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Using DiSC in performance reviews

4 min read

Struggling with conducting a performance review or just improving the manager-employee relationship? Not sure how to begin a discussion about behaviors? Not sure how to say what you need to? Do you want to increase the probability that the discussion will be fruitful? The Everything DiSC® model can help.

Review your DiSC® profiles

Your style matters

Managers want to believe that they review people objectively and those reviewed want to be measured fairly. But the truth is that our emotions and personality will play a role in any relationship, so it’s important to know what our biases are. We tend to be biased toward traits we share with others, and personality traits are no different.

Knowing your own DiSC style as the reviewer will help you to prepare. For example, if you’re a D, you might want to reflect on how to avoid sounding confrontational or abrupt. If you’re an i, you might want to try to be more direct. Often, how information is presented is as important as what is presented.

In particular, you’ll want to review your Everything DiSC® Management profile for insights. It might suggest questions about your management style or skills that you want to ask about during the review. Reflecting on your own management style, how you tend to direct and delegate, and what stresses you out can help you prepare to be your best.

Their style matters

If you want a review to be motivational, then knowing the style of the person being reviewed is crucial. You won’t motivate an S by asking her to lead a change management committee. You won’t motivate a C by giving him generalized positive feedback.

page from sample Everything DiSC Workplace profile

You might not have access to your employee’s DiSC report, but knowing your employee’s style gives you a place to start. You can review their DiSC style to gain insights about what that person’s priorities might be, what motivates them, and what stresses them out. You might know if they are of a similar or different style to others they work with. This provides a bit of context for how you’ll conduct the review.

You might also ask your employee if they are comfortable with bringing in their profile so you can review it together. The Everything DiSC Workplace® profile gives suggestions for increasing one’s workplace effectiveness. (This section is found on page WP4 on the downloadable report on Catalyst™ and page 16 of the traditional Workplace profile.) Reviewing these together can be a comfortable place to begin your review. From a place of curiosity, ask about how well these strategies might work for them, or if there’s anything in their profile they’d like to share with you.

The Everything DiSC Management profile has tips for motivating people with different styles. It also has a very helpful section on developing the potential of direct reports of each style. Even if you’ve never taken the assessment, you might find reviewing a Management sample report to be beneficial.

Using the comparison reports

Everything DiSC Comparison Report sample page
Sample page from the paper Everything DiSC Comparison Report

Reviewing the comparison reports for you and your direct reports together can easily give you an hour’s worth of productive conversation. Most importantly, the reports can be used to open communication about how to better work with each other. You can respond to what a report says about your differences in temperament or pace, for example. If you don’t share the same traits, the report gives you a way to speak about them abstractly before you introduce concrete examples.

Screen shot from Everything DiSC on Catalyst: "Working together"
Comparison of colleagues on the Catalyst platform

Questions to discuss from a comparison might include the following:

  • How accurately does the feedback describe the differences in our differences on each scale?
  • How do our differences affect our relationship or our ability to work together effectively, and what could we both do to make improvements?
  • Are your differences being capitalized upon or are they causing problems?
  • Did you each list different accomplishments for the reviewed employee because of your differing values and expectations?
  • Do future goals, objectives, or projects listed on the review form reflect a desire to stay within a comfort zone related to the subject’s personality, to their skills and training, or to organizational needs?
  • Are you wanting to give a better appraisal than merited because of the “just like me” or “mini-me” factor?

Even if you don’t choose to look at your profiles together, you can receive helpful tips for conducting the employee’s review. For example, the report might tell you to avoid dominating discussions and encourage the candid sharing of opinions. Or provide more information about how a newly assigned project will work and what you will see as a successful outcome.

Reviewing a team

Employees typically do not work in isolation. Their teams and individual teammates can influence their behavior and productivity.

If you have the challenge of reviewing a team that is in conflict, then consulting the comparison reports of the individuals involved before the formal review will make you better prepared. You will be able to use their differences in preferred behaviors and motivations as filters through which to view the conflict. This can lower the heat on difficult discussions.

Even if a team is working together well, the comparison reports or group culture report can reveal the people who might not be as comfortable or as productive as they could be. It can be stressful for someone whose DiSC profile differs considerably from that of most of the group. The group culture report is designed to be used with the entire group, but can also be a useful tool to use with someone whose potential in the group might not be fully realized.

A newer tool that incorporates DiSC with Patrick Lencioni’s writing about teams is The Five Behaviors Team Development. It focuses on the issues of trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results. If you have a few hours to devote to team development, then this product can have a huge impact.

Everything DiSC can deliver insights that make communication easier and richer. Giving feedback can be a particularly challenging form of communication, so why not begin with some tips, reminders, and reflection?


Kristeen Bullwinkle

Steeped in Everything DiSC since 2010. Strongly inclined CD style. Leadership style and EQ mindset: resolute. Believes strongly in the serial comma.

Certifications from Wiley:
Everything DiSC, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

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