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Are you Dominant or Compliant? How to Use DISC for Career Confidence

Do you remember those quizzes you used to get in teen magazines?

So many A/ B/ C/ D answers, and you’d be categorised in some way or another.

Or those brilliant flow charts, where you follow yesses and nos to end up as a type of animal, or a type of book.

It was fun to find out about yourself – even if you were being categorised in the crudest way.

And that desire for a greater understanding of yourself, your preferences and your tendencies, doesn’t end with turning 20.

But the grown-up version is called a Personality Profile.

And these are the subject of my blog today.

Why do a Personality Profile?

There are three main reasons to do a Personality Profile:

1. Self-awareness

I always say to my clients, self-awareness is the foundation of change.

It is only by knowing yourself – your strengths and weaknesses, your triggers and coping mechanisms – that you can change your mindset and achieve your goals.

Personality Profiles can really help with this: they shine a light on you and your behaviour in a structured way, providing insights that can then provide that foundation for change.

2. Understanding your impact on others

We don’t live and work in a vacuum.

Whether we like it or not, even in this online, socially-distanced world, our behaviours impact on other people, for better or for worse.

If you want constructive relationships, and effective teams, understanding your tendencies will help guide you towards the most helpful behaviours (and avoid destructive ones).

3. It’s fun!

Whatever age you are, it’s still fascinating to find out about yourself.

Humans are essentially self-interested: who doesn’t want to get 18 pages of analysis all about YOU…?!

What is DISC?

There are many different types of Personality Profile, from the 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire to the HEXACO Model of Personality Structure Personality Inventory or Wealth Dynamics.

One of the most famous is Myers-Briggs, which was based on Jung’s four psychological functions: sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking.

And one of my most favourite of recent years is Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies”, all about how people react to obligations imposed either internally or externally.

But the most popular and credible general test is the DISC personality profile.

This was originally a construct defined by psychologist William Moulton Marston (who, as an aside, also invented the character of Wonder Woman on the prompting of his wife to create a female superhero).

In his 1928 book, “Emotions of Normal People”, Marston described four key “types” based on the whether people perceive their environment to be favourable or unfavourable:

  • Dominance – active in an unfavourable environment
  • Inducement – active in a favourable environment
  • Submission – passive in a favourable environment
  • Compliance – passive in an unfavourable environment.

In 1956, industrial psychologist Walter Clarke turned this construct into a personality test, and then John Geier developed it into the DISC system we know today.

What happens when you take a DISC Personality Profile?

After completing a “most like”/ “least like” series of questions, each participant will be scored as to how strongly they exhibit the following characteristics (which are clearly modelled on Marston’s DISC, but with slight shifts in emphasis):

  • D – Dominant, Driver (red)
  • I – Influencing, Inspiring (yellow)
  • S – Steadiness, Stable (green)
  • C – Correct, Compliant (blue)

These are set up on two different axes:

  • Task-oriented vs People-oriented
  • Outgoing and Active vs Reserved and Reflective

Your personal scoring is shown on three graphs:

  • Your Public Self (the mask): this is your perception of how you believe others expect you to behave.
  • Your Private Self (the core): this is how you are most likely to respond when stress or tension are present (something that will have been on display a lot over the last few months!)
  • Your Perceived Self (the mirror): this is your self-perception; what YOU perceive your typical behaviour to be like.

And interestingly, these graphs can be very different!

This is also accompanied by an overall summary with a keyword profile (I am a high ID, so mine is “Persuader”, for example); a detailed analysis of the graphs; and what your scores mean in terms of effective communication (by others with you, and by you with others); and effective leadership.

Important caveats!

  • No profile is better than any other! All profiles have their strengths and weaknesses. (The key is to know what yours are, so you can work with them – see below.)
  • These are preferences, not hardwired and permanent responses. Humans are complex creatures, and our responses can change. Using our knowledge of the Growth Mindset, we know that we CAN change our abilities and the way we think.
  • Our DISC profile might be strongly shaped by our environment: the stage of our career, our personal life. (When I first did DISC, I was a senior manager in the National Crime Agency, leading a department of 5 teams. My D (for Dominance, meaning directive, task-focussed leadership), was off the scale… Now I’m out of that environment, my I is actually higher than my D.)

Why a DISC profile is useful

Apart from being fun and fascinating, getting your own Personality Profile, whether DISC or an alternative, is only useful if you then DO something with the information (that’s probably my D coming out…)

But if you do, it can be very useful, helping you develop confidence in yourself, your choices, and how you react under pressure.

Questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is my public self very different from my private self? Am I putting on a mask, and if so, in what situations, and why? Is it helpful to me, or could I take steps to choose to behave more in alignment with my core?
  • what characteristics come out under stress? Is that helpful to me, or is it useful to know that I have a tendency to respond that way and then I can mitigate it?
  • is my career in alignment with my strengths and weaknesses, as identified by my DISC profile. What more can I do to maximise the value of my strengths? What can I do to ensure that my weaknesses are not a liability (as I was discussing with a client this week, weaknesses don’t have to become a strength: that’s what delegation is for. But you DO need to make sure that they aren’t going to scupper you…).


Like reading a horoscope, a Personality Profile can be nothing more than a mildly-entertaining bit of self-indulgence.

But if it is a good Profile, and one that you then reflect, and act upon, they can be illuminating – and transformational.

This is why I have just qualified to provide DISC assessments for my clients.

I believe this extra level of self-awareness is hugely valuable to developing a mindset for success.

Any new clients on my 1:1 Transformational Coaching Programme will get a DISC assessment included.

Plus I will be launching a specific DISC Power Hour, which will include a copy of the assessment plus an hour-long deep dive into what this means for you and your career, and how you can best use the information to give you that mindset for success.

If this sounds like something you’d like, get in touch!

Email me on kirsten@kirstengoodwin.co.uk to arrange a time for your Power Hour!

Kirsten Goodwin

The Naked Confidence™ Coach

Hired to help female leaders feeling the pain and pressure of their position. Transforming your Mindset AND Skillset 🔥 Banish your Imposter, and find your way, your confidence, & your edge.

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