Change Management through the lense of DISC
As a leader, have you ever wondered why staff react to change so differently? Ever been curious about change management strategies to handle these various reactions? If I’m honest, one of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered in leadership is staff resistance to change. I’ve often thought, “Why can’t they just get on board and do what’s needed to get this initiative done?”. But that would be too easy…
The more I learn about behavioral styles associated with the DISC Index, the more I appreciate and even value staff resistance to change. DISC theory breaks behavioral styles into 4 dimensions: D= Decision making style, I= Interactive style, S= preferred Stability (Pace) of our environment, and C= Cautious or our preference for protocols and standards. Each dimension is on a continuum of low to high, and behavior traits are associated with each range.
Change management for High D’s
What I’ve found is that my team usually has a variety of DISC styles, each with their own traits. High D’s make quick decisions, are on board with change easily, and are happy to move forward towards a goal. They are daring and risk takers. This group of staff are innovators and love new ideas. On the surface this is a wonderful asset, and we need this momentum to drive change, but they sometimes don’t wait for all the details of a plan before they act. High D’s tend to have a hard time tolerating the conversations necessary to construct the execution plan. This can negatively impact the team’s ability to reach its goals. What I’ve learned with High D’s is to give them an immediate task they can accomplish right away that is part of the larger plan so they can act quickly and achieve a win early in the change process.
Change management for High I’s
High I’s usually get excited about the initiative and want to talk about it. They show great enthusiasm and are early adopters of an initiative. These staff add dialogue in team meetings, openly share their ideas, and are fun to work with. The challenge with high I’s is focusing them during the execution phase and not letting them get sidetracked chasing the next idea that excites them. Strategies for this group are games, themes and smaller goals that engage their desire for stimulation. They also make great advocates of the initiative. Use High I’s to inspire other members of the team who may need additional encouragement to get on board.
Change management for High S’s
High S’s can be challenging on the surface because they don’t fundamentally like change. They like a steady environment that is predictable and calm. They prefer routine and status quo, “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.” This is the group of staff I have learned to appreciate the most because once you understand what motivates their resistance to change, you can use it to engage them with your change management process. Usually, I ask this type of person to be my right-hand support in developing the execution strategy. It shows them that I value their pro/con thinking. I try to use their need for stability to motivate them to change so they can get back to a “new norm.” I try to involve them as early as possible in the change process to allow them time to get used to a new idea. This group of staff used to frustrate me but there is deep value and team collaboration when harnessed. This group will become your best advocates for an initiative once they have time to understand the logic behind a change and they feel engage in the change management process.
Change management for High C’s
High C’s are another group of staff that used to secretly drive me nuts. They have excellent analytical skills, are superb at knowing the details behind protocols and procedures and are very systematic and careful in their work style. This group will dot their I’s and cross their . They will catch your mistakes and keep the team honest when reporting stats and results. My challenge with this style was their need for all the details up front, most of which I hadn’t had time to think through or plan out. In meetings their questions came across as resistant and I perceived them as negative. With leadership maturity and experience, I’ve learned to embrace these qualities and use them to enhance the team. They are great at thinking through the details, so instead of feeling the need to have all the answers to their questions, I now turn it back on them and ask for help in creating the detailed execution plan. This group may need to be brought up out of the weeds at times and encouraged to move toward the bigger goal, but High C’s are an invaluable resource to a team’s success.
Are these generalities? Yes. And every person is unique. But as leaders, the more we understand behavioral styles, the more we can work within each person’s zone of strength to position the team for success in managing change.
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