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Submitted by AppleJack on


BLUF: I'm trying to determine what DISC profile best fits my part-time direct.
For various reasons, it's not appropriate for me to ask her to complete a DISC profile at this time (maybe in the future, but not now).  So I'm trying to figure it out based on the reference docs that MT provides and the classic DISC profiles in my own DISC analysis.

The major points of my difficulty in managing her is:

- She has difficulty retaining what the goals are of any given project.

- She has difficulty identifying the most important information in any given communication (verbal, written, visual/graphics/pictures).

- She is takes lots of notes in order not to forget anything, but then gets lost in the volume of trivial details that she has recorded.

- She is very tuned in to other people's emotional states. A good thing in some cases, but often the high degree of empathy for a customer leads her to request/promise unwarranted policy exceptions.

- She has expressed that she feels the policies are "always changing". (All of the policies are stated in writing on our website. Changes are made only once per year, and the changes are communicated to staff in writing via a policy update email, in a staff meeting and in O3s at the time the changes are made.)

- After completing a somewhat independent project (I gave her general parameters, deadlines and outcomes, as well as all the files from last year's version of the same project), she told me that she had difficulty trusting that co-workers would complete their work. She expressed a need for control over the project.

I would very much like to be able to trust her to handle projects and decisions on her own, but too frequently she can't remember why she was doing what she was doing and things go off course in a matter of hours... I don't want or have time to micro-manage this person.

I'm still working on implementing the trinity and have recently let myself backslide into giving "the wrong kind" of feedback (in other words not MT feedback) out of sheer frustration from having to repeat myself.

Any thoughts on what DISC profile she might be and how to keep her on track without micro-managing would be appreciated. I'm going to go back and listen to the podcasts about assigning work now....

DISC 7136

jacksal's picture
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Hi AJ,

Sounds frustrating.

Part time as in how many hours?

I have a part time team member in another office in another state who only works two consective days a week and has similar issues retaining information.

I have come to the conclusion a major contributing factor is continuity and time in (2 days) the office vs time out (5 days).

Having said that you might want to observe the behaviours to look and listen for, verbal, vocal and visual using the DISC quick reference card found as an attachment under the DISC profile podcast.

Cheers AJ


buhlerar's picture

DISC isn't going to completely describe everything about the person.  You said you can't ask her to take an assessment, but let's pretend she worked for me last year and I had her take the assessment, so you miraculously had exactly what you wanted -- a specific score for her.  What would you do with it?  All the issues/frustrations you have are still going to exist and you'll still have to address them.  Really the only weapon you will have gained is some additional clues to the communication style you might use to get the message across.  There's no DISC profile that implies "ineffective."

I can say this: she sounds more people-focused than task-focused.  So use the reference card as Jacksal recommended, and try giving feedback tailored to a high I or high S and see where it goes.  The only reason I'm comfortable saying this is there really isn't any serious downside if we're wrong.  If you say "when you forget what I told you it hurts my feelings" (hyperbole to emphaize S leanings), and she doesn't respond at all, then go ahead and try a high-I approach "when you lose sight on priorities no one wants to hang out with you anymore" (again, please don't say these words).

Let's say I'm wrong and she's a high D.  No big deal -- just tweak the feedback again until you find the right fit.  If the feedback is focused on the future, etc. and follows MT guidance in general, then the DISC profile is only a minor tweak -- helpful but feedback can work just fine without being customized for DISC.

Step back from your frustration and give feedback with a chuckle in your voice.  And provide affirming feedback in larger proportions, etc. etc.

Best of luck.

naraa's picture
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 From what you describe of her behaviour, you maybe wanting her to do more than she actually can.  

Maybe rather than finding out her profile, find out yours and listen to the podcasts from manager-tools that specifically tells which things your Disc style-manager can improve? (

 I am a high D, high I, and I tend to expect people to come up with more solutions and decisions on their own than they actually can.  I came to figure out that I myself have to be more specific and predictable on what I want from them. 

The first comment you put in:

1 - She has difficulty retaining what the goals are for any given project. 

Is straight forward to correct.  Just start your time in the one-on-ones remanding her of the goals.  Remember Mark´s rule: "you have to say it 7 times for people to say they heard it once". 

Regarding companies policies, "the communication is what the listener does", perhaps the policies are not as clear for her as they are to you or others, for whatever reasons, including that she may not have the proper skills to understand them, not related to DISC profile.  Maybe she needs some specific training on companies policies.

Finally if she is very tunned to other people's emotional states, that may in fact be the source of her problems.  Some people are like "sponges" and they get emotionally affected by the emotional environment of people around them and that sometimes affects their ability to concentrate, specially if they are not emotionally stable themselves for reasons that maybe outside work.  I know it because I have been in that situation myself and we have had people in the company in the same situation.  If your company has a psychologist from human resources they may be able to help in accessing whether she does have some other problems in her life that maybe affecting her response.  Personal problems can never be accepted as excuses for bad performance at work, but sometimes the only way to improve performance at work is to help people cope with the personal problems they are facing.

I disagree that the lack of continuity of work in itself is the source of her difficulties.  Most people are capable of remembering something from one week to the next one.  Most of us don´t work on the same issues all day, we can remember things from one week to the following.   That said, her difficulty could be related to something she is living on the other 3 days that she is not in the office and you are not aware of.  

Best of luck! 


nknk's picture
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AJ, you and I have similar profiles and I sympathize with some of what you are saying.

To get a DISC profile, start with the hemisphere method. If you are comfortable enough with DISC, you can also use more detailed verbal, vocal and visual clues to supplement your information (as Jacksal suggested). Using this types of behavioral data is the most likely way to get it accurate without a test.

- Do she interrupt? Yes/No.
- How does she gesture? Large/Small. 
- Does she smile repeatedly? Yes/No.
And so on. . . check the podcast for the rest. I believe the guys offer fewer tests for the people vs. task hemispheres, but hopefully it's enough to point you in a general direction and get out of the woods.

Lastly, I agree with much of what Buhlerar said, and I suggest reviewing the trinity podcasts in addition to reviewing the DISC podcasts. Recall that Mark/Mike present it early on as a way to improve your 3rd feedback step, which you may not be doing at all due to the backslide you mentioned. DISC is often discussed as a way to improve, not replace, existing good management habits such as O3s, Feedback, and Coaching. Well. . .  that and the occasional free drink on an airplane. 

Best of luck to you and your direct.

AppleJack's picture
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Jacksal - she works 20 hours per week. I agree continuity can be a problem with some employees. In this situation, she often has difficulty retaining some info within the same day/hour.

Buhlerar - I was looking for a way to communicate better, to try to see things from her perspective and then try to figure out what I can do differently to give her what she needs to stay on track. In listening to the podcasts again, I realized she is probably a high S with mom/grandmother tendencies and difficulty prioritizing, meeting deadlines, etc...

Naraa - you make some very good points, especially about emotional states. She deals with customer complaints alot, and I've been aware of the toll that can take. So since September one of her goals has been essentially to find good things about our organization, to note positive comments from customers. We do go over all her goals every week, but even in O3s she forgets that they are her goals and not mine.

Some follow up -
Since I first posted I realized that I need to give her more structure, but less detail. I've set up a project planning sheet for her; she has said that the other forms I've created have been a big help to her, so we'll see if this helps. It has the goals and objectives of  the project at the top, and is set up so that no project has more than 10 steps (at least for now).

At our last O3, we filled out (handwritten) the top of  first project planning sheet together and I had her work out the steps and then show me before starting. Basic MT stuff, but with a paper form to keep it structured. Asking for steps or giving her a spreadsheet to work with hasn't worked in the past, but the form seemed to help. I was able to catch several places where she would have gone off course and make corrections before she got started. So far so good, in 4 hours she was 60% complete on a project that had been dragging on for 4 months. I was in meetings all day to day, so I haven't been able to check in to see if she is still on track, but I am optimistic.

Also in our O3, we had what I thought was a pretty good talk about what keeps her from getting her work done. She had a chance to tell me she was frustrated, and I had a chance to tell her I was *worried* about her... and I learned that she does not trust that other people will do their jobs, nor does she trust that the information in our computer system is correct -- so she is spending alot of time second guessing everyone and everything -- but not taking the steps (which are in her control) to correct the bad data. The trust thing is a big deal and a big problem, so we will be working on that next.

She is who she is. Between listening to the MT podcasts and reading "First Break All the Rules" I understand better that I can't change or fix her, all I can do is to try to work with her strengths and try to become a better manager.