The 4-Dimensional Manager

Bookends Book Club: Podcast Episode #5

Successful managers must often will work like a coach.

They will assess each person’s strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies to get the job done. The 4-Dimensional Manager shows how managers can become more effective by using the DiSC.

In the book’s first part, readers assess their own DiSC style, the style of the people they manage, and the style of their organization. The second part shows how to choose the most effective style (or combination of styles) for any situation, focusing on seven key areas: delegating, decision making, problem-solving, motivating, complimenting, giving constructive feedback, and developing skills.

Susan’s interview with author Julie Straw takes the listener through the key points in the book, providing great background on the DiSC Model of Behavior and how to apply it in management relationships.

Bookends Book Club

Bookends Book Club

An author interview podcast series

Bookends Book Club is a podcast for business leaders to learn more from the authors of key books in the area of leadership, talent development, teamwork, and other issues related to the workplace. Our author interviews take you on an extensive walkthrough of each featured book in just one hour.
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Podcast Transcript

Use the table of contents below to navigate to parts of this interview that interest you or to revisit parts of the interview you really liked. Use the “follow along” time stamps to listen to that particular part of the podcast above.

01

The 4-Dimensional Manager and Eli's Story

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Susan: I’m delighted to welcome Julie Straw as our guest today on Bookends Book Club. We are exploring the 4-Dimensional Manager, which is a DISC-based book. However, it is written for a very different application which is management. This book will help us discover how to develop the most effective strategies for other people we find on our teams. Julie’s book is full of coaching tips and ideas that will increase our effectiveness for the different people we see on our teams.

Welcome to Bookends, Julie Straw. 

Julie: Thank you, Susan.

I wanted to tell you how thrilled I am with this book because it is a practical field guide for managers. Managers may have been introduced to discuss some of the book’s points, but they need some support in implementing it in the workplace. Even if a manager doesn’t have any prior DiSC knowledge, they would pick this book up and find value from it.     

I know some of the folks that are listening to our conversation have not had a chance to read your book yet, and I thought it would be good to give them some context. You begin the book with Eli’s story, and I wondered if you would provide us with this story’s whole context. Would you tell us about Eli?

Julie: The story of Eli is one that I think all of us as managers can relate to. It’s a story of managing someone with good intentions, but, as a manager, they don’t know how to help anyone to work more productively.

Eli is the Manager of a reservation center, and they are swamped. More so than usual. Everybody was working overtime, taking fewer breaks, but morale was staying pretty high. When they got to the end of this hectic time, they stopped to ask, “What made this work?” Everyone was working extra hours and pushing themselves. He identified two people in his department that put forth extra effort.

Lauren was one individual who helped when she brought in lunch one day. She surprised everybody. She decorated the conference room with balloons and made the lunch feel like a party.

Juanita was another contributor. She volunteered to make a unique schedule so that everybody had their fair share of breaks during this hectic time. 

After this hectic time, Eli, the Manager, wanted to celebrate the group’s efforts. He specifically acknowledged both Lauren and Juanita’s efforts. He publicly announced to everyone that Lauren and Juanita did a fabulous job. He said, “without them, we would never have been able to handle the extra work this last month. Let’s have a round of applause for Lauren and Juanita.” 

Lauren responded very favorably. She pumped her fist in the air, and she loved the attention. Juanita smiled and said thank you and then left the room just a few minutes later. 

The next month, the workload returned to normal. Eli noticed that Lauren, the one who loved the public recognition, had a call level at an all-time high. However, Juanita’s call level dropped significantly.

Eli reflected on what caused one person to respond very favorably and the other person to withdraw. He realized that he complimented them both in the same way, and both didn’t respond in the same way. So it worked with one person, but not with the other. And that kind of sets the stage for our concept of managing people differently based on their behavioral style.

02

The Four DISC Styles

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Susan: Excellent. It was a great story to open the book. You also do an excellent job at the beginning of the book of outlining the four different DiSC styles included in the workplace and on any team. 

You tell the story of Anne and her team. She manages four individuals. You provide a nice picture of her team, which I think can help anyone understand this concept better who doesn’t have a DiSC background. Would you tell us about those four individuals to help us understand the four DiSC styles?

Julie: Anne has four people that she is currently managing. They are all unique individuals. 

Andy is in order processing, and he tends to go over every item to make sure that it’s right. He is meticulous. Because of his carefulness, his work sometimes stacks up behind him.          

The second employee is Kathy. Kathy is a marketing director. She loves to launch new campaigns, but her initiative frequently fizzles out. She gets antsy when it comes time to look at the details and follow an implementation plan. 

Marie is the third employee on the team. Anne, the Manager, reports that she walks past Marie’s office every time someone is pouring out their troubles. Marie’s office is practically a counseling center. Anne was waiting for the third quarter’s numbers for over a week because Marie frequently has somebody in her office. 

The fourth employee is Burt. He’s responsible for running the production line. Burt just began that job, and he has been making lots of significant changes. Anne reports that some of his innovations are great. But quality is down because he just doesn’t take the time to think things through all the way.

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03

William Moulton Martson - The creator of DISC

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Susan: I’ve never known anyone that exhibited any of those characteristics! I’m so surprised. 

[Laughter]

On page 19 of your book, you share two questions that reflect how the four DiSC styles subconsciously see any situation they find themselves in. As I read these two questions, I immediately recognized them as the basis of William Moulton Martson‘s model, which is the model that created DiSC. These two questions are:

  1. Do I find the situation that I’m in as favorable or unfavorable? 
  2. Do I feel that I have power or control in this situation? 

You talked a little bit about Marston in your book. I wondered if you could share a bit about him with us and how we go from his research to where we are with DiSC today and the various tools and models. What did Marston have to do with that? How did it all happen?

Julie: It goes way back to 1928. 

Marston published a book called The Emotions of Normal People. Nobody could publish a book with a title like that today. He wasn’t talking about the mentally ill, which there was much research being done on the mentally ill. He focused on mentally healthy people. Specifically, he identified how people responded to the demands of their environment. 

In his model, he described the two things that you mentioned. He talked about how people perceived power, and I want you to try not to judge the word “power.” Remember, this is Marston’s body of work, and we’ve adapted our language over time. He identified power in terms of whether people felt they had control over their surroundings or if they didn’t. People who have control, or feel like they have control over their surroundings, tend to be more assertive and proactive. And that creates our ‘D’ and ‘i’ styles. 

On the other hand, the S and the C style. They perceive that they have less power over the environment. They feel like they have little direct control over the environment, and they may be more adaptive and reactive. Those are the keywords about the S and C styles in terms of power. 

The other dimension that you’re describing, Susan, is the horizontal dimension in the model. It shows their perceived favorability of the environment. 

The D and C styles are on the left side of the model. They tend to see the environment as unfavorable, meaning they resist change and they are skeptical. They question things.

On the other side of the model, the i and the S styles tend to see the environment as favorable. They are accepting of changes; they are more welcoming of change. Overall, they are more friendly. 

Everything DiSC assessment - pace

That gives us the premise of the model. Over the years, we have certainly done a lot of research to better understand the model and build on it. We recognize that the terminology that Martson used in 1928 is difficult, but we can make sense of it. 

His terms are powerful and less powerful. However, you have to think of those terms in today’s terminology, meaning we have more control or less control over the environment. And then how welcoming on how receptive are we to those changes? His model was really about perceived power and perceived favorability.

Susan Stamm: Are you able to tell us more about Marston’s other areas of interest? Perhaps you can give us a little more about him and some of the other accomplishments in his life?

Julie Straw: He was very accomplished. He was a university professor for a number of years. Unrelated to DiSC, there were many comic books during his time. He must have looked at all the comic books, and the characters portrayed and realized that they were all men. And he was a leader in terms of kind of quality for women’s rights. He decided that young girls needed a role model in terms of comic book characters. And he created Wonder Woman.

Susan Stamm: Quite an interesting man, that’s for certain.

Julie Straw: We appreciate his work. Although he did publish the book [on DiSC], he never created an Assessment. His model is robust, of which much work is derived.

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04

How to manage the four DiSC Styles

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Susan: That’s for certain.

In the sixth chapter of your book, I thought, “Wow, this really could be kind of a 101 course in how to manage the four styles.” I found that it was full of great foundational information that anyone could build upon. Could you walk us through this a little bit and provide a couple of tips for each of the styles.

Julie: When we talk about four-dimensional managing, we’re talking about a manager who not only uses the styles that come to them naturally. They understand and recognize when they can use a different style of managing based on DiSC.

Managing a D-Style Employee

For example, if you manage an employee who is a strongly inclined D-style, they tend to do their best work when they are allowed to do things their way. As a manager, you need to be direct, confident and express your expectations clearly. You don’t want to tell them exactly how to do something. You want to be very clear on what you’re asking them to do, not how you want them to do it. Then, you turn it over to them so that they can run with it. 

Keeping to the facts is essential. Giving them some written directions that you can refer to is also necessary. However, keep it very short and sweet, very bulleted point. When you’re coaching a D-Style employee, it’s imperative that you do that privately. They will not respond favorably if you publicly humiliate or redirect them, even if your intentions are good. You want to focus on the specifics with them. 

Managing a i-Style Employee

i-Style employees are very enthusiastic. They are people-oriented, fast-paced, agreeable. You want to channel all of that enthusiasm and that optimism. They are wonderful in brainstorming sessions, and they tend to be very flexible. They will come up with lots of ideas. They’re highly motivated by social recognition. So, going back to our opening sequence, Lauren was probably a high i-Style and responded very favorably to the public recognition that Eli gave her.           

When communicating with the high i-Style, boy, they love to talk, so you better listen. Taking them to lunch is a great way to connect with them both personally and professionally. Checking in with them frequently is essential. I have a high i-Style employee, and we have what we call the ‘end of the day huddle.’ It simply means that when I leave for the day, I make sure I stop by her office and check in with her. I ask, “how did your day go? Any challenges? Thanks for all that you do for this or that.” Really, I’m just checking in. 

"When we talk about four-dimensional managing, we're talking about a manager who not only uses the styles that come to them naturally."

Julie Straw

With the high i-Style, you have to watch the time. They can go on and on, and they’re not going to be watching the time! 

Managing a S-Style Employee

For S-style employees, I would describe them as relaxed and friendly. They are cooperative, patient and they want to help you. They don’t want to lead. They want you to lead them. You need to be clear about your expectations, and you should not throw them surprises or sudden changes. They will feel bombarded with that. Relationships are essential to these people. Give them as much one on one time as you can. Talk to them, ask for input, keep the lines of communication open. 

When managing S-Style employees, you need to pay attention not just to what they say but the tone of the voice of their body language. Because if you ask them how they are, they might say, “I’m fine,” and that doesn’t mean fine at all. You need to pay attention to the tone of voice. Ask them what’s going on. Tell them to talk to you. 

Managing a C-Style Employee

C-Style employees analyze every decision and every direction. They don’t want to just get it done. They want to get it done right, and they will spend the extra time to do it over and over again. When you’re managing C-Style employees, you want to give them as much background information and as much detail as possible. But then you also want to make sure that you provide them with a schedule because they were more time than you ever imagined they would unless you give them some structure upfront. Unlike an i-Style or an S-style employee, C-Styles don’t want to have lunch with you. They would rather you get right down to business. They expect you to be precise. No chitchat. When you have to redirect or provide feedback for them, you want to focus on the issues. You want to keep it very factual, not personal at all. They don’t relate to that personal side of it.            

So that’s how you can kind of move from a one-dimensional manager to a four-dimensional manager and adapt your style.

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05

Adapting your style: Deception or Courtesy?

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Susan: Julie, those are great strategies.

One of the things that you know often comes up when you begin talking about being a four-dimensional manager is the idea that we as individuals need to be very flexible to meet the needs of these various people we find on our teams. Sometimes people feel like maybe they are losing some of their integrity.

Have you ever encountered people who feel like, you know, when they’re adapting that there’s something about them that makes you feel like they aren’t honest? And how do you respond to that concern with people raise that kind of issue?

 

Julie Straw: Yeah, I think that it has to start by recognizing that your management style hasn’t always worked with everyone. Think about an encounter that you had with an employee or someone you were giving direction where things weren’t going well, and try to put yourself back in that situation. Think of how you provided directions. If you used a different style, how would that have possibly improved that interaction? 

"Adapting doesn't mean that you're wishy-washy. It means that you're choosing the most appropriate and effective way to address an employee in a particular situation."

Julie Straw

Adapting doesn’t mean that you’re wishy-washy. It means that you’re choosing the most appropriate, effective way to address an employee in a particular situation. Adapting doesn’t mean that you bend over backward for your team. It means that you understand and respect each individual on your team. They all have unique talents. They have particular limitations. They have roadblocks. They all have ways in which you can relate to them more effectively. And it’s really about responding to the needs of each employee individually. It doesn’t mean changing who you are, and it doesn’t mean asking them to change who they are. You’re changing your management style so that you are more aligned with the individual when you’re providing direction, delegation, feedback, or even a compliment.

Susan Stamm: In some respects, it might be the ultimate act of courtesy as a manager. You are trying to be accommodating and so concerned about the other person. You’re looking out for them in this way and trying to make them comfortable.

Julie Straw: I think that the ‘easy way’ to manage is ‘my way.’ However, it’s not always effective. You will be effective about 25% of the time. Suppose you want to be a more effective manager. In that case, you need to hit the pause button and think about how you should interact with individuals based on their preferred style. It’s meeting them where they are. That’s what a good manager does.

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06

How to delegate different DiSC Styles

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Susan: In the next section of your book, you look at very specific management skills and how to use these management skills depending on your style and your employees’ style. You provide some excellent tips and coaching for how to use this particular skill with team members exhibiting each of the four styles.

This part of the book is just so powerful because it’s practical. I know we’re not going to walk through all of them, and I’m wondering if we could take a look at the chapter on delegating. And if you could walk us through a bit of how you have organized that information and help a manager be a four-dimensional manager when it comes to this particular skill.

Julie Straw: You know, delegating is one of the most important and most challenging jobs of a manager. 

For new managers, the greatest struggle is to delegate. There is always the assumption that “I could do this better myself.” But you’re not going to get a lot of work done if you don’t want to delegate. Delegating is getting the job done through others. And while you’re getting style might work fine for some people, it’s not going to work for other people. We have identified ways to delegate to a D-style, i-style, S-style, and C-style.

Delegating to D-Style Employees

Let’s start with D-style employees. 

Remember that the D-style employee are fast pace and perceive themselves to be more powerful than the environment. They are assertive and proactive.

When you’re delegating to a D-style employee, first and foremost, you want to be very clear about the desired results. I’m going to say that again; focus on the results with them. Don’t give them details or steps on how to achieve the results. Be very clear about the desired results and then provide them with a deadline and then kind of get out of the way. 

Let them use their decision-making process. Let them work as autonomously as possible. Let them figure out how to get the work done and let them work independently. The only way you can accomplish that is if you’re very clear about the desired result. You can give them a deadline. You can also provide them a limit their authority so that they’re not barging through the organization and demanding things of other people that they don’t have any right to. So if you do those three things, then I think you really will find a lot of productivity from a high D-Style employee.

Delegating to i-Style Employees

When delegating to an i-Style employee, it’s important to remember that they are people-oriented. They have that energetic, fast-paced style, but they are more people-focused. With an i-Style employee, you want to ensure that this person understands the results you expect and be firm about the timing. You might want to set dates for check-points so that you’re touching base with them so that they don’t get off track at any point. Their biggest challenge is self-discipline. I-Style individuals can easily get carried away with new ideas, and they will lose sight of the original assignment. So while you want to allow them some creativity, you also need to recognize that they’re going to involve others because of their high social needs.

Additionally, you want to make sure that they’re staying on track. It’s essential to make sure that the expectations are understood. Ensure they have a plan and accept that they will probably involve other people in their work. 

Delegating to S-Style Employees

When delegating to an S-Style employee, remember that they are people-oriented. They will work at a more moderate pace. They are calm and careful. S-style employees perceive the environment as unfavorable, meaning that they are more resistant and skeptical. With an S-style employee, you want to provide a step-by-step explanation of what’s required. 

With an S-style employee, you probably want to give them the steps and want to be available for follow-up and answer questions for them. You can help them get cooperation from others and present yourself as being very cooperative in the spirit of accomplishing the goal. S-style employees do expect and want you to spell it out for them. Tell me exactly what you want me to do. Tell me how you want to do it. We can have a dialogue about other possibilities. Still, they want that guidance and that structure from you as a manager.

Susan Stamm: Absolutely.

Delegating to C-Style Employees

Julie Straw: Lastly, when delegating to a high C-style employee, remember that they are more calm and careful. They are logic focused. They will probably question about small details. When you’re delegating to someone who has a C-style, you want to make sure that you’re providing a logical, accurate, precise description of exactly what you expect. Make sure that you include standards of quality in your project. Give them an overview of why this assignment is important and how it fits within the organization’s big picture. That way, they have a better understanding of the importance when completing the task on time. 

Make sure that you give them a timeline or specific deadline. Be firm with them about that, and then get out of the way. You want to be clear with them both in speaking and on paper. Monitor their work because you might have to tell them when it’s time to stop. They may continue checking and rechecking and analyzing their work and doing additional analysis to ensure that the work is accurate. And you might end up having to point out that sometimes the biggest mistake that they can make is that they’re not completing the project. Tell them that too much time is being spent on this task, and we’re losing. You know, whether it’s getting a product marketed or getting a budget done on time. Let them know that they’re taking time away from others. They do great work there, very diligent, and in terms of delegating, you respect those qualities, but they have to get things done on time.

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07

How each DiSC Style solves problems

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Susan: Now, Julie, it’s clear how instructive your book is. It’s a field guide for how you take the DiSC model and apply it to these very, very specific skills. It would be so helpful for any manager to have it in their toolkit.

In your chapter on problem-solving, you take a look at some of the kinds of problem-solving behavior a manager might find on their team. The chapter explores things like:

  • ignoring essential details 
  • not taking time to study the problem 
  • solving a problem over and over again
  • Never being satisfied with the results 
  • avoiding problems whenever possible
  • trying to solve everything without checking with the Manager first to find out if it’s a problem that that is even on their plate. 

Could you help us look at how we might support these different approaches to problem-solving and how we can manage them towards the kind of results we’d be looking to get from each individual member?

Julie Straw: Yeah!

This chapter always brings me a smile because, in this chapter, we illustrate the four techniques with stories to be more relatable. 

The D-Style and Problem-Solving

We will start with the D-Style. The D-Style is all about finding a quick solution to whatever problems that you’ve identified or that they have identified. When you are managing a D-style and working with them in terms of problem-solving, first and foremost, begin by expressing your confidence in their ability. They don’t look at you to solve the problem, but you might have to identify the problem and help them understand the problem. Then really encourage them to look at it from all angles and figure out a solution. 

It’s important to give them the structure that they need. Then, you should just get out of the way so that you receive a solution from a D-style person. Empower them to come up with the solution themselves.

The i-Style and Problem-Solving

Problem-solving with an i-Style. First of all, i-Style employees are so optimistic that they might not see a problem. It’s your job, as a manager to point out that there is a problem. Honestly, they might be surprised. They instinctively don’t want to look for problems. 

When a problem is pointed out to an i-Style employee, their initial reaction is going to be, “Oh my gosh, what do other people think? Do they think I wasn’t pulling my weight? Or did they think I did something wrong as a manager?” As a manager, make sure that you acknowledge their feelings and that you want to let them know that you value their insights. However, let them know that they need to follow through and analyze problems to look good. Let them know that people will appreciate all the extra work they did not just on the project but when solving the problems. 

The S-Style and Problem-Solving

With an S-Style employee, again, S-Styles listen very well. They don’t always express themselves in a very forthright manner. So it’s difficult for a high-S to take the lead when problem-solving. And as a manager, the best way to approach this is to tell them that you and the team need their help in solving this problem. You are directing them to solve the problem in the ‘spirit of the team’ and in the spirit of collaboration. And with that, you’re going to get them to step into that; their approach will probably be more step by step and methodical. You will need to coach them to take an innovative approach or think outside the box. You need to give them time to reflect. Don’t expect them to think on their feet. High S-Styles, when they’re presented with a problem, they will often go home and come back the next day and say, “you know, I really thought about this and here, are a couple of alternatives. Maybe we can share these with the rest of the team and see what they think.” You need to allow that to happen with high S-Style employees. However, it is important that you help them understand the urgency and solving the problem. 

The C-Style and Problem-Solving

High C-Style employees love problems because they like to analyze them and come up with a solution. One of the challenges with C-Style employees is that we have to figure out how to tell them not to be quite thorough. In some cases, you want to communicate to them that you value their analytical, systematic approach. But you also have to be aware that they will want to take the time to find the perfect solution. You might have to suggest alternative techniques or point out to them that we could develop a short-term problem and then continue to work on that long-term. What managers need to communicate is, “right now, we need a quick resolution to this. I need your quick thinking. I need your careful analysis, but we have a limited amount of time to do that.”

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08

How to Provide Feedback to each DiSC Style

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Susan: Excellent. In another chapter, you tackled the topic of feedback, and you know, feedback is so very critical. Often this is a skill that is not done real well by managers. Could you discuss this skill briefly from the perspective of the DiSC model of behavior?

Julie Straw: Yeah, it’s not a manager’s favorite thing. Still, when your employees do not meet your expectations, when we have a gap in terms of people’s performance, our job obligation is to give feedback constructively. So constructive feedback should be constructive. That’s why it’s called that. How you give the feedback to each person can differ. We’ll go through these style by style.

Providing Feedback to a D-Style Employee

When you’re giving feedback to a D-Style Employee, you need to be very direct. Don’t beat around the bush. Be direct, but be direct about the results and then the current performance level to help them see the gap. Don’t dig in and pick things apart at the tactical level. You can say, “You know, this is where we expected to be, and we are actually here. This is the impact on our revenue.” Ask them to work on a plan to close that performance gap. 

With D-Style employees, you’re really putting the responsibility on them for fixing it. You’re giving them the feedback that this isn’t working. Something’s not right, but you want them to fix it and give them the timeframe to fix it. 

When you have that interaction with them, be ready for action because they’re going to come in and fix it. If they’re going to fix it, they’re going to fix it fast. You need to show respect for their abilities, but you need to communicate to them in a very clear man of it. However, you also need to tell them if you don’t think their plan will work. You need to be very clear with them. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t hem and haw. Err on the side of being frank versus being their friends. They’ll appreciate the frankness way more than the friendship.  

Providing Feedback to a i-Style Employee

The i-Style, on the other hand, wants the friendship!

When you’re giving feedback to an i-Style, you need to soften your tone with them. Tell them how wonderful they are, but state performance problems. Stay focused on the actions that they can improve. Talk about the rewards of that improvement, including the chance to look good in the eyes of other people. Make sure you scheduled a time for follow-up. You don’t want to send them off as you would a D and expect them to come back independently. Give them some structure and then be available. 

When you’re giving feedback to a high i-Style employee, they’ll likely change the topic. You find yourself discussing something unrelated because they can take the conversation there. Stay focused and stay positive. They’re more likely to accept your feedback if you stay focused on the positive part of it.

Providing Feedback to a S-Style Employee

For your high S-Style employees, you must recognize both the areas for improvement and the areas of good performance. Tell them what you like about their performance and then where we, collectively, can improve. Let them know that you will help them. S-Style employees are the warm, reassuring style. For that reason, you’re going to need to work closely with them to develop that plan and learn about their need for reassurance. They will expect you to participate with them in their development. Consider yourself a team member when developing a performance plan and making corrections, and you’ll see great results. Make sure you continue to encourage them. Say things like, “I’m so glad to have you on my team. But there is one thing that I really like you to work on,” and then describe that one thing.

Providing Feedback to a C-Style Employee

For high C-Style employees, go into the feedback expecting defensiveness. 

Keep in mind that this individual probably spent way more hours on their work than you know. When you tell them about their performance gap, they are going to be defensive with you. Make sure that you’re giving them very factual information. Tell them the current results and the necessary improvements. However, also provide them with time to formulate an improvement plan. When you ask them to come back with you with a plan, they will come back with a very detailed plan. But you have to keep it based on facts. 

For C-Style employees, their biggest fear is that they’ll be wrong. If you say that they’re wrong, they will not want to fix the problem. However, if you imply that the data might be telling a different story, you will have an easier time asking them to look over the numbers again. Acknowledge that data is only one part of the story. Say ‘we have to look at the numbers again for a better analysis. Then, set deadlines for them to come back to you with the plan.

Those are some tips on giving employees feedback with the D-Style, i-Style, S-Style, and C-Style.

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09

Do organizations have a DiSC Style?

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Susan: Julie, we have one final question for you today. And that has to do with organizational culture, which you discussed towards the end of the book.

We often talk about culture, but we often miss the fact that culture does have this behavioral component. I wondered what this means for us, Julie, and how would we work with a culture that may not match our personal needs in terms of our behavioral style?

For example, I have a High D-style, and I work in a High S-Style culture. What should I do?

Julie Straw: That’s a really interesting question.

You want to assume, as a manager, that the managing relationship is between you and the employees. However, there is a third piece to it: the ‘behavioral’ culture of the organization. I use the term behavioral culture because I want to make sure that people don’t think I’m stretching this beyond behaviors.

Culture can mean many things. However, from a behavioral standpoint, many organizations have a culture. You can read your organization’s style by looking to see which DiSC behaviors are modeled. Ask yourself, “which behaviors are rewarded and which DiSC behaviors are criticized?” 

An organization’s culture is not just an average of all the employee’s styles. It will likely reflect the most common DiSC style of the upper management. In some cases, it’s the founder, president, or CEO that sets the tone. What happens is that the organization takes on those leader’s characteristics.

Working in D-Style Organizations

An organization that takes on the D-Style will make quick decisions. They love challenges, and they are direct and forceful. In a D-Style organization, what gets rewarded is independence, winning, and decisiveness. The organization probably criticizes foot-dragging or nitpicking. So if you are a D, you won’t notice that you at the same pace that the organization is. However, if you are an i-Style, S-Style, or C-Style, you might not feel like it’s a very safe place to contribute. Employees and managers need to identify the behavioral culture of their team or organization. 

Working in i-Style Organizations

An i-Style organization probably is a very social organization. They emphasize relationships. They believe that work can be fun. 

Southwest Airlines is probably a great example of an i-Style organization. They reward creativity, enthusiasm, passion. They’ll criticize dullness, insensitivity, and regulations that don’t allow the organization to be creative. 

Working in S-Style Organizations

S-Style organizations focus on stability and security. I think Johnson and Johnson is probably a good example of an S-Style organization. They focus on teamwork. It’s a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. They reward cooperation, helpfulness, loyalty. They criticize destructiveness, pushiness, or strong individualism. They emphasize the team.

If you are a D-Style or an i-Style, there might be too much team emphasis. You feel like you can’t stand out. You have to balance that within the organization. 

Working in C-Style Organizations

Lastly, the C-Style organization models high standards, careful analysis, and diplomacy. They reward accuracy, completeness, performance, and dependability, and they criticize mistakes. FedEx and UPS are good examples of high C-Style organizations. The nature of their work requires them to be on time and accurate. If you’re an employee with that style, you probably don’t recognize it, but other styles will. 

In all of these examples, managers will need to decide if the organization’s behaviors should be part of the employee’s discussion. For small discussions or decisions, it’s probably not worth it. However, if a major decision is being made, it’s important to recognize the organization’s behavioral culture.

Susan Stamm:  Julie, I really, truly wanted to thank you once again for being our guest today on bookends. We thank you and appreciate you for your time today. I am Susan Stamm, and I hope to see you all next month. Thank you for listening.

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