The stronger our ability to communicate effectively, the happier we tend to be. Understanding how people react to situations and how to respond appropriately is a key to success in business, in marriage, in friendship, and in life.
My first large client was a true opportunity for both personal and business growth. The CEO of the Learning Annex, Bill Zanker, is one of the most focused, task-oriented individuals I have ever worked with. His vision, strength, and determination took the Learning Annex from a small company to one of the fastest growing corporations in North America in 2006. Though I did not interface with him very often, I frequently found myself confused and unsure of how to proceed when dialoging with him. He is brilliant, mercurial, and short spoken. I often received notes from him requesting work in the subject line of the email and nothing in the body. I would respond with a detailed explanation and ask a few questions and his reply would be a ‘y’ or an ‘n’. The fact was that I had no idea how to communicate with him and, as a vendor, the responsibility of communication was mine.
Four years ago I had the opportunity to listen to a talk by a well-known consultant who described the situation I faced with Bill to a tee. The basic conclusion was that I was communicating with Bill in the way that I would want to be communicated with, rather than in the best way to get my message across to him. There are a lot of personality and communication profile philosophies and approaches. Having studied a few, I have found one that has simplified my understanding and significantly changed both my business and my marriage. The D.I.S.C. personality system, created by Dr. William Marston in 1928 and widely promoted by Dr. Robert Rohm, was a simple approach that I found could be easily applied to my relationships on a daily basis.
The system is extremely simple – begin begin by answering the following two questions:
Are you more Outgoing or Reserved?
You could be 49% one of them 51% of the other but for now pick one.
Are you Task Oriented or People Oriented?
Everyone has some mix of all 4 personality types. While no one is just one type, we all have a default setting that shape our perceptions and the way we naturally communicate. My goal for myself was to understand my own natural style first, then to understand the others and how to visit them effectively.
oh, what personalities are Peter & I?
Shane: High I – Moderate S – Moderate D – No C
Peter: High S – High C – Minimal I – No D
The Dominant type
An outgoing, task-oriented individual will be focused on getting things done, accomplishing tasks, getting to the bottom line as quickly as possible, and MAKING IT HAPPEN! (The key insights in developing a relationship with this type person are RESPECT and RESULTS.)
Description: Dominant, Driving, Doers
Symbol: Exclamation point – emphatic in everything they do
Focus: Get the job done – just do it! Overcome opposition and achieve your goals! Winners never quit… quitters never win!
Basic Needs: Challenge, Control, Choices
Outlook on Life: To lead or be in charge
“D types can be very self-sufficient, relying on their natural abilities and talents to get them through difficult situations… They are never satisfied with the status quo. They are constantly looking for new and better ideas and ways of doing things.”
The Inspiring type
An outgoing, people-oriented individual loves to interact, socialize, and have fun. This person is focused on what others may think of him or her. (The key insights in developing a relationship with this type person are ADMIRATION and RECOGNITION.)
Description: Inspirational, Influencing, Impulsive
Symbol: Star – They love recognition and being the center of attention
Focus: I am for you! If we all pull in the same direction and stay motivated, there is no end to the success… and fun… we can have.
Basic Needs: Recognition, Approval, Popularity
Outlook on Life: To persuade others to their way of thinking
“High I ‘s are very friendly. They seem to talk to or wave to everyone they see. They know no strangers. After you have been with them five minutes, you feel like you have known them all your life.”
The Supportive type
A reserved, people-oriented individual will enjoy relationships, helping or supporting other people, and working together as a team. (The key insights in developing a relationship with this person are FRIENDLINESS and SINCERE APPRECIATION.)
Description: Steady, Stable, Supportive
Symbol: Plus/Minus – They bring a balance to the people equation
Focus: All for one and one for all. If we all work together, we can make a great team. Working together we can do it!
Basic Needs: Appreciation, Security, Approval
Outlook on Life: To provide necessary support to help get the job completed
“An S is very orderly and efficient, preferring to know that things are running smoothly…They prefer the standard, tried, and proven way of doing things… One of their mottos is, ‘Working together we can do it.”
The Cautious type
A reserved, task-oriented individual will seek value, consistency, and quality information. This person focuses on being correct and accurate. (The key insights in developing a relationship with this individual are TRUST and INTEGRITY.)
Description: Competent, Cautious, Careful
Symbol: Question Mark – They want to know the why behind what they do
Focus: Make sure things are done in a correct manner. Goods and services provided with quality ensure long-standing relationships.
Basic Needs: Quality answers, Excellence, Value
Outlook on Life: To be conscientious and consistent
“The C type is usually extremely gifted. They are very bright and have a high capacity for intellectual achievement. They know how to take a big project and break it down into little components.”
All images and D.I.S.C. explanations have come from Personality Insights Inc.
D.I.S.C. in Action
So how do you apply this?
Mr. Zanker, CEO of the Learning Annex, is the highest “D” personality I have ever worked with. D’s want to see results and need control and choices. Bill loves to make decisions and wants to keep everything short and quick moving. So when I needed to interact with him, I stopped asking open ended questions and removed all conversation that was not directly related to the task at hand. I give two, maybe three distinct options, he picked one and we moved on. It’s all about getting things done, and the act of progress is what built the relationship, not the chit-chat.
Peter is a high “C/S” personality. The secret to a successful communication session with him is clarity and careful explanation. Peter truly wants to understand things. He is sensitive to how other people feel and how each detail will affect everyone involved. That need for clarity and his empathy are what make him a brilliant UI designer. So, to better interact with him, I am learning to slow myself down and cover things more carefully, explain the why as well as the what, and keep the emotional level at a happy medium.
Planning to work with me? I am a high “I” with a healthy dose of both “D” & “S”. The secret to successful communication with me – give me the big picture with a bunch of enthusiasm, passion, and fun mixed together. Talk to me about results and throw in a healthy dose of relationship building, if I am not under pressure.
The point? Three very different people, three very different personalities, and, therefore, three very different communication styles. Learning to visit the other personality types and get my points across clearly has made an unbelievable difference in our business. Knowing myself well enough to pick the right people to fill my gaps led to my partnership with Peter. Having my wife & I understand each other better (she is a extremely High D/C) has solved so many, many long-running arguments. I couldn’t recommend enough becoming fluent in this model of human behavior.