In this piece, Daniel Goleman (of Emotional Intelligence fame) contrasts modes of behavior – especially behaviors and “mindsets” that are triggered by particular environmental circumstances – with “personality types” that are connoted to be more fixed and pervasive across situations.
That started me thinking about DiSC styles, in that WE use DiSC extensively to 1) provide personal insight into styles of thought and behavior and 2) provide a common platform for discussion and understanding among collaborators in companies, on teams, etc. Are DiSC styles more like “modes” or “types?”
As I’ve often mentioned elsewhere, having (previously) used personality typing instruments like the MMPI, MBTI, and Enneagram with clinical clients, I have found them useful to enhance personal insight, especially when the client needs to develop a vocabulary and insight to engage in the therapeutic process. However, I have found them to be less useful in the context of organizational development, primarily because, without the long-term intensive facilitation by an expert for each individual and the team, the surfacing of personality characteristics can become too revealing (without adequate interpretive context) and leads to labeling and stereotyping. By contrast, work environment-oriented tools like 5 Dynamics, DiSC, et al. are framed in the context of the workplace by their very terminology and the idea that they are measuring how a person’s energy “naturally flows” when in particular work situations. This understanding, with a modest dose of facilitation, can lead to marked improvements in the assembling and functioning of teams. As Kurt Lewin may have put it, this deeper understanding might accelerate the process of storming, forming, and norming in work groups. Hence, DiSC styles are differentiated distinctly from personality types.
The modes that Goleman posits are (as I interpret from this referenced blog-length treatment) highly situational – “When this happens, I respond in this mode, as opposed to when that happens and I respond in a different mode.” There is a distinct element of, “…and, I’d like to change my usual response to be more like that mode than this mode,” leading to integrity of thought, emotion, and behavior. Which, in our (Workforce Equanimity’s) concept of Mindful work, is consistent with an equanimous state of responding in a calm, thoughtful, appreciate manner (mode?) to an ever-changing environment.
DiSC styles are akin to personality types in that they are descriptive of a set of characteristics that one typically prefers to use as responses; yet, DiSC styles are assessed situationally (the workplace, usually) and are contextualized (when properly facilitated and coached) in a flexible frame – i.e., “Your energy naturally flows to this style; but you are capable of responding with characteristics of any style at any time, if you so choose – it just might take a little more intention and energy.”
So, to answer my own question, I offer that DiSC styles are more like modes than types; but I’m interested in what you think. Please respond below…