The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

May 7, 2017

Understanding Your ‘Different’ Coworker – Part 1

Success in the workplace is about how well teams work together … which depends on how well we communicate … which depends on how well we UNDERSTAND each other when our styles differ.  A personality-type expert joins Jim and Steve to help you understand your coworkers’ personal styles.

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Voiceover: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss, this is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.
Steve Motenko: Welcome to The Boss Show. Today on The Boss Show, using personality-style assessments to understand your coworkers, why it’s important. Hi, I’m Steve Motenko. I’m The Psychology Guy. I am a Harvard-educated, leadership coach in the Seattle area, and coauthor of the book, Land on Your Feet, Not on Your Face, with my cohost across the table.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, and we’re finally going to learn how to work together today after all these years.
Steve Motenko: We’re going to try. It might take more than one episode.
Jim Hessler: We’ll see. Maybe Curt can help us out. I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development. Like Steve said, we wrote a book together. Path Forward Leadership does wonderful, longitudinal, 18-month workshop programs for leaders. We help people have better lives in the workplace, not only through this show, but through the work we do every day.
Steve Motenko: We try. You are The Psychology Guy in that context-
Jim Hessler: I’m The Psychology Guy. That’s correct.
Steve Motenko: Of The Boss Show and as I said I’m-
Jim Hessler: No, no, I’m sorry.
Steve Motenko: You’re not. You’re The Business Guy –
Jim Hessler: I’m The Business Guy and I’m here, I’m agreeing you with.
Steve Motenko: Aren’t we professional?
Jim Hessler: Yeah, I’m The Business Guy. You’re The Psychology Guy.
Steve Motenko: Thank you. Now that we got that straightened out, Jim, how would you describe my email style?
Jim Hessler: Well, your email style is … just enough. I would say there have been times where it seemed a little clipped to me and slightly impersonal, but mostly it’s a nice combination of a little personal touch and also kind of some efficient business communication. Generally, I find your email style to be very good to work with.
Steve Motenko: How would you compare it with your email style?
Jim Hessler: Mine’s probably more naturally emotive. I’ll tend to vent, I think, a little bit more on email. I’ll tend to try to problem-solve, I think, a little bit through email exchanges than you do. Yeah, often it’s just a conversation for me. I’ve always seen email as a conversation. I talk a lot on email like I think I talk in person. When you read my email, it’s probably pretty easy to hear me talking.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, it is. I think you use email to process.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, absolutely. That’s well-said.
Steve Motenko: To process your thinking. You do that a lot and you do that well.
Jim Hessler: Sometimes it’s really helpful and you’re a good person for that to land on because you always help me do that. But absolutely. Often when I’m writing an email, I’m trying to process something, to find a solution for something.
Steve Motenko: Yeah. I think you’ve delineated the differences between our email styles really well and I think our email styles are pretty similar in a lot of ways.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, I would say so. More similar than dissimilar.
Steve Motenko: More similar than dissimilar. When I see people’s email styles that are very different from mine, like people who can’t put together more than a sentence in an email, just extremely curt and don’t flesh out their thinking in any way, or on the other hand, people who are very disorganized-
Jim Hessler: Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. When are you going to get to the point?
Steve Motenko: Exactly. It’s tough for me. It’s tough for me to understand people’s email styles that are very different from my own. What this brings to mind is just the notion of style in general because we tend to look at somebody else’s email style when it’s very different from ours, and we tend to think, “Why can’t this person write an effective email?” When really the question we should be asking is, “What is it about this person that just is different in how they approach life or how they naturally approach life?”
Jim Hessler: Or, “What is it about me that’s different from them?”
Steve Motenko: Right. Exactly. The notion of email style I think is part of peeling the layers of the onion to an understanding of how people show up differently in the workplace based on how they’re kind of almost born into life, what their natural personality style is, what they value – often on a very subconscious level, what they value, and how they choose to show up based on what they consider important, and a lot of stuff that almost operates beneath the radar of awareness. We want to enhance the radar and to shine a light into personality styles in the workplace and how they can help you and your team be more effective.
We want to welcome into the studio with us, Curt Archambault, who is Vice President of a consultancy called People and Performance Strategies. I got introduced to Curt a number of months ago and ended up taking a workshop on a personality-style assessment called the DiSC that Curt facilitated. The DiSC, to me, is a great example of how personality-style assessments can really be helpful in the workplace. That’s what we want to explore with Curt today. Curt, welcome to The Boss Show.
Curt Archambault: Thanks for having me, Jim and Steve. Appreciate it.
Steve Motenko: Why is this such an important conversation, this conversation about personality-style assessments? Why is it not just a mind game that we’re playing? Yeah, why is it important?
Curt Archambault: I think you’re seeing a lot of unprecedented issues in the workplace nowadays. We have more generations working together as retirees extend their employment, to new people coming into the workplace. We’ve heard all the information around Millennials.
We find it’s all about people. We’ve got technology, as you guys just talked about, with email. Our jobs are much more dependent on technology. Even if you’re at a type of job where you’re doing hands-on work, there’s a tech piece to it. We’re just seeing that it’s more than the touchy-feely. There’s a way to turn communication between coworkers into a productivity metric.
I was just reviewing some information this morning from Qualtrics and they were talking about the employee experience and how lost productivity on an annual basis is upwards to $550 billion, which is just a hard number to get my head wrapped around. But every time we talk to clients, or potential clients, or just folks we know, they’re always talking about challenges they’re having in the workplace communicating with each other. We’re like, “We can do something with that and help companies turn that.” I think some of the stuff that you guys talked about earlier about how can we just improve the productivity by improving communication?
Steve Motenko: How does taking a personality-style assessment help to improve communication?
Curt Archambault: Yeah, well, it starts with you, right? We know that we project what we want. I’ve got to learn about myself first. What do I project and what am I asking people to adapt to me about? I can’t start anywhere until I start with myself. Taking the assessment gives you a great awareness, a very personalized experience about who you are and how you project out to your coworkers. Once you start there and recognize that, then you can start to then look at the differences between folks that you work with and say, “Oh, wow, they look at the world through a different lens. What can I do to connect with them better?”
Steve Motenko: It’s interesting that you say, “How we project to the world,” because I think most of us have this subconscious belief that the way we project is the right way. That our personality is the right personality and other people who have different personalities, they’ve got stuff to work on.
The interesting thing, one of the really interesting things to me about personality-style assessments is that it disabuses that notion that your way of showing up is the right way. It really informs you that your way of showing up is one of many ways of showing up. Your way of viewing the world is one of many ways of viewing the world.
Jim Hessler: But taking a DiSC assessment, or some sort of personality assessment, kind of has to start with, first of all, a trust of the tool that you’re using. Also, there has to be some recognition that we don’t always know ourselves well. That sometimes there’s additional perspective or information about us that isn’t in front of our face and has to come from sort of a third party.
I think that can come from a coach or a mentor to a certain degree. But what you’re doing is these very scientific modalities of getting that information, which I think there’s been a huge sea change in my career in people’s acceptance of these things. I remember 30, 40 years ago, it was still considered wacky science, right? Now it seems like especially young people not only consider it valid and informative, but actually look forward to taking these kinds of assessments.
Curt Archambault: Yeah. I think that’s one of the things we’ll talk a little bit more about is the science behind it has greatly improved over the years.
Jim Hessler: Yeah. Yeah.
Steve Motenko: We also want to get into the DiSC isn’t the only personality-style assessment that’s useful. There’s a number of them, but I think it’s a particularly useful one for my frame of reference. Let’s talk about the different DiSC styles and what they say about your coworkers, the people that you may not be understanding as well as you could.
The DiSC, D-i-S-C, each letter stands for one style. Let’s start with D. What is that D personality style? As you listen to this, think about people in your workplace who may be exhibiting these qualities.
Curt Archambault: Mm-hmm (affirmative). D stands for dominance. One of the things we do tell clients is to not get so focused in on the name of the style. But dominant-style folks are really about action-orientation, getting results, moving projects quickly, probably may work more independently at times, not necessarily rely on the team. They don’t like losing control. If you tell them something, they’re going to fight back. They want to be in charge. They don’t always come across as the most caring individuals. Not that that’s their intent, but that’s their impact.
Whereas, i, these are influencers. These are very high-energy, action-oriented people who love collaboration. Some might say a lot of Millennials fall into this category, but anybody at any age can be any style. They don’t like social rejection. If everybody is over in a corner talking and they’re not included in that conversation, they are wondering why they’re not included.
Steve Motenko: The i’s tend to be inspiring. They tend to be motivating, empowering of others, but they also tend to have the attention on them. Am I right about that?
Curt Archambault: Yep. Exactly.
Steve Motenko: The Ds also tend to have the attention on them because they’re more controlling in their style, but they don’t have the need for that social element.
Curt Archambault: Correct. Yes. They’re happy to work alone at the front of the pack, whereas the i’s want to have everybody around them. They want to be part of a team. They want to collaborate. Yeah.
Steve Motenko: Okay. Okay, so moving on then to the S.
Curt Archambault: The S. S is for steadiness. These are folks that you come to rely on. This is the person, when you’re having a bad day, you go down into their office and you have a conversation with them. They’re willing to take on your problems. They are very supportive. They like maintaining steadiness in the workplace, stable environments.
Jim Hessler: Security.
Curt Archambault: Security.
Jim Hessler: Stability.
Curt Archambault: Exactly. Exactly.
Steve Motenko: They’re cheerleaders in a way for everyone else’s potential?
Curt Archambault: Yes.
Steve Motenko: Is that fair to say? Or is that more the i?
Curt Archambault: The cheerleading is more the i. The S is more the supportive, want to make sure everybody has a voice, is able to participate. They tend to be the patient ones on the team. Very steady. Slow-moving.
Jim Hessler: Maybe not as ambitious as the Ds, for example.
Curt Archambault: Yeah.
Steve Motenko: Less action-oriented than the Ds, right?
Curt Archambault: Exactly. Or slower-paced.
Steve Motenko: But also less action-oriented than the i’s?
Curt Archambault: I’s are very action-oriented. They just do it in a different way than a D-style would do, which is independent, whereas an i is moving very quickly. Sometimes i’s get cast as never getting through to the end of a project because they’re ready to move on to the next project.
Steve Motenko: They tend to be more visionary and bright-shiny-object-oriented, the i’s do?
Curt Archambault: That can be one of their Achilles’ heels, yes. That can be a bit of an issue that they don’t see things through to the end.
Steve Motenko: Then the last is the C-style. C stands for?
Curt Archambault: Conscientious, which is particularly interesting to me because that is my primary style. I’m the guy that knows all the answers, I’ve done all the research, I do all the data analysis. I have everything that you could possibly need in the workplace.
The good news is I’m the go-to guy for that. The downside is I can get very defensive if you start pushing back on all of the information research I’ve collected because I know the rest of you folks on the team haven’t done that level of data research and so I know I’m probably right. Now when I get pushed back, then I go back in and say to myself, “Well, maybe I didn’t do enough research,” and so I do more research.
Jim Hessler: You default to that style.
Curt Archambault: Exactly.
Steve Motenko: What’s really intriguing about that to me is that our self-concepts tend to be based on these personality styles that may be beneath the level of our awareness. For what you just said, for example, you’re the research guy. You’re the detail-oriented guy. I also am a C-style. I totally embrace this notion of, “Yeah, I’m the one who’s crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s.” If I’m challenged on that, then something at the core of my self is being challenged. I think that’s true for all the styles. Am I right?
Curt Archambault: That is correct. I think that’s where you start to see the breakthroughs in the workplace is once people have that level of awareness and understanding about themselves, and then also their coworkers, it just changes the dynamic of the conversation.
Now, we always talk with clients around what are the cornerstone principles? Because sometimes these systems can be used ineffectively in an organization, but we’re all a makeup of all four styles. We just have a natural style or two that comes easy for us. But we can access all the different styles.
Steve Motenko: Interesting that you said a style or two. For some of us, we have actually two styles that are pretty much at the top of our personality way of being.
Curt Archambault: Yes. My personal style is CD. Primary is conscientious, secondary is dominance. My wife, for example, is an iS, so we’re totally exact opposites. If we had more time, I’d tell you a lot more stories about that.
Jim Hessler: Maybe we don’t want to hear them.
Curt Archambault: Yeah, that’s true.
Jim Hessler: That’s for another radio program.
Steve Motenko: But really briefly, say a little bit about complementary versus conflicting when you have, for example, a marriage of people with very different styles. To what extent is it complementary, to what extent is it conflicting?
Curt Archambault: What we’ve come to know over the years is once we hone in on the differences and how they benefit each of us, it becomes a more collaborative relationship. That’s what we try to evoke in the business world as well.
My wife looks at the world through an entirely different lens. Where I used to think that was incorrect because she wasn’t looking at it my way, now I’ve learned how I can learn from her and vice verse. She’s about collaboration and bringing everybody together, but sometimes you have to get down to the details. You have to care about the details. We play off of each other. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns. There are still those moments when we get ultimate pressure, we might change our perspective, but it’s made a much more solid relationship for us.
Steve Motenko: I would imagine ultimately it just all boils down to what extent you’re willing to step into the shoes of the other person as opposed to project your way as the only way and the right way.
Jim Hessler: Well, this is The Boss Show, and we talk about leadership. One of the most important profound learnings for any leader is that the leader cannot project themselves onto the organization. They cannot create a single model for what’s effective in their organization.
I also would argue, from a leadership perspective, that all of this is situational. As you’re reflecting on those four styles, I can literally think of times when I’ve operated in all four of those modes deliberately, knowing that that’s what the team needed me to do. Or with different people. Sometimes if I’m with a D, I’ll back off a little bit, right? Sometimes when I don’t see a D in the room, I’ll take that role.
Steve Motenko: We’ve just recently decided to make this a two-parter because there’s just so much richness here to explore. Before we get to the second part, which you’ll have to wait until next week for, it’s really important to surface the idea that I think we’ve kind of assumed that you understand that no one style is better than the other styles, that all styles are important on a team. In fact, all styles are important for each of us in certain situations. But there are bad ways to use personality-style assessments. Say a little bit about that, Curt.
Curt Archambault: Yeah, I think that’s where some people may have had experiences in the past with DiSC because it’s been around a long time. Our version, Everything DiSC Workplace, has been in businesses for many years, a number of decades. One of the things we try to reinforce for clients and individuals taking it is first and foremost this is not used for pigeonholing. We never want to say, “Oh, well, you’re that way because you’re a D,” or, “I can’t count on you because you’re an S.” That’s really taking the information and use it negatively. It doesn’t sit well with people.
Steve Motenko: That ties into the notion, again, that there’s no one style is better than the others.
Curt Archambault: Correct.
Steve Motenko: There are pros and cons to each style. What you don’t want to do is label people and use that label to stereotype based on their responses on the personality-style assessment.
Jim Hessler: That’s also something people with a victim mentality will do. They’ll create a little story about themselves that they’re not capable, “Because,” right? “I can’t be held responsible for my personal organization because I’m,” whatever. It’s a shield that prevents them from holding themselves accountable for their behavior in many cases.
Curt Archambault: Yeah. That’s what I love about the profile that we provide. It’s very personalized to the individual. It doesn’t just stop at, “Here’s who you are.” But it says, “Okay, now that you know this, what can you do differently? How can you maximize your effectiveness understanding? What are some behaviors you might want to work on minimizing that will help your effectiveness in the workplace?”
The other thing we like to flip it around to, it’s also not an excuse for you personally to say, “Well, I’m not good at spreadsheets, so I’m an i, and so I don’t have to do that.” It’s like, “Well, if your job requires you to do that, then you need to learn that competency.” We really put that out there for folks as well.
Steve Motenko: On the one hand, when you’re looking for a job, or you’re looking for a promotion, it’s important to understand whether that job fits your personality style, because if it doesn’t, you’re going to have more work to do. You don’t want to make the excuse, “Well, I can’t do that because I can’t focus my attention to detail because I’m a D or an i.” You don’t want to say, “Well, I can’t sit in meetings all day and relate to people because I’m a C and I just want to bury my head in my data.” But you do have to understand that it’s going to involve expanding your repertoire.
Curt Archambault: Yep. Exactly.
Steve Motenko: Which I might say is one of the huge benefits of personality-style assessments is to understand your natural repertoire and understand what you need to do to expand that repertoire.
Curt Archambault: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think that’s what is the transition for a team. It’s like, “Wow. Now we have an assessment of who we are as an individual and as a group and how can we leverage that to exceed performance goals?”
Steve Motenko: Right. In part two, part of what we want to talk about based on what you just said, Curt, is understanding how teams are incomplete without all the styles represented. Curt Archambault, say just in a few seconds what People and Performance Strategies offers toward that end of understanding your coworkers.
Curt Archambault: We go in with coworkers and work with them either in team formats or individual formats. A lot of the product that we use is the Everything DiSC materials. There’s a number of different levels from the broadest base to employees all the way up to senior leaders. We’ll go in and give them a very personalized, customized experience to where folks walk away and they understand the dynamics of the team, of themselves, and then how they can translate that into performance.
Steve Motenko: The website is It stands for People and Performance Strategies, dot-com.
Jim Hessler: The Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions and our sound engineer is Kevin Dodrill.
Steve Motenko: If you missed any of this show, you can get it in its entirety online at
Jim Hessler: Thanks for listening.
Steve Motenko: And don’t forget rule number six.
Jim Hessler: Rule number six.

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