Dealing Effectively with Diverse Personalities

by Teresa Matteson

This competitive world of diminished funding sources rewards successful, effective partnerships. Collaboration requires that we work well with stakeholders or team members who have various personality types. Behavioral profiles, defined as models that categorize personality traits, may provide insights on how different people think, react to stress, deal with conflict, and respond to communication. Adapting your interactions to match others’ traits will reduce frustration, facilitate progress and increase the probability of success.

One simple profiling tool is the DISC self-assessment. Ask each group member to identify their strongest traits in Table 1 below. Table 2 will help you understand the characteristics, reactions and values that each team member brings to a project. Of course, most people are a unique combination of the four DISC categories.

**Table 1. DISC Behavioral Self-Assessment: Circle and Tally
D
Dominance
I
Influence
S
Steadiness
C
Compliance
Directions
Circle as many or as few of the words or phrases that describe you.
Urgent
Pioneering
Innovative
Driven
Likes a challenge
Demanding
Quick
Optimist
Motivator
Team Player
Problem solver
Emotionally needy
Inattentive
Trusting
Poor with details
Steady
Sincere
Patient
Empathetic
Logical
Service-oriented
Passive
Resistant to change
Careful
Objective
Clear
High standards
Good analyst
Detailed
Picky
Aloof
Fearful
Tally the number of circled words or phrases.
The column(s) with the highest number(s) probably describe your preferred behavior.

 

**Table 2. DISC Personality Traits: Consider the general characteristics below to encourage effective interactions and efficient outcomes.
D I S C
Descriptors Ambitious, forceful, decisive, direct, independent, challenging Expressive, enthusiastic, friendly, persuasive, stimulating Methodical, systematic, reliable, steady, relaxed, modest Analytical, contemplative, conservative, exacting, careful, deliberative
Needs to Direct self and others, be challenged, compete and win, be direct, take risk Interact, be liked, be involved, trust and be trusted, have fun Serve, be loyal, be patient, relaxed, have long-term relationships, have closure Be right, follow the book, strive for perfection, have proof and measurement
Decision-Making Style Quick, little data, comfortable with own opinion, prefers new and different, risky Quick, little data, comfortable with instinct, shoots from the hip Slow, methodical, requires data, time to process change Slow, needs to be right, analytical – facts and details, takes calculated risks, organized
When under stress Gets angry with others Gets hurt, depressed Becomes passive-aggressive Creates diversion
When in conflict Confronts Finds win/win Tolerates Avoids
Weaknesses Impatient, oversteps authority, doesn’t listen well, takes too many tasks, lacks diplomacy Disorganized, acts impulsively-heart over mind, trusts people indiscriminately, inattentive to detail, oversells Possessiveness, resists change, difficulty establishing priorities, internalizes feelings, too hard on self Too critical of others, hesitates to act, over-analyzes, internalizes feelings, hard on self
Value to Team Results-oriented, self-starter, forward looking, challenge-oriented, competitive, challenges status quo Motivates others, creative problem solving, team player, sense of humor, negotiates conflict Dependable team worker, great listener, patient and empathetic, logical thinker, will finish started tasks, loyal, long-term relationships Objective thinker, conscientious, maintains high standards, task-oriented, diplomatic, pays attention to details
For effective communication with this personality… Be clear and to the point, stick to business, present facts logically, ask questions, provide facts and figures, provide win/win opportunity Allow time for relating and socializing, talk about people and their goals, ask for their opinion, focus on people Don’t rush into business, show sincere interest in them, be patient, don’t be abrupt and rapid, look for hurt feelings, allow time to think Be organized, be direct and specific, provide data and facts, allow them space, don’t force a quick decision

Use DISC assessments to tune into the group’s various personalities and encourage cohorts to help fill each other’s gaps. Approach each member from the perspective that’s consistent with their strengths. Example, don’t expect a D personality to be nice. Instead, help a D understand that they will check off tasks more quickly through courteous and respectful interactions with other team members.

Additional note: assessments are based on models and do not provide a complete picture of any unique individual. Do not use assessments to judge or limit career opportunities. More importantly, use DISC assessments as one indicator of the most effective way to communicate with another person.

**Content of this article was adapted from an excellent book: 10 Steps to Successful Project Management by Lou Russell;

Additional reference: Julie Straw and Alison Brown Cerier. The 4-Dimensional Manager: DISC Strategies for Managing Different People in the Best Ways. Berrett-Koehler. 2002.