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DISC assessment

DISC Assessment 101- Things you need to know about DISC


Andre Heinemann

Leadership Coach


You’ve probably heard about DISC before, even if you haven’t that’s quite alright. While there is plenty of great information about DISC already available, most of it is rather dry and well, boring. Lets not add to that!

DISC is fairly easy to understand and apply even if you don’t care for all the theory behind it. The easiest way to learn about DISC is by completing a profile for yourself. The reason is simply that most of us learn best when we are personally involved. If you have never seen one, why not take one right now?

What is DISC?

DISC is a behavioral model based on work by Dr. William Moulton Marston (1893 − 1947) to examine the behavior of people in their natural environments (natural style) and specific situations (usually referred to as adapted style).

DISC assessment measures four behavioral traits and to a limited degree emotions.

DISC groups the measured behavioral styles into four categories, namely Dominance, Influence, Steadyness, and Compliance. Each person exhibits every behavioral style to some degree; you may think of it as grey rather than black and white. The sum of behavioral styles is what makes a person’s observable behavior. 

All people exhibit all four behavioral factors in varying degrees of intensity. – W. M. Marston

DISC is often characterized as a language, as such it is neutral, observable and universal, because it does not depend on a person’s beliefs or values. It spans continents, races, ethnicities and culture, you can use it everywhere.

What DISC is not?

Unfortunately there are a lot of misconceptions about DISC. Simply put, DISC does NOT measure intelligence, social or personal values, skills or experience, education or training.

What do DISC stand for?

  • Dominance: High “D” people are described as demanding, egocentric, strong willed, determined, aggressive, decisive and venturesome. Low D scores describe those who are unobtrusive, modest, agreeable, hesitant, unsure, calculating and conservative.
  • Influence: High “I” people are described as effusive, magnetic, enthusiastic warm, convincing, optimistic and sociable. Those with low “I” scores influence more through data and facts, less with feelings. They are described as critical, moody, logical, suspicious, factual and reflective.
  • Steadiness: High “S” styles prefer an environment with steady pace, security, and they do not like sudden changes. High “S” individuals are relaxed, passive, patient, possessive, deliberate and steady. People with low “S” scores can be described as impulsive, eager, flexible, alert, active and mobile.
  • Compliance: People with high “C” styles prefer an environment of rules, regulations, and structure. High “C” people are worrisome, careful, cautious, neat, diplomatic, tactful and offer balanced judgement. Those with low “C” scores are independent, self-willed, opinionated, uninhibited, unbending and often careless with details.

What is a DISC Assessment?

A DISC Assessment evaluates your answers to simple statements and categorizes them based on your behavioral traits. Today this is mostly done online and the profile is computer generated. There are no right or wrong answers and neither is it possible to fail. A lot of people are asking how to manipulate the results to better match a desired outcome for example during a pre-employment screening; while possible with a thorough understanding of the tool it isn’t easy. More importantly, even if you successfully manipulate the assessment, your observable behavior, which is even more difficult to believably fake, will obviously differ from your DISC profile quickly calling your bluff.

Do DISC Scores Change?

Your DISC scores are pretty consistent over time, while they might not be exactly the same (numerically), the overall profile remains the same with one exception: Your DISC profile may change after experiencing significant life events (death of a loved one, life threatening disease etc…). This is important to remember for those of us who use DISC Assessments in group settings, because there is no need to have participants take the profile over and save money.

How can I use DISC?

A DISC assessment may have many uses such as, personal development, Human Resources (HR), coaching, employment screening, team building and many others. Their value lies in their validity and simplicity. Combined with a short introduction to the profile, participants can often use the knowledge they gained from it right away. A DISC assessment is also a great tool to foster communication and understanding within teams and significantly reduce the time it takes selecting and integrating new team members into existing teams if you are looking to use psychometric tools for your business or non-profit organization.

How can DISC help you?

People do business with people and people do things for their reasons, which usually differ from yours. People also like to be communicated with in a way that they feel comfortable, which in many cases differs from your own communication preferences. A DISC assessment will help you understand your own style and teach you how-to quickly identify and adapt to another persons behavioral style to:

  • Make people listen to you
  • Gaining commitment and cooperation
  • Resolve or prevent conflict
  • Gain influence and credibility
However, DISC goes beyond communication by analyzing behavioral styles. Your behavioral style can help you identify your ideal work environment, hence your success and satisfaction with your chosen occupation. Just like people many “jobs” require certain behavioral traits for a person to succeed. For example, if your position requires frequent and quick decision making with incomplete information and you are someone who carefully scrutinizes every eventuality taking your time making decision you will experience stress because your natural style and your job requirements are conflicting. Your DISC assessment can help set you up for success. (ADD LINK HERE?)

How can DISC help an Organization?

DISC is a versatile psychometric tool for organizational development, from making better hiring decision and team building, to employee development and customer service training and many more. 

  • Because scores remain the same over long periods of time, your organization can save money as retesting isn’t necessary
  • A person’s DISC profile can be used for hiring, placement, training, coaching, team building
  • DISC Assessments offer a great tool to foster understanding and reduce conflict.

Organizations get the most use out of DISC Assessments if everyone is familiar with the basic concepts, which fortunately,  is easy to accomplish. The knowledge gained through DISC and training can be applied immediately and reaches far beyond the organization itself, for example positively impacting customer and vendor relations of a typical business.

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Marston, W.M., C.King, C.D., & Marston, E.H. (1931). Integrative Psychology: A Study of Unit Response. London, England: The International Library of Psychology.

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  • PoL

    errr…your button up there says “DISK PROFILE” instead of “DISC PROFILE”

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    • Thanks for pointing out our mistake 😉

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  • KSN

    I’m an independent contractor paid by commission only. I’ve been with the same company for over 4 years and they’ve just asked all independents to take and pay for DISC. Are we legally bound to obey and why?

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    • Hi, great to hear from you. DISC is a great tool and I applaud any company that wants to implement it.

      To answer your question, is their request legally binding? No, of course not; unfortunately there is a BUT: Companies are free to chose their procedures (like asking independent contractors to take DISC and pay for it) as long as that doesn’t violate the law they are operating under. And while not legally binding, not complying might mean they won’t use your services in the future…

      I hope this answered your question and please let me know if you need anything else!

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