Using the DiSC Behavioral Model to Improve Communication with Millennials

Many managers turn to traditional leadership tools and techniques when interacting with their employees, including the growing population of Millennials who have entered the workforce.

How Well Do You Know Your DiSC® Personality Types?

Millennials as a group have a reputation for being too heavily reliant on technology and lacking respect for authority; some say that they’re entitled, and they’re quick to leave a job that doesn’t mesh with their values. Everyday management interactions with Millennials can feel fraught with uncertainty. And that’s where the DiSC® behavioral model comes in.

DiSC® minimizes the uncertainty. It’s a well-established protocol for measuring behavior and reporting on a subject’s general approach to interpersonal relationships. Understanding how employees align with personality types can improve communication, provide insight into your employee’s motivations, and guide conflict resolution. As an added bonus, learning about these assessments can benefit an entire organization or team.

A Brief Overview of the DiSC® Behavioral Model

The underlying theory was established nearly 100 years ago, by William Marston, PhD. He believed that people could be identified with one of four behavior types: Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Submission (S), and Compliance. Marston associated each of these behavior types to the level of control a subject felt in a given situation, and whether that situation was a positive or negative one for them.

Marston’s work was further advanced and refined over the next several decades, evolving into a behavioral assessment tool that can help people better understand themselves and those around them, leading to better interpersonal relationships and greater satisfaction in a given setting, like work. DiSC® assessments from a registered company have the added weight of validity through extensive testing and evaluation by professionals with expertise in the field.

There are four contemporary behavior types: Dominant, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Generally speaking, everyone will align with one of these categories more than the other three. This applies to folks across generations, not just Millennials.

Dominant: These are people who like to be in charge. Their leadership is innate, and they are task-driven, highly focused on getting things done. A D type’s push to make decisions can rub some people the wrong way; it can make them seem brusque and almost rude, when really, Ds just want to be successful. They like projects with measurable results, and they can be competitive. Ds aren’t bothered by conflict, in most cases.

Influence: An I type is typically relationship-driven. He or she is usually very comfortable talking with, and in front of, a group. Is can be persuasive and enthusiastic; their high-energy personality generally serves them well in a group and they can be effective in smoothing over conflict. Is are super creative; however, the speed of their engagement and thinking can sometimes allow them to overlook details.

Steadiness: S types are also relationship-oriented. They may be the quiet type, known for being reliable and just getting things done, as needed. Ss shy away from conflict, and so they do have to be mindful of the need to speak up when necessary. These folks are generally really good at details, and are committed to making sure things are done right. Change can be hard for them; Ss often prefer routine and predictability.

Conscientiousness: Another quiet type, C personalities are also task-driven. They’re very good with details, especially those that underpin big projects. Cs often like to work independently, which can make them seem stand-offish, and they don’t do well with conflict. They tend to have strong analytical skills, and can often be the ones who poke holes in ideas – others may get ruffled by this, but Cs just want everything to go off without a hitch, so they want to ensure all possibilities are explored and planned for.

Why DiSC® Matters

These assessments provide participants with much greater awareness and insight into their own actions and motivations, as well as those of others. Increased empathy and understanding of various behavioral types can motivate folks to “flex” their own personality types in order to best work together toward a shared goal. Like it or not, it’s incumbent on management to lead the way in effective communication with employees, top-down instead of bottom up.

Gaining the knowledge of the four personality types you may experience in managing Millennials can improve both interpersonal relationships and productivity.

The added advantage of understanding your own DiSC® profile makes simple behavior modification for better communication much easier. Managers and leaders can more keenly put themselves in Millennials’ shoes and see how their employees may see and want to respond to their actions. Managers and leaders can also draw on parts of their own personality to best supervise and support Millennials. The key to success with using the DiSC® behavioral model is to flex your behavior in their favor. Now that’s not to suggest that Millennials should be babied at all; what it does suggest is that people respond better when you treat them as they want to be treated.