DISC ProfileCan you pinpoint the behavioral responses that your top performing managers produce consistently and naturally? What about your top performing salespeople? Administrative assistants?

Let’s turn these questions on their heads. Can you identify the behaviors that seem to trip up the low performers in your organization? If they responded differently, would they get out of their own way and on the path to success?

We’re not talking about complex concepts–efficiency, self-motivation, independence, friendliness, enthusiasm, self-confidence, etc. That is why the DISC profile is one of the most popular personality assessments used across organizations of all sizes and in all industries throughout the world. It gives you objective data that allows you to isolate some of the common denominators present in your high or low performers.

Forbes agrees that the DISC assessment can be a strategic tool that takes some of the guesswork out of hiring. And though it is not recommended to be used exclusively as a pre-hire screening tool because it does not measure a specific skill, aptitude, or ability based on a particular job, the addition of the DISC profile in your hiring and management processes holds exciting possibilities for improved performance.

DISC Theory

William Moulton Marston, a Harvard psychologist in the early 1900s, was a contemporary of Freud and Jung. While they were busy studying abnormal psychology, Dr. Marston applied his efforts to normal personal responses and emotions. Using 2 axes and 4 categories, Dr. Marston created an easy-to-understand model for demonstrating common emotional responses to the perceptions and demands of a person’s environment.

In its most fundamental form, the DISC assessment revolves around 2 axes. The vertical axis reflects a person’s outward energy or activity. A fast-paced person will tend to be more outspoken and assertive, while a moderate-paced person will tend to be more thoughtful and careful. The horizontal axis defines a range from skepticism to acceptance. As expected, those who are further to the skeptical side of the spectrum tend to be more cynical and questioning in nature, while those who are more accepting are trusting and receptive to others. The use of these 2 axes reveal the broad characteristics of 4 styles of behavior: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.


Because this model is so quickly learned, many fans stop far short of all that the theory has to offer. Each DISC profile distributor presents their results in a slightly different manner. To demonstrate the wonderful power of this personality model, I’ve compiled and summarized my research into the explanations below. I think you will quickly see that matching candidate behavior styles to normal responses required for successful job performance within a specific role makes a lot of sense. Furthermore, the DISC behavior assessment is one of those personality assessments that offers insights far beyond the hiring decisions. Just imagine how helpful the following information could be for your organization.


Those who have a behavior pattern most influenced by the Dominance factor are fast-paced and skeptical of the people and situations in their environment. With a drive to solve new problems very quickly and assertively, they naturally take an active and direct approach to achieving results. Motivated by action and challenge, limited by impatience, and worried about being taken advantage of, it is best if they are given challenging opportunities, shown what is expected, and solutions rather than problems are the focus of discussions. If the level of Dominance becomes problematic, choosing to slow down and think through new problems carefully before acting can produce a deliberate and organized response to obstacles.

When combined with other less intense factors, the behavior takes on a new flavor. The greater the spread of any of these, the more pronounced these characteristics will be:

  • Efficiency (D>I): A higher intensity of Dominance with a lower intensity of Influence produces a drive for efficiency. As a strength, this characteristic brings objectivity and a goal of acting in an effective, resourceful, and competent manner, which is great for keeping the team on track and meeting deadlines. However, when efficiency causes an individual to compromise how or why things are done for the sake of fast results, details will get missed and quality will suffer.
  • Self-Motivation (D>S): When Dominance is higher than Steadiness, the effect is an added characteristic of self-motivation. As a strength, this allows an individual to take quick-thinking action without instruction because they are able to create plans and produce new ideas for themselves. In a team setting, the self-motivated individual enables the team to accomplish more, which creates greater efficiency as a group. The downside to self-motivation is that it can cause conflicts and resentment within the group due to impatience, lack of empathy, or lack of trust toward team members who don’t keep pace.
  • Independence (D>C): Emphasizing Dominance over Conscientiousness produces a spirit of independence–preferring to work alone, creating their own rules, resisting authority, and taking pride in what they can achieve on their own. At first glance, this may seem concerning. However, independence can be a real strength that allows for self-reliance, self-regulation, and a freedom to create and innovate. Independent individuals can help the team avoid stagnation as long as they are not belligerent, arrogant, or poor team players who are unable to learn anything from anyone other than themselves.


Individuals whose behavior is most characterized by the Influence factor are fast-paced and accepting of the people and situations in their environment. Talkative, interactive, and open, Influencers are able to meet new people in a gregarious and socially assertive manner. Because they are motivated by social recognition but concerned about a possible loss of influence due to a lack of follow through or other mistakes, it is best to give them public recognition when appropriate, allow time for questions, and try not to overload them with a lot of details. If influence is just running too high, encouraging this person to exhibit more emotional restraint along with a more controlled, quiet, and reserved communication approach.

When combined with other less intense factors, the behavior takes on a new flavor. The greater the spread of any of these, the more pronounced these characteristics will be:

  • Friendliness (I>D): Opposite of efficiency, behavior that is more Influential than Dominant is experienced as a friendliness that is fun, entertaining, and great to be around. As a strength, friendliness allows an individual to communicate effectively, build rapport, and gain the trust of others. While this is a great trait in people-oriented work like sales or public speaking (as long as the friendliness is not overdone), it can present weaknesses in more task-oriented responsibilities that are lacking in entertainment and communication that is desired.
  • Enthusiasm (I>S): When Influence is more intense than Steadiness, the result is an outgoing, positive, and energetic pace we call enthusiasm. As a strength, enthusiasm makes it possible for a person to be open with their feelings, have a bright outlook on life, find pleasure in normal circumstances, and motivate others to be enthusiastic as well. Unfortunately too much enthusiasm can become a weakness when it causes an inability to understand coworkers in sour moods, a rush to action without thinking things through, or frustration with constructive criticism or caution intended as a help.
  • Self-Confidence (I>C): Leading with Influence over Conscientiousness produces an air of self-confidence that not only allows for a level of comfort and ease in social situations but also causes the individual to doubt others before doubting himself. Self-confidence functions as a strength as they make their presence known in any situation, assure themselves of what they do well, and explore their visionary ideas even in the face of adversity or criticism. However, as a weakness, self-confidence can be taken to a wrong extreme and cause the individual to act impulsively rather than logically. When this happens, they can be seen by others as being egotistical, close-minded, and uncaring.


Those whose behavior is most observed through the Steadiness factor are moderate-paced and accepting of the situations and people around them. As such, they prefer a more controlled and predictable environment that allows them to stay in the same position or role longer than other behavior patterns will. They are motivated by cooperation and sincerity, can be limited by their own indecision, and worry about the loss of stability. Therefore, it is most helpful to them when others are personable and amiable, take time to clarify and explain what is expected of them. If Steadiness is too intense, encouraging them to see the good that can come from the freedom of expression and ability to change activities in a more flexible, dynamic, unstructured work environment may help them to productively deal with any lack of stability they face.

When combined with other less intense factors, the behavior takes on a new flavor. The greater the spread of any of these, the more pronounced these characteristics will be:

  • Patience (S>D): Opposite of self-motivation, patience is the descriptor of behavior that is characterized by Steadiness that is greater than Dominance. Patient people have a low sense of urgency, are naturally submissive, and handle repetition of tasks extremely well. There are several key strengths of patience, including the ability to deal well with people, take time to think things through, and even to accept change as a natural slow and steady progression of life. If taken to an extreme, or left unchecked, patience can be a weakness that causes the individual to have a difficult time making quick decisions or necessary changes, which can be especially problematic in leadership positions.
  • Thoughtfulness (S>I): When Steadiness is more prevalent than Influence, the behavior is described as thoughtfulness–opposite of enthusiasm. Acting thoughtfully means trusting the conscious mind rather than the instinct. Therefore, thoughtful people are diligent to think things through before speaking or acting. As a strength, thoughtfulness leads individuals to think logically, deal well with others, and follow through on their responsibilities. How could there be a downside to this? Unfortunately this drive for thoughtfulness can cause missed deadlines and mishandling of time constraints because of the deeply held desire to make the project or process perfect before delivery.
  • Persistence (S>C): Steadiness that is greater than Conscientiousness is called persistence. This is the tortoise–the one who is able to accomplish a goal others cannot simply because they determinedly trudge along to the finish line. Persistence can be a powerful strength that allows the individual to have a determination to work at the same goal much longer than their co-workers and push past obstacles until the job is done. The strength becomes a weakness when there is a need to multi-task, step out of the patterns of the status quo, or kill an unproductive project that is draining resources.


Individuals whose behavior is characterized primarily by Conscientiousness are moderate-paced and skeptical about the people and situations in their circumstances. To navigate those situations successfully, those high in Conscientiousness will exercise high quality control by adhering to rules, standards, procedures, and protocol. Because they are motivated by showing expertise and quality work, limited by too much critique or analysis, and worried about criticism for being wrong, it is most productive for others to focus on facts and details with tact, politeness, patience, and diplomacy. If Conscientiousness become problematic, helping the individual focus on outcomes and develop flexible strategies to achieve them will allow them to operate more independently from the current rules and standard procedures that can be in their way.

  • Cooperativeness (C>D): When Conscientiousness is a stronger factor than Dominance, the result is cooperativeness–with people, in teams, regarding policies and procedures. Cooperative individuals are strong team players who tend to pair an easy-going personality with a rule-oriented approach to their work. Not only do the resist making waves by submitting to leadership, they also tend to go the extra mile with communication to make sure they are on the same page and deliver the expected results. As wonderful as this sounds, it can also be a weakness when it causes the individual to be unable to make decisive or individual decisions, or when the standard rules need to be bent a little in order to deliver the best service or product.
  • Accuracy (C>I): Conscientiousness that is greater than Influence produces an emphasis on accuracy. An accurate person is focused on getting things right the first time, therefore rather than taking risks, they will take take time to fully understand the situation or assignment, check, and then re-check their work. As a strength, an accurate individual will deliver high quality work that requires very few corrections or edits. And when they offer what sounds like their opinion, you can be fairly certain they are actually delivering researched truth or fact. Accuracy becomes a weakness when it leads an individual to consistently correct everyone else’s work or ideas, or when they do not produce less-than-perfect results quickly enough to be meaningful in the need of the moment.
  • Sensitivity (C>S): Emphasizing Conscientiousness over Steadiness results in sensitivity to the details and nuances of the situation, as well as the benefits and consequences of impending change. Sensitivity can function as a strength that allows the individual to quickly assess risk and decide whether or not to take it, to build rapport with others, and to see where they are having problems and what is required to correct them. It also allows them to anticipate where projects might go wrong or seemingly insignificant decisions can expand and multiply into serious obstacles further down the road. Sensitivity can also be a weakness if the person is too sensitive, taking feedback personally or being distracted by everything happening around them.

As you might have already recognized, the DISC theory can easily demonstrate why candidates high in Influence and friendliness, enthusiasm, or self-confidence will tend to be the most impressive in the interview. You need more in your organization and you need to be able to see more in the hiring process. The DISC is just one of the fantastic ways you can incorporate objective data into your hiring decisions. If you are not using personality assessments with your employees, DISC is a great place to start!

We want to hear from you! What benefits have you experienced with the use of DISC Profiles in your hiring process? Tell us in the comments.

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