Sometimes teambuilding just doesn’t work.  We’ve all had this experience.  What’s interesting is to realize how many different explanations for the failure we might need to look at; how many different theoretical approaches might frame our inquiry.  I stumbled on another new one just this week.

Julie Straw’s The 4-Dimensional Manager is a basic primer for managers on using DISC to improve one’s management style.  But hidden in the last chapter of the book is a little gem called “managing in 4 styles of organization”, and it talks about how companies can have a DISC style too.  It starts with the dominant style of the founder, which helps create organizational culture and is reinforced over and over by the values and the hiring preferences of that founder and his/her leadership team.  So as the company grows, it becomes more recognizably:

  • High D (dominance): hard-driving, competitive, results-oriented.  No touchy feely stuff here.
  • High I (influence): Enthusiastic, innovative, focused on people and recognition.
  • High S (supportiveness): Stable, harmonious, community-oriented, with low turnover.
  • High C (conscientiousness): Focused on research and analysis, with very high standards for quality and accuracy.

Obviously you can’t ask an organization to take a DISC profile.  But by asking the question, what behaviours get modeled, rewarded and criticized?–you can figure it out.  And this can help explain, ultimately, who fits in and who doesn’t.  A high D working on a high I team can certainly gain some understanding of the model and use that to help improve the situation.  But ultimately, it may come down to giving people a better tool to assess fit and decide to move on.  All the goal-setting, vision-creating, communication-improving and conflict resolution work in the world isn’t going to change the basic problem of asking a square peg to fit in a round hole and be happy about it.

It makes me think about a time before I became a consultant, when I had an in-house job and couldn’t seem to make it work.  I know there was an issue of cultural fit at the time, but now when I look back I’m able to clarify that cultural issue a little more clearly.  I’m a high I, and both the company and my immediate team were high C.  I remember feeling that all that crossing t’s and dotting i’s was wasting people’s time and making us less effective, and being frustrated that decisions moved so slowly.  Yet I didn’t understand how truly important it was to just buckle down and do what was expected of me anyway.  Eventually I left the company, after only a year.  Would I have left the company anyway, even if I had understood the issue from this point of view at the time?  Probably.  But I would have put myself and my teammates through a lot less pain during the year I was there, and I would also have left with a clearer sense of why I was doing it and what I was looking for in a new job.

Have you had an experience like this?  Do you currently have a team on which you or one of your teammates is a “misfit” in DISC terms?

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