How to quickly assess someones DISC preferences

One of the critical skills of successful General Managers is not only a clear understanding of self, but the ability to quickly size up people that you meet in a business setting, and Identify ways to work with them.  Whether they are new colleagues, a new boss, new clients or new staff- a good GM knows how to quickly find a way to build trust and empathy

I have given some guidance regarding assessing the potential preferences of strangers, but this was a while ago, and really didn’t provide a strong process to assessing a DISC profile.

And so here is a solid process to assess a persons likely DISC behaviour preference, and from there your understanding of communicating with different preferences kicks in.

Briefly, here are some core behaviours of each style. You may have even noticed some of these behaviours in yourself or the people you deal with.

  • Dominance (D): are faster paced (movement, talking, deciding), extrovert (talking) more direct (to the point), task/goal orientated (want to win) and personally more guarded (do not disclose personal information readily)
  • Influence (I): are faster paced (movement, talking, deciding), extrovert (talking) more direct (to the point), people orientated (seek out and enjoy the company of others) and personally more open (disclose personal information readily)
  • Steadiness (S): are slower paced (slower to move, talk and respond), introvert (thinking before talking to people they know), more indirect (take time to get to the point and gives detailed information), relationship orientated (want to get to know you) and personally more open (will disclose personal information)
  • Conscientious (C) or Compliant: are slower paced (slower to move, talk and respond), introvert (thinking will talk if asked), more indirect (take time to get to the point and gives detailed information), task/goal orientated (wants to do things the right way first time) and personally more guarded (do not disclose personal information readily)

AthleteDISC and CoachDISC Model and associated core behaviors
How do you quickly and accurately identify each of the four behavioral styles in order to adapt your style to fit with others you meet to work better in a team?  You do this by firstly focusing on the areas of behaviour – directness and openness.
So, to quickly identify the styles of other people ask these two questions of yourself:

  1. Are they more direct and fast-paced or indirect and slower-paced?
  2. Are they more guarded and task-oriented or open and people-oriented?

Direct and fast-paced or indirect and slower-paced

Direct/Faster-Paced People (D and I Styles right of the vertical line)


  • Frequently uses gestures and voice intonation to emphasize points
  • Less patient; more competitive
  • Often makes emphatic, generalized statements
  • Sustained eye contact
  • Frequent contributor in conversations
  • Obvious and strong body language or gestures
  • Expresses opinions readily and openly
  • More likely to introduce self to others




Indirect/Slower-Paced People (S and C Styles left of the vertical line)


  • Infrequent use of gestures and voice intonation to emphasize points
  • More patient and cooperative
  • Often makes qualified, well-structured statements, but only after they have thought or been invited to contribute
  • Subtle body language or gestures
  • Infrequent but profound contributor in the team
  • More likely to wait for others to introduce themselves
  • Reserves expression of opinions





Guarded and task-oriented or open and people-oriented

Open/People-Oriented People (I and S Styles below the horizontal line)


  • Shows feelings and enthusiasm freely
  • More relaxed and warm
  • Emphasizes main ideas
  • Goes with the flow
  • Conversation can wander in conversations or meetings
  • Opinion-oriented
  • Animated facial expressions
  • Easy to get to know
  • Friendly body language or gestures
  • Initiates/accepts physical contact

Guarded/Task-Oriented People (D and C Styles above the horizontal line)


  • Keeps feelings private
  • Limited range of facial expressions
  • More formal and proper
  • Avoids/minimizes physical contact
  • Goes with the suggested program
  • Speaks in specifics; cites facts and examples
  • Formal body language or gestures
  • Conversation stays on subject


The Whole Picture

When you combine both scales, you create each of the four different behavioral styles. Individuals who exhibit guarded and direct behaviours are Dominance Styles; direct and open behaviours are Influence Styles; open and indirect behaviours are Steadiness Styles; and indirect and guarded behaviours are Conscientious Styles.

The Four Basic Behavioral Styles Overview

Below is a chart to help you understand some of the characteristics of each of the four basic styles, so you can interact with each style more effectively. Although behavioural style is only a partial description of personality, it is quite useful in describing how a person behaves, and is perceived in a social or work environment.


PACE Fast/Decisive Fast/Spontaneous Slower/Relaxed Slower/Systematic
PRIORITY Goal People Relationship Task
SEEKS Results Control Participation Praise and encouragement Acceptance Security Accuracy Precision
STRENGTHS Challenges Leadership Setting and driving high standards Persuading Motivating Entertaining  High energy Listening Teamwork Follow-through Supporting others Planning, creating systems & structures Following the rules Logistics
GROWTH AREAS Impatient; Insensitive to others; Poor Listener Inattentive to detail; Short attention span; Poor follow-through Oversensitive; Slow to begin action; Lacks global perspective Perfectionists; Critical; Unresponsive
FEARS Not having control; Having to completely trust others Loss of Social recognition Sudden changes; Instability Personal criticism of their performance or views
IRRITATIONS Inefficiency; Indecision Routines; Complexity Insensitivity; Impatience Disorganization; Impropriety
UNDER STRESS MAY BECOME Dictatorial; Critical Sarcastic; Superficial Passive; Indecisive Withdrawn; Stubborn
GAINS SECURITY THROUGH Control; Leadership Recognition others approval Friendship, Cooperation Preparation; Thoroughness
MEASURES PERSONAL WORTH BY Impact or results; Track record and process Acknowledgments; Applause; Compliments Compatibility with others; Depth of contribution Precision, Accuracy; Quality of results
BEST ENVIRONMENT Efficient Busy, fast paced; Structured Interacting Busy; Big picture; Personal Friendly; Functional; Personal Formal procedures; Detailed; Structured