Self-awareness and DiSC

Self-awareness and DiSC

HBR articleI wanted to say a few things about Harvard Business Review’s recent article, “Research: We’re Not Very Self-Aware, Especially at Work.”

I was struck by this sentence:

“It’s no secret that many of the most popular developmental assessments used for gaining self-knowledge, such as the MBTI, DiSC, The Birkman Method, and The Core Values Index, woefully lack evidence linking their results to actual learning or job performance.”

It reminded me of my DiSC certification training where we talked about misuses of DiSC. DiSC isn’t designed to judge your suitability for a particular job or measure your abilities. Personality assessments will not make you a better user of Excel. It’s not even designed to make you a better marketer, but I know marketers and salespeople who use their knowledge of DiSC to better communicate with their audience or customer.

A quick or superficial reading might make the reader assume that a tool like DiSC isn’t useful because it asks people to answer questions about themselves and many aren’t self-aware enough to do so. It seems to suggest that knowing your profile is not enough.

I agree. And I think most consultants using DiSC would agree. You can’t stop with knowing you’re an S, for example. This knowledge is only valuable in context. It’s fun to learn your DiSC style and read about how you tend to behave, but it’s no more useful than reading a quick Internet quiz unless you use that information to inform future choices, make changes, become a better communicator, or be more patient with the priorities of others.

DiSC priorities

DiSC priorities

I love that Everything DiSC talks about priorities more than styles. If you want to motivate me, you need to know my priorities. If you know I’m a C, you can assume that giving me a public award won’t do it. If I know you’re a D, I know that I need to quickly get to my point when asking you for something. Knowledge of the DiSC priorities helps me make more informed decisions when working with others.

I think everyone has enough self-awareness to be able to give an accurate portrayal of their priorities. One reason Everything DiSC stands above other assessments based on the general DISC model is that the publisher has made every effort to reduce issues of social desirability around each style. They ask respondents to answer a questionnaire that has been tested to be sure that one style doesn’t sound more positive than another. (That’s also why the Spanish version of Everything DiSC Workplace isn’t just a translation of the English version, for example. Each culture has its own take on what human behaviors are more acceptable than others.)

I certainly agree with the article’s author that we have blind spots.  A good coach, HR professional, or consultant will use DiSC as the starting point for conversations about how people differ and how to read, value, and work with those differences.

The author of this article states: “So my self-reported profile may suggest that I see myself as a persuasive speaker – but tell that to the audience who just fell asleep.” DiSC never claimed to give an accurate reporting on skills. A consultant could use the knowledge of someone’s DiSC style to motivate them towards learning better public speaking skills. “You’re a C and public speaking might be hard for you or you prefer to communicate in writing. Let’s look at public speaking as a challenge. Let’s look at how the i-style person in your audience will need more than a great chart to engage with. Let’s look at your talk and see how it meets the priorities of each style.”

The author also states “In fact, teams with less self-aware individuals made worse decisions, engaged in less coordination, and showed less conflict management.” Again, I agree. That’s why using tools that engage a person in looking at their behaviors and priorities can help. It teaches self-awareness. It gives team members a way of talking about their perceptions and perspectives.

Increasing-you-effectiveness“Teach self-development skills in addition to self-awareness.” Absolutely. Take a look at Everything DiSC Work of Leaders, Everything DiSC Agile EQ, or The Five Behaviors Personal Development. That’s what those products and good consultants do—they move beyond any labels and get into the meat of building skills. That’s why Everything DiSC profiles end with action items or strategies to increase your effectiveness.


by Kristeen Bullwinkle and the team



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