Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Disc World

As most in-house lawyers to SMEs will testify the role will expand into areas of the business which just aren’t in any way, shape or form legally related; and the area which I’ve found myself deviating into is training and development. Having some experience as a professional support lawyer for a UK Top 15 law firm it’s an area I’m familiar and comfortable with, so I was delighted to be asked to formulate a training and development strategy for my company's senior managers during the latter part of 2009.

One of the key tools which I’ve built the strategy around is DISC, a behavioural profiling tool which aids the individual in recognising their own behavioural traits, those of others, and then allows the individual to adapt their personal style to better influence others. I firmly believe that one of the foundation stones for personal development is to “know thyself” and awareness of your own behavioural pattern is an essential for increased communication and influence both in your personal and business lives.

I’m not the only lawyer interested in this, the DISC profiling system in use today was initially formulated by lawyer and psychologist, William Marston, in the early 1920s born out of his fascination with individuals’ behavioural patterns and it’s now widely used within all types of business the world over.

The DISC model is incredibly insightful, and users are often amazed at the accuracy of the information obtained about themselves in their profile report. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it uses neutral language. There is no wrong or right behaviour in DISC, it uses a “universal language of observable behaviour” (TTI Ltd) to powerfully identify the behavioural tendencies within each of us individually and which make up our unique character. Furthermore, DISC is not a psychometric tool nor is it a measure of knowledge or intelligence; and so it’s a true “leveller” between directors, senior managers and junior staff alike and can be used to create a common language within your business to better aid communication.

DISC itself is an acronym for the 4 quadrants of observable behaviour (all of which are in us to a greater or lesser degree):

Dominance or Drive: results-driven, competitive, risk-taking people show a high D profile. Think successful sports stars, coaches and entrepreneurs.

Influence: charismatic, enthusiastic, popular and charming are characteristics of individuals with a high I. Oprah Winfrey and Jonathan Ross both have a high level of I in their behavioural profiles.

Steadiness: High S individuals portray loyal, devoted, stable and patient behavioural patterns. They are the ultimate safe pair of hands, think Mother Theresa and Ugly Betty!

Compliance or Conscientiousness: High Cs are perfectionists, analytical, accurate, precise and exacting individuals. The Monica Geller character in Friends and most lawyers and accountants will demonstrate a high C in their behavioural profile.

There is also a clever inter-relationship between the individual quadrants of the DISC reflecting whether a behavioural type is motivated by task (D and C) as opposed to people (I and S), whether a behavioural type is active (D and I) or reflective (S and C), and how an individual’s “natural” style changes into an “adapted” style under pressure.

Of course each of the quadrants of behaviour brings with it a value to a business, and a team will need individuals from all quadrants (or an individual operating in each quadrant at the right time) to successfully deliver a project or task. Each behavioural quadrant will however need motivating and managing in a particular way, and recognising the behaviour in an individual is the first step to achieving the appropriate balance of motivation and management.

There are different versions of DISC profiling in use today and a simple search of the internet will reveal providers of all of those versions. The version which I experienced was from TTI Ltd, a licensed supplier of Success Insights Intl Inc and was delivered by Julie Harrison Consulting. I’ve also found DISC Profile Blog full of informative and practical demonstrations of DISC in action.

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