I once had a client who was the directive, driver personality style. She supervised a large department for a financial services company. She was a wonderful lady to work for — fun, smart and very good at her job. We got along great. While debriefing her results on the DISC personality assessment, she said something that surprised me.
“Laura, you’ve said it’s important to greet people when I come into work and ask how they’re doing. I make the effort to do that, but I do it because I know it motivates them. It’s what some need from me to do their best work. I do it because I know it gets results.”
She knows it’s what good leaders do. They adapt to what their employees need, even if it’s not something that comes naturally or is important to them personally.
This supervisor’s motto was “Git ‘er done!” She was all about results and getting down to business. Protecting people’s feelings was not her main concern. Her focus was on the work. But she knew not everyone on her team had the same style and would respond to the same kind of treatment. Some wanted the “touchy feely” approach to feel like their manager cared about them as a person. So she adapted her style to match what her people needed.
Benefits of the High D Style
- These folks make great leaders. They are action oriented, wired to take on challenges and overcome opposition. They move through the world quickly and love to solve problems. They’re task oriented (vs relationship), thrive on a variety of assignments and opportunities to excel. Good with change, they will challenge the status quo.
- They are great entrepreneurs because they don’t get easily discouraged. They make good courtroom lawyers and possess a great deal of bench strength and self-confidence. Control, power and authority are important to them. They’d rather ask for forgiveness than seek permission. Some believe that rules are meant to be broken or at least bent.
- They feel the need to push harder and will rely on their own internal fortitude vs outer forces (like research or committees) to accomplish their goals. They respect people who challenge and stand up to them.
- Our High D folks make things happen. They persevere and overcome overwhelming odds. They take on large responsibilities, seize the reins of leadership and achieve great things.
The Evil Twin
But just like all our personality styles, some behaviors taken to extremes reveal the dark side or an “evil twin” that can slow their success.
- High D people can be intimidating. One supervisor I coached was surprised her team members wouldn’t bring their problems to her. She’d say, “I don’t understand why they don’t come to me.” Well, she came on SO strong that it made it doubly difficult for an employee to raise issues. She was too abrupt. Her preference for short, direct answers made it difficult for some to explain their circumstances without feeling cut off.
- Directive driver personality style folks can show impatience. They’ll cut to the chase and don’t care for a lot of detail or backstory. They want short, direct answers and don’t like to waste time. When handing out results of the DISC Personality Assessment I try to walk people through the report in a logical sequence. My High D folks have already flipped to the end and are ready to move on.
- They may become workaholics. Task accomplishment is primary and relationships often take a back seat. They are driven. Success may be defined as status, titles and public achievements. They push themselves and can go overboard engaging in activities to earn recognition at the expense of other priorities.
How to Get Constructive Outcomes
Taken to extremes, their evil twin needs to listen to others, take time to build relationships, get input, include people in the decision-making process and explain their reasoning. Some may perceive them as lacking empathy and being overly forceful.
Since most of us have a secondary style, our directive driver personality style folks can call on different traits to work better with others. They don’t have to change their personality, but can adapt to use strengths that complement their hard-charging nature.
Half the battle is to become aware of how others see us. Ask more, tell less. Seek out those with opposite styles vs “look alikes” to join your team. Recognize your definition of success is filtered through your personal preferences and you could get better results by experimenting with another approach.
There is no one “best” personality style, but knowing more about ourselves makes it easier to learn what jobs to pursue, why some friendships last longer than others and what we can do to build self-confidence. We also raise our chances of success by better understanding our kids, customers, co-workers, spouses and business partners. Ultimately, turning the lens inward and building self-awareness turns life into a happier ride!