Understanding Your Staff’s Personality Type

Feb. 1, 2015
Learning how to identify and understand your staff’s personality type will help you lead more effectively

According to Dennis Richard, dealing with the various personalities of staff in the workforce can sometimes be the trickiest part of being a leader.

“Sometimes you think, ‘Wow, I just told a guy hello and he’s all ticked off!’” he says.

As the owner of Twin Tire & Auto Care, a three-location repair business in metropolitan New Orleans, Richard was looking for a way to more effectively manage his staff by understanding their personal needs and motivations.

That’s why he turned to the DiSC personality classification system to help him understand his staff and how they would like to be led.

“It gives you a better insight on how to manage each person and where they’re coming from,” he says. “It really helps you manage the personnel you have.”

According to Margie Seyfer, owner of Seyfer Automotive in Wheat Ridge, Colo., and owner of Impact Presentations, understanding your staff is a skill from which every shop owner could benefit.

“The best leaders know themselves very well but they also know the needs and expectations of other people,” she says.

That process of identifying how your staff would prefer to be led starts with a simple list of multiple choice questions and ends with the understanding of how to adapt your own leadership style to suit the needs to your staff.

“The best leaders know themselves very well but they also know the needs and expectations of other people.” 
—Margie Seyfer, president, Impact Presentations

Determining Personality Types

The DiSC personality assessment is comprised of a number of questions geared toward identifying a person’s natural personality style. The multiple-choice questions first identify if the respondent is analytical or relational, and then introverted or extroverted.

After that is established, the test narrows down those traits into four distinct personality styles:

  1. Dominant (D). Seyfer explains these personality types as the very extroverted movers and shakers. Dominant styles are very direct, decisive, intense, high energy and love change. “They’re risk takers and so a lot of small business owners are the high-D style,” she says. “They are the people who initiate change. But when they approach you, it’s not softened very much.”
  2. Influencing (i). While the i is also extroverted, Seyfer says this personality style is optimistic, talkative, and emotional; they’re usually people pleasers. “Their whole demeanor is, ‘I’m ready to go.’ The bottom line for i is fun,” she says. “They make great leaders because they can sell anything to anybody. They motivate people through rewards and motivations.”
  3. Steadiness (S). On the other end of the spectrum, the S style of leadership is more introverted. Seyfer says these leaders are organized, great listeners, detailed, friendly, easy going and non-confrontational. “The thing that S wants is security. That’s their main goal,” she says. “They’re very slow and indecisive about making changes. But they see employees as family.”
  4. Compliant (C). The analytical C style looks at problems from all angles. Seyfer says the C is very private, accurate, asks a lot of questions and is a perfectionist when it comes to their work. “The number one fear for a high C is criticism of their work or ideas,” she says. 

The test will give you a detailed personality profile that outlines the characteristics of the individual, how they like to be dealt with, their motivations and to what they react poorly.

Richard says that he had his entire staff take a personality assessment to identify their styles. It’s helped him create a file that any of his managers can easily access before working with, reprimanding or praising an individual employee.

Seyfer says that every shop should have a mix of all four personality styles and the way in which those styles interact sometimes create conflict.

“If you have a D tech and a Steady manager, that D tech will take charge of the shop area and the Steady is going to lose control of everything,” she says.

Conversely, Richard says that he learned his “rough and gruff” Dominant personality sometimes rubbed his more introverted staff who didn’t like to be dealt with in a direct manner the wrong way.

“These profiles aren’t foolproof, but the conversation goes a lot better than a manager going in and screaming at somebody who’s an S or a C and the next thing you know, he just walks out because we handled him improperly,” he says.

By identifying his style, Richard says he has learned to “dial it back” and is more conscious of how his demeanor may be perceived by his staff.

Dealing with People

Understanding where the other person is coming from encourages greater understanding, buy-in and cooperation. Richard makes sure that each of his managers have a copy of the personality profile for each of their respective employees.

“Managers will thumb through that before they talk to an employee,” he says. “It tells them this person doesn’t like to be recognized in public, while that person prefers to be recognized in public. The managers use it to actually manage the staff.”

For example, Richard says that with a D tech he can be more direct and confront a problem head-on without causing hurt feelings, while an S tech requires a more subtle approach and a conversation in private. Similarly, Seyfer says that an i personality will need a time limit and a follow-up, while a C can be counted on to be precise. 

It has also helped Richard create a more cohesive team that gets along better.

“When two people don’t get along, we’ll pull both of their profiles,” he says. “You might realize that the D tech is intimidating the S tech so there’s no way they’re going to match up. We’re fighting a losing battle by keeping them working side by side.”

Making Strategic New Hires

Besides better adapting to each other’s styles, DiSC can also help shop managers plan where to put new employees and what types to look for in building a stronger team. Because he has been using the system for more than 15 years, Richard gathered DiSC profiles for each position on staff and looked at which characteristics worked the best and the worst for each position. 

For example, he says a good salesman usually has an i personality, while a technician is more of a C, and the characteristics of an S personality work well for front-office staff and service advisors.

Richard has every job candidate complete a DiSC assessment and matches his or her results to the characteristics his team has identified as the most successful.

“It’s not foolproof but we find that it’s a good tool versus not using any tool whatsoever,” he says. “We were using it for a while and had a really cohesive staff. Then we got away from it and we had a couple bad apples sneak in and all hell broke loose. We decided from here on out to use it. It’s a good tool in the toolbox.” 

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