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  • Dr. Julie Olsen

Does Everyone on Your Team Approach Work the Same?


Several years ago, I had the pleasure of being a director and leading a department of 14 very capable and committed team members. I was extremely proud of them and felt lucky to be the leader of such a high-performing team. Imagine my surprise when a peer came to my office and said, “You and the Chief Operating Officer should never be allowed to be in the same room together.”


I didn’t understand so naturally I asked for more information. He proceeded to tell me that both of us had similar styles, are very creative, and approach challenges with enthusiasm. The problem is we believe everyone thinks like us and that it is possible to do much more than the team can sometimes handle leaving them to wonder how we will get everything done! And, questioning if their input is valued.” Ouch!


To add to the sting, I taught people how to inspire and motivate people with different personalities and the value of making them a part of the decision making process. I knew the concepts, I knew people approached work differently, but based on this feedback, I wasn’t applying what I knew to my own team. Have you ever been there?


Simply stepping into a room with more than one person makes it easy to determine that not everyone thinks or behaves in the same way. The different perspectives and styles of work can be a great way to bring synergy to the team and enhance outcomes or it may also produce unnecessary conflict and impact goal accomplishment.


Luckily, each style has unique strengths and with minimal training, it is easy to gain clues into someone’s main behavioral style and adapt your behavior for maximum results. There are a few strategies anyone can learn, and they can be quite beneficial, especially for leaders.


Why is Understanding Different Behavioral Styles Important?


People tend to gravitate to people who are like them. They understand their communication nuances and typically have similar work styles (as was the case with my previously mentioned COO). However, in most work environments, not everyone has the same behavioral style. By identifying the ways others prefer to communicate and adapting your style to theirs, your communication may be clearer and better received therefore increasing the chances of a positive relationship and outcome. One well-established and respected model is commonly referred to as DISC.


DISC Defined


DISC is a universal language that helps you better understand yourself and identify behaviors in others providing a foundation for reducing conflict and improving relationships. By understanding these concepts, a leader can more effectively understand the strengths of their team members and leverage the diversity in the group.


Overview of Different DISC Behavior Styles


DISC is an acronym that stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance and focuses on “how” a person approaches work or relationships. It considers observable behaviors and is based on research as far back as Hippocrates with recent assessments and surveys using works of William Marston. Yes, the same man who invented the lie detector test and Wonder Woman, wrote a book titled, The Emotions of Normal People, which is a foundation for many of the assessments today.


What Are the Characteristics of the Four Styles?


1. Dominance, or “D”. This behavior looks at how someone addresses problems and challenges. Someone with high D tendencies enjoys challenges, addresses problems or issues directly, and has no problem juggling multiple tasks at one time. They are fast-paced, task-oriented, and they focus on results. Although they can complete even the most difficult tasks quickly and efficiently, this behavior taken to an extreme can appear abrupt and self-serving.


2. Influence, or “I”. These people are typically the life of the party. They are talkative, impulsive, and optimistic. They approach people in a trusting manner and look for the best in others. They are fast-paced, people-oriented, charismatic, and can be very inspirational. Their strength overused can come across as self-serving, too talkative, and their impulsive behavior may give the impression that they are unorganized.


3. Steadiness, or “S”. People with strong S tendencies are agreeable, cooperative, friendly, and enjoy working with others. They build strong relationships throughout the organization and know just who to go to get things done. They like a stable work environment and consistency in their daily activities. They are slower-paced than the Ds and the Is and are people-oriented. They prefer time to consider changes in advance and to understand the “why” before implementing them. They do not like conflict therefore if they become upset, they may avoid confrontation and perhaps become passive-aggressive.


4. Compliance, or “C”. If you are looking for a detailed person, here they are! They are motivated to get things done right the first time therefore they are cautious, focused on details, and think things through very thoroughly. They value accuracy and credibility while keeping the rest of us out of jail. They prefer a slower pace to allow time for a full analysis and are task-oriented. To others, they may appear to be obsessive about details and overly critical.


How to Recognize Each Style in the Workplace.


There are a few simple questions you can ask yourself that provide insight into someone’s behavioral style.

  • Are they an introvert or an extravert? Extraverts tend to be high Ds or high Is. Introverts tend to be high Ss or high Cs.

  • Are they task-oriented, or people-oriented? High Is and Ss are people-oriented and high Ds and Cs are task-oriented.

Confused about your primary style? Do you think that perhaps you or your team members may have more than one primary style? You could be right! People’s behavior is made up of a blend of styles and typically two styles are more predominant making leadership and relationship building even harder.


With a focus on understanding and valuing the strengths of others, leaders can tap into the uniqueness of each of their team members and create an environment that is more enjoyable and productive for all involved.


If you are interested in more information on how to recognize and value different styles, download a free eBook on DISC behaviors or contact Julie Olsen, President, Workplace Advancement Strategies.