by: Lynda McNutt Foster, CEO, Cortex Leadership Consulting.
A note from a recent conference attendee:
“Lynda, I wanted to send you a note to let you know how much I enjoyed and have used the DISC training you and your team provided.
I learned a great deal about myself. I learned how I communicate and might be perceived by others, and even have tried some of the communication practices with my daughter. What you taught really works.
After the workshop, I began seeing a few people in the office start categorizing people into different groups. It’s like they learned why they got along easily with certain people in the department and have a hard time relating to or communicating with others. They’re not using it to adapt to the people who aren’t like them. Instead, they are using it as kind of a weapon and separator.
I’m reaching out to you because I think the work that you’re doing has helped many of us to know ourselves better. It helped most of us get along much better as a team. It’s helped us not take things too personally when someone doesn’t communicate the same way we do.
Can you help? Is there anything I can do? We need this work and I know if something doesn’t change with certain individuals this work could become just another “flavor of the week”.
Thank you so much for the note! DISC can be a great baby step towards transforming people on teams to communicate more effectively with one another. It can also be used as a weapon and wedge by individuals who don’t follow the two simple “rules of engagement” that we ask everyone to commit to keeping.
Those two rules are key to an organization using any assessment as professional and self-development tools to enhance team dynamics and bring out each person’s best qualities and performance.
- Appreciate others strengths and abilities to contribute.
- Remain curious.
If you don’t appreciate the strengths and abilities of others to contribute, it is easy to focus on what someone is not doing and what they are weaker at. Focusing on weaknesses leads to demotivation and disengagement. When you can see where someone’s “genius zone” is, you empower them to feel valued and their contributions tend to be focused on what they do best.
In saying this, I might also mention that any assessment like DISC or Strength Finders can be used from a place of arrogance when you might insist others conform to your abilities. People can do this by saying, “You need to get to the point and be direct with me because I’m a Driver.” Or they might say, “My strength is ideation, so don’t expect me to plan anything.” Or perhaps you may have heard a statement like: “I’m a Calculator so I didn’t get that to you when you wanted it because I needed more time to go over the details.”
This is not an appropriate way to use DISC, Strength Finders, Myers-Briggs, or any other evaluation tool. The point of the assessment is for YOU to know YOUR strengths, weaknesses, and YOUR blind spots so you can appreciate the strengths of others.
That way, they can be utilized to reach the best possible outcomes. It is NOT up to others to adapt to you. It is up to YOU to adapt to others so that you can bring out their highest-level thinking when you communicate and work with them. This is where ontological humility matters.
What is ontological humility?
When applied correctly, DISC can be the start of understanding and applying ontological humility which is defined by Fred Kofman in Conscious Business as “the acknowledgment that you do not have a special claim on reality or truth, and that others have equally valid perspectives deserving respect and consideration. This attitude is opposed to ontological arrogance which is the claim that your truth is the only truth. Even though it may make sense intellectually that people have different perspectives, most people do not naturally act from this understanding, especially in the midst of disagreement or conflict.”
DISC therefore helps you recognize not only your own preferences and strengths, but helps us to see that everyone is different. It is a tool that helps remind you that the way you want to be communicated with may not be the way someone else at work wants to be communicated with. By starting every conversation with a curious mindset, you will seek out and find ways to collaborate.
Here are some quick dos and don’ts that your department or organization can follow after you take a workshop focused on a DISC assessment you have taken:
- USE as a tool to understand yourself better so you can more easily adapt to those who are not similar to you.
- APPRECIATE others’ strengths and abilities to contribute. This all begins with DISC and other assessment tools which help you figure out how you and others can best contribute to projects and working to solve problems as a team.
- APPLY ontological humility.
- KNOW that the biggest challenges your team or organization will face will not be solved by only one type of person. You will need a diversity of thought and behavioral patterns kinds of contributors to creatively solve real, significant problems now and in the future.
- HAVE FUN with DISC. It’s a tool to help you take things less personally, and make them more personable.
- USE DISC as a weapon. Weaponizing DISC occurs when you focus on someone’s weaknesses instead of their strengths and ability to contribute. You build a wedge when you separate people by “types” and don’t utilize their behavioral preferences as markers for what might bring out their best contributions to the team and organization.
- THINK that DISC is a “tell all” about the person who took it. DISC is a measure of someone’s behavioral preferences. It doesn’t tell you what motivates them or what their specific strengths will necessarily be when working on a team. Assessments like Driving Forces and Team Strengths can be added to the knowledge that you acquire from DISC to create a much more informative and helpful understanding of someone’s preferences and strengths, along with their experience and level of development.
- USE DISC or any other assessment for more than 1/3 of your decision-making process when hiring or promoting someone. Assessments are part of a mosaic that makes up a person’s strengths and ability to contribute in the workplace or on a team. DISC, in particular, doesn’t measure someone’s emotional intelligence or their level of professional and personal development. These things, in turn, can affect how someone communicates or their ability to adapt to different work environments and situations more accurately than just a DISC assessment.
- THINK you’re an expert at DISC or any other assessment unless you have been certified and have taught for more than a year. Even then, realize that people are complicated. It takes years of curiosity and learning through interactions and experiences with any assessment to be the most effective at using assessment tools to best serve your workplace. Get an expert to help you understand DISC as a tool for better team communication. We’re all human, and you owe it to your team.
- EVER LABEL someone as one type. You are not just one “type”, and neither are they.
Clarification in Communication is Critical
I’m glad that this conversation was started by the question that John sent to us. Clarification is critical to the success of the work that we do. I welcome feedback, questions that clarify what we teach, and comments about how DISC, Driving Forces, Team Strengths, DDT vs TED, Conversational Intelligence or any other module is or is not being used. Every team member at Cortex is dedicated to your growth and development. We’re here to help you think more strategically, act more intentionally, and communicate more effectively.
What a great editor can do to help your writing:
If you’re curious how important getting a good editor is, here’s the article I originally wrote and sent to my writing coach Joe V.