DISC has been a tool in the learning and development space for over 20 years, and millions of people have taken a DISC assessment worldwide. That assessment is most effective when paired with DISC training so team members can understand what their assessment means...and how that understanding can help them communicate and collaborate.
It can be a little confusing, keeping straight what is assessment, what is training, and what is certification, especially because all three are often called just “DISC.” Here I try to untangle not only what DISC training by itself is, but how it is used to help all of us better understand each other and improve our interactions.
What is DISC training?
DISC training is simply a set of tools to help team members learn the language of DISC styles and use it in positive, productive ways. For example, understanding what the different DISC styles are can help team leaders lead a group, or help sales people understand what the best ways are to present information to prospects.
The term “DISC” refers to the DISC assessment, a personal assessment tool developed by the Everything DISC brand of John Wiley & Sons. The assessment and its accompanying tools are used by millions of people in organizations around the world to help facilitate teamwork and communication. DISC training is designed to familiarize people with the DISC assessment and the personality types (sometimes called “styles”) that it uncovers.
Most people already familiar with DISC have heard of the DISC styles, of which there are four: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). Each style has a different preferred way to communicate, a different reaction to change, and different challenges when working with others.
Most people are a blend of all of these styles—we all use each of the four as we go about our daily lives—but one or two will usually be more apparent or dominant. We refer to people by their most prominent style—for example, someone is a “High D,” a “High I,”, etc. While no one DISC style is "better" than any other, knowing which tends to be most prominent in a person gives us an idea of what our “comfort zone” is when interacting with others.
Assessment Is Only the Beginning...
Let’s say you’ve taken an assessment, and now you know your style and tendencies. The same goes for your coworkers. What do you do with that information? How can you leverage your strengths and learn to recognize opportunities for you to grow? That's where training comes in.
Individual assessments are a first step—they identify DISC styles. The DISC system is intended to be much more: It is designed to give people on a team a common language for understanding and discussing each others’ tendencies and preferences. DISC training is a way to introduce that system and its language.
Think of your typical super-hero story. There is usually a single point where the hero discovers their super powers, but they do not instantly master them. They need training to learn how to use those powers (and those of their teammates). The same is true of knowing your DISC style. While the assessment will reveal your tendencies, you need the proper training to know how to leverage that information.
Note: DISC Certification Is Something Different!
DISC training, as we use it here, is different from DISC certification. (Some websites even refer to certification as “DISC certification and training.”) Certification is a way for professional trainers to gain deeper knowledge of DISC and earn a certification credential. That certification requires a special online training provided by Wiley, the publisher of DISC.
However, if you are an internal trainer or L&D professional, you do not necessarily need to be certified to bring DISC training into your organization.
Uses of DISC Training
A greater understanding of DISC personalities can do a lot for the people in your company.
Organizations that use DISC say it is important for…
Improved self-awareness. If we are being candid, most of us just don’t know which of our behaviors are best for team success and which are not...or we at least struggle to put the right ones into practice. Most workers in the U.S. assume teamwork is something that should “come naturally” as the team works together. By learning about DISC, teams begin to realize that it is the mix of behaviors that determines the right recipe for success—and individuals can begin to learn what they are specifically adding to that mix.
Understanding each others’ motivations, and more. Suppose you present an idea at a meeting. It’s a good one, and everyone seems to be on board…except for that one person. Why are they pressing so hard against your idea? It could be that they feel the idea is too vague to act on. Or it could be that they feel it’s based on invalid information. Or that it goes against the status quo. DISC can help you understand your teammates’ motivations, fears, and “comfort zone.”
Customizing communications and approach. When we adjust how we communicate with others, there is a smaller chance we’ll trigger a negative reaction, and a greater chance we will be heard. For example, finding consensus might be much more important for an (I) than for a (C); a (D) will want to know their “action items” as soon as possible; and so on. Communicating information to a potential client could also benefit from an understanding of DISC.
Managing conflict. Conflict on teams often stems from the different “needs” of the four DISC styles. Some styles value stability over action, for example, while for others those needs are reversed. The same goes for consensus versus action and accuracy. Knowing DISC personalities can make managing conflict easier.
Outside of these, there are two specific areas of application for DISC: Sales and Leadership. Succeeding as a salesperson or leader requires first understanding our own DISC style, then recognizing the style of the client or team member, and finally, tailoring our own style to meet their needs.
Selling to DISC Personalities
Any salesperson will tell you that some people are a “hard sell” while others are a “slam dunk.” It has little to do with the product or service they’re selling, or even their amount of sales experience. Instead, it often boils down to how easily the salesperson recognizes and adapts to the DISC style of their potential customer.
You’ve probably met someone who was a “natural-born salesman.” What they probably have is a natural intuition for recognizing the styles of others; but for most of us, recognizing and working with those different styles takes some practice. With that practice, salespeople can anticipate what will impress the individual and what their pain points will be, and then adjust their approach.
For example, a salesperson might be more sensitive to which clients want to chat about their weekend (High I) and which ones want to get right to the data (High C). Or why they need to earn some customers’ trust with a stellar track record (High S) and others just want to know if the product or service will help them crush the competition (High D).
Having your sales team recognize their own DISC styles is important, too. How many times has a salesperson “oversold” their product or service because they just felt the need to keep talking, even after the prospect said “yes” to the sale? That’s often a High i individual feeling like they need to build more consensus or a stronger bond. Those are good things, but they might rub the wrong way for that High D customer who just wants to get started and try things.
Leading DISC Personalities
The DISC assessment measures four distinct areas to determine a person’s DISC personality:
- What they value
- What motivates them
- What they fear
- How they react to pressure
When these differ among people on a team, there will be trouble with communication and cooperation. You’ll probably see the same conflicts happen again and again.
DISC assessments can be a powerful tool for a team leader. The most effective teams have a diverse group of styles: Every style brings with it traits that help the team. But they also have weaknesses that sometimes make it hard to work as a cohesive unit. Once the leader understands this, they can modify their own style to deal with each personality style.
For example, High Ds usually thrive on challenge and competition. Managers will get the best results by steering their competitive focus toward a competing business, rather than toward their own team members.
A High I is friendly and talkative and will often go out of their way to please a customer. Leaders need to be ready to rein them in, because they have a tendency to over-promise.
A High S usually fears change and disruption. When possible, giving them a heads-up about a potential project works better than springing it on them at the last minute.
High Cs are going to be persuaded by data and accuracy. Even if they like to chat and get along with the team, they won’t be ready to join a consensus until they understand it thoroughly.
Harnessing the Power of Our DISC Differences
We’re bound to meet each of the DISC personalities in any group setting—and that’s a good thing. Different styles bring diverse ideas that make collaboration innovative and exciting. But those same differences can also be a source of conflict, resentment, and dissatisfaction. By embracing the science of DISC assessments and DISC training, we can all learn, not just to tolerate each other, but to appreciate the value of what each of us can contribute.
A key step in embracing those differences is getting your teams to take an assessment and understand the DISC system. That second part is where DISC training comes in.
ej4 has an entire series on the DISC system in our off-the-shelf training library—just one of the hundreds of topics we keep updated regularly. This sample training video on DISC will give you an idea of how we approach the topic in a friendly and understandable way. If you are interested in finding out more about the series to bring to your organization, contact us!