uncovering a leader's achilles heel through disc




Behavioral assessments such as DISC can help uncover interesting insights about a person’s behavioral styles. This information can then be used to improve performance or help a person to find a job that may be most suited for their natural abilities.


Understanding the Model


Let’s overview DISC Behavioral Styles on a graph to give you a better understanding of the highs and the lows (see DISC graphic). There is a midline (also known as the energy line) at 50 and any factor above is considered “high” and any factor below is considered “low.” High is not good and low is not bad - this is just a continuum of behaviors all exhibiting different degrees of intensity. If you fall in the “extreme” range (0-10 or 90-100), these factors are much easier to observe but more difficult to adapt. If

you fall in the “tends to be” range (40-50) these factors are harder to observe but much easier to adapt up and down depending on the situation.


D measures how you approach PROBLEMS: If you are above the midline, you are more FORCEFUL (jump in and address issues immediately). If you are below the midline, you are more ACCOMMODATING (think it through, ask questions, make sure everyone agrees).


I measures how you influence PEOPLE to your point of view: If you are above the midline, you are more OPTIMISTIC (excited, persuasive, and convincing). If you are below the midline, you are more LOGICAL (factual, skeptical, more of a realist).


S measures how you respond to change and PACE: If you are above the midline, you are more STEADY (thoughtful, methodical, don’t enjoy quick change). If you are below the midline, you are more DRIVING (multitasker, very flexible, open to change).


C measures how you respond to rules and PROCEDURES set by others: If you are above the midline, you are more COMPLIANT (follow rules, detail-oriented, perfectionist). If you are below the midline, you are more INDEPENDENT (an out-of-the-box thinker who may ignore “unnecessary” rules).

Strengths can become weaknesses through overextension

So often, what endears a leader to others can become their very undoing. Someone with urgency and precision can be a master at completing tasks, but may find themselves lacking when it comes to the human element. Someone else who is supportive and caring may have a hard time having difficult conversations when these conversations need to be had. While others who are great with details and processes may tend to be methodical micromanagers. For every yin there is a yang, and uncovering those weaknesses can help shore up a leader’s ability to rally his or her team to become engaged and highly productive.

Example #1 - High Potential with Low People Skills (High D/C and low I/S)

Bob is a young professional with high potential who works in the finance department of a large company.His boss thinks he is fantastic because he gets everything done quickly and with great precision, which makes the boss look good. Although Bob is already in a management role, his boss wants him to get promoted to a higher-level leadership position.


All is not perfect, however, in Bob’s camp. One of his direct reports recently quit and two others have been complaining about his management style. They say he has unrealistic expectations, is critical, condescending and does not care about them personally. Bob’s boss asked me to coach him on his “people skills.”


When I met with Bob the first time and asked him what he would like to get out of the coaching, his reply was less than encouraging. He deadpanned, “Can you get those girls that report to me to stop crying?” Seeing the challenge ahead of me I responded by saying, “Absolutely; when we change your behavior they will stop crying.”


As I began to work with Bob, it was evident his “get it done now (D) and get it done right (C)” style has it benefits, but also some downfalls. When working with someone who has a very intense dominance and compliance personality, it’s all about completing the task quickly and to perfection. A person with this type of personality can set expectations so high, they may never be met. Before long, the staff becomes disengaged because they feel they are fighting an uphill battle they can never win.


We focused on lowering the standards a little so his staff can achieve goals and gain some confidence. It was not a case of settling, rather simply creating a baseline from which to build. Then, after little victories occurred, we raised expectations a little at a time. We also looked at how to work better with the “girls” in the office. Having predominantly interpersonal behavioral styles (high I), they wanted to have a personal connection with their boss; it gave them a reason to work harder. Just as football players will run through a wall for a coach they admire, this team was looking for a similar connection.


After our sessions, Bob dialed down his expectations somewhat, began to delegate a little more and began to take a personal interest in his direct reports. He made time to get to know them on a personal level and they responded. Within six months the “girls” were accomplishing more than they had ever expected.


Building connections with his staff went a long way towards his success although it was difficult, at first, for Bob. He said he felt disingenuous, because he just wasn’t the kind of person interested in smal