What is the DiSC model?

The DiSC model was based on research conducted by Dr. William Moulton Marston in 1928 while he was writing the book The Emotions of Normal People. Marston’s subsequent emotional and behavioral theories were inspired by the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Understanding the DiSC model

The DiSC model is a tool used to measure one’s personality and behavioral style.

The first self-assessment tool based on Marston’s research was developed in 1956 by industrial psychologist Walter Clarke.

The tool, which measured one’s natural (unconscious) and adjusted (conscious) behavioral style, ultimately morphed into the DiSC model itself.

The DiSC model is practical and simple to understand and implement. For this reason, it is a popular choice with employees who want to improve how they respond to difficult situations as well as rules and procedures.

The model also clarifies how individuals like to influence others and their preferred pace. 

The DiSC model’s official website claims that over 1 million people take the self-assessment each year to improve workplace productivity, teamwork, and communication.

The two basic behavioral drivers of the DiSC model

While not part of Marston’s initial research, it is widely accepted that two motivators drive individual behavior:

  1. Motor drive (pace drive) – motor drive is the pace at which individuals prefer to operate. Extraverted people tend to move fast, talk fast, decide fast, and may be impatient. Introverted people speak and move more slowly and employ a cautious and deliberate approach. They tend to think before speaking or acting.
  2. Compass drive (priority drive) – compass drive describes whether someone is task-oriented or people-oriented. Task-oriented individuals focus on data, logic, and projects, while people-oriented individuals are interested in experiences, relationships, interactions, and feelings.

Note that these motivators are not absolutes, with most individuals embodying both types of drivers to varying degrees.

The four components of the DiSC model

Marston distilled his work into four distinct personality styles which comprise the DiSC acronym.

The lowercase “i” is used to differentiate the official trademark held by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from other interpretations of the model.

With that said, the four personality styles are:

  1. Dominance (D) – confident, demanding, outspoken, and sometimes brutally honest. These individuals are results-oriented and holistic thinkers.
  2. Influence (i) – open, trusting, enthusiastic, and energetic. These individuals like to influence or persuade others.
  3. Steadiness (S) – cooperation, dependability, patience, sincerity, and loyalty. These individuals are cool, calm, and collected and do not like to be rushed.
  4. Conscientiousness (C) – quality, accuracy, competency, and expertise. These individuals are detail-oriented, fear being wrong, and enjoy their independence. 

No style is more desirable than the others and, like the two motivators we outlined above, individuals will exhibit a mix of all four styles in their lives.

Instead, the DiSC model clarifies one’s comfort zone – or the style they tend to gravitate toward the most. 

Based on this information, the individual can understand their tendencies or preferences and adjust their behavior to relate to others more effectively.

Key takeaways:

  • The DiSC model is a tool used to measure one’s personality and behavioral style. The first iteration of the model was released in 1956 and based on research conducted by William Moulton Marston 28 years earlier.
  • There are two main drivers of behavior. The first is motor drive, which describes the preferred pace at which one likes to operate. The second driver, compass drive, pertains to whether one focuses on logic and data or people, feelings, and relationships.
  • Marston distilled his work into four distinct personality styles which comprise the DiSC acronym. These include dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. No style is more desirable than the others and most will embody all four over their lives.

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