Leading a successful team can be like directing a musical performance. In the same way that orchestra conductors pull diverse musical instruments into one cohesive sound, a manager needs to create harmony between individuals who often bear little resemblance to one another. The most successful managers are able to recognize the differences between their group’s members and, in turn, respect what each can offer to the group. Diversity in style and substance, when properly organized, makes beautiful music. Just as a conductor can identify who plays what instrument, managers need to know the behavioral (work) styles of the individuals they manage in order to understand how they can best contribute to the organization. Behavioral styles, such as those outlined in the DISC, tell a lot about how a person tends to behave a majority of the time. The DISC indicators can be considered predictors of how a peer or colleague might approach a challenge and influence others to their way of thinking. The ability to adapt to different behavioral styles is the key to success in both professional and personal relationships. Since behavioral styles are observable, we will show you how to determine someone’s style and react accordingly. While the examples below illustrate the mentor/mentoree relationship, these skills can be applied between any two people communicating no matter the setting. DISC Defined DISC is an acronym that stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. The science of DISC explains the “how” a person does what they do and can be a strong predictor of future behavior. When someone scores high in one particular area of DISC compared to the others, they are considered “high” in that particular factor. A basic understanding of these “high” styles helps to illustrate how to identify various behavior styles when entering a room with other people. High-D’s are all about results. High-I’s are about interaction. High-S’s seek stability while the high-C is all about following rules. Working with an Opposing Behavioral Style in a Mentoring Partnership Sometimes, you might be paired with someone because of their career trajectory or technical expertise but find that you share little else in common. Here are some ideas for working with a partner whose DISC style seems in opposition to your own: A high-D and a low-D - For the high-D adapting to the low D: Slow down. Drop the intensity. Create a safe learning environment. If the low D feels calm and comfortable, they are more likely to admit “I don’t know” or “This is where I need help.” Low Ds like lessons to follow and a forum to discuss problem-solving options. A high-I and low-I - These two styles are polar opposites - one is people-oriented and the other is task-oriented. One tends to trust indiscriminately while the other often remains guarded and slow to trust. The high-I will need to respect the low-I’s reserve at the start of the relationship and work to build trust gradually. Ask the low-I for their input while planning development activities and for their impressions on how comfortable they are with stretch assignments. A high-S and a low-S - In this relationship, the calculated decision maker must adjust to a high-risk taker. In other words, someone who prefers a slower pace (high-S) needs to learn to work with someone who moves quickly. The high-S will need to pick up the pace when communicating with the low-S by covering only the high points and striving for directness. A high-C and a low-C - Because the high-C and the low-C are both task-oriented, the area of potential conflict lies within the scope of compliance and risk taking. The risk-averse high-C competes with the low-C’s need for independence, many times causing a considerable amount of tension. The high-C will need to give feedback if the low-C is, in the interest of making a quick decision, tackling problems with little regard for the possible ramifications. Using DISC to Design Developmental Activities No matter which style each partner brings to the relationship, savvy mentors will look for opportunities to move the mentoring meetings beyond philosophical chats and/or venting sessions. In other words, to maximize learning, mentors should engage the mentoree in a variety of situations and developmental experiences. To keep your mentoree engaged, consider their DISC style (both highs and lows) when designing development activities. For example: High-D’s, high-C’s or low-I’s - Tend to put tasks before people, so they struggle with interpersonal skills. If the goal is to enhance people skills - ask your mentoree to consider investing one day each month listening to the concerns and needs of his/her employees or peers. Encourage them to look for opportunities to help someone talk through a project with which they are struggling. High-I’s or high-S’s - These two behavioral styles have trouble setting clear standards and holding others accountable - particularly people over whom they have no authority. In this case, perhaps the goal would be to work with your mentoree to create a project management system for following up on outstanding tasks and action items. Low-S’s or high-D’s - These two styles tend to struggle with maintaining emotional intelligence during difficult times/situations. The ideal developmental activity would be to identify someone for the mentoree to shadow who is going to lead a team through a difficult conversation about a failed project. Low-D’s, high-S’s or high-C’s - These styles need time to think things through before making a decision or taking a risk. To help build confidence in decision-making and risk-taking, encourage your mentoree to journal about what holds them back from making a decision. At your next mentoring meeting, discuss the pros and cons of the decision and an action plan for moving forward. DISC as a Guide for Mentoring Meetings When meeting with a high-D or high-C: Expect these meetings to be brief and to the point. Be sure to show up on time and prepared to dive into business. When meeting with a high-I: Provide a friendly and fun environment. Give them plenty of time to talk. Remember they get pretty excited about things – lots of things – so you might need to ground them a little. When meeting with a high-S: Just like the high-I’s, they need a friendly environment. Don’t rush headlong into business, give them a chance to break the ice and warm up to you. Always give them time to think things through. Be sure to send an agenda ahead of the meeting so they know what topics you would like to discuss. When meeting with a high-C: Show up on time and stick to business. Don’t expect the meeting to run a full hour if there’s nothing left to discuss. Be careful of appearing too lighthearted, casual or showy and follow through on your promises. Just like the high-S’s, they will appreciate an agenda sent ahead of time. Whether you are in a mentor/mentoree relationship or simply communicating with a friend or co-worker, understanding and being able to adapt to differing behavioral styles is the key to great communication success in work and in life. ASK A MENTOR Who do you relate to the best (someone with a similar DISC style or different)? What techniques do you use to put people at ease when someone is a different DISC style? Have you ever gotten into trouble behaviorally with your manager? If yes, how did you recover? What adjustments can you make to improve your communication skills with your peers, colleagues and key stakeholders? What resources do you most appreciate in advance of a partner meeting? What types of developmental experiences would give you a chance to communicate or learn from someone who has a different communication style? Based on “our” collective behavioral styles, how would you prefer to run our mentoring meetings (structured, spontaneous or somewhere in between)?
The great philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Change can make us feel disoriented, unbalanced, anxious. Digging in heels and holding on to “the way it was” is often an attempt to control our circumstances even while things keep moving “in whatever way they like.” In this month’s newsletter, we will tackle strategies for grounding ourselves through transition without being obstructionist and being flexible without losing morale. Change versus Transition First, let’s make the distinction between change and transition. Change is something that happens to you. It could be something positive- such as purchasing a new house or being promoted- or even something painful like losing a loved one. Transition is what is going on in your head and your heart as you go through change. Change can happen quickly, while transition usually takes a while. Bridges’ Model for Managing Change Dr. William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, explains that the difference between change and transition is at the center the way people behave during organizational shifts. Based on Bridges’ model, once a change has occurred, people move through three stages of transition: Stage 1: The Ending – As Bridges points out, every change process begins with ending of the old way. Digging in and resisting change-sometimes to the point of emotional strain- is most likely to happen during the ending. Without letting go of the way things used to be, however, it is impossible to move onto the new. Stage 2: The Transition Zone – This is the critical space between the ending and the new beginning. People report feeling disconnected from the past, but not emotionally ready for the present either. Bridges urges that the best way to successfully navigate this phase is through self-awareness. Stage 3: New Beginning – By this stage, you have successfully embraced the changes that are occurring and begin to welcome the benefits the change has brought you personally and/or professionally. While you sort through the stages of transition, here are some strategies for conveying optimism and an open heart to the change: 1. Determine what is in your control and what is not. When you’re overwhelmed by change, make a list of the things that are in your control versus the things that are not. For example, when your favorite manager retires, who is hired to replace her is not in your control, but getting to know them better is. While you can’t control which new system or technology is brought in to replace an old one, you can control how much time you set aside to learn how to use it. Recognizing the difference will help you take ownership over the things in your control and make a plan. 2. Understand your reactions to change and transition. Your DISC style predisposes some behaviors during times of change. Self-awareness can be half the solution. Here’s how: These DISC four elements of human behavior are as follows:D: How one approaches problems and challenges.I: How one interacts and influences people.S: How one responds to change and levels of activity.C: How one responds to rules and regulations. High D: Appreciate changeFeel bored with things stay the sameCan change directions easilyGet frustrated when others aren’t comfortable High I:Embrace change with optimismCan see the benefits of the new directionAre able to communicate positivity to othersFeel frustrated with negativity High S:Need time to prepare for changeMight react negatively when change is unexpectedEven when stressed, might come across as non-emotional High C:Need to see data in order to accept the change is wiseGood at planning and designing change effortsPrefer to have a backup plan Have a healthy skepticism of “the unknown.” Using the DISC to better understand your reactions to change makes it easier to find opportunities to create positive outcomes. For example, if your natural tendency is to get frustrated or impatient over the way those around you are reacting or adjusting to change, take time to lift up your worried colleagues a bit. Listen to what bothers them most and offer emotional support. Conveying Competence During Times of Change Here are some tips for maintaining balance and expressing your dependability when things feel uncertain: 1. Think ahead, be a leader. Understanding the larger context of organizational changes will show that you care about the organization and remain passionate about its mission. Consider what your manager might ask you to do during a transitional period. Attend training and briefings so you are prepared on an emotional and intellectual level. Prepare notes on projects that are moving to a different department. Take initiative and prove your ability to lead. 2. Show positivity. Demonstrate optimism with your body language (mind your posture, smile), actions and words. Ask your manager if there is anything you can do to help facilitate the change. Reach out to colleagues who seem overwhelmed and provide mentoring and support. Staying positive and focused on your current (and future) workload will assure managers that you are someone upon whom they can count. 3. Take care of yourself. Even positive change can be draining. Research has shown that individuals who incorporate self-care into their lifestyle are able to maintain a positive attitude even in times of great stress. Get to sleep on time, maintain your exercise routine, and pack healthy snacks to keep you energized throughout the day. Once they understand and buy-in to a change, they are good at following through ASK A MENTOR Anyone who has earned a leadership position in the workforce has weathered change either as an employee or a manager. Talk to your mentor about their good and bad experiences with change. Here are some questions to get you started: What has been the most difficult professional change you’ve experienced in your career? What was most disappointing and disruptive about the change?What were the positive outcomes?How did your organization prepare you for the transition? Is there anything they could have done differently? Could they have made it easier? How did you adjust your working process to accommodate the change? Did you network? Look to others for advice? Organizational research? Rework your project files? What steps do you take to prepare your team for change?What behaviors best demonstrate that an employee is flexible and positive through transition?