Help Your Boss Understand Your Work Style

Using DISC Insights to Manage Up and Manage Down

When Leadership Coach Lori McNeill first met Mike Molloy, Associate Director at Immunext, Inc., she noticed that he was experiencing frustration at work. “His speech was fast-paced, and he would strike the table for emphasis. You could physically see and hear the tension he was experiencing.”

Luckily, Mike’s frustrations were easy to get to the bottom of—and to remedy. 

Mike was among a group of leaders at Immunext that were going through The Complete Leader program. As part of the leadership development course, the group took the DISC Assessment, and then had debriefing sessions with facilitators Ron Price and Whit Mitchell, to help them unpack all of the insights that the assessment offers. 

Taking DISC made an impact on Mike. “It was an eye-opening experience to have some of the stronger aspects of my personality highlighted, but also to get descriptions for some of the aspects I hadn’t found the right words for. Having them worded in a very specific way made it easy to understand and see how I react in certain situations,” he said.

Mike was able to put what he had learned to use right away. “I think the DISC profile was most helpful from the ability to manage up and manage down at the same time.” Not only did Mike comprehend more about his own behaviors, but he also recognized aspects of his team’s behaviors through their DISC scores. He used others’ profiles to help him understand the intent of conversations, as well as guide his actions when working with colleagues who prefer things done in specific ways. “It was a really helpful thing to have,” he said. 

When it came to managing up, DISC also shed some light on the best ways to work together. “The CEO’s score explained a lot. When you take a second look at the aspects of his personality, it helps to explain much of his behavior and his preferences,” said Mike.

“Together we looked at the profiles of his upper management to see what was important to them and how to adjust Mike’s message to them. Mike got some insights into the behaviors and motivators from their scores, and started thinking about how to his messages could be more effective,” said Lori. Once Mike made this adjustment, he found his messages were being much better received.

Not only that, but Mike now had the language to help his bosses understand how heworked best. “I saw that my natural versus adapted score changed pretty dramatically for work,” said Mike, referring to the assessment’s measurement of how people behave naturally versus how they behave under certain situations. “That shift in my scores is work that I put forth to adapt, and I was able to recognize how mentally exhausting that can be.” 

Mike and Lori met with Mike’s upper management to discuss the scores and what they said about his working style. They discussed many ways that his managers could help him work at his best, including how to make meetings more fulfilling and productive. “For example, if I come into a meeting and don’t know the purpose behind it, that can be a really exhausting process for me, trying to figure out why the meeting was called. We were able to see that from my DISC scores and make that adjustment,” said Mike. 

“It’s not effective when employees are spending too much time trying to guess why a meeting has been called or why a manager wants to sit in on a discussion,” said Lori. “The CEO didn’t realize that was happening. He discovered that by stating the purpose of the meeting up front, it made communication for effective for all stakeholders.”

Another perk from the assessment was building deeper relationships with colleagues. “I think it kind of got me back to the basics where I relate to coworkers. 

We are a biomedical research company, so a lot of profiles fit that scientific mindset. DISC was helpful from the viewpoint of understanding how to motivate people and put them in the best position to be successful in their job. It was helpful in understanding how to managing people,” said Mike.