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Managing Behavioral Styles

Dec 29, 2007
How do you handle the differences in style among your employees? Do you wonder how to motivate someone who seems not to care? Are you dismayed when your management style seems to work with a few beautifully, but misses the mark with others?

First, you must come to grips with a rather tough realization: you really cannot motivate another person. Perhaps you can cause them to get motivated for the short term ("If you are late one more time, you are fired!"), but we all know the motivation for true, lasting behavior change must come from within.

Yet you can do much to create an environment where people will become self-motivated. Understanding different styles of behavior and what each style needs is the key. You also can begin to create a high performing team when you use these principles.

DISC Behaviors
A behavioral-based model such as DISC can be helpful in learning about different styles. DISC is a model that has been used by more than 40 million people worldwide, and it has been translated into more than 17 languages.

In the DISC model, there are four main styles of behavior. Everyone has a bit of each behavior, and often a primary as well as a secondary style of behavior. The four primary styles are dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness.

Dominance. Employees with a high "D" style of behavior have a need for results and achievement. Give these people a challenge, a stretch goal or additional responsibility to get them excited. Focus on giving them as much control as possible over their environment. Reward them for the results they achieve.

How do you recognize a high "D"? They are direct, fast-paced, result-oriented and not always very patient.

Influence. Employees with a high "I" style have a need for social recognition and competence. Give these people an opportunity to have influence over decisions and involve them in key discussions. Ask for their input. Allow them flexibility in their scheduling, if possible. Give them a project they can be passionate about, and provide opportunities for them to shine. Give them praise and recognition as they build relationships and demonstrate their expertise with clients and coworkers.

How do you recognize a high "I"? They are typically talkative, positive, expressive and not always the best at following through with the details.

Steadiness. Employees with a high "S" style have a need for acceptance and stability. They want to have time to develop their "systems" and get a sense of order to their environment. Provide these individuals with a very clear idea of what you want, along with the necessary support and coaching to address their questions and concerns. Be sincere with them, and take the time to build a personal relationship with them. Ask them about their family, and be empathic (and patient) when listening to them. Use their strengths of teamwork, cooperation and ability to develop a systematic approach.

How do you recognize a high "S"? They are kind, steady, cooperative, systematic and need time to absorb change thrust upon them.

Conscientiousness. Employees with a high "C" style have a need for accuracy and correctness. Give them the general framework for what you want, but give them the freedom and time to do their own analysis of the problem. Be prepared to address their tough questions, and give them the opportunity to express their concerns about the project. They often have thought through potential pitfalls no one else will have discovered. Reward them for the good job they do, but be specific and brief in your praise. They set high standards for themselves, and expect others to do the same.

How do you recognize a high "C"? They are analytical, diplomatic, cautious and sometimes are their own worst enemies due to their self-critical nature.

Practical Strategies
Obviously, as human beings, we are much more complicated than the four styles of the DISC, but the instrument can be a start in helping us understand how to create an environment where others are self-motivated.

As the war for talent becomes more pronounced, you must do everything you can to build a loyal, engaged team. Understanding these style differences, and incorporating these strategies can help in hiring and retaining key employees.

As a manager or a small business owner, you may have limited financial resources or career options with which to reward an employee, but you can work hard at understanding what makes your employees tick. When you appreciate and capitalize on employees' strengths, you provide them with a sense of pride, involvement and contribution that increases job satisfaction and retention.

Here are five tips to get moving in the right direction regardless of individual styles:

* Be clear about expectations up front - Let people know what is important to you and what you expect from them. Share your own style and needs with your employees.

* Walk the talk and lead by example - Step in to support your employees at every opportunity. Maintain your own sense of personal integrity at all times.

* Get to know your people and what makes them tick - Be a student of understanding differences, and adapt your style to meet their needs. Provide opportunities for people to operate from their strengths.

* Provide honest feedback, and continuous coaching - Encourage an environment where team members can learn from one another, including from you, and you from them. Tell the truth.

* Encourage and reward accountability - Provide reinforcement when people take initiative. Be the poster child for personal accountability. Admit mistakes and learn from them.
About the Author
Paula Switzer is the author and can provide additional information about the DISC tool at her websites, Training Resources and DISC Training. She is a contributing author in Leadership Defined, is a member of the National Speakers Association, and is a Certified DISC trainer.
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