When Eric suggested I take a DiSC assessment, I was skeptical, to say the least. As a disbeliever in the validity of matrices such as Myers-Briggs (wherein I get a different result on every assay) and Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation Inventory (for which, coincidentally, all the proponents seem to self-identify as “innovators”), I had a lot of questions: What would another personality test possibly tell me that the others didn’t? Was there any way the results would be accurate? Would they be actionable, or useful? Wasn’t all this personality-typing kind of like a poshed-up astrological reading?
DiSC, for the uninitiated, is a work-styles preferences inventory; though it is personality-based, the goal is to identify a more discrete set of traits than a general personality test–specifically, a person’s tendencies and preferences for optimum function in a workplace setting. The name “DiSC” is an acronym for the four workplace styles, or “personality profiles” (as the company itself explains), that make up their proprietary matrix: (D)ominance, (i)nfluence, (S)teadiness and (C)onscientiousness.
Taking the DiSC assessment was only about a 15- to 20-minute process, and one that was perfectly pleasant and could be completed while sitting by the fire in sweatpants. The assessment entailed responding to a series of statements on a five-part scale of agreement: Strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree. (At a certain point, some of the statements seemed to be repeating, though I wasn’t 100% positive about that.) The statements focused on issues having to do with work process, team-work, time-sensitivity, and challenge; when statements were more classically personality-based, they trended more towards how one reacts to displays of emotion, or what role one perceives they embody when engaging with a dynamic group of people.
After I completed the assessment, DiSC immediately sent me a report in PDF form that explained my personality and workplace style based on my responses to the statements. This information was presented in graphic form: as a circle, with the location of my “dot” in a certain quadrant representing both my preferred workplace style and the strength of that preference in relation to the other styles.
My style was a strong “C”--conscientious. According to the DiSC paradigm, this indicates that in the workplace I am logical, extremely systematic, and focused on accuracy. DiSC says that I prefer working alone to within a group, like challenge, pride myself in producing high-quality work, strive to be perceived as “expert” and “well-prepared,” and take instances where I am “wrong” to heart, sometimes dwelling on my own mistakes. I find chaos or conflicts in the workplace stressful and distracting, and feel uneasy when tasks are rushed, or are not being completed in a methodical way.
All of this is very true of my workstyle, and I admit I was impressed that DiSC “nailed” me so correctly. (When I told Eric my results, and asked if this was what he predicted, he said, “Absolutely.”) Moreover, seeing this evaluation helped me contextualize various things I’ve found stressful in different, past workplaces: Feeling that I had to do the group-work myself or I wouldn’t be satisfied with results; concerns about the level of quality, accuracy, or precision in materials with which I had to work or was tasked with developing in collaboration with other stake-holders; becoming anxious when not enough time has been allotted to complete tasks. (Full disclosure: Eric has historically seen me panic when something “isn’t in the calendar.” And by “historically,” I mean last week.) Realizing that my finding these situations flustering was not simply an odd personality quirk, but actually a distinct workplace style, was oddly fortifying; it gave me a better understanding of how I work best, and made me reflect on some systems and checks that I need in place in order to do so.
Fortunately, DiSC is optimized to support this kind of reflection. In addition to explaining the test-takers “motivators and stressors,” among other aspects of that style, DiSC also offers an overview of the test-taker’s chemistry with the other styles–“The ____ style and you”–which anticipates both conflict and synergy between these different personality types. The report explains how these alternate styles may “seem” to the test-taker, and what motivates them, to promote better workplace interactions between these different individuals. DiSC even offers solutions for “when problems need to be solved” and “when things get tense” for the test-takers’ interactions with the other workstyles, providing a common language for discussing and resolving conflicts.
So, for whom would DiSC be useful? A lot of people, as it turns out. Trainers, looking to maximize participant buy-in, engagement, and positive outcome, would do well to gain fluency in DiSC styles and language. Doing so would enable them to better meet the needs of a wide variety of learners, by creating modules that can appeal to many different types of personalities and styles of learning.
Managers in all industries would also benefit not only from understanding the workstyles of people who work under them–enabling them to better engage, motivate, and support their team-members–but also from a better awareness of their own work and communication styles, and a sense of how they “come off” to people. Gaining this self-awareness would likely make for smoother, more productive, less conflict-ridden workday situations, and an increased sense of bonhomie amongst all team members.
Overall, I enjoyed taking the DiSC assessment more than I thought I would, and found it useful not only in understanding myself and my interactions with others, but in providing fodder for thoughts and conversations about what systems I would need in place to work most productively in the future. My only question? While I am definitely a “strong C,” I don’t find other people’s emotions nearly as stressful as the DiSC guide asserts that I do, and I also do see aspects of the other three styles in myself.
As Eric pointed out, when I was (again) worrying about scheduling tasks: “I think you have some S in you.” (S-types prioritize a stable work environment.) He’s probably right, and I imagine knowing this will be helpful somewhere down the line.
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