Management with DISC profile analysis

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DISC (Dominant, Influencing, Steady, Conscientious) analysis is a strategical tool for evaluating behavior often used internally in an organisation by managers to improve group dynamics and the well-being of the individual. DISC is a very simple and easy to use tool for improving relations, resolving conflicts, enhances motivation, and supports self-growth all by obtaining a better understanding of the individual’s personality. Misunderstandings happen daily and can lead to stress, unhappiness and low working effort. DISC was created by psychiatrist and professor William Moulton Marston, who believed all humans have psychological motives but they differ from human to human. The tool assesses the level of dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientious an individual possesses by referencing the norm.


Relevance & Application

The relevance and application of the tool is very broad. Whereever and whenever human interations take place synergies or tensions unfold. DISC analysis can therefore be a tool for smoothing relations. A managment team who knows each ohers DISC can communicate better, shorten their meetings, and improve miscommunication when they have a better understanding of the individuals DISC behavioral profile. A team leader can improve the wellbeing, communication and working effort of the team. Figure 1 illustates all the different stakeholders who are invovled in a project. In theory the tool can be applied on all types of relations but in practice it will be unlikely customers, suppliers and other peripheral non internal stakeholders are willing make provide you with their behavioral provide. However, it can make sense to do internally amongst people who are working together daily. Therefore this article will be focussing on the usage of DISC profile analysis as a tool for managers of a project.

Project Stakeholders.png


The history of the four quadrants DISC personality profile can be traced all the way back to Empodocles four elements of fire, earth, air and water in 450 B.C. Empodocles observed people seemed to behave in four different ways due to external environmental factors. 50 years later Hippocrates redefined these as four internal factors called the four temperaments: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic. Many years later the theory was advanced further by Carl Jung. In 1921 Jung reconfirmed personality traits were internal and attributed the differences to how people think. Jung saw these four differences as: thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. Today these are often used in Myers Briggs Personality Test (MBTI).

The DISC personality was manifested in 1928 when William Moulton Marston published his book with the title “Emotions of Normal People”. The main principles of DICS have its roots in the book. Marston believed people’s daily behavior stems from their predictable characteristics. The behavior was not only seen as internal but also influenced by the external environment. Marston defined the personality trait as: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. Based on Marston’s theory Walter Clark developed the DISC personality profile in 1940 which is widely used today.

Method of use

A DISC personality profile is created by answering a questionnaire about the person’s behavior in various situations. Every question has a rating scale such as “I strongly agree, agree, neutral, etc.”, which is answered according to matching the description of the person. The answers are subjective as the individuals are considered being experts on themselves.

The answers of the questions produces a profile report of the individual behavioral style, tendencies, needs, preferred environment and strategies useful for optimal behavior. Furthermore it also provides insights on the strength and weaknesses of the individual. The questions can for example ask in what way a person responds to challenges, influences others, working pace of comfortability and how rules and procedures are considered.

The DISC personality profile report evaluates the level of contribution of each of the four traits dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance. DISC can be considered as a “color palette of personality” where every person has their own unique blend. It is possible but highly unlikely to only have one of the four traits. Usually it is a combination for example a person can have dominance as the highest factor, influence as a secondary factor and steadiness as a third. The DISC personality profile shows how a person every day actions is affected, the preferences of various environments, the way of communication with others, response or avoidance to conflict.

This personality insight can be used by managers or team leaders in recruiting processes and provide them with a deeper knowledge of their team, group or colleagues. This knowledge is crucial for managers to support collaboration and communication. Proactive measures can be taken by managers to place people according to their preferences of environment to help them feel comfortable and empowered. When approaching people it can be done in a way that creates a positive response. It is widely believed in the community of psychologists that traits and situations are interactive. DISC can help managers adopting their responses based on the DICS profile of team members they are dealing with. This means managers should not always choose to use the behaviors that are the most comfortable for them, they should choose the behaviors that would be the most successful within the team.


The behavioral trait of dominance is characterized as seeing challenges and seeking to overcome them. A person wants to change, clear or control and have focus on creating the surroundings that can produce the desired results.

Primary motive: Taking control and be in charge.

Fear: Loss of control

Desires: Power and authority, challenges, direct answers, the liberty of no control and rules, new activities, the possibility of individual performance.

Characteristics: Confident, risk willing, determined, result oriented, demanding.

Limitations: Lack of thoughts of others, impatient, lack of focus on quality

Behavior of high D’s: Independent, believes in themselves, challenge the status quo, individualistic, not afraid of conflicts, do not let anything get in their way, competitive.

Behavior of low D's: Pleasant, coorperative, helpfull, accepting of company policies, adjust to the team, seeks consencus, not risk willing.

Needs of high D’s Recognition of own ideas, the freedom to act independently, control over own activities, the possibility to play a vital role, to understand the greater picture, to solve problems in their own way, individual competition since they want to win.

Needs of low D's: Encouragement, reinsurance, harmony, understanding, supervision, recognition in the team, support, non-individual competition, no risky decision making, recognition for selfless team spirit.




Pros and Cons

  1. Marston, W. M., (1928), Emotions of Normal People
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