This post is from guest contributor Gwen Hill, who recently completed her DISC assessment. She reviewed her assessment results with a coach to maximize her experience & put her new knowledge to work for her.

Before I started this process, I had no idea what to expect or what the value of the DISC would be.

Overall, I sure wish that I’d known all this sooner, because I could have been benefiting from this information for years. I thought I’d help you through your assessment results, breaking down the value of what’s actually delivered in this report. And if you don’t have a report of your own yet, you can check out this sample.

What Is DISC, Anyway?

At its most basic, DISC is a personal (NOT personality!) behaviour assessment tool.

It’s non-judgemental – there are no ‘bad’ answers. It can be used to improve productivity, teamwork and communication if it’s done by a team, and while it assesses your own style, it also helps you to understand why you might have trouble communicating with certain people in your life.

So: having completed my DISC evaluation and reviewed it with Steve, there I sat: coffee in hand and cat on lap, sifting through the small novel of information before me. Here we go…


Section 1: The Introduction

This goes through the basics of the report. What I liked here is the expectation setting: This tool is not going to pigeonhole anyone. It measures behavioural style and tendencies and those things cannot be set out in black and white. I’ve always had a problem with results that say ‘this is who you are, 100% accurate and true, all the time’ – the DISC is more of a ‘this is what you tend towards, this is what you’re likely to do.’

It seems pleasantly realistic to me, right off the bat.


Section 2: General Characteristics

This is basically an overview of What Gwen is Like. It makes a lot of decisive statements that are unnervingly, unflaggingly accurate. This section of the DISC made me want to add an adult beverage to my coffee. Here are some examples:

Gwen believes in getting results through other people.

She prefers the “team approach.”

Gwen tends to break the rules and then attempts to sell you on the fact it was the proper thing to do.  Excuse me?

Oh, you’re soooo wrong, DISC. I don’t do that!

I mean…

I mean, if the rules are stupid…

OK, you win this round, DISC.


Section 3: Value to the Organization

A point-form list that, if I understand correctly, would enable an organization to get the most value-for-dollar out of me. For example, one of my ‘value’ points is:

Ability to change gears fast and often

So if you were to employ me, you’d be better off throwing me at a job that is undefined in terms of parameters and a lot of different tasks rather than, say, a job where I enter data all day and analyze it. Actually, I did that job once as a temp. I lasted six whole hours before I quit. Six hours! I was so proud of myself.


Section 4: Checklist for Communicating

The report provides a to-do list for communicating with me successfully. The whole thing is amazing. I wish everyone read this list and just talked to me this way, all the time.

Be isolated from interruptions.

Be open, honest and informal.

Provide a warm and friendly environment.

And more importantly, there’s a NOT-to-do list, which I found generally offensive:

Don’t “dream” with her or you’ll lose time.

Don’t be put off by her cockiness.

Wait, what? Cockiness?

Dammit, DISC. I thought you were on my side. But, unfortunately, still quite accurate. Except I’m totally not cocky. I’m not. Stop looking at me like that, don’t you know who I am?


Section 5: Communication Tips

This is my favourite part of the DISC. Basically, it gives a coloured box of each assessed ‘type’ (D, I, S or C) and how someone with my particular characteristics ought to approach each of those types.

I have used this in my work, at home, and in dealing with the strata in my townhouse complex. And I’ve only had it for a week.

For example: I’m naturally overly optimistic and enthusiastic about projects. That means I’m the kind of person who will say, “I’ll do that, of course! How about by tomorrow? Or half an hour from now?” It is only the lack of a time-machine that keeps me from committing to having already done something.

As it turns out, this ridiculous approach doesn’t work for everyone. The people with whom it particularly fails are the high “C” people. What does my DISC analysis suggest I do when talking to a C’er? Glad you asked:

Prepare your “case” in advance.
Stick to business.
Be accurate and realistic.

I tried this on someone with whom I have historically had a great deal of difficulty communicating. It was the best conversation we’ve ever had, and at the end, she (subconsciously, I assume) engaged in some conversational tactics that fall under the ‘How to Talk to Gwen’ list. She and I will never be the best of friends, but I have new hope that we can work together–and that’s important to me.

And frankly, it’s probably not a bad idea for me to tamp down a bit on my enthusiasm and develop realistic expectations. That would likely serve me better in a few areas, including my work.


Section 6: Ideal Environment

Fairly self-explanatory. I happen to be in my quite-nearly-ideal work environment already, but if I were job hunting I would use this section to answer the inevitable “And do you have any questions for us?” question that always comes at the end of an interview. Using the DISC for this purpose beats the heck out of saying “Er…do you validate parking?”.


Section 7: Perception

This section gives me an overview of how I see myself, how others see me under moderate stress, and how they see me under extreme stress. It’s interesting to me to see that under stress, I become almost … well, cocky is the only word for it, in the eyes of others. An odd response that I suspect is driven by job insecurity. Good to know. I’ll be watching you, stress response!


Section 8: Descriptors

The section we’ve all been waiting for – what on earth does DISC stand for, anyway?

D   Dominance (How you deal with problems)
 I    Influence (How you deal with people)
S   Steadiness (How you deal with the speed/pace of your environment)
C   Compliance (How you deal with rules & procedures)

And I am a high DI, which is to say, a Dominant Influencer, with more emphasis on the I. This is me:

The Newbie's Guide to a DISC Assessment

The colored portions are like a bar graph. Start in the middle, and the bar goes up or down to the descriptor that’s most accurate of my natural style. But the descriptor just beyond where the bar ends indicates a tendency for behavior under stress.

For example, let’s take the red category – Dominance:

I am naturally decisive, but under stress may become competitive.

Make sense? I love this section. I’m happy with everything I see here–this is who I want to be.

It does not, however, necessarily make me the easiest person to work with, so it’s also a great place to get a snapshot of what I can work on in terms of how I reach out, communicate, and interact.

Section 9: Natural and Adapted Style

This section goes through various scenarios that I might commonly encounter, and describes what my natural behaviour would be in that situation vs. my adapted reaction.

A significantly adapted behaviour may mean that my workplace might not be quite in tune with my needs, but it could also be non-work related entirely. Stress at home, health concerns, or just a bad night’s sleep will all create an adapted behaviour.

In dealing with people, for example, my natural behaviour is ‘enthusiastic and trusting’. (I’m turning out to be quite the Pollyanna, here.) My adapted behaviour is ‘sociable, optimistic and trusting’, meaning that I’m basically existing in my ideal natural environment.

The report goes on to identify what my current job requires in terms of my adaptations. I can’t possibly tell you how useful this would have been, six months into this job. I would have been so much better, so much sooner.

The Newbie's Guide to a DISC AssessmentSection 10: Keys to Motivating

This part was quite self-explanatory – this would be something I could hand out at the beginning of a job (or perhaps a few months in, so as not to be cocky–see? I’m learning!) to help my manager understand how best to motivate me.

Section 11: Keys to Managing

I had a hard time understanding the difference between this category and the previous one, but it would appear that–fine line though it may be–management and motivation are different things.

This section is more of the meat and potatoes of management; for example, it suggests that my manager provide me with deadlines and systems to follow, whereas the previous section gave broader strokes around flexibility and participative management.

Section 12: Areas for Improvement

“Gwen has a tendency to be a situational listener if not given an opportunity to tell her ideas.”

What? What? I’m sorry, were you lecturing at me? I spaced out.

Section 13: Action Plan

So you’ve read through everything, and you’ve gone through it with your coach or facilitator or whatever. What’s next?

Because if all you’ve got is a pile of understanding and paperwork, you haven’t got a plan and all this beautiful, useful information goes nowhere. So now you get to sit down, write out what you want and how you want to improve, and make a plan to go forward.

This little workbook-section is short, sweet, and left me feeling like I was putting my new learning towards a more communicative future for myself. Cheesy, maybe, but there you have it – I’m a fan of good outcomes.

Section 14: Behavioural Hierarchy

This entire section is about where you are compared to 68% of the population (who did this test). For everyone who’s ever said: “Yes, I know I did well, but how well did everyone else do?”–this is your section. In case you’re wondering, yes, I was that kid in school.

Section 15: Style Insights Graph

Related to Section 9, this compares your natural style to your adapted style in graphic form. Again, my natural style is quite similar to my adapted style:

The Newbie's Guide to a DISC Assessment

But if they were poles apart, I’d be taking a good hard look at finding a new job.

Section 16: The Success Insights Wheel

This is a snapshot of everything you’ve learned. I found the lists and four-squares-of-communication-styles more useful, but basically what this tells you is where you are on the larger spectrum of things, and where your adapted style lands.

Here’s a sample of the wheel – it’s not from my results. This person’s natural style and adapted style are matching exactly, which means there is little-to-no gap between their natural way of doing things and how they’re required to do things.

The Newbie's Guide to a DISC Assessment

I think this particular bit would be great if you had an office full of people who had completed DISC assessments, and you could have a great big printed version with everyone’s natural and adapted styles identified on the graphic. Like this, with the yellow triangles representing team members.

The Newbie's Guide to a DISC Assessment

There’s an in-depth explanation about the wheel and teams located here, if you’d like to know more.

What I Got Out of My DISC Assessment

A feeling I had when I began – and one that I understand others have voiced as well – is the moderately stubborn (okay, childish and unhelpful) feeling that ‘I shouldn’t have to change the way I am just so others can hear/work with/understand me’.

I expressed this to Steve, and he said that was fine, I didn’t have to. I could continue fighting my way upstream, getting frustrated, and frustrating others–maybe not to a debilitating degree, and maybe not to the point of ostracizing myself, but it wouldn’t be the most effective option.

I am not a woman who has ever voluntarily taken a less effective option, no matter how stubborn I get. So of course you don’t have to do this. The real question is: Why wouldn’t you?

An Unfair Advantage

Jim’s signature line in all of his his e-mails says: “Our overriding objective is to give our clients an unfair advantage in the game of life.” And yes, some part of this definitely feels like it makes things too easy–I shouldn’t be able to read a list, and then immediately go out and have a wonderful conversation with someone who’s style of communicating has always been, for me, nearly incomprehensible.

Does it feel like cheating? Absolutely. But, as I’ve always said, there is no prize for living life on the hard setting. If there’s a cheat out there that helps me to get my ideas across in a way that others can hear, well, show me where to sign.

The ‘Duh’ Factor

What amazes me is how much this report provides information that, once I’ve read it, should have been obvious to me. For example, I know that I can be impulsive. That’s why I have a rule: In times of great stress, no major life decisions for three weeks. I even  mentioned that in my post on getting laid off. Because under stress, I move from impulsive, which–let’s face it, is really only cute up to the age of ten–to impetuous. It’s a small distinction, but it’s the difference between buying a chocolate bar in the grocery lineup and quitting your job because you had a bad day.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s possible the DISC report isn’t giving me information that I didn’t have, but it’s providing it in clear, organized, and above all useful way, so that I can capitalize on my strengths and work on my weaknesses. All of these things ultimately combine to make me a better human. (We can rebuild her! We have the–etc., etc.)

That’s probably enough out of me. If you’ve done your DISC assessment, what did you think? If you haven’t taken it yet, do you think it has value?

SPECIAL OFFER UNTIL JULY 1: Gwen was so enthusiastic about these tools and the value she is getting from them that we are holding a special promotion in her honor. As an added incentive, we’re offering a special 10% discount on our DISC & Motivators Discovery Kit until July 1, 2014. Just input promo code: GWENThis is a fantastic opportunity if you’ve been looking for some insight on how to improve your career happiness. To snag this offer, go here.