are not the best time managers. As such, they may overextend and forget that they had made a commitment to help. It’s not malicious. It’s more a matter of being over zealous.
Is like public rewards and will be quick to share others success stories, as a way to promote colleagues they like. They may be involved in several clubs and organizations outside of work. (Is) are always building their networks, and they enjoy meeting new people. They favor giving everyone a say before a decision is made and love brainstorming ideas. As a result, (Is) may be slow at making decisions.
For Is, freedom means no boundaries or controls. A world without rules because everyone is naturally kind and considerate of others’ best interest. This is par-I-dise. The belief that everyone works with the best intentions of the group leads Is to be over-trusting and more hands off in working with others. Additionally, providing an environment of freedom means that a high I will instinctively trust their gut, not worrying so much about the details or consequences. This can occasionally lead to poor or underdeveloped plans and decisions.
Steadiness types like to work within the framework of preset systems and expectations. They have a need for structure and predictability. This allows them to exhibit extreme patients when things don’t go as planned. They also are very tolerance of others, so long as they are benefitting the team.
Ss find it hard to make decisions. Like Is they want everyone to have input before decisions are made. Even then, they may delay to consider one more thing, or to wait for the opinion of a coworker who missed the meeting. Ss are keen to develop specialized skills that allow them to be more effective cogs of the team. Ss are the go to team members to confront someone who is excitable or having a tough day, because high Ss are good listeners.
High Ss do best with lots of praise, it makes them feel valued. Unlike Ds who don’t care what others think of them. Ss feel uncomfortable pressuring others to meet deadlines or raise quality. As a result, they may quietly do more work than they need to, finding it hard to delegate. While Ss are completely supportive of the team, they despise conflict and just want everyone to get along.
If there are changes afoot, Ss need a lot of lead time and support to make a smooth transition. They may wonder why systems are changing when the old one worked just fine. As a result, they need a clear understanding of why.
Cs love high quality and accuracy. As a result, their best friend in the office is data. High Cs have little use for others, except to move processes forward. Unlike Is, Cs are more than happy to work alone and without interruptions, only talking to others when they need some something.
Like Ss, Cs they like to have a solid framework to operate within. However, if you are having a bad day, it is better to stay as far away from Cs as possible. They have no time for emotions and comfort. They have very dry personalities and strive for perfection. This drive often leads to projects that are not completed because they are never good enough. And plans that are never realized, because more data is needed before they can move forward.
High Cs have a meticulous attention to detail and understand the intricacies of things. They are the perfect people to review your work, provided you are ok with direct feedback. Cs don’t mince words.
A C will feel that the deck is stacked against them, so they need as much evidence as possible to prove others wrong and support their own opinions. Unlike Is, they do not rely on instinct. The answers, they will say, are in the data. As such, when giving feedback to a high C is important to have specific examples and desired actions.
Cs need you to explain exactly what your expectations are. They will not interpret what you mean. They need to know that they have control of the elements necessary to achieve success, because they do not like to rely on others.
Knowing Your DISC Profile
It is important that you know your DISC tendencies so that you can understand your natural strengths and weaknesses in your position or the ones you are applying for as your job hunt. You may have one trait that is higher than the others or two, some people even have three high traits. There are some suggestions for where you can get your DISC assessment.
While your DISC profile represents your natural working style, it can be adjusted to the situation, environment and even role you are in on a project. As a company employee, my profile is high I, high S. I am a motivator and know that by following the rules I will be more successful working in a big company than a small one with constantly changing norms. However, as an entrepreneur I am more high I, high D and less S. I have very few C traits. Influencing customers and collaborators is essential to successful projects. That’s my I side. Making quick decisions and finding appropriate solutions that propel my business forward align with the D in me.
As you gain insight to your own DISC profile and the definitions of the others, you will begin to recognize the traits of your coworkers. That will help you to more effectively interact with them. Don’t ask a high C how they feel about a new policy. Ask them what they think of it. Avoid giving a problem without a solution to your high D boss, tell them your recommendation and be prepared to tell them why. Though they may not ask for your reason if they agree with you. When proposing a new idea to a high I get them excited by telling them about the benefits. And if you need to get something off of your chest, find the high S in your network and have a chat with them.
Using DISC During Your Job Search
While positions have the same name from one company to another, the responsibilities in those roles can vary drastically. To really know if a job is a good fit for you, you need to read the job description carefully and do some background research on the company. That being said, DISC can be a good starting point to establish your fit.
Companies often use DISC as part of the hiring process to understand you. Why not use the same criteria to measure the job against your working style preferences and what you need to succeed? Here are some general examples of the DISC quadrant popular jobs usually fall into.
Entrepreneur – D
Entrepreneurs and Solopreneurs are risk takers. They don’t mind the fact that all the decisions rest with them. They have a vision and they want to lead the way to that success. As is typical of the high D, Entrepreneurs make decisions fast and don’t need a lot of input from others to do so.
Senior Manager / Executive – D
As you move up the corporate ladder, it goes without saying your level of responsibility and the risk you need to take grow dramatically. Senior managers and people in the C Suites welcome the challenge of operating without a safety net. They know that big risks have big rewards and they have become good at assessing threats. These people, however, do not have much tolerance for those who would rather sit on the sidelines and have reasons for not taking action. They want things done and they want them done now, as any high D would.
Management Consultant = I
Management consultants need to be good listeners. Once they have heard where the bottleneck is or uncovered a problem, they need to recommend resources and solutions to solve those issues. Since management consultants need to meet people and make them feel comfortable almost immediately, they really need those outgoing and positive traits that are characteristics of the high I.
Recruiter – I
A recruiter’s skill comes in building networks of companies that are looking for new talent and career seekers that are seeking to leverage their skills and experiences into new and challenging high paid positions. Making connections between these groups is an area that high Is excel in.
Sales – I
Highly effective salespeople are skilled at solving personal problems with their line of products and services. They want you to keep coming back and to do that they need to create long-lasting relationships. Combine that with the recognition and rewards that come with achieving sales targets and you have the perfect job for a high S.
Technical Writer – I
Technical writers need to learn about a specialized area quickly and share that information effectively. When they are finished with one project, they are on to a new area of temporary expertise. This type of work naturally suits a high I who doesn’t like complicated tasks. They usually garner their knowledge by interviewing others and capturing the expertise of their less outgoing counterparts into content that is accessible to a wider group of people.
Customer Success Manager – S
High Ss make great customer success managers. They want to help people to use their company’s services to the most of its ability. High Ss will listen to the customer explain the problems they are experiencing and be able to gently suggest solutions that meet those objectives. They may need to teach or train their clients on using some part of the system and have the patients to do well in that responsibility. Customer success managers need to make their clients feel they have a friend on the inside, the perfect role for an S.
Teacher / Trainer – S
Teachers and trainers are not always the best decision makers, they need a structure to their work. This makes them feel safe in their environment, a strong S characteristic. Once the teacher has this sense of stability, they can help others to prosper through attentive listening and applying their skills and experiences to customize the educational material to the students and their needs.
Hotel Staff – S
Customer facing hotel staff need to make guests feel like the most important people in the room. Since Ss do not have the need to stand out, like Is do, this is a role that suits their working preferences well. HIgh Ss and hotel staff are team players who realize that each cog serves its purpose.
Office Staff – S
Office staff excel at carrying out orders and following procedures. They prefer to be given a list of tasks and the time to carry them out. The skilled staff member knows everybody and most, if not all of them, like her, because she is a good listener and supportive. Characteristics that are common in a High I. She knows how to get tasks done and will quietly go about doing that, not wanting to make any waves.
Accountant & Auditors – C
It has been said that an accountant’s best friend is numbers. This could not be more C like. These people would rather work on a computational task than attend a party. Their attention to details can save a company millions of dollars. So they are consumed with making sure that everything is in its correct place on the ledger.
Translator – C
Translators work alone and their daily routine is all about accomplishing tasks. These are classic high C working style preferences. Translators are highly independent. Just tell them what you want and by when. Then leave them alone to do the work. They have little time for interruptions and distractions like their high C colleagues.
IT Programmer – C
IT programmers focus on detailed code writing. They prefer to work in silence and can spend long hours writing and analyzing code at the computer. While they are skilled at this intricate task, they are generally not so good at training others to do the work. They tend to feel you either understand or you don’t. And if you don’t understand, go ask someone else, the high C programmer is too busy to help you.
Research Scientist – C
Research scientists like to work within the confines of the scientific method. That structure allows them to control variables within it. In this way they can get engrossed in the details of their work without need for talking to others or getting input from the outside. This type of work environment is paradise to a high C.
How You Can Have Success With DISC
Ali, not her real name, had just come to Japan and was excited to start her new job as an ALT. It had been her dream to live and work in Japan. She felt that was going to come true. However, after a few weeks at her school, she had become disenchanted.
She stressed about all the rules and that she was assisting, not leading, in the lessons. Being an ALT is a good position if you are a high S. the job requires a high level of cooperation and an ability to work effectively as a supporting member of the team. Ali liked the social part of the job. As a high I, having to always comply with the English Teacher’s demands and teaching the same lessons over and over again drove her crazy.
Ali came to me feeling like she had failed at her opportunity to make it big in Japan. Through an interview and DISC assessment, we discovered that she is indeed a high I and would do better in a role where she can socialize, build relationships and manage her own workflow, so long as she is getting results. Based on our discussions, she began applying for jobs as a recruiter. Not only did she get a job within a few weeks but through additional coaching, she sharpened her professional skills, too. As a result, she excelled in her new position, and she received the award for New Associate of the Year. She has now been working with her firm for three years and is loving her work.
Bryan, not his real name, was having problems relating to his colleagues, as a high C, many found his communication style abrupt and rude. During one brainstorming meeting, he commented, “This is stupid. Why don’t you just make a decision, so I can get back to work.”
This made his high I and S counterparts quite angry and Bryan soon found himself in the boss’ office. His supervisor warned him to respect the ideas and opinions of others, or he would be looking for a new job. The feedback from his boss was a wake-up call to Bryan. He contacted me about developing more effective communication skills.
The first step was to analyze his disc assessment and confirm that he is, in fact, a high C. Knowing that, we could explore the differences between his working style preferences and those of his colleagues. We uncovered strategies that allowed Bryan to switch his communication style to more effectively interact with his colleagues. Before too long, his co-workers came to understand him better, too. They consulted him for his technical expertise and attention to detail. He opened up to them a bit more about the challenges he faced on projects and got some interesting ideas by listening to a wide variety of ideas and opinions. Needless to say, Bryan kept his job and made some new friends too.
Peter, not his real name, is a high S. He has worked in the sales department for the last five years. As one of the company’s top producers, he had been offered promotions several times. Each time he declined. He was happy just being responsible for his own work and unsure if he really had the patients and task focus needed to be a good manager.
A previous assignment had him mentoring and training new sales associates. He found that he liked that aspect of the work. So he took a chance and accepted a promotion to District Sales Manager. At first, he found the work very challenging. Too many administration tasks and not enough time meeting customers or motivating his staff. Eventually, however, he settled in and found a detail focus assistant that helped free him up to do tasks that fit his working preferences and the key roles of his job.
He became better at making decisions, sticking to deadlines, and holding people accountable. Now he runs the most successful sales region in the company. He also assists his team on sales calls where his direct reports are having trouble closing or meeting client’s high expectations. Though his DISC type has moved more towards D, Peter couldn’t be happier.
3 Free & 1 Paid DISC assessment
So how do you understand which job will be the right one for you? Start with a DISC assessment. This will help you to more clearly understand your natural working style preferences. While you could pay for an assessment, and those offer tremendous insight, why not start out with a free one? There are several available on the internet. In fact, if you took more than one, you could validate the results and feel confident that you have successfully identified your preferred working situation.
Here are some DISC assessments you can take right now
Online Personality Tests – https://www.onlinepersonalitytests.org/DISC/
The Online test takes about five minutes and you can take it without providing your email address. It will give you a brief, 1-2 page, report about your DISC preferences and tendencies.
Truity Personality Tests – https://www.truity.com/test/disc-personality-test
The Online test takes about five minutes and you will get a four page analysis identifying your strongest DISC areas. You can’t download this report, but you can print or save the page as a PDF. To get the full Online Personality Test DISC report costs $19 US or about ¥2,000.
Tony Robbins DISC Assessment – https://www.tonyrobbins.com/DISC/
This assessment gives you good insight to your preferences and motivations. It will take you about 30 minutes to complete this assessment. Once you’ve finished the self-assessment, read the 11 page report and the download page carefully to have a better understanding of your tendencies. Then, you won’t need to buy the report upgrade, which is priced from $20 US to $100 (¥2,200 – ¥ 11,500).
The Paid Assessment
One DISC assessment that is really useful, but not free, is the DISC Classic 2.0. This 10 minute assessment provides a detailed report that explains your natural strengths and weaknesses, how others see you and a description of how you will see those with differing assessment scores. It even provides some information on what types of jobs are a natural fit for you. It cost $72 (¥8,000) and is available from Manager Tools – https://www.manager-tools.com/products/DISC-profile#
Wrapping It All Up
Understanding DISC could give you a competitive advantage as you do your job hunting. It will help you know what your working style preferences are, and you can compare those against job descriptions to find a job that suits you best. Once you enter the workplace, knowledge of DISC tendencies will help you better understand your colleagues and provide some insight as to how to work more effectively together.
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Nima Esnaashari has been living in Hyogo prefecture since 2010. He moved to Japan from the United States. He originally came to Japan on the Japan Exchange and Teaching, also referred to as the JET Program.
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