The DISC assessment is an invaluable tool that has helped millions of people communicate better. But you must use it with caution. Below I list 3 ways to use DISC profiles and three giant mistakes to avoid…all of which I have made myself.

DISC Profile Matt McWilliams
The DISC assessment is an invaluable tool to improve communication on and off the job. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

NOTE: That’s my DISC profile above. It hasn’t changed much in the past ten years. I’ll share the giant mistake I made from those results shortly. If you’ve ever wondered how to communicate with a High D, particularly in conflict, check out Conflict and the High D.

Here are 3 ways to use DISC profiles:

1. Learning how to communicate with others.

I made the mistake when I first got into business of thinking that everyone communicated just like me. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Not everyone is an in-your-face, blunt (read: jerkish), fast-talking, let’s get this over with and move on to the next topic, go-getter. Shocking.

In fact, only about 10% of the population is a High D like me. That sucks for me.

So I had to learn how to communicate with others (and play nice). DISC helped me do that. There is more to it than just DISC, so if you want to learn more, check out Learning How Team Members Communicate.

DISC gives a framework to generally understand how other personality types communicate. It helps you to communicate in a way that works for the other person, not yourself. That is the essence of effective communication. Everything else is just noise.

2. Sharing with others to help them communicate with you.

When I first shared my profile with the rest of my leadership team, the room lit up with the multitude of lightbulbs going off.

Finally, they understood me. They began to speak in a way that worked for me (hint: it’s in bullets and gets to the point). As a result, I was hearing what they were saying and they understood that when I gave them a “drive-by” comment, I wasn’t necessarily being a jerk. That was just my style.

3. Determining the right hires.

If you’re hiring customer service reps, hire I’s and S’s. The High I personality loves people and the High S is calm under pressure (like dealing with angry customers). High D’s like me have no tolerance for rambling old ladies trying to figure out how to use “The Facebook” (that was kind of mean, I realize that). And High C’s will give the customer a dissertation on the history of the internet.

DISC isn’t the end-all-be-all of hiring, but it’s a great place to start.

Additionally, if you are a High D, you probably don’t want to hire many High S’s and C’s to work directly for you. You will drive each other nuts. The same goes in reverse.

Yes, you need a diverse team, but you also need one that works well together.

3 Mistakes to Avoid with DISC:

Here are three giant mistakes that I’ve made:

1. Brushing it off.

DISC isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean you should brush it off.

I’ve heard people say things like, “a test can never give the full picture of a person.” Well, duh. No kidding. I don’t know anyone who says that. It’s a piece to the puzzle. Even if my profile is 20% wrong, it’s not hard to tell what kind of person I am from my profile. (Ironically, my wife is a hard read…her’s is almost equal all the way across…pray for me.)

2. Ignoring it.

When you do take it, use it.

Share it with others. Read it often. Review how to communicate well with others. Read through others’ profiles. Work through it as a team.

3. Making it everything.

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The opposite of brushing it off entirely is making it the king of everything.

It’s not.

Many people are high in 3 or even all 4 like my wife. And even with other people who have the same scores as me, we still have our individualities. As I said earlier, it’s one piece to the puzzle.

Bonus: The grandest mistake of them all

The worst mistake of all is letting DISC define you.

Do you know what happened the first time I took the DISC assessment? It looked just like the profile above. That was twelve years ago.

And I let it define me.

My score meant that I was who it said I was. I was hard-charging, in-your-face, arrogant, and…well, you get the idea.

My natural and adaptive styles were identical. I thought that meant I was true to who I am. I stuck out my chest in pride at the notion that I, the great Matt McWilliams, didn’t change who I am for no one (bad grammar, but that’s how my inner jerk talks).

And then I got married. To an incredibly bright woman who pointed out that, actually, it just meant I was unwilling to change. It actually meant that I was not adaptable. And that hit me right in the face.

So, don’t make the same mistakes I did. Don’t brush off DISC or ignore the results, but also don’t make it everything. And, above all, don’t let it define you or anyone else.

How have you used DISC in your professional or personal life?


Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

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19 thoughts on “3 Ways to Use DISC Profiles…and 3 Giant Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Geoff Franklin says:

    I haven’t used DISC but something very similar.

    It’s easy to brush it off as too limiting or not perfect, but it really can help. I’ve had important business and personal relationships improve dramatically as a result of using it.

    I love that last tip though…I’ve made that same mistake. But never again.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      It’s an easy one to make Geoff.

      1. cindy@wingsofsuccess.com says:

        Matt. If you take the Wiley Everything DiSC Workplace assessment there is a free coaching supplement available that will show your 3-5 priorities. There is a good chance you scored highest on a C priority although your DiSC style is high D.

  2. Jana Botkin says:

    I feel better learning that your wife and others can be equally high in several categories. Those test always leave me confused. For example, I recognize, appreciate and relate to your High D qualities – it’s a real solid get-‘er-dun approach to life without time-wasting baloney. But I’m enthusiastic and optimistic like an I, and enjoy independence like a C. Or, perhaps I’m an S, since I was voted “Most Sincere” in high school (you probably weren’t born yet, but I DON’T say “The Facebook”!)

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      What’s interesting is most people that know me realllllly well say that I exhibit slightly higher C tendencies. I have never had more than 1 notch of C on my profile though. So, no it’s not perfect but, for me least, it’s a big help.

  3. Bill Benoist /Leadership Heart says:

    As someone who administers DiSC assessments, I appreciated reading this post. Just like Meyers Briggs, or StrengthsFinder, DiSC is just a tool to help one become more self-aware.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Coming from you Bill, that means a lot 🙂

  4. Joe Lalonde says:

    I haven’t taken or used the DiSC assessment yet. However, I have taken assessments like StrengthsFinder and StandOut! They’re eye-openers but they’re not definite.

  5. Kirbie Earley says:

    Well, I’m a sociologist with a strong psychology background and somehow this one got by me! I went and took a free assessment, though, and I’m S/DC (whatever that means). They seem to be pretty complimentary about it, but I’m sure they say that to everybody! 🙂

    So, here is my ‘professional’ opinion about assessments, online self-surveys, etc. They are only as good as the honesty with which you respond. If you respond in a way that you think you should, versus how you really are, then the whole things is invalid.

    It is interesting to read what the assessment said about me. I think most of it rings true with how I think I am. Thanks! 🙂

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      True. It’s easy to answer in the way that you WANT to be or the way you want OTHERS to think you are. But if you are truthful, they are very helpful.

      1. Kirbie Earley says:

        🙂 we all think we’re truthful….just sayin’

  6. Jim Woods says:

    Love this Matt–I am a S and an I, but I think we all have unique strengths. I hate to let ANY one thing–be it a test or degree or whatever define us altogether.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I would have guessed SI or IS so it was spot on 🙂

      1. Jim Woods says:

        I think it shows in my writing style some too. Ha!

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        Just a little bit… 🙂

  7. Chris Bailey says:

    I can’t believe that with all of the different personality tests I’ve taken (Meyers Briggs, StrengthsFinder, etc) I haven’t stumbled into this one yet! Is there a place to do a free assessment? The ones on https://www.discprofile.com/ only look paid.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Not that I know of. I’ve only taken them as a part of something else (meaning it was paid but included in the class price)

  8. Jon Stolpe says:

    During Supervisor Training at my company, I did the DISC profile. I think it confirmed some of the things I already knew about myself and my communication style. It showed me some areas I would need to know in order to deal with the various people I lead.

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