The Added Dimension

“This person has an outgoing interest in people and an ability to gain the confidence of varied types of individuals.”


“He strives to do business in a friendly way while pushing forward to win his objective and sell his point of view.”

Also right.

“[He] wants challenging assignments involving varied contact with people. Seeks freedom from routine and regimentation. Many times prefers an ‘outside’ assignment involving travel.”

Right again, times three.

I had been identified as a “High I.” The outstanding characteristic of my behavior was “High Inducement” traits. This and a full page of other descriptors and behavioral characteristics, positive and negative, derived from my responses to a simple questionnaire that took no more than 15 minutes to complete. I was amazed at how accurate it was in describing me.

Thirty years later, I’m still impressed by the usefulness of this tool, the “Human Factor Self-DISCription.” After 50-plus years of managing people (I started young), I consider my week-long training in this process to have given me the most effective set of insights about individuals of any educational program or management course ever.

“But you’re a financial guy,” you say. “Don’t you give mixed messages when you venture down the HR path?”

Ah, yes. Because I’m good with numbers, I do have a strong financial orientation. But first, I’m a manager, and that means being able to achieve my goals through others. And a critical part of that involves putting people into jobs in which they can thrive, jobs that not only match their skills and experience but which complement the behavior that is most readily identified with their personalities.

For example, the “inducement” traits in my behavior indicate that I likely would be successful in sales and – indeed – that’s what I spend most of my professional life doing: selling. Not selling products, or even my services, but selling my ideas and my recommendations to my clients, convincing them to do what I think they ought to do.

A different collection of attributes comprised the description of a recent job candidate for one of my clients, identifying her behavior in part as “… seek[ing] opportunities for advancement and individual accomplishment… often aspir[ing] to positions of power and authority… [desiring] control and results, with the freedom to make quick decisions.” For a position that involved taking over as supply chain manager with a mandate to do whatever was necessary to correct years of ineffective procurement and a total lack of inventory controls, this kind of drive was likely to be a critical factor in her job success.

She had completed the questionnaire on line, through Hughes Consulting Group (a licensee of the copyright holder, Inscape Publishing, Inc.) which analyzed it and returned it to my client and me. Before we incorporated it in our evaluation, I validated the full assessment with the candidate. “That’s me,” she said, “warts and all.” I assured her, and my client, that her warts were all part of a profile that was consistent with the behavioral characteristics that could contribute to her success in the job. With both the objective and subjective factors aligned, she got the job offer.

Thirty years ago, armed with an MBA, my own recent start-up experience, and my DISC certification, I started advising small companies, initially in financial management, more recently in corporate strategy. Then, as now, it was the DISC training that consistently provided context for my approach with entrepreneur-developers, who are described in part (by Inscape) as follows:

“Developers tend to be strong-willed individuals, continually seeking new horizons. As self-reliant, independent thinkers, they prefer to find their own solutions. Relatively free of the constraining influence of the group, Developers are able to bypass convention and often create innovative solutions.

“While they most often use direct, forceful behavior, Developers can also shrewdly manipulate people and situations. When required to participate with others in situations that limit their individualism, Developers are apt to become belligerent. They are persistent when pursuing the result they desire and will do whatever is necessary to overcome obstacles to success. In addition, they have high expectations of others and can be critical when their standards are not met.

“Developers are most interested in achieving their own goals. Opportunities for advancement and challenge are important to them. By focusing on results, they may lack empathy or seem uncaring by dismissing others’ concerns.” [Emphasis added]

My knowledge of the elements of this profile has allowed me to identify and to work effectively with Developers by –

  • Recognizing that the individual and the organization are alter egos of each other, and by
  • Being willing to involve myself to a significant degree in the operations of their organization;
  • Negotiating my consulting engagement one-to-one, “Here’s what you can expect of me, here’s what I expect of you;”
  • Volunteering to work with the Developer to solve difficult problems;
  • Sharing techniques based on my personal experiences;
  • Providing candid feedback about the impact on the group of the Developer’s behavior (positive and negative); and
  • Releasing the high pressure valve to defuse and diffuse the personal intensity of the entrepreneur by being a well-informed sounding board.

By modeling this behavior (mine) in management meetings that include the Developer (usually owner/president), and by describing it in individual conversations with senior managers, I provide the management team with some perspectives on “managing up.” Similarly, as the Developer begins to understand the subtleties of the DISC process, he or she typically begins to reconsider the “one size fits all” approach to management, especially if the company’s managers have their own DISC profiles to share.

The sidebar (Draining the Swamp) identifies fifteen personal behavioral patterns, each with its own set of characteristics (again, according to Inscape). Each one of these can be matched with a job type that is behaviorally well-suited for the personal pattern, and from my professional experience as well as from hundreds of thousands of validations during the six decades since the DISC was developed by J.P (“Clipper”) Cleaver, the incidence of a successful job placement increases substantially to the extent that behavioral factors are considered in the process.

In fact, it is such a good counseling tool that all five of our kids completed the exercise at least once during their teen years. They each chalked it up as a useful learning experience. Little did they suspect, however, that for Annie and me it was a significant leg up in the challenge of surviving their teen-agerhood: we had the added dimension – on them!