The DiSC® Model

Understanding People's Personal Styles

The DiSC Model - Understanding People's Personal Styles

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Your team will get along swimmingly once they "get" one another's preferences.

Is there one person at work who you just don't get? Or someone who approaches things so differently from you that you struggle to relate to him or her?

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. We all have team members that we find it hard to communicate with, or work alongside. And yet, for the sake of our teams and organizations, we need to make these relationships work. The good news is there are ways of doing this. A good starting point is to understand more about your own personality, and that of the other person.

Personality has been studied for centuries, and this research has led to various ways of categorizing behavioral styles. When you understand some of these, you will get to know what makes others "tick," and learn how to get the most from your team members in a way that benefits them as well as the organization.

The DiSC® Model

The DiSC model, based on the work of psychologist William Moulton Marston in the 1920s, is a popular, straightforward, standardized, and relatively easy way to assess behavioral styles and preferences.

The tool classifies people's behavior into four types (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness) by looking at their preferences on two scales:

  • Task versus People.
  • Fast-Paced versus Moderate-Paced.

These preference scales form the axes of the DiSC model. The behavioral types are shown in the four quadrants of figure 1, below.

Figure 1: The DiSC Model

DISC Model Diagram

Reproduced with the permission of www.everythingdisc.co.uk.

The DiSC assessment uses standardized data from a large population of people who've already taken the test. An individual's score gives an indication of his preferences relative to others'. By using the tool, you might learn, for example, that you are very people-oriented compared with others. This may lead you to use a more task-oriented approach in situations where you want to build a better rapport with task-oriented members of you team.

Behavioral models like this can help you deal with the many different people you interact with in your professional and personal life. By understanding that everyone has different preferences, you can improve your interpersonal relationships and manage team members in a way that plays to their strengths.

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You can use this model to help team building and recruitment, improve performance, resolve conflict, and much more. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. More time and energy for productive activity. When teams aren't working well, huge amounts of time and energy are taken up with resolving conflict, dealing with performance issues, and remedying poorly communicated expectations. You'll have a lot more time to spend on productive activity if your people learn to work alongside one another better.
  2. Better fit between team members and roles. People become dissatisfied when they aren't well matched to their jobs. When you understand a person's natural preferences, it is easier to fit her with a job she'll like and will be good at. This helps improve performance and engagement.
  3. Improved understanding of customers and other stakeholders. There's potential for conflict and miscommunication when your team comes into direct contact with customers or other external stakeholders. Knowing their own preferences will help your team members understand how to serve their different customers more effectively.

Explaining the DiSC Quadrants

The diagram above shows the two axes that mark out four quadrants, each with its own type of behavior. People who fall into the same quadrant tend to solve problems, communicate and make decisions in similar ways. Here is a brief summary of the characteristic behaviors of each type:

Type Their Behaviors What They Want From Others What They Want From Their Roles
"High D" (Dominance)


Talk more than listen







To be allowed to lead

To be allowed to be independent

Power and authority



"High I" (Influence)

Talk more than listen

Can be emotional



Very animated





To be allowed to tell people how they feel

Visible reward
and recognition



"High S" (Steadiness)

Ask versus tell




Dislike change


Relaxed manner



Change to be introduced slowly



Calm environments

Status quo

"High C" (Conscient-iousness)

Adhere to rules







Accurate detail


High standards

Clear expectations


Recognition of expertise


Using the DiSC Model

So how can you tell which quadrant you fall into? And how do you find out where your team members fit?

There are many orgaizations that offer online behavioral assessments, and they usually charge a small fee to conduct the assessment and to provide a report. Try www.discprofile.com, or Google® "DiSC Profiles" to find them.

These assessments can give you a guide to:

  • Your DiSC behavior style and preferences.
  • The behavior you're likely to show in your current role.
  • Any tensions between your underlying and exhibited styles.
  • Your communication style.
  • What motivates you.
  • Your decision-making style.
  • How you prefer to be managed.


Take care when you use the results of these tests. Any system that classes people into only four different personality types is, out of necessity, simplified. Individuals are much more complex and sophisticated than this!

Use DiSC profiles as a guide, but don't rely too heavily on them.

Key Points

The DiSC model helps you analyze your own preferred behavioral style, and those of your team members.

By understanding your own profile, you can manage your work so it suits your preferences. And you can help people understand their differences so they can work more effectively together, by sharing DiSC profiles within your team.

This means DiSC profiling is a useful tool to help you improve team working, recruitment and retention, customer service, and resolve interpersonal issues.

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