Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Predicting Your Crazy: Profile Your Team. DISC Profiles are Mandatory for Startup CEOs

 

“God is great. Beer is good, and people are crazy.” – Billy Currington

This is one of the best country song lyrics of all time.
As it turns out though, that people are crazy in entirely predictable ways.

A Pretty Typical Entrepreneur's DISC Profile

A Pretty Typical Entrepreneur’s DISC Profile

Early as an entrepreneur, I had a lot of exposure to personality profile systems and tools, but I never dove in.   I had an exec on my team who convinced me not to use them because he “can make the test say whatever he wants me to think is his personality style.”    That was pretty logical so I caved and we never implemented it. The part I missed is that if you want to skew the test, then the team learns about your results is helpful too! (Faked results can be even more helpful depending on some of the controls in the profiling system you use.)

My personal favorite profiles are DISC and HBDI. I’ve found DISC the most helpful in day-to-day thinking.   My own DISC profile is above, which anyone who knows me, won’t be surprised to see. I am a high “D” and high “I.” Until the last couple of years, I was a higher “I,” but lately my “D” has been coming up, so watch out, because I’m now pegged at 99, the highest possible score. :)   Also notice that extremely low “S” … meaning my preferences toward stability are pretty darn low. I love change, obviously.

DISC is helpful as an entrepreneur because you learn how people are wired to communicate. This isn’t pigeonholing anyone and you don’t make any important decisions based solely on a personality profile.  However, with a good DISC profile for your team, you will learn generally how each team member…

  • … prefers to communicate with you.
  • … prefers to communicate with each other.
  • … handles conflict.
  • … manages stress.
  • … likes to work (heads down vs. collaborative).
  • … learns the best (reading, writing, doing, talking, etc.).
  • … is best motivated.
  • … will behave in social settings.
  • … makes decisions and evaluates options.
  • … evaluates risk in their own life.

So many problems can be avoided and strengths can be leveraged when you have a solid understanding of personality profiles and each team member.

If this is new to you, here is a quick DISC 101:

  • High D’s. Decisive.  Think Donald Trump.      Characteristics:   Forceful, dariing, determined, competitive, driving.
  • High I’s. Interactive. Think Jim Carrey.  Characteristics: Persuasive, inspiring, enthusiastic, sociable.
  • High S’s. Stabilizing. Think Mother Teresa or Mr. Rogers.   Characteristics: Predictable, passive, complacent, stable.
  • High C’s. Cautious.  Think Joe Friday (“Just the Facts, Ma’am”).   Characteristics:  Perfectionist, systematic, careful, analytical.

As a CEO, I want my team to know my profile as well.  It helps them be prepared for my strong opinions and high-energy communication styles.

For core startup teams, it is imperative to have some of each style on your team. It is healthy and gives your team a higher likelihood of surviving the long haul when scaling changes the dynamics of growing your company.

  • D’s – generally the D’s will be the CEO and occasionally will be in a sales role. Make decisions quickly and act with “no fear” in more settings than the other profiles.
  • I’s – lots of I’s go into sales, but also do great in marketing. Great story tellers, actors, and persuaders.
  • S’s – this is your GM or COO. The checklist oriented glue that keeps the rest of the knuckleheads together. The chief rhythm officer to keep the cadence. The guy or gal who takes the plan seriously and has to be convinced if the CEO get’s a crazy idea to go “off plan.” (Ahem, ahem, which is hourly on most teams.)  My saying is this: “To an S, EVERYTHING is a big deal!”
  • C’s – You want the C’s managing the books and writing the code!  These are two things that need to be done with a perfectionist at the helm.
DISC Profiles on every desk in Dave Ramsey's building.

DISC Profiles on every desk in Dave Ramsey’s building.

Last fall I toured Dave Ramsey’s building in Nashville with my EO Forum. They have 300+ employees in the building and run an impressive operation. I was blown away to see that each team member (executive to admin) posts their DISC profile on their door or their desk as a reminder to anyone communicating with them “here is how I like to communicate.”  See pic here.  It was awesome to see that the HR folks were all high S’s and C’s while sales and marketing were the D’s and I’s.

Once you learn the DISC profiles, you will find that this knowledge finds it’s way into your day multiple times, every single day.   You will learn how to plan your communication strategies better and people all of a sudden start to make a whole lot more sense.

 

Resource Note: The free DISC Profile available on Tony Robbins site is, hands down the best free tool out there.

Bonus note:  If you lead a sales team, I highly recommend finding a trainer such as Jim Ryerson with Sales Octane to come in and help your front-line reps learn how to use DISC to communicate with their prospects and customers.   Communicating with the right style to the right person at the right time is a skill that can be learned and DISC provides the fundamentals of what they need to know.