Originally developed by psychologist William Moulton Marston, the DISC personality system organizes people into four basic categories, based on how they approach work and interact with other people. Though it can be used in other applications, such as in making sense of personal relationships, it is most often applied in work settings.
Understanding your DISC personality type can lead to better self-understanding, better communication among co-workers, and help with knowing which kinds of roles and tasks to seek for yourself, or to assign to employees.
Test results are broken into four main categories, or DISC personality types. Scores usually result in one primary and one secondary type. Though everyone can display some of the traits of each type at times, they usually show a distinct preference for one or two.
So to begin, let’s explore the question, what are the four DISC personality types?
D – Drive
People who score high in Drive are focused on taking action, making decisions, and getting results. They often do well in managerial or leadership positions.
They tend to be be:
If you need someone to get a job done, organize team members, or get results without needing much direction, a Drive personality may fit the bill perfectly.
Possible weaknesses: People who score high in Drive, especially if they are in leadership positions, may need to work on softer skills, such as empathy and tact, in order to inspire the best in others instead of offending them by being brusque and dictatorial.
They also may need to be reminded to listen to and respect input from others. They usually won’t be as happy in supporting roles, where they have less control. And if you have several workers who all fit in the Drive category, they might butt heads as they each try to force their own agenda.
I – Influence
People who score high in Influence like to engage with, motivate, and persuade others, and they thrive on connection and interaction. They often do well in sales, education, and management.
They tend to be:
If you need someone to motivate others, create enthusiasm, and influence others toward a desired attitude or action, you’ll probably turn to an Influencer.
Possible weaknesses: Influencing types may not do well working alone, and need to be engaged with others to feel energized and find meaning in their work. They may also be so focused on persuading others that they forget to reciprocate and listen to their ideas. They could sometimes appear over-the-top or disingenuous, especially in sales roles.
Side note: although the Influencer type is the most obviously extroverted of the four types, it is possible to be persuasive and influential without being extroverted. Writers and artists, for example, can be very quiet, low-key, and solitary, but through their work they can influence how people think and even motivate them to a certain course of action.
S – Support
Those who score high in Support are tuned in to the needs and feelings of others and are good at serving and helping them in a non-judgmental or non-competitive way. They do well in service-oriented or supportive roles. They often tend toward helping professions such as nursing and caregiving, or support roles, such as assistants or support staff.
They tend to be:
- Observant of others’ needs
- Happy in the background
- Good at keeping peace
If you want to create an atmosphere of collaboration, warmth, and empathy, Supporters can be invaluable. They’re good at helping others reach their goals and potential, and don’t need to be in the limelight. If the role calls for compassion, nurturing, and interest in serving others, you probably want someone who scores high in Support.
Possible weaknesses: Supporters may be uncomfortable making decisions or taking charge, even when the situation calls for it. Their focus on feelings may limit their attention to getting results, especially if that involves making demands on others.
They can be so quiet about their contributions that they get overlooked and their own potential is underutilized. Also, many roles that Supporter find themselves in tend to be low on pay, prestige, and room for advancement.
In traditional corporate culture, Supporters may get overlooked for leadership or influential roles. However, because of their compassionate, helpful nature and their ability to understand the needs and feelings of others, and create a supportive, collaborative culture, they could do well as leaders, given the right training and direction. They can be valuable resources that shouldn’t be undervalued.
C – Clarity
Those who score high in Clarity enjoy working independently, ideally on well-defined tasks with clear instructions and expectations. They make good accountants, computer programmers, and others who need to get the details exactly right.
They tend to be:
- Attached to rules, systems, and definite procedures
- May prefer to work independently
Those who score high in Clarity are good at getting things done right, down to the tiniest detail. They’re good with following procedure, following the rules, and are usually comfortable with repetition and tasks that others might find boring.
One thing to consider is that, though they like to be in the background, since they’re so good at following procedures and tending to the details, they might also have a talent for being involved in designing systems and procedures as well as merely following them.
However, they need to take into account that there is often more than one way of doing things and not everyone should be forced into one rigid approach.
Possible weaknesses: They may have trouble seeing the big picture, or be uncomfortable with roles that require creative or innovative thinking. They may also lack patience for team members who are more devoted to ideas than details. They tend to be better with completing tasks than with motivating people.
How is DISC often used?
DISC is used to help us understand how we relate to others, and the types of tasks and roles we do best at.
It’s most often used in the workplace. It can help to facilitate communication among co-workers, minimize misunderstanding and inefficiency, and help employers and managers make the best use of each individual’s strengths.
Though it’s sometimes obvious what roles and tasks each DISC personality type will be best at, it can be helpful at times to look beyond the obvious and stretch people to use their strengths in unique ways. It may also be best to use people of different types in similar roles, especially in leadership, so they balance each other out.
Some benefits of using the DISC system
The DISC assessment is simpler than some other personality typing systems, such as the Myers and Briggs system. As such, it can be easier to use, though less rich in nuance and complexity, and it is especially applicable to work settings. It helps people see their basic set of strengths and skills and how they can be best used on the job.
Understanding the DISC personality type of ourselves, our co-coworkers, and our employees can lead to better communication, efficiency, and efficacy and decrease conflict and misunderstanding. It can also be used to ensure that everyone's strengths are used to maximum benefit.
The DISC assessment can help you:
Develop appreciation for those with different strengths
- Make the most of your (and your workers’) strengths
- Develop appreciation for and understanding of those with different ways of approaching things
- Know where you fit best, or where to place each person to make the most of their strengths
If you have good communication in the workplace, and everyone understands their own strengths and personality preferences and those of their co-workers, things tend to run more smoothly, efficiently, and peaceably, and people are more happy, motivated, and able to work to the best of their abilities.
Are you curious about which of the four DISC personality types fits you best? You can take the assessment here.