I remember in primary school learning about the three key learning styles — auditory (those who learn best by hearing something), visual (those who take in information by seeing it) and kinesthetic (those who need to touch or do something to be able to learn it). It was a game-changer for me.
Once I knew I was a mix of visual and kinesthetic and not at all auditory, I started to take down more notes when teachers talked so I could see the information visually and, where I could, tried to physically apply my learning. Also, it made me feel like I wasn’t dumb when I could barely remember a word from a lesson with no visuals. It truly changed the way I learnt things.
You can imagine my excitement then this week when, in a training session for work, I learnt there was a model with different styles for how people behaved in their workplace.
Called DISC, it was created in 1928 by psychologist William Moulton Marston. The model identifies four primary behaviour styles and can be used to describe the difference in how people approach problems, other people, pace and procedures. Once learnt, it’s been said to improve a workplace’s teamwork, communication and productivity.
So, how does it work? Well, the DISC framework can be determined by two critical dimensions:
- Whether a person is outgoing (and direct) or reserved (and indirect)
- Whether the person is more task-oriented or people-oriented
The four different styles are then determined based on where you land on those two questions:
Dominance (outgoing and task-focused)
These are the no-nonsense people, likely to be quite firm and direct in their communication. They are results-focused, like to be in control, are strong-willed and love a challenge.
Influence (Outgoing and People-Focused)
These people are the life of the party. They’re outgoing, enthusiastic, they are optimistic and can put a positive spin on anything. Sales people usually identify with this style.
Steadiness (Reserved and People-Focused)
The diplomats in the team. They are patient, even-tempered, and know how to position things in a way that people won’t be offended by. They like to be organized, valuing stability and routine, and are unlikely to deal well with a lot of rapid change.
Conscientiousness (Reserved and Task-Focused)
These people like things done right, the first time, and they can’t understand why no one else takes the time to do things perfectly. They’re big on analysing things, they like to work in an orderly fashion and are likely quite reserved.
I found myself identifying to the Dominance style, but also Influence. Which Jodi Paton, Director of People, Performance and Culture at The HOYTS Group, says is completely normal.
“Everyone sits on a spectrum across both of these areas, between being task versus people-oriented and outgoing versus reserved,” she says. “We all have the ability to demonstrate characteristics of other styles, but most people have at least one or two that they relate to the most. Each style blurs into the next and so your style will be more or less influenced by the style on either side.”
Once I learnt that that the Influence style can become easily overwhelmed and disorganised under pressure, I felt like I better understood and accepted myself. Paton adds that in addition to understanding your strengths and the challenges you might face, knowing your style can also help you to recognise which jobs you’re naturally suited to and, on the flip side, which roles may require more effort and concentration from you.
But while it’s extremely beneficial to know your own style, it’s also equally helpful to know your colleagues’ as it’ll help you to accept and adapt to them, as well as enable you to deal more effectively with them. You’ll be able to resolve and prevent conflict, gain endorsement, build effective teams and gain commitment and cooperation.
As the DISC model is completely observable, you can simply ask your colleagues if they’re more outgoing (and therefore, direct) or reserved (indirect), and if they’re more task-oriented or people-oriented.
“To be more effective in your interactions, consider what style you think they are compared to your style and how you might be able to adjust your style to communicate more effectively with them,” says Paton.
You can do a short, free test to find out your DISC Communication Style here.