Training Badge
Submitted by avatsal on


Hi MT world, this is my first post!

BLUF: I'm a high C, medium-high S (Disc: 1, 3, 5, 7). I'm working with a very high S, who reports to a high D. The high D is my buyer. I feel the very high S is not effective in her role (my opinion), and I'm supposed to coach her (my statement of work).
Questions: What is the best way for me to work with her, given she's a very high S? And how do I report up to the high D on progress?

Additional details: I'm a consultant hired by a high D. She has a direct who is a very high S. The high D is action oriented, driven, and always wanting to move forward. It's clear she's frustrated by the very high S, who is highly ineffective. This is demonstrated by the facts that her calendar is jam-packed with back to back meetings, which she is always late for; she is working weekends and still behind in her work commitments; she rarely makes decisions that fall squarely on her lap, instead getting lost in all the possible things that could go wrong; her email, IM, and phone are all constantly distracting her. She makes David Allen of GTD fame cringe.

I am a medium-high S, high C. In this role, I've become a very high C in reaction to my colleague. I have been brought on to help structure, support, and coach this high S colleague.

My questions are: how do I help her get her tasks done, get organized, and get things done without making it seem like I'm babysitting her (she's about 20 years older than I am)? What is the best way for me to work with her, given she's a very high S? Would it be offensive to her to buy her a copy of GTD? And how do I report out to the high D buyer, who wants action yesterday?

Thank you!


avatsal's picture
Training Badge

How do I know I'm a high C? I edited this post three times after I originally posted it, each time to correct a small typo :)

woolly_jumpers's picture
Licensee Badge

Wow. That's quite an assignment!

Does the S agree she's ineffective and/or not connecting with her boss's pace and desire for outcome? It's hard enough to change our own behaviors. You could become very frustrated with the assignment if you're trying to change someone else's, if she doesn't agree or see the need for change.  If she agrees she isn't effective - with her time, with her outcomes, etc. - but doesn't see a way out of the muck, then sharing your observations and providing tools could be a good start.  If she defends her behavior for more than half a day, walk away.  That's probably several more hours than some would wait, but a little grace won't hurt at this point.  My two cents, for what it's worth.  Good luck, Ashish!



donm's picture
Training Badge

I have so many questions and thoughts.... Firstly, how do you know that the person being coached is a High S or that the lady-in-charge is a High D? Have you done DISC profiles? Step 1: Make sure you know who/what the principles involved are.

Assuming you have the DISC profiles nailed correctly, you need to listen to some podcasts if you have not already done so. Click on "Podcasts" and then select the Manager tools podcasts. In the top drop-down menu (for tagged podcasts) select "Performance Improvement - Coaching." You'll see about 20 podcasts. Start at the bottom. In fact, I found the bottom two (the earliest) to be the most useful. (Links below)

I am assuming you're using the term "coaching" in the M-T sense, and not in the typical corporate sense. The basic difference is that in MT, a coach is like the person in charge of a sports team or solo athlete who is trying to get the athlete(s) to win. In the corporate sense, coaching someone means "giving someone one last chance before we fire him, and we're already doing the discharge paperwork."

Next point: D's and S's don't get along as a rule. They are polar opposites on the DISC scale. Due to this, you may not have a performance problem as much as you have a communications problem. In engineering, the first rule is to identify the problem before you try to implement a solution. The boss here has told you "Coach the subordinate to solve this problem." I suggest instead you find behaviors that are the problem, and correct the errant behaviors.

I think it was a recent podcast where they said, "I judge myself by my intentions. Others judge me by my actions" (significantly paraphrased). Concentrate on the actions (behaviors) of the subordinate that are contributing to this problem.

You've identified the results she is not attaining (arriving late, poor/no decisions, getting distracted). Now, you need to ask, "What is she doing that is causing her to be late? What is she doing that is preventing her from making good decisions? What is she doing that causes her to become distracted?" Or, of course, the opposites, "What is she NOT doing...?"

Parenthetical comment: Maybe she's been hammered for wrong decisions so much that now she's afraid to pull the trigger in fear she might be wrong and yelled at again.

Once you nail the answers to the questions before the above comment, you should have an idea where you need to go to get beyond this perceived problem. Sorry I was all over the place in this answer, but there are a lot of areas that might be where you need to go.


avatsal's picture
Training Badge

Christine and DonM, thanks for your thoughts!

flexiblefine's picture

One thing you might consider talking about with the high S is learning to say no. If her calendar is really wall-to-wall with meetings, and she's working extra hours and still not keeping up, she may just have too much on her plate. In my experience, it's hard for a high S to say no when someone asks for something. So we say yes, and it stacks up, and we put it off...

Assuming the organization isn't actually using DISC, I'd suggest talking with the high S about it so she understands the high D better. Learning that the high D is okay with a draft rather than a finished product can help the high S choose an acceptable level of "done" on tasks.

Outside of DISC stuff, the high S might not be much of a planner. Again from my own point of view, having a clear plan and a short list of things to do helps me actually get things done. If I have a list of 5 things to do today, I can work my way through the list -- if I have 15 things, I can waste all day dithering about what to do.

If procrastination is really an issue for the subordinate, I would suggest Neil Fiore's "The Now Habit" if you're looking at books to use as resources.

In any case, how the subordinate sees your efforts is very important -- you don't want to be seen as a babysitter, and you don't want to add to any feelings of punishment for her low effectiveness. How does she feel about her workload and effectiveness? Does she admit there is a problem?

Yes, I'm a high S, high C, so I can come up with a million questions about the situation...

Houston, Texas, USA
DISC: 1476

leanne's picture
Licensee Badge

A couple other thoughts:

* Mark says he always starts a coaching engagement by asking the executive what his priorities are, and then asking to see his calendar. I'd do that, and also ask her boss what *he* thinks her priorities should be. First make sure there's no major discrepancies, just so you know everyone's in agreement. Then I'd sit down with her and go through her meetings and ask which of her priorities each meeting supports.

* This may sound a little silly, but: If she doesn't have an admin, maybe she could benefit from doing the equivalent of the 15-minute daily standup every morning anyway - with herself: Print out her calendar for the day and go through it, making sure she knows what's on there and when she has to be where. (Also, work with her on awareness of location and transition time for meetings. If they're on a multi-building campus, and she has a meeting in building A at 10:00 and a meeting in building Z, a mile away, at 11:00, she needs to be aware that the transition time includes: getting out of the 10:00 meeting, walking out to the parking lot, getting from building A to building Z's parking lot, walking inside, and getting to the meeting room in the building. You'd be surprised how many people *don't* think about that when accepting meetings.)

* Ask her boss to sit down with you with her calendar and ask which of her meetings he actually thinks she should attend. Once you've got the list - try to keep it to no more than 4 hours a day if you can, at least on some days - go back to her and say 'your boss agrees that <these meetings> are your priorities, and he'd like for you to not go to the rest this week. If you think someone might be upset by you not going to one, let him know and he'll let them know he's asked you not to go because he needs you to work on something else this week.' (Well - make sure he WILL do that for her.) As flexiblefine says, S folks have trouble saying no, and they have trouble disappointing people, so she may feel obliged to go just to not disappoint them. Having her boss say he'll take care of it might help. (If he can also manage to say that he's concerned about the impact this kind of work pace will have on her long-term health, that would be helpful too - he's not just worried about the *work* not getting done at that point, he's worried about *her*, the person.)

* For anything that *isn't* one of her key priorities, help her learn to ask 'when do you need that by?' when someone asks her for something, if she feels like she can't say no.

* Remember to use 'feeling' words where you can.

* Ask her boss to help you by reinforcing every time she does *anything* more in line with what he wants. If you get her to work a 10-hour day one day, the boss can stop by the next morning and say 'hey, I hear you went home after 10 hours instead of 14. Good! That makes me feel a bit better.'

The general gist of all my suggestions is: She may be locked in a mental/emotional loop of 'I have to do all these things but I can't - I have to drop something but I can't, that means I'm not doing something and my boss will be mad - so I have to do all these things but I can't'. That just makes her more ineffective. Constant reinforcement of what her boss 'needs/wants/prefers' for her to do can help her focus down on what's really important. And she really, truly, may need to hear this from the boss. Doesn't have to take much of his time, and it can help her tremendously.

avatsal's picture
Training Badge

Thanks for your thoughts, Leanne!