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DISC Personality Model

Learn about the DISC Personality model and how to harness it for smarter hiring and people decisions.

What is the DISC Personality Model?

The DISC assessment is a popular psychological framework used to understand and categorize individual styles and was developed by psychologist William Marston in the 1920s. The model characterizes people using four main dimensions:​

  • Dominance (D): People with dominant behavioral traits tend to be assertive, decisive, and results-oriented. They are often seen as strong-willed and may take charge in various situations.

  • Influence (I): Those with influential behavioral traits are usually outgoing, enthusiastic, and social. They are persuasive, good at building relationships, and enjoy working with others.

  • Steadiness (S): People with steady behavioral traits are often patient, cooperative, and reliable. They prefer stable environments and tend to be good listeners and team players.

  • Conscientiousness (C): Those with conscientious behavioral traits are detail-oriented, systematic, and focused on accuracy. They prefer to work with rules and procedures and are diligent in their approach.

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DISC is often used in personal development, team building, leadership training, and recruitment, and to help individuals and teams better understand themselves and improve their communication and collaboration skills.

You can read Receptiviti's complete DISC documentation here.

History of DISC

The history of the DISC assessment can be traced back to the early 20th century when the DISC model was developed by psychologist William Marston, a Harvard-educated psychologist who is also known for creating the comic book character Wonder Woman.
Marston's work on the DISC model was influenced by his observations of human behavior and emotions. He believed that people's behavioral traits could be categorized into four primary dimensions: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance (later referred to as Conscientiousness). These dimensions formed the basis of the DISC model, and Marston published his findings in his 1928 book titled "Emotions of Normal People."
After Marston's initial work, various researchers and psychologists further developed and refined the DISC model and assessment tools. In the 1950s and 1960s, Walter V. Clarke, a psychologist, and industrial psychologist John Cleaver conducted research and developed their version of the DISC assessment, which aimed to apply the model in the workplace for personnel selection and team building.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the DISC assessment gained more popularity in the business world and became widely used in corporate settings for employee training and development programs. Over time, different organizations and consultants developed versions of the DISC assessment, incorporating additional insights and adaptations to suit various contexts and industries.


Advantages of Language-Based Personality

Self-reports are the most widely used method of assessing personality, primarily due to their convenience. While self-reported personality is useful for understanding how a person perceives themselves, on its own, this form of assessment often provides more insight into a candidate’s self-perception than it provides into their actual personality. 

When completing a self-report, people are typically consciously aware of what is being measured and the questions that are measuring it. This conscious awareness allows assessment-takers to regulate their responses, leading to biases in self-reporting. For example, "social desirability bias" is common in self-reports, where people tend to answer questions in ways that make them look good rather than answering truthfully.

Self-reports are also subjective, in that they rely on and assess one’s point of view. The subjective nature of self-reports often results in "reference-group effects," where a person’s perception of themselves is biased by the degree to which they compare themselves to other people. For instance, an individual may think of themselves as extraverted if the people they surround themselves with are extremely introverted. 

Research has shown that language can be an objective behavioural measure of personality. Function words, in particular, are used largely unconsciously, which makes them an ideal implicit measure of behaviour and provides an approach that helps mitigate the biases inherent in self-reports.

Research also shows that people use similar language patterns over time and throughout different contexts, which makes language a reliable measure for understanding personality traits and differences among individuals. For example, people who score higher on extraversion typically use more language indicative of positive emotion and social topics.

Language-based assessment also has another unique advantage: You can analyze anyone's personality without their participation - simply by analyzing their language from social media, interviews, speeches, Zoom and MS Meet transcripts, call center call recordings, earning calls, or anywhere they are communicating. Here's an example of a personality assessment of the CEOs of two publicly traded companies that was conducted by analyzing earnings call transcripts. 

In summary, language analysis is a valid and effective way of understanding and measuring personality. People’s language-based personality may not match their self-reported personality because self-reports evaluate how a person perceives themselves, while language measures how they really behave. 

Read more about language-based personality here.

HR, Hiring, and Talent Development Use Cases

DISC has several valuable applications and it is widely used in various aspects of organizational development and employee management. Some of the key applications of the DISC assessment include:
Team Building: Use DISC to create well-balanced, productive and collaborative teams by understanding the behavioural styles of team members, and assembling teams with complementary strengths and communication styles.
Talent Development: Use DISC to identify and develop leadership potential within an organization. Understanding one's own leadership style and the styles of others can improve communication and decision-making within leadership teams.
Sales and Customer Service Training: Use DISC in sales and customer service training to better understand customer preferences and adapt sales or service approaches accordingly.
Employee Training and Development: Use DISC in training and development programs to identify areas for improvement and tailor development plans to suit individual needs.
Hiring and Recruitment: Use DISC as a part of the hiring process to gain insights into a candidate's behavioral fit for a particular role and the overall organizational culture.
Conflict Management: Use DISC to help managers and HR professionals address conflicts between team members by understanding the underlying behavioral differences and finding suitable resolutions.
Change Management: During periods of organizational change, Use DISC to aid in managing the transition more effectively by understanding how different individuals may respond to change.
Performance Management: Use DISC to improve performance evaluations by considering behavioral traits and strengths when setting goals and providing feedback.
Employee Engagement: Use DISC to understand employees' behavioral styles in order to create a more engaged workforce by tailoring motivation strategies to align with their preferences.

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