Using DISC in Employee Reviews
December and January are usually the time when many companies complete their annual performance reviews. These are used for promotion of staff, bonus amounts, and planning for the coming year. It’s also part of leadership development plans for building management strength.
While there is debate about only providing feedback once a year, we are going to look at the challenges of having performance conversations. Managers aren’t usually trained on coaching and on how to have these conversations with their direct reports, and this is where the process can do more harm than good. Let’s take a look at performance coaching tips for different DISC personality styles.
First and foremost, the manager providing leadership development coaching should be aware of their own personality style, including their strengths, preferences, and shortcomings. This is one half of each performance feedback conversation. It’s the interaction, not necessarily the content, of the discussion that makes a difference.
The questions you, as a manager, should be looking to answer are those of the employee. The easy question is “What have I contributed to the team that has had a positive impact?” The question managers struggle with most is “What do I need to do in order to be more impactful?” Framing the feedback from the perspective of the employee, and not what the company or manager wants, starts off in a more engaging way. From there, the conversation is influenced by personality styles and attitudes.
Performance Feedback to Dominant Personalities
For the D style, realize they can be strong personalities who are driven by quick action. It’s a good bet they may walk into the meeting with a defensive mindset, as they can be argumentative at times. The key for a successful feedback session is knowing they are always looking for opportunities to advance. First, start by asking them what they need from you in order to be more successful. Then, after listening to them, ask if you can share a couple of things you think will help them advance their career. Asking before telling helps them feel they are in charge of the performance review (they dislike outside rules) and you can give them your insights with little to no defensive behavior.
Performance Feedback to Influential Personalities
For the I personality style, their greatest fear is rejection, so they will approach the performance review with dread. No matter how much good you say about them, any “constructive” feedback will be seen as a big rejection sandwich. Start off by gushing about their achievements, contributions, and energy. Be genuine. After you ask what they need to be successful (and listen to their answers), ask if they want to change anything about how they perform. They will answer. Listen, affirm, and ask how you can help with that change. Done. Unless there is a severe performance issue (which shouldn’t have waited until the annual review), simply shake their hand, thank them for their hard work, and go to lunch. No rejection sandwich served today!
Performance Feedback to Steady Personalities
When providing performance feedback for an S style, realize they may view performance reviews as a time to make changes. Sounds great, right? No, they fear change. Everything was going along just fine, thank you very much, and the S wants it to stay that way. Similar to the I, they avoid confrontation. The difference is the S style likes routines, so find a way to talk about the growth opportunities as if they were building new routines. If you get them focused on the safety of new “routines", they will look past the fear of change and stretch themselves.
Performance Feedback to Compliant Personalities
Finally, the C style fears criticism, and they see the performance review as that. They also love details. When you provide them with their contributions, be sure to have a good amount of detail. Realize they will come prepared with data to disprove any performance suggestion you have for them. So don’t have any. Once you ask about what they’d like to improve in their job performance, they will list more than enough growth opportunities. At that point, your job will be to help narrow their focus to one to two performance improvements.
Remember to frame each performance review conversation around the opportunity for advancement. From there, work with each personality style’s desires to create a positive performance review that will energize them for the coming year.