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Five Mistakes Companies Make With the DISC Profile

January 15, 2015

Single-Science Assessments Offer Narrow-Focused Approach to Hiring and Organizational Development

TTI Success Insights DISC Wheel GraphDISC assessments and similar “behavioral style” assessments have enjoyed immense popularity and acceptance in HR and among consultants since the late 1980s.

With its broad, long-established and passionate fan base, we sometimes find consultants, coaches, HR professionals and trainers have a tendency to see people dynamics through the lens of this single science – behavioral style.

Sometimes, this means DISC is used to explain things about people beyond the scope of what it is actually designed to measure, while ignoring other important elements of a person’s talent makeup.

What follows are five of the top mistakes we commonly see in organizations.

“DISC-type behavioral style assessments are complete personality profiles appropriate for selection and development”

TriMetrix HD AssessmentWhile DISC is commonly understood as a type of personality test (because it’s often incorrectly marketed this way), it’s actually a type of behavioral assessment. Understanding this difference is vital, and, in our experience, is almost always ignored or overlooked by inexperienced consultants.

DISC explores four traits within our personality, but the term “personality” is an all-encompassing word that goes far beyond the scope of four DISC behavioral traits. Our personality and our complete talent profile is much more than our behavior and includes things like our values, beliefs, acumen, sense of humor, character, ethics, emotional maturity, thinking preferences, developed soft skills (see article on leadership competencies) and manner of communicating. DISC is not a complete measure of who we are, but simply one aspect of what makes us unique: how we prefer to act and communicate (or behavioral style).

Many behavioral-based assessments fall short in their proposed value to organizations. DISC is an extremely valuable tool, but it’s not the ONLY tool you need to understand a person’s talent. Our talent is deeply complex and includes other important elements that need to be considered for developing talent and hiring and selection.

“All DISC suppliers are offering the same product.”

The DISC theory itself (created by William Marston) was never patented, so over the years there have been dozens of different versions developed and sold around the world — each using different questionnaires, levels of accuracy and training methods.

Most of the major sellers of DISC around the world only offer DISC. We believe this approach is limiting. TTI Success Insights wrote the industry-standard textbook on DISC, were the first to computerize the DISC assessment, and have the most highly valid questionnaire on the market.

Over and above these things, the most significant point of difference with the TTI suite is that unlike ALL other DISC providers, the TTI suite offers five sciences of human performance: Behavior, Motivation, Competencies, Acumen and EQ. This provides HR and OD professionals, consultants, trainers and coaches with better capabilities and a broader scope of solutions.

“DISC tells you who will be a superstar or dud performer.”

Probably the most common error made in using a behavior-based assessment model occurs when someone assumes that a it explains who will succeed or fail in a job. DISC only measures common behavioral tendencies — not skills, not motivators, not acumen.

DISC does not predict job success — a “best” behavioral job profile for a position can be identified but is not appropriate as the only criteria to consider (see what is a job benchmark). Research has proven that generally any type of behavioral style can succeed in any type of profession, including leadership positions. It’s important to remember DISC or behavioral style is only one part of the picture and there are many other elements that affect job performance.

The only way to accurately determine whether a person is “well suited” (behaviorally speaking, at least) to a job is by objectively and scientifically benchmarking it.

“You say your boss is pushy, rude and a total jerk? Well, that’s because of his/her high D.”

It’s possible to have any combination of DISC profile and be thought of as a [insert descriptive adjective]. It’s true high D’s are more likely to rub certain people the wrong way since they have a tendency to be outspoken, candid and won’t shrink from confrontation.

And so the question we get from many leadership consultants and HR professionals becomes something like this: “Is his/her high D the reason the person is a jerk?” The answer is “no.” If someone is generally thought to be a [descriptive adjective], that would depend on something else, most likely to do with EQ, acumen and/or underlying core motivators. Effective coaching to help someone be more effective behaviorally starts with understanding their full talent design.

“High D/I’s are the best salespeople/leaders.”

It’s natural for high I’s (Influencers) to believe they are the best salespeople/leaders. The logic is straightforward enough: high I’s like interacting with people; sales/leading is all about interacting with people; therefore, high I’s are built for selling/leading. Wrong.

Many high I’s are friendly, sociable, warm and enthusiastic — but others aren’t. Some high I’s can be selfish, shallow, disruptive, unruly, impulsive and noisy. Again, this difference comes down to EQ-related Competencies — the basis of social effectiveness.

Based on TTI research, we expect to see the Utilitarian value (motivator) is associated with highly successful sales people. It’s reasonable to conclude if salespeople are not motivated by Utilitarian rewards (highest or second highest of their personal motivators) they will struggle to succeed. Motivators are actually far more important to know in this situation than DISC.

Closing Remarks

The key theme in this discussion is the need to move beyond just focusing narrowly on someone’s behavioral profile and toward building a more complete picture with the use of multiple assessments. This is achieved by bringing other sciences into the picture that are designed to complement the DISC assessment. A valid and reliable multi-science assessment offers more powerful insights and significantly improves the level of value and success of your hiring and selection initiatives and internal organization development initiatives (leadership development, high potential development, team development, boss-subordinate relationships, building a high-performing organization).

The Nielson Group offers solutions that leverage multiple sciences to define jobs and assess talent. To learn more and discuss your specific needs, send us a note by filling out the form below:

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