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If you’ve taken a DISC personality test, you’ll already know that this assessment tool is designed to evaluate different behavioural types. Originally proposed by William Moulton Marston in the 1920s, the DISC tool has been developed to give meaning to the ways we act and react to certain circumstances. It aims to help us develop both personally and professionally and is targeted at companies and individuals.
Many people use personality tests to understand themselves better. The DISC test, specifically, allows individuals to gain more in-depth awareness of their unique behavioural styles.
Businesses, executive coaches and individuals use a variety of the best personality tests available for a number of reasons. For some people, these assessments can help to identify personal strengths and weaknesses, find a suitable career path or increase emotional intelligence by discovering unique needs. For companies, the DISC tool can improve communication and collaboration amongst teams and, in turn, help to increase productivity.
Whatever the reason you’ve decided to take a personality test, interpreting your DISC assessment results is key to helping you develop. Our guide allows you to decipher your score and understand its meaning so you can take actionable steps towards improvement.
1. Understand the four quadrants
Your DISC test results will show your level of four different traits. These traits are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness, giving the test its name: DISC.
These four elements relate to different personality profiles. Your report will identify a specific letter or combination of letters to determine your profile. In order to recognise this key interpretation of your results, you must first understand the four areas measured.
The dominance trait looks at how competitive and goal-driven you are. It defines those who are strongly motivated by success and accomplishing results, measuring how well people work under pressure. This aspect describes those who are highly resourceful, enjoy challenging tasks, and can be direct, demanding and outspoken.
The influence trait identifies how well you relate to others and your level of optimism. This characteristic distinguishes those who are very people-focused and enjoy persuading and influencing their environment. They can be convincing individuals who are sociable, enthusiastic and open, although often avoid conflict and can become over-emotional.
The steadiness trait examines the sincerity and stability of your character. It looks for dependability and a peacekeeper vibe. This aspect identifies those who make good team players due to their cooperative nature and ability to create close personal relationships. This trait also demonstrates those who have difficulty making decisions assertively, and whose actions can be predictable.
The last of the four main profiles defines your level of analysis and problem-solving. This element measures those who aim for quality, accuracy and precision, and who are particularly detail-oriented. Measuring a high level of independence and objectiveness, this trait also demonstrates those who are risk-averse.
It’s critical to understand these four basic elements as they make up the entire DISC assessment and will give you many insights into your profile.
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2. Study your disc graph
Depending on what provider you choose, you’ll be presented with a specific structure of DISC test results. Some DISC reports will show you a circular graph with a single dot that defines your profile, while others may show you a series of three graphs. The following explanation will facilitate the interpretation of each style and graph.
Circular DISC graphs
If your report presents circular graphs, you can understand which profile you have by identifying where the dot lies. The graph depicts one of the four main traits in each quarter. The closeness of the dot to the centre or the exterior of the circle demonstrates the strength of inclination towards that specific trait. Therefore, for example, if your dot lies closer to the edge of the circle in the Dominance area, your profile is more inclined to that characteristic than any other.
In some circle graphs, each quarter is divided into thirds. These thirds are based on the different combined profiles that can occur. For example, if your dot is within the centre third, you’re likely to identify significantly with the base trait. Whereas, if your dot lies closer to the top or bottom of the quarter, in the first or last third, your profile is a combination of a primary and secondary trait.
DISC profile graphs
If your report has a set of three line graphs, you’ll need to interpret the meaning of each individually.
The first graph, known as the adapting profile, demonstrates the DISC test results according to a person’s public attitude and behaviour. This graph represents how a person tends to act according to what they believe others expect. These results can sometimes change over time due to different environments or major life events.
The second graph, called the natural profile, reflects the instinctive behavioural style. This means how you’ve learnt to react naturally or in stressful situations. This graph will remain fairly consistent over time due to the fact it represents your core self that doesn’t tend to change drastically.
The final graph is a summary of the two previous graphs. This is a snapshot of your predominant style, combining the information of your private and public selves.
Sometimes there may be few differences between the first two graphs and, therefore, the third graph will reflect the same. However, in cases where there are some significant differences, the final graph demonstrates the overall relationship.
Where considerable differences are present, this may mean that you’re aiming to consistently adapt your natural behaviour to specific situations such as the workplace. This can be highly stressful and often be an ineffective way to collaborate with others. This is important to take into account in your interpretation.
3. Familiarise yourself with your highest DISC dimension
To get the most out of the graph analysis, you’ll need to study the traits that stand out. Your DISC assessment report will give you information on how your responses demonstrate certain needs and preferences. The report will do this by categorising you into one of the four areas and detailing that particular style.
You should get to know the particularities of your predominant dimension. Armed with the information of your priorities and communication style, you can find ways to work in different situations and with different people.
For example, if your highest dimension is Dominance, it’s possible that you crave control in certain circumstances. To help you to collaborate with others, you could look for ways to feel in control without coming off as domineering by increasing your empathy.
If, on the other hand, your highest dimension is Influence, you may be someone who needs lots of social interaction and seeks approval. You could benefit your working profile by toning down this overwhelming need to be liked and sometimes looking at things more objectively.
Those who identify with the Steadiness trait could be prone to avoiding conflict in order to keep the peace. If this is your case, it may be beneficial for you to learn how to negotiate and debate. This may take you out of your comfort zone, but it is likely to help you develop both professionally and personally.
Finally, if your highest dimension is Conscientiousness, you may be someone who uses lots of data to make decisions, but this can be overwhelming for other people. It could be advantageous to you to learn how to acknowledge the feelings of others in your decision-making processes.
Learning as much as possible about your DISC profile could open up a world of new career choices or help you to adapt to your current situation. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of your behavioural style allows you to develop a more effective way of engaging with others and undertaking professional projects.
4. Explore your intensity index
It’s important to remember that everyone’s style is made up of the four distinct characteristics to differing degrees. Your answers on the DISC assessment will measure to which extent you rely on each trait and sub-trait (the combination of traits) in certain situations. This means it will look at the intensity of each factor, meaning how high or low the score is in each area.
It may be that your results show just one key characteristic over the midline, displaying the highest score. This will demonstrate a strong intensity for that trait. However, you may have two or three, in which case the intensity may be dulled but spread out. Every individual will be different.
Typically, one or two traits above the midline is a common occurrence. These are known as the primary and secondary traits. Those below the midline, demonstrating a reduced intensity, are known as low traits.
Understanding the intensity of each trait in your profile can help you to determine which parts of your personality define your actions. Your intensity index will describe elements of each area through the use of adjectives that could be seen as strengths or weaknesses depending on your profile.
5. Review your profile pattern
Each individual’s responses result in a certain pattern according to the DISC graphs. The assessment has identified 15 classical patterns with specific names:
Each one relates to a personality profile. Although you may identify to a greater or lesser extent in some ways, these profiles have more in-depth explanations of your tendencies and preferences.
This part of your DISC assessment results will give you a description of your overall personality and how you tackle obstacles. This final analysis is aimed at offering insight into how you currently interact with others and how you approach different situations. But it will also recommend ways that you might benefit by modifying your current style, particularly when working with other profile types.
Looking at your profile as a whole can help you to see the advantages of your style and areas that you can improve on depending on your specific goals. This area is ideal to help you develop an action plan if you have certain objectives to meet.
Your DISC test results allow you to find meaning in your actions and behaviours. With the descriptions and explanations included, you can identify areas where you perform successfully and areas that can be improved to increase efficiency.
Although there’s no right way to take a personality test, you should always aim to be as honest as possible. This is the only way to ensure your results will be valid and helpful.
Remember that the DISC assessment, although often categorised as a personality test, is a tool to help evaluate certain behavioural styles according to the situation. This means you need to answer the questions and analyse the results relating to a certain environment. The way you act at home with your family won’t necessarily be the same as the way you behave at work.
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Join the conversation! Have you taken a DISC assessment test recently? Let us know how the results have helped you develop in your career in the comments section below!
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 8 May 2014.