DISC Archives - Moellering

My Personal Civil War: What Happens When Behaviors or Motivators Clash

Some people call it an internal struggle. Others call it a “me-me” conflict. I like to call it my personal civil war. Many of us have one (or more) of these internal conflicts and they tend to cause us mental anguish, often on a daily basis.

This “me-me” conflict comes when either primary behaviors or motivators are contradictory to each other and clash. These conflicts make us want to go in more than one direction at the same time, creating internal discord. Learning to manage these internal conflicts is necessary in order for us to maintain our sanity, let alone be productive.

Many of us have one (or more) of these internal conflicts and they tend to cause us mental anguish, often on a daily basis.

These conflicts explain why some people want to win the lottery but won’t buy a ticket. Or, why others who pledge to get in shape in the morning are spotted at the donut shop and fast food restaurant by lunchtime. With these opposing mental forces pushing and pulling us in different directions, we often concede to the behavior or driver that is strongest.

Understanding behavior

Based on the behavioral science known as DISC, there are four very different and unique behavior stylesDominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. Nearly all of us have one factor that has a stronger intensity than the others, making it our primary behavioral style.

Dominance refers to how people address problems and challenges. A high-D usually embraces challenges and places a high value on hitting goals. Whereas, a low-D is cautious and calculating when dealing with conflict or challenges.

Influence refers to people and contacts. A high-I is often seen as a people-oriented communicator and an optimistic team player. Someone with a low-I style, may excel behind the scenes and preferring to work alone.

Steadiness refers to a person’s pace and consistency. A high-S is composed and resistant to change, wanting to focus on one task at a time. On the flip side, a low-S may have an impatient and impulsive nature and enjoy multi-tasking.

Compliance refers to how people respond to procedures and constraints. A high-C style is a conscientious perfectionist. High-C’s think very systematically and make calculated decisions based on detailed facts. Yet a low-C can be opinionated and unsystematic, not always based on facts.

Behavioral conflicts

As a high-D with an extremely low-S, I tend to focus on completing tasks in record time. The low-S indicates a need for speed, that, coupled with my high-D, means I love to dive into things quickly and I am eager to drive for results, which can make me impatient.

When I am editing my blogs, I raise my C to focus on my attention-to-detail. Doing so slows me down tremendously, to ensure that every word is the right word in the right context, placed in the proper tense and spelled correctly. Since I don’t believe in Spellcheck, maintaining a laser focus is essential to execute the editing. (Yes, the “e-based” alliteration was by design, another factor that requires a very specific focus.)

Making myself slow down and focus on such minute details conflicts with both my desire to complete my project (high-D) and my need to do it quickly (high-S). Therein lies the conflict.

Understanding motivators

Motivators are the things that make us get out of bed and do the things we do, day in and day out. These are the why behind our behaviors.

When viewed through the science known as 12 Driving Forces®, there are six key areas that each possess two distinct drivers or different motivations that impact your decisions. These six areas on which the drivers are based around are knowledge, utility, surroundings, others, power and methodologies.

Motivators are the things that make us get out of bed and do the things we do, day in and day out.

Motivator conflicts

Resourceful vs. Harmonious

Conflicts can abound within the Driving Forces. For me, my biggest conflict occurs between two of my strongest drivers, known as Resourceful and Harmonious. Harmonious speaks to enjoying the experience, living in the moment and having balance in one’s surroundings. Resourceful speaks to driven by maximizing efficiency and returns for investments of time, energy and resources.

While Harmonious indicates that I want the space I occupy to be visually appealing, it costs money to beautify one’s surroundings. My Resourceful driver often feels like “luxuries” such as nice living spaces isn’t maximizing my resources. Thus, a conflict arises.

These same two drivers do battle anytime I want to plan a vacation. Creating memories by traveling to exotic lands are something that I truly enjoy because my Harmonious driver craves this. My Resourceful driver, however, has a hard time justifying spending thousands of dollars on a week or less of enjoyment, money that could be “maximized” better paying off the car, house or credit card bills.

Harmonious vs. Receptive

The Harmonious driver also conflicts with another one of my leading drivers, my Receptive driver. This speaks to me driven by new ideas, methods and opportunities that fall outside a defined system of living. Simply stated, it means I like to try new things. Sometimes, however, when I begin to juggle too many different things at once, it negatively affects my Harmonious making me not “enjoy the moment” and ultimately resulting in increased stress.

Behavior and motivator conflicts

The “civil wars” don’t just happen inside the realm of behaviors and motivators exclusively. There can be crossover conflicts, as well.

High-D vs. Harmonious drive

For example, my high-D behavior that focuses on results is often in competition with my Harmonious driver which likes unity and balance in my surroundings and relationships. Often, it’s hard to achieve balance when you are up against deadlines trying to get results.

The “civil wars” don’t just happen inside the realm of behaviors and motivators exclusively. There can be crossover conflicts, as well.

High-C vs. Harmonious drive

Conversely, when I raise my C in editing mode, it sometimes also conflicts with my Harmonious driver. Case in point, the chorus of a song I wrote entitled “Lonely No More.” Music is all about creating something that sounds pleasant to the ear. The chorus of my song contains the words, “I’ll never be lonely no more.”

These words, with the music behind it, flow free and easy and sound exactly as I intended when I wrote the song. But then my adapted high-C kicks in, and reminds me that I have created a double negative that makes no sense grammatically. If being a writer wasn’t my day job, it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. But I am, and knowingly creating something grammatically incorrect makes me feel very uneasy, even if it sounds good.

I fully understand that the song would be grammatically correct if I were to change the line to be “I won’t be lonely anymore” or “I will be lonely no more.” However, my Harmonious will have none of this, because it simply doesn’t sound as pleasant sung with either of these two variations. (Trust me, I’ve tried it, and I hate it.) I wrote this song in 1996 and this internal struggle still bothers me almost daily.

High-I vs. Altruistic & Resourceful drivers

An interesting fact is that while my Influence (people-oriented) behavioral style scores a 93/100, indicating that I’m clearly a people person, I score a 0 on my Altruistic driver. I generally like people and prefer to be around them, especially socially, but I feel no responsibility to fix the world’s people problems. I sometimes feel guilty when I don’t give the homeless guy my spare change, because I am people-centric, but between my lack of Altruism and high Resourceful (wanting to maximize my resources), I ultimately decide to keep that spare change in my pocket.


We all have daily internal conflicts that we have to fight through. Understanding and identifying these issues, especially what they are and how much power they have over us, can be a huge factor in learning how to properly deal with the conflicts. Doing so can help create a little more balance and a little less stress in your life, which can be great, especially if that sort of thing appeals to you.

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Mentoring Using DISC

Leading a successful team can be compared to a directing a musical performance, such as a classical orchestra or choral concert. Individuals who bear little resemblance to each other often need to learn how to harmonize and respect the differences they bring to the team. Their diversity in style and substance, when properly harmonized, makes beautiful music.

It is rather easy for a conductor to identify who plays what instrument. It is no less important for managers to know the behavioral or work styles of the individuals they manage and how they can best contribute to the organization.

Behavioral styles, such as DISC, can tell a lot about how a person will typically behave a majority of the time. The DISC indicators can be considered predictors of how a peer or colleague might approach a challenge or influence others to their way of thinking.

Being able to adapt to people who possess different behavioral styles is the key to success in both business and in life.

Being able to adapt to people who possess different behavioral styles is the key to success in both business and in life. Since behavioral styles are observable, it’s easy to determine someone’s style and react accordingly.

As someone who specializes in mentoring, I often discuss ways a mentor can best work with a mentee, even with very different behavioral styles. While the examples below illustrate the mentor/mentee relationship, these skills can be applied between any two people communicating in any setting.

DISC Defined

DISC is an acronym that stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. The science of DISC explains the “how” a person does what they do, and can be a strong predictor of future behavior.

When someone scores higher in one particular area of DISC compared to the others, they are considered “high” in that particular factor. High-D’s are all about results. High-I’s are about interaction. High-S’s seek stability while the high-C is all about following rules. This basic understanding helps to illustrate how to identify various behavior styles when entering a room with other people.

Working with an opposing behavioral style in a mentoring partnership

Sometimes, you might be paired with someone because of their career trajectory or technical expertise but find that you do not share much else in common. Here are some ideas for working with a partner whose DISC style feels in opposition to your own:

A high-D and a low-D — For the high-D adapting to the low D: Slow down. Drop the intensity. Create a safe learning environment.  If the low D feels calm and comfortable, they are more likely to admit “I don’t know” or “This is where I need help.” Low Ds like lessons to follow and a forum to discuss problem-solving options.

A high-I and low-I — Outwardly, these two styles share very little in common — one is people-oriented and the other is task-oriented. One tends to trust indiscriminately while the other tends to remain guarded and untrusting. The high-I will have to respect the low-I’s low-trust level and will need to seek to build trust gradually. Ask the low-I for their input while planning development activities and for their impressions on how comfortable they are with stretch assignments.

A high-S and a low-S – In this relationship, the calculated decision maker must adjust to a high-risk taker. In other words, someone who prefers a slower pace (high-S) needs to work with someone who moves quickly. The high-S will need to pick up the pace when communicating with the low-S: cover only the high points and strive for directness.

A high-C and a low-C – Because the high C and the low C are both task-oriented, the area of potential conflict lies within the scope of compliance and risk taking. The risk-averse high-C competes with the low-C’s need for independence which can many times cause a considerable amount of tension. The high-C will need to give the low-C honest feedback if they are tackling problems with little regard for the possible ramifications of a quick decision.

Using DISC to design developmental activities

No matter which style each partner brings to the relationship, savvy mentors will look for opportunities to move the mentoring meetings beyond philosophical chats and/or venting sessions. In other words, to maximize learning, mentors should engage the mentee in a variety of situations and developmental experiences.

To maximize learning, mentors should engage the mentee in a variety of situations and developmental experiences.

To keep your mentee engaged, consider their DISC style (both highs and lows) when designing development activities.  For example:

High-D’s, high-C’s or low-I’s – Tend to put tasks before people, so they struggle with interpersonal skills. If the goal is to enhance people skills — ask your mentee to consider investing one day each month listening to the concerns and needs of his/her employees or peers.  Encourage them to look for opportunities to help someone talk through a project with which they are struggling.

High-I’s or high-S’s — These two behavioral styles have trouble setting clear standards and holding others accountable – particularly people over whom they do not have authority. In this case, perhaps the goal would be to work with your mentee to create a project management system for following up on outstanding tasks and action items.

Low-S’s or high-D’s —These two styles tend to struggle with maintaining emotional intelligence during difficult times/situations. The ideal developmental activity would be to identify someone for the mentee to shadow who is going to lead a team through a difficult conversation about a failed project.

Low-D’s, high-S’s or high-C’s — These styles need time to think things through before making a decision or taking a risk. To help build confidence in decision-making and risk-taking, encourage your mentee to journal about what holds them back from making a decision. At your next mentoring meeting, discuss the pros and cons of the decision and an action plan for moving forward.

DISC as a guide for mentoring meetings

When meeting with a high-D or high-C: Expect these meetings to be brief and to the point.  Be sure to show up on time and prepared to dive into business.

When meeting with a high-I: Provide a friendly and fun environment. Give them plenty of time to talk. Remember they get pretty excited about things – lots of things – so you might need to ground them a little.

When meeting with a high-S: Just like the High-I’s, they need a friendly environment. Don’t rush headlong into business, give them a chance to break the ice and warm up to you. Always give them time to think things through. Be sure to send an agenda ahead of the meeting so they know what topics you would like to discuss.

When meeting with a high-C: Be sure to show up on time and stick to business. Don’t expect the meeting to run a full hour if they run out of things to discuss. Be careful of appearing too lighthearted, casual or showy and be sure to follow through on your promises. Just like the High-S’s, they will appreciate an agenda sent ahead of time.


Whether you are in a mentor/mentee relationship or simply communicating with a friend or co-worker, understanding and being able to adapt to differing behavioral styles is the key to great communication and success in work and in life.

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In this guide, you’ll get access to the seven most important questions to ask when hiring someone. And yes, they go way beyond a basic job description.

3 Tips For Keeping Employees Engaged Using DISC [Infographic]

Behavioral assessments, such as DISC, are an excellent tool helping leaders worldwide better understand and connect more effectively with their workforce, raising engagement and productivity.


  1. Be direct and prepared in communications
  2. Motivate them with challenges
  3. Eliminate small talk and get to the point


  1. Casually ease into conversations; avoid directness
  2. Provide opportunities to work with other people
  3. Create an open workspace where interaction is encouraged


  1. Communicate at a steady pace
  2. Let them ask questions
  3. Avoid asking them to act or react immediately


  1. Provide as many facts and details as possible, preferably in writing
  2. Be patient; the C can be a meticulous perfectionist
  3. Clearly communicate expectations and deadlines

Using a tool as powerful as DISC eliminates much of the guesswork for leaders while providing a game plan from which to best communicate with employees.

Download Our Free Hiring Guide.

In this guide, you’ll get access to the seven most important questions to ask when hiring someone. And yes, they go way beyond a basic job description.