Guiding Your Team’s Soft-skills Development with DISC

A Case Study on a Behavioral Approach to Performance Reviews using the DISC Profile

The task of performance reviews can be quite daunting. Managers often meet the challenge of sharing gaps in their team members’ performance, however relying on your team's DISC profile results can be a useful tool in this situation as it allows for constructively discussing sometimes difficult topics. In particular, soft skills are not quickly or easily adopted due to the nature of how they are developed. Sometimes described as enduring human attributes, soft skills such as empathy, curiosity, imagination, resilience, teaming, and adaptive thinking, among others, are innate and developed through involvement and exposure in one's experience. An individual's DISC profile provides a straightforward assessment of natural soft skills and gaps that require a determined effort to develop. While not absolute, a DISC personality profile gives a better sense of those experiences and approaches someone has aligned themselves to. Pointing out the gaps or the blind spots from a disc assessment can provide a start to a more productive performance review.

Here is a workplace example of what this might look like in practice for a manager seeking to mentor their team members and the individual who needs to adapt their behavior based on this review.

The situation:

The organization is in danger of stagnating based on the set manner they meet their customer needs. The work required by Tina's team involves working across multiple teams in a more agile manner to quickly change direction in order to serve the needs of the customer better. Tina's team consists of four direct reports, one from each of the four major DISC model dimensions (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness).

The solution:

Tina's approach to soft skills development within her team relies heavily on overviewing their behavioral style strengths initially and then offering an action plan to improve upon any gaps or DISC style limitations.

Approach to the high "D" personality (Dana)

Evaluation: Tina emphasizes Dana is excellent at critical thinking, sense-making, and resilience, but is less empathetic. Her communication is sharp and brusque, which has caused issues in working across the organization.

Action: Tina discusses with Dana the importance of empathizing with other employees and being more sociable in her conversations. She also describes how it will affect Dana getting the results she wants and the effect on the new agile approach.

Result: Linking results to simple changes in how she operates was key to Dana altering her behavior. She learned to recognize how negatively some people perceived her interactions, which was not her intention. She could only change this by consciously putting in new ways of writing emails, adjusting non-verbal communication, and making small-talk a habit before getting down to business.

Approach to the high "I" personality (Ivan)

Evaluation: Tina is well aware Ivan has an abundance of curiosity, listening, imagination, and creativity. But he is less reliant on critical thinking and accuracy. Ivan's continuously active imagination and brainstorming are strengths that become a limitation as he has difficulty settling on a single course of action.

Action: Tina worked with Ivan to understand how his behavior influenced other team members and adjacent departments. People respect and appreciate his imagination and creativity, and willingness to adapt to new ideas. The problem is the constant shifting between approaches, which has been problematic to the team and organization.

Result: The changes Ivan made were implementing his ideas with the team and getting to a joint outcome by a specific time. He created a mantra for himself he uses when he is still ideating, "On time and in scope, is better than a missed deadline and the potential for a marginally better result."

Approach to the high "S" personality (Sarah)

Evaluation: Tina understands Sarah has strong emotional intelligence and treats others with respect and empathy. Her penchant for friendliness and stability makes it hard for her to handle and direct change.

Action: Tina carefully describes to Sarah the stability of the team, and the organization overall, requires change by everyone in the firm. Tina lets Sarah know she is counting on her to be a standard-bearer for change within the team.

Result: Sarah's loyalty to her leader, the team, and the organization fueled Sarah to make changes in how she worked. Sarah, very careful, was quick to communicate with Tina about the changes she envisioned. Tina understood every small change was a win for Sarah, so she responded with speedy replies.

Approach to the high "C" personality (Chris)

Evaluation: Tina values Chris's need for accuracy and precision, but these same attributes cause Chris to sticks to her guns when people do not follow the rules as she understands them. Chris's rules sometimes seem arbitrary and unyielding, and she could team better by listening more to other's points of view.

Action: Tina lets Chris know the team is moving quickly and changing its approach, so it’s ok to act even if there is no perfect answer. To move forward as fast as possible, sharing her first guesses with the team is encouraged.

Result: Chris was doubtful at first. She sent out ideas for the new agile team she thought premature and ridiculous. Chris was a bit surprised when the team gravitated towards them and moved forward with her guidance. While she believes it might have been a fluke, she is looking forward to spending less time to get things going, as long as there is a quality result at the end.

Overall result

Tina was able to target her communication and focus on the soft skills and hard skills the team's unique personality styles bring to the table; those they need to enhance and practice, and those they need to adjust.

We all use soft skills. For some folks, they come more naturally than others. As individuals, the goal is not to add soft skills as a to-do-item, but to be more conscious of how you are, or are not, using them to produce outcomes with the people you work with. Start by noticing if you are connecting with people, listening to others' points of view, allowing thinking that is new and challenges current norms, and caring about what others are feeling. Take a disc personality test to discover any blind spots or gaps you might not be aware of in yourself.

Finally, continue to reference your DISC profile for what it tells you about how you can make the most of the way you benefit the teams and organizations you are a part of.

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Posted By: William (Bill) Latshaw

William (Bill) Latshaw is an Executive Coach, leadership and succession researcher, and organization development professional. His experience comes from over 20 years in consulting and research roles within Deloitte Consulting LLP, the Boston Consulting Group, Arthur D. Little, and Innovation Associates, Inc. Personality Style: SIC