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Coaching Good People to Excellence

As many companies know, preparing executives for senior leadership roles requires more than verifying their intelligence and experience.  If a person has the talent and drive to be a great leader, but lacks the skills to manage people, the move is doomed.

A very large company was in need of some one-on-one training for one of its best performers to develop her into an effective leader.

The executive was smart, well-educated, and supremely talented.  She also completed her assignments and hit every goal placed before her.  So what was the problem with this dream manager?  She treated her subordinates very badly.  She also had an unapproachable demeanor and threw a number of temper tantrums.

In addition to the mistreatment of her employees, the executive had a disorganized approach to work and often leaped to solutions with little explanation or foresight.  She did not value those who made “lesser” contributions and she blatantly played favorites with her subordinates. 

Her department was definitely not a meritocracy.  She just didn’t recognize her responsibility to develop her employees.

The company didn’t want to replace the executive despite her many interpersonal problems.  Senior management believed that coaching her would be a sound investment. 

They knew that replacing her would be difficult due to her unusual combination of talent and skills and it would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The company had the executive take some training to help her recognize her role as a leader in the organization.  They also wanted the executive to develop an appreciation for others’ contributions and to be consistent in the treatment of her colleagues.  And of course, they wanted their rising star to improve her organizing skills and become more patient. 

To discover the reasons for her difficulties with people, the executive’s past and present bosses, colleagues, customers and followers were interviewed.  This was a huge undertaking, but it revealed several possible causes for the problems.

The fact that the executive had little experience managing was a clear root cause, as was the poor mentoring she had received for the role.  However, an even more important factor was that the executive had no knowledge of her own behavioral style.  In addition, she also had made no effort to understand her subordinates and was guilty of intellectual arrogance.

The executive didn’t respect people unless they were her intellectual equal.  That led to a lot of her negative behavior.

To get the executive thinking about the consequences of her actions the DiSC PPSS (DiSC General Characteristics Report) was assigned to her as pre-work.  During the first training session, there was a discussion about her DiSC PPSS results, but only the portions that were relevant to the executive’s needs. 

One of the instruments that was believed would benefit the executive was the Dimension of Leadership Profile.  The Dimensions of Leadership Profile was administered to the executive along with the executive’s boss and the human resource director.  Discussing the differences among the three individuals was an eye-opening experience for the executive.

She saw that her leadership talents did not always correspond to other people’s preferences.  She also realized that just because her boss did something a certain way did not mean that she had to do the same. 

As the sessions continued, the attention was focused on the executive while keeping in mind instruments that could provide helpful insights.  The Time Mastery Profile was suggested to the executive who had talked about her high stress levels and difficulties prioritizing.  After administering the Time Mastery Profile to the executive, the results were discussed.

She was thrilled.  The profile was very affirming and gave her a lot of great ideas for making her life easier.  She had never had a reaction like that to any instrument.

The next profile suggested to the executive was DiSC Indra.

After responding to DiSC Indra, the executive was eager to discuss DiSC Indra’s general insights into behavior.  But her most enthusiastic response was to the dyad report.  A specific look had been created at the executive’s troubled relationship with a subordinate.  For the first time, the executive gained clues as to why she was having such problems with her employees.  The DiSC Indra’s precise analysis was an ideal complement to the previous instrument’s lessons. 

No one single instrument measures everything.  Multiple viewpoints of behavior can be helpful if the respondent is not overwhelmed.

The executive made breakthroughs at her own pace, and the results of the training sessions were striking.  Learning about her own behavior and motivations helped the executive accept new skills as improvements, rather than as obstacles.  She recognized that she did not have to alter her style to communicate better.  She also realized that her style was not superior or inferior to others, which had been a source of tension.

One of her bosses had focused on her negatives so much that it took her awhile to realize that her own methods might be valid.  She found out that bosses are not objective or perfect.

A similar insight for the executive was that her subordinates might have equally good methods.  She no longer felt that every question was an affront, and she resolved to be more flexible when dealing with different behavioral styles.  Her determination to be more approachable was clear form her action plan, which detailed ways she could maintain or improve upon her new skills.

Among those new habits was a dedication to efficiency.  The executive took the lessons of the Time Mastery Profile to heart by learning to prioritize better and to improve her work/life balance.  She also embraced the DiSC model to address miscommunication before it turned into full conflict.  Besides creating a happier and more productive executive, these changes had a positive effect on the organization. 

Before people were streaming into the human resources office to complain about her.  Those complaints have dropped to zero.  It makes all the difference when employees are given the time and tools to necessary to learn about themselves.


DiSC Case Study from Inscape Publishing