From time to time the question comes up about which profile or assessment is better to use for training or to help an organization improve. Often mentioned are DISC, Myers-Briggs, Social Styles, Four Colors, The Birkman, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode, OPQ32, and many, many others. In fact, there are hundreds of various assessments and profiles on the market, from the home-made to the very professionally validated, all with varying numbers of users and their own set of proponents.
Whenever I’m asked this question my approach is to explain that there is probably a much better question or series of questions to be asking before we even begin to think about profiles. The first question is to discover what the actual needs of the organization are in helping it to increase its performance. Once we have determined what the needs are, we then need to look to the models that will help us address those needs. It is the models that will help the members of the organization to actually address the needs of the organization, not the assessment.
Models should be robust, yet easy to understand and implement. They should be able to be used broadly across the organization, allowing for a common understanding and “language” for as many people in the organization as possible. They should provide powerful tools that will allow people to implement the model into the daily interactions and transactions that occur in the organization. Otherwise, if models are limited in scope and power, then they offer very little value to the organization.
So we want to choose a model first, but for most people who are choosing an assessment, this is the last place they look. In fact, many practitioners who use various assessments have very little understanding of the underlying model that the assessment is based upon. As such, the assessment is taught and not the model, and that leads to very little implementation of the learning from the assessment. People enjoy the training, have fun with the assessment, say “wow, that’s really me,” and then go back to work and nothing really changes.
One thing that I keep explaining to people who ask is that DISC is not an assessment; it is a model. There are several dozen assessments or profiles that are based on the DISC model published by over a dozen publishers, some who are a little questionable about their research and validation approaches. Setting the assessment issue aside, I’d like to briefly talk about the DISC model.
I have been working extensively with the DISC model for over 13 years now, and I have found it to be a very, very powerful model. Yet, despite its extreme power, it is probably one of the easiest to use models on human behavior and personality. The basics of the model can be easily grasped by most in the matter of a couple of hours. This simple understanding of the model can already begin to help people as they think about their own behaviors, other’s behaviors, and their interactions between themselves and others.
On the other hand, we can also provide more in-depth training that will help people begin to leverage the model to drive performance in a variety of settings. We can help people begin to excel as we build teams, sell or service customers, or manage employees. We can easily take a simple 4-quadrant model and break it down into 16 areas, along with the complexity and intricacies of their interactions. The deeper someone goes and the more they master the model the better they will be at leveraging it to accomplish better relationship building, which leads to the accomplishment of organizational goals.
I believe that another value of the DISC model is that it can be used anywhere in the organization where people are involved (that’s everywhere, isn’t it?). Everyone in the organization can benefit from learning how to better interact with others, even if it is only to provide better communication between the employee and their manager. And the model allows for a language that becomes non-threatening when discussing behaviors because the model does not call for devaluing people. So the DISC model provides for a variety of applications across the entire organization, which results in great value.
It is this model that I have worked with and have taught to hundreds of people over close to a decade and a half. Some times I have even taught the model without a profile. Again, I emphasize that I have taught the model, not a profile or an assessment. Yes, I do use assessments, profile reports, action planners, and a variety of other tools to help teach the DISC model and help others put the DISC model into action. I have carefully chosen those tools that I use and who I will get them from. But these tools are powerless without the DISC model that is behind them.
Are there other models that are also useful? Of course there are. And some of those models might have assessments associated with them, and some might not. I think one of the biggest values that DISC provides is that it works with and enhances so many other models that are important to personal and organizational success. Some of these are: Employee Engagement; EQ; Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model; The William Bridges Transition Model; The Thomas-Klimann Conflict Model; and, of course, our own Seven Elements of High Performance™ Model. After all, the Seven Elements begin with putting People at the Center.
So the next time you are tempted to consider an assessment for use in your organization, pause for a moment and find out more about the model behind the assessment and see just how helpful the model will be in helping you to address the long-term needs of your organization.
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