One of the most useful application of the DISC is learning how to adapt your style when communicating to a manager or boss. In order to do that two things need to happen. First, you have to know and understand your own style. Second, you have to know and understand the style (or styles) of your boss.

Here are 4 communication tips for how to “communicate up” using the DISC:

  1. When presenting information to a D style, remember D’s want results. Be direct, get to the point, and keep it short. Be prepared and focus on results/outcomes. You can save the D style from too meetings by offering to give the bottom line afterward. Do not interrupt the D style every time something comes up; take things as far as you can on your own, and save the rest for one discussion.
  2. When presenting information to the I style, remember I’s want the “experience.” Meet face-to-face and allow lots of time to relate and socialize. The I style likes and wants high concepts and big ideas, not lots of facts and figures. You can follow up with a short summary of the decisions that were made and the next steps.
  3. When presenting information to the S style, remember S’s want security. For them, support, stability, and collaboration are very important. Be patient when discussing ideas. Connect with them personally and be sure to respond to the S’s request for input on a project. Even if you think it’s a waste of time, the S style will still want inclusion and consensus.
  4. When presenting information to the C style, remember C’s want information. Their priorities are being accurate, maintaining stability, and challenging assumptions. C styles prefer to receive information and reports in writing, and in detail. Be prepared and have your data and facts. Stick to the agenda and discuss all options.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Advisor & Talent Consultant


Straw, J. (2002). The 4-Dimensional Manager: DiSC Strategies for Managing Different People in the Best Ways. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

For the Dominant Style: D’s focus on the results (their motto: get it done). Their work behavior is doing it fast, and they seek productivity. Their strength is leading, and their weakness is being impatient. They are irritated with indecisions and can become dictatorial under stress.

Asking D’s

  • Ask D’s what they want to accomplish, how they are currently motivated and what they would like to change
  • Clarify the purpose for asking questions
  • Stay focused on goals and objectives
  • Make questions practical, logical, and straightforward
  • Keep questions direct and to the point
  • Get to the point of the coaching session

For the Influencing Style: I’s focus on interactions (their motto: Ain’t we got fun). Their work behavior is doing it by being dynamic, and they seek applause. Their strength is persuading, and their weakness is being disorganized. They are irritated with routine and can become quite sarcastic under stress.

Asking I’s

  • Get I’s talking about themselves and their interests
  • Establish personal relationships before asking questions about business
  • Ask about their aspirations and recognize their need to be valued and listened to
  • Ask about personal needs they want filled
  • Support their ideas
  • Gently keep them on topic

For the Steady Style: S’s focus on communication. Their work behavior is doing it by being friendly, and they seek acceptance (their theme: Notice how well-liked I am). Their strength is listening, and their weakness is being indecisive. They are irritated with insensitivity and can become submissive under stress.

Asking S’s

  • Speak warmly and informally, asking open questions that draw them out
  • Show tact and sincerity in exploring their needs
  • Avoid confrontations and challenging questions
  • S’s may tell you what they think you want to hear
  • Allow time for S’s to open up and reveal their needs and concerns
  • Ask them whose assistance they may need

For the Conscientious Style: C’s focus on the process. Their work behavior is doing it precisely, because they seek precision (their theme: Notice my efficiency). Their strength is planning, and their weakness is being a perfectionist. They are irritated with unpredictability and can become withdrawn under stress.

Asking C’s

  • Ask questions that reveal their expertise and knowledge
  • Ask logical, fact oriented, relevant questions
  • Phrase questions that require specific, accurate information to be shared
  • Focus questions on processes and efficiency
  • Ask questions that reveal a clear direction
  • Ask questions that show you are prepared for the coaching session

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Advisor & Talent Consultant

In his book, “The Complete New Manager,” John Zenger shared that inside our minds is a picture of how we view ourselves. This mental self-portrait consists of our behaviors, values, and self-image.

“In most cases, leaders with a fatal flaw are totally unaware of that flaw. For example, people who immediately reject others’ ideas would probably describe themselves as having such extensive experience that they know what ideas will succeed and fail. These individuals don’t know they are perceived as rejecting everyone else’s ideas” (Zenger, 2010, p. 167).

Zenger explained that feedback that these leaders receive (from team discussions, 360-degree appraisals, or coaching sessions) convey messages which are contrary to how they view themselves.

When faced with this situation, these leaders have three choices:

(1) Deny the information – It’s very easy to dismiss feedback from one or two sources, but when you receive feedback from multiple, reliable sources then it can be much harder to ignore.

(2) Change their self-concept – Leaders admit to themselves that they do not know everything and that their own ideas are not the only good ones.

(3) Change their behavior – Feedback is most powerful when it is actually applied to altering behavior.

According to Eichinger, Lombardo, and Ulrich (2004) the single best predictor of who will advance up the corporate ladder and do well once there is — learning agility. Eichinger et al. said we demonstrate learning agility when we’re able to reflect on our experiences and be disciplined enough to change our behaviors.

Ideally, the best way to predict leadership is to use a combination of cognitive ability (i.e., IQ), personality, simulation, role play, learning agility, and multi-rater assessment (i.e., 360-degree assessment). But if you only had one choice, use learning agility (Eichinger, Lombardo, & Ulrich, 2004).

“Learning agility is the ability to reflect on experience and then engage in new behaviors based on those reflections. Learning agility requires self-confidence to honestly examine oneself, self-awareness to seek feedback and suggestions, and self-discipline to engage in new behaviors” (Eichinger, Lombardo, & Ulrich, 2004, p. 495).

Takeaway: It is essential that you take an honest look inside yourself. Be self-aware and brave enough to ask for feedback. And most of all, learn from and apply the feedback to improving yourself and your behaviors.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Advisor & Talent Consultant


Eichinger, R. W., Lombardo, M. M., & Ulrich, D. (2004). 100 things you need to know: Best people practices for managers & HR. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited.

Zenger, J. H. (2010). The complete new manager: Essential tips and techniques for managers. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.