We all have different priorities and preferences and they can make life difficult. For example, Diane and I are friends but seldom hang out. Why? She loves an evening with lots of friends at a bar. I love an evening hanging out on my deck with one or two friends. She enjoys going to concerts. I prefer playing board games. She might suggest that we get together this weekend and then text me on Friday morning with an idea or two. I’m more likely to send her an email with a selection of dates, times, and events we can choose from.
These differences show up in our workplaces, too. Some of these preferences are cultural or influenced by family history and some are influenced by our DiSC® styles. Just as Diane and I need to make compromises to get to the end result of spending time together, colleagues need to know and respond to each other’s differences in order to get the results we want at work.
So let’s look at activities we can do with groups to help them apply their knowledge of DiSC preferences in a common workplace communication task. We don’t tend to get much practice at consciously trying to meet the needs and expectations of others, but in these activities we will. They can be adapted for communication via Microsoft Teams, Slack, or other tool.
Writing and responding to emails based on DiSC styles
We all understand how easily email communication can become missed or mistaken communication. Poorly written emails can leave a bad first impression, cause confusion, create delays, and waste time. We weren’t taught how to write emails in school so we tend to write the kind of messages we want to receive. Or we try to hurry through our replies so we can get to the next one and empty our mailbox.
This activity can be done with a group, and questions can be eliminated for time constraints.
- Sort participants into groups by DiSC style and briefly discuss what you think makes a good email. Ask: What kind of message do you prefer to receive? What do you consider when writing an email? (If you’re not going to do steps 2–4, ask each group to share their top email considerations.)
- Ask each group to write a simple group-wide email requesting that colleagues join a committee to plan your organization’s anniversary celebration for all employees. Each group decides how to write it together and can make up whatever details they feel they need. They will need to read it aloud (or share the screen on which they wrote it) in the next step. Be sure everyone includes a subject line. (Allow only 10 minutes for this process. It’s possible that some groups won’t finish, but they should have at least a subject line they can share.)
- Each group shares their email while people in other groups take notes on how they would respond if they received these messages. Consider emotional response more than the actual words they’d type in reply.
- Ask everyone what they noticed about the different styles. Ask for volunteers to share their reactions to the emails. Ask what in the email most encouraged or discouraged them to volunteer.
- On a shared whiteboard, ask learners to list tips they have for writing for a D-style recipient, an i-style, an S-style, and a C-style.
- Now ask each person to write a new email with the same purpose but to an individual with a DiSC style across the circle from their own style (D and S styles, i and C styles).
- Ask for volunteers to share their email and ask someone with the targeted DiSC style if they would prefer that one to the one originally shared. To which would they be more likely to respond by volunteering?
- If there’s still time, ask everyone to consider how their communication would differ if the request was made in person, over video, during a phone call, or through a messaging app.
D styles prioritize results, so they will want brief messages with a subject line that gets to the point. They prefer a clear summary of what they need to know and a clear request for any action needed on their part. They want to know what’s in it for them if they join the committee. If a D style is sending the email, it might seem terse and lack a greeting or closing.
i styles will want to receive a message with energetic language. They will want to know who else might be on the committee and whether the planning meetings will be fun. If an i style is writing the email, the subject line might include an exclamation point. In fact, there might be several exclamation points and an emoticon or two in the body of the message. The i-style group might have a hard time ending the message because there’s always one more thing they thought of and want to share.
S styles will prefer to receive a message that makes them feel needed and that suggests the committee and party will work better if more people are involved. They can be persuaded into joining by emphasizing that they’ll be making a difference. The S-style writer will carefully craft the email and tend toward more length. They are more likely to use a traditional letter format with a friendly greeting and closing. Their language will be courteous and respectful.
C styles will want a straightforward email with the purpose of the committee, meeting dates and times, and length of commitment. For example, can they volunteer for just one task instead of a series of meetings—or do they have to participate at all? They can be persuaded by calling upon a need for their expertise. The C-style author will write emails that are more likely to include fact-filled bullet points or lengthy paragraphs. Before sending, the C-style writer will likely reread their message, add another detail, and spell-check it again.
Every style appreciates an informative subject line and clear writing without grammar or spelling errors.