Why can’t you see it my way? Why do you behave that way? A quick overview of Personality Profiling for Managers

A quick overview of Personality Profiling for Managers

Want to know why your employees behave the way they do? Well you won’t be surprised to hear that they can have a different outlook on the world that, combined with different experiences, results in different views and behaviours.

And it is important to remember that this is a good thing. We are not robots. Diversity sparks creativity and empathy, bringing richness to the workplace.

But when you make efforts to see things from other people’s perspective, you will build harmony and encourage performance. The variety of methods for assessing a person’s preferred style have been tested and refined over the years. But, none of these methods offers “absolute truth”, only an inkling of what makes someone tick.

They can and do surprise us!

One particular tool that I find helpful is DiSC.

DiSC Profiling is deceptively simple and can be used on a number of levels to consider our own and other people’s preferred style of behaviour.

Importantly, each of us has a choice in how we perceive things and communicate. But we can chose alternative ways to act and speak in order to communicate with people of different styles. By using DiSC you can gain insight for team building, handling conflict, delivering effective presentations. You can  even have improved conversations with your boss!

DiSCwhat is it?

DiSC is based on the premise that there are four main personal styles or preferred behaviours. These major categories can be further divided and overlap.  However, for the sake of simplicity, we will stick with the four main types.

Defining people’s preferred styles by picking up on the clues that they exhibit can be good fun. But a word of caution, do not pigeon-hole people. Resist thinking of people as a typical “this” or “that” category. You may think of them as associated with a particular style but they can react differently according to the environment and situation.

This variety of styles is valuable and enriching within your team. There is no “best” style that ranks above all others. Each has its advantage and disadvantage, according to the prevailing circumstances.

Understanding the various styles can help enormously with communication and meaning. And only use it with integrity and honesty, never to manipulate others. I tell you now, if you use it inappropriately it can come back to bite you and leave you looking foolish at best or facing a complaint.

So let’s get down to it.

Although people will tend to prefer one of four main styles, actually they will often have some elements of other styles. The four main categories are:

  • D: task and power driven, often referred to as “dominance”
  • i: people oriented, referred to as “influence”
  • S: people focus on pace, referred to as “steadiness”
  • C: task focus on details, policy oriented, referred to as “compliance”

What does this mean in practice?

Conflict can arise when one person’s preferred style is directly opposite to another person’s. For example: someone with an “i “ profile will be more interested in communicating something to people and feel impatient with her colleague who has a C profile preference who will appear to her to be nit-picky, concerned mainly with technical details and following procedures. The D profile person is likely to appear to “i” as impatient, rash and rushing forward, or even overbearing.


Sam has a high “D” profile whilst his colleague, Gill, has a high “S” profile. But, Sam sees Gill as being too easy going, only concerned that people should not be upset. The way Sam sees it, they should be on with getting things done and worry about the consequences later. Mary, with her “C” profile, sees Sam as pushy and rude and worries that he will not follow the rules. She sees Joe with his “i” profile as overly chatty, skimming over the details whilst wanting to gain recognition for his work.

And this where it matters. By recognizing another person’s style and how they might interpret the same information can help in your method of communication and so avoid conflict. Additionally, you can use this knowledge to encourage greater performance. As a manager, you will experience huge benefits by listening carefully to your team members. Not only will you listen to what is being said but how. You can gain great insight by noticing vocabulary, volume, emphasis and visual clues given by your team members.

Where people in your team can’t seem to get on with each other, you need to get hold of this before relationships sour.

Do not ignore signs of conflict as it will eventually undermine performance. Perhaps worse still, a good employee can become disenchanted with the workplace and just leave. Perhaps you are already aware of disagreement in your team.

But I don’t mean the healthy questioning of one another to check work. If there is back-biting and friction, maybe people seeking to undermine each other or failing to help their colleagues, you need to look for some solutions.

Take a step back to assess the situation. Often people are  not actually arguing about exactly the same thing. Look for a subtle difference in their perception. It is amazing how people will stick to a particular position without truly listening to the other person. But if they step back, they could well find that they are looking at different aspects, not necessarily in conflict, more in arguing in parallel!

Conflict can simply come down to a matter of different personal styles. Broadly, we like people who are like us and we might assume that someone else is wrong because they express themselves differently.

Being different isn’t necessarily wrong!

You will need to become mediator, listening to each party and checking your understanding. Recognise, of course, that you’ll also will have your own opinion and preferred style and so have an unconscious bias. Be open-minded and understand your own preference and why it is that you might find one side more palatable than another. Seek what is rational. You still have a managerial prerogative to make a final decision if you cannot create sufficient harmony.

Remember that the language that you use is important and needs to be inclusive. Tempo and vocabulary can have an effect on meaning according to the recipients’ “filters”.

To identify the four main preferred styles you will see people who are mainly:

  • D profile wants decisive action, less discussion
  • i profile will want to talk about it
  • S profile is concerned for people’s welfare
  • C wants time to see the detail and to check the information.

When giving a presentation think about your style of delivery. Does your choice of language meet all four profile styles? This may seem contrived at first but remember your purpose is for clarity not manipulation.

Of course this article is only a very small flavour of the DiSC styles and profiling. If you think this is something that would help you to understand your team better and get your team to gel, then I would recommend that you look further into it.

Why DiSC?

Profiling through DiSC is only one tool that can be used: there are many other psychometric tools. Although DiSC can be used without any certification, there is a danger in amateur usage as you could get it badly wrong. However, many forms of psychometric tools require stringent formal training and certification before they can be accessed. Unless you are prepared to research DiSC and use the services of a trained consultant or undertake proper training yourself, regard this article only as an indicator of how you could communicate and better understand your team. Certainly it is worthwhile to find out about your own personal style and how you can adapt it to reach and communicate better with others. This is a good first step.

Remember, people are much more complex than any indicated style and we need to respect their choices. However, it is a fascinating area and I definitely recommend doing some research and getting further training.

You may find helpful the instructive book by Robert Rohm “Positive Personality Profiles”