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Will a DiSC assessment help improve your leadership skills?

December 2, 2022 - 16 min read
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    As a leader, it’s important to look for ways to build a cohesive and diverse team that can collaborate effectively. But understanding your employees and who they are as whole people can help to better enable team performance. 

    To better get to teammates and direct reports, you might consider if DiSC assessments or other personality tests can help. After all, BetterUp data shows that a person’s direct manager is the second most important factor when it comes to predicting a good employee experience

    Part of building an exceptional employee experience means getting to know your team. While team-building activities can help, it’s also important to consider the individual. How can a DiSC assessment or other personality test help? Are things like DiSC assessments effective? How does it work?  

    In this post, we’ll define a DiSC assessment. We’ll also talk about ways you can make a positive impact by investing time and resources in your team members. We’ll also answer some need-to-know questions about a DiSC assessment.

    Plus, we give a firsthand report on what it’s like to take the test and get the results. Ultimately, you’ll walk away with skills and tools to help better your effectiveness as a leader and enable success for your team as a whole.

    What is a DiSC assessment?

    First, let’s define what we mean by a DiSC assessment. 

    How DiSC works

    DiSC aims to help explain why people behave, communicate, and react in certain ways.  Some organizations use DiSC to help employees gain self-awareness and to improve teamwork. 

    While there are multiple versions of the test, the most commonly used is Everything DiSC Workplace. Its online questionnaire takes about 15-20 minutes. 

    According to Wiley, the publisher of the DiSC personality test, the tool uses computerized adaptive testing. This helps determine where you fit across the four styles based on your responses.

    The questions focus on how employees react to workplace situations and challenges. It’s an assessment that measures personality traits and tendencies, which means there are no right or wrong answers.  It does not measure intelligence, aptitude, mental health, or values. It’s a tool for dialogue, not a diagnosis.

    The 20-page personalized DiSC profile report gives you:

    • A description of your employees’ workplace style, priorities, and preferences
    • Aspects of work that motivate your employees 
    • Aspects of work that may cause stress for your employees 
    • Key strategies for working more effectively with others 
    • Detailed profiles of each of the four styles, including areas where your employees might clash or complement one another 
    • Tips for communicating and connecting with co-workers from each style

    As a manager, you can ask your team members to share access to their DiSC reports with you and each other. You can use the guidance to help individuals and your team build on their strengths.

    It can also help team members better understand their colleagues' different communication styles. Over time, the goal is to work together to develop more collaborative relationships.

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    The 4 DiSC personality types

    While the DiSC model is based on four main personality types, it’s important to understand that everyone is a blend of all four styles. It’s best to look at these across a continuum. Usually, one, two, or even three styles will stand out. DiSC assessments assign individuals across 12 different “regions,” depending on which traits are more pronounced. 

    For example, an employee with the “Di” style would be mostly a blend of the Dominant (D) and Influence (i) traits. But as a starting place for understanding, the four styles serve as the foundation. 

    Where do you and your team members fit on the DiSC behavior scale?  Here’s a snapshot of the four DiSC styles.

    Dominance

    People with a dominant (D) style personality tend to be high achievers who like to take charge. They're typically quick decision-makers who aren’t afraid of confrontation. If you're a dominant style, you probably like to be in control and thrive on competition.

    • Priorities: Bottom-line results, action, and new challenges and opportunities
    • Communication style: Direct, forceful, and blunt
    • Under stress: May become impatient, demanding, and fearful of appearing weak or being taken advantage of
    • Development opportunities: Building patience and empathy. Learning to see situations as more win/win than win/lose 

    Influence

    People with an influential (i) style personality tend to be outgoing, persuasive, and people-oriented. They're good at networking and building relationships. If you're influential, you probably enjoy being part of a team and may find it easy to sell yourself and your ideas.

    • Priorities:  Enthusiasm, action, and collaboration
    • Communication style: Upbeat, open, and energetic
    • Under stress: May become disorganized, too expressive, and fearful of rejection
    • Development opportunities: Building organizational skills. Following through more on tasks. Learning to respect boundaries 

    what-is-a-disc-assessment-colleagues-huddled-around-computer

    Steadiness

    People with a steady (S) style personality tend to be loyal, reliable, and patient. They often work well in team environments and prefer predictable routines. If you score high in steadiness, you probably prefer stability and are a good listener.

    • Priorities: Cooperation, providing support, and consistency
    • Communication style: Calm, deliberate, and sincere
    • Under stress: May become too quick to compromise or overly accommodating. This can lead to passive resistance instead of expressing concerns or needs
    • Development opportunities: Building self-confidence. Becoming more adaptable. Working on the ability to express your true feelings 

    Conscientiousness

    People with a conscientious (C) style personality tend to be detail-oriented and analytical. They like to plan and organize their work. If you're conscientious, you probably like order and predictability. You work well with deadlines and structure.

    • Communication style: Logical, analytical, and reserved
    • Under stress: May become rigid, too process-driven, and risk-averse
    • Development opportunities: Building the ability to look beyond the data. Delegating or letting go of tasks. Recognizing when you’re overanalyzing or being overly critical

    What is the DiSC assessment used for?

    Overall, organizations tend to use DiSC to help improve collaboration at work. Here are some of the specific areas where you might use DiSC:

    • Self-discovery: DiSC and other self-assessment tools can help you get a baseline of your strengths and aspects of work where you excel. Getting a better picture of yourself is the first step to help find what you are good at. This can be invaluable for career planning.
    • Teamwork: In today’s workplace there can be less opportunity to get to know each other, especially with more virtual teams. Using DiSC and other tools can help team members bridge physical distances and personal differences in style. Knowing more about why someone reacts in a certain way can help avoid miscommunication or friction.
    • Conflict resolution: Conflict in the workplace is not only inevitable, it can also be valuable. Colleagues who appreciate their differences can learn to work through disagreements more productively. 
    • Leadership: Leaders who take the time to better understand what makes each team member thrive will be more effective.

    How to make the most of your employees’ DiSC assessments

    Improving team collaboration isn’t a one-and-done exercise. No matter what tool you use, you need an action plan that includes follow-up and support to achieve meaningful and lasting results. 

    You’ve probably taken assessments and participated in team-building exercises before. While team-building exercises are helpful, it’s not the answer to long-term results. If you’re looking to make the most of your team’s DiSC assessments, there are strategies and resources to help keep you on the path of continuous learning. 

    Try some of these tactics to deepen employee engagement within your team: 

    • Schedule check-ins for feedback. Continue the process during regular one-on-ones with individual employees and your team. These sessions can include questions and feedback about the experience so far.

      What was a surprise? What examples of improved communication or collaboration can they share? As a manager, share your own DiSC experience. Were there blind spots it helped you uncover? Share about your own goals for improvement and ask for feedback on how you’re doing.
    • Integrate with professional development. If you’re leading a team, you can use the DiSC results as a tool to help employees build an organizational career path. Encourage setting personal development goals to achieve steps along the way.

    What to keep in mind during a DiSC assessment

    To inform my research for this article, I took the Everything DiSC Workplace assessment myself. 

    I’m a naturally curious person and am fascinated by human behavior. I usually embrace opportunities to learn more about myself, especially the many areas where I can improve. Over the years, I’ve worked with coaches and other professionals to help me on this journey of self-discovery.

    First, here are some of my personal impressions. The personality profile provided an impressive amount of information. But it was also overwhelming. Twenty pages is a lot to digest. I’ve taken similar tests, but I still found eye-opening insights. There's good advice, plus a lot of issues I still need to work on (sigh). I look forward to working with my coach to process all this. I’ll need her help to stay positive and learn from my results. I also need someone to keep me accountable, so I don’t just file this away and forget what I learn. 

    As with any tool, I found there are a few things to be aware of when considering using DiSC or other assessments. Here are some things to keep in mind about DiSC:

    It might make you feel uncomfortable

    While some employees embrace self-discovery, it can make others feel uncomfortable. Employees need to be reminded that there are no right or wrong answers. No one style is better than another.

    A professional facilitator can help explain the process and what employees can expect before they take an assessment. Employees need to know the goals, how they can use the results, and how they plan to use them as a manager and team. Will you be asking them to share their reports with you and each other? What will be the next steps in the process, such as coaching?

    Assessments have limitations

    Some points may feel spot-on. But many may not ring true. Remember that behavior styles are also influenced by life experiences, education, and maturity. When you look at the DiSC reports, keep in mind that everyone is a blend of all four styles. Most people tend strongly toward one or two styles. Yet you don’t want employees to feel pigeon-holed by the results. 

    Some may argue that people seldom fit neatly into classifications or types. Like the most interesting characters in our favorite books and movies, people in real life are full of contradictions.

    It may help to consider DiSC history. The four DiSC styles were based on the work of psychologist William Moulton Marston and his 1928 book, Emotions of Normal People. He also created the character of Wonder Woman while writing comic books. In addition, Marston is credited with inventing an early prototype for the lie detector.

    People are always changing and growing

    Today’s world is far more complex than a century ago. Psychologists tend to take a more holistic approach to understand people and behavior based on a Whole Person Model. Behaviors aren't static, fixed qualities. Coaching skills can help people change behaviors and adopt new communication styles.

    DiSC and other assessments can tend to imply that people with certain personality styles may be more natural leaders. This reflects the trait theory of leadership. At BetterUp, we think every person has the potential to be a leader, with the right coaching and support.

    what-is-a-disc-assessment-two-women-talking-over-ipad

    Get to know your team on a whole person level 

    No matter what type of leader you'd like to become, there's one thing that will help set you up for success. Getting to know your team as individuals will help put your business a step ahead. 

    If you're not sure where to start, consider BetterUp. With personalized support with virtual coaching, you can help unearth potential you might not have known existed. 

    See how BetterUp works - Watch Demo

    Published December 2, 2022

    Elizabeth Taylor

    lizabeth is a writer focused on using storytelling and research to answer questions about work, careers, and business. She holds a bachelor’s in English and lives in Tampa, Florida, where she enjoys paddling and spotting manatees on the river in her backyard.

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