Understanding Thinking and Communication Preferences for Change Initiatives
In any change initiative, you will have engaged with people who are naturally enthusiastic and ready to dive right in at the outset, while others are much more reserved about the change and sit back quietly.
Being able to understand how and why people react and respond the way they do and therefore influence them effectively during the change process requires an understanding of how people like to think and communicate. It is also helpful to understand your own preferences and how your communication style may be influencing others.
One way to do this is by using DiSC, a well-researched and validated model for understanding your own style and the style of others, how individuals will likely behave and interact with others as well as how you can successfully enhance interactions and relationships. Be aware, there are many versions of DiSC in the market, some with dubious validity. I personally only use Everything DiSC which is backed by over 90 years of research and validity measures.
The DiSC Model
When using DiSC to understand different thinking and communication preferences, it is important to remember that this is looking at only one aspect of an individual's personality, that there is no one DiSC style that is better than any other style and that we need all styles working within a group or a team.
The DiSC Model articulates 4 key styles, which are based on two key dimensions; one dimension looks at whether you are more introverted or extroverted and the other which looks at whether you have more of a people focus or task focus. Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity of this model. The self-assessment tool uses adaptive testing to provide a highly indivdiualised profile which is illustrated as a circumplex model to show that each of the styles blend into the others. Beyond the four key styles, there are a 12 unique DiSC styles, each with distinct characteristics of their own.
The DiSC Styles
The four key styles are, D – Dominance, i – Influence, S – Steadiness and C – Contentiousness.
D’s value directness, a fast pace, forward momentum, getting things done and a good challenge. They have a need for achievement and fear loss of control. They are decisive, problem-solvers, self-starters and results orientated. In their ideal world, projects and initiatives move quickly, they are able to focus on the big picture and can take the lead to make things happen. The D style can come across as blunt and direct to other styles, however this is because they tend to be slightly more skeptical of ideas and are more action oriented than people focused.
I’s are what I call the ‘People people’. They are easy to spot as they tend to be bubbly and outgoing, usually the first to say hello, to speak up and always willing to be involved in projects and initiatives, particularly where there is the opportunity to try something new. They are optimistic, confident, enthusiastic and persuasive (great change champions!). Like D’s, I’s like to take the lead, however as relationships are incredibly important to them (they fear missing out or being overlooked), their motivation is around being involved and connected with others.
S’s are also ‘People people’ like the I’s, however they tend to be calmer, slower-paced and place a greater emphasis on empathy and sincerity in their interactions. They are amiable, good listeners, patient and team players. I often call them the ‘glue’ that keeps a group together. They have a need for acceptance in relationships with others, and as such, their greatest fear is disappointing others. Their willingness to support and help can come across as overly accommodating or even as being a bit of a push-over and they can find themselves overwhelmed by continuing to offer support when they have reached or exceeded their capacity.
C’s are motivated by opportunities to learn or demonstrate expertise, and possess strong attention to detail, which makes them ideal to proofread or fact check. They are precise, analytical, accurate and more likely to be perfectionist. They can come across as being critical of both themselves and others, and therefore appear detached or overly logical. Because they have a need for correctness and a fear of criticism they can present as reserved and may hesitate to speak out if they are unsure of something, preferring to weigh all the facts first and make sure they get it right the first time around.
The DiSC Styles in Change
Each of the styles has a natural tendency towards change, and once you recognise the styles of those working with you, it is easier to consider how to effectively influence them during change initiatives.
High D’s make quick decisions, are on board with change easily, and are happy to move forward towards a goal. They are daring and risk takers. They can be the innovators who love new ideas. On the surface this is a wonderful asset, and momentum is needed to drive change, however they sometimes don’t wait for all the details of a plan before they act. What the D style needs during times of change:
- Progress: being able to get results quickly and efficiently
- Control: having influence over decisions that affect them and their success
- Justification: knowing how and why changes were made
High I’s usually get excited about the initiative and want to talk about it. They show great enthusiasm and are early adopters of an initiative. The I style openly shares their ideas and are usually fun to work with. The challenge with high I’s is focusing them during the execution phase and not letting them get sidetracked chasing the next idea that excites them. What the I style needs during times of change
- Excitement: being part of new opportunities
- Being heard: knowing that their opinions and feelings about the change are heard
- Relationships: maintaining a connection with important people in their world
High S’s can be challenging on the surface because they don’t fundamentally like change. They like status quo that is predictable and calm. It’s important to involve them as early as possible in the change process to allow them time to get used to a new idea. This group can become your best advocates for an initiative once they have time to understand the logic behind a change and they feel engaged in the change process and their role in it. What the S style needs during times of change
- Reassurance: knowing that things are under control and will turn out okay
- Harmony: freedom from tension, conflict, and ongoing stress
- Direction: knowing where we are headed and what is expected of them
High C’s have excellent analytical skills, are superb at knowing the details and are very systematic and careful in their work style. They will catch mistakes and keep the team honest when reporting stats and results. The challenge with this style is that they need all the details up front, and their questions and feedback can come across as resistant and negative. Use them to enhance the initiative by asking them to help in creating the detailed execution plan. What the C style needs during times of change
- Competence: knowing that they can do their jobs well and maintain credibility
- Understanding: knowing the implications of the change and maintaining their expertise
- Stability: having a sense of predictability and freedom from chaos