What’s Your Type?

Dec. 1, 2008
The DiSC personality profile illuminates your management style, and the styles of your staff, so you can work together more effectively.

Could one four-letter word increase your shop’s productivity and sales?

DiSC, a personality classification system that stands for dominant, influential, steady, and conscientious, is creating a buzz among CARSTAR collision centers. Shop owners say that by shedding light on the motivations behind four major personality styles, the tool helps their staffs preempt conflicts and encourages better communication and collaboration. Likewise, they say, this understanding is helping them finesse how they communicate with customers.

Many CARSTAR shop owners got a taste of DiSC last summer at a CARSTAR conference workshop in Baltimore, Md., taught by Lloyd and Sharolyn Taylor. Lloyd Taylor is regional service manager for CARSTAR and owner of Procraft CARSTAR in Great Falls, Mont. He and his wife, Sharolyn, learned about DiSC through her former job in organizational management at Blue Cross Blue Shield. They first got involved in team teaching the system a few years ago at their church. Lloyd is a strong D; Sharolyn is more of an S-C type.

Who’s Who and How They Interact

As Sharolyn Taylor explains, every shop tends to have a mix of the four personality types. “D is often intimidating, tends to be very end-product oriented and bored with details, and tends to be always in a hurry,” Taylor says. “I is very talkative and people-oriented. S is also people-oriented but is a more passive, analytical style. They tend to be very loyal. A C is very task- and detail-oriented, interested in facts, and doesn’t mind working alone.”

Before people understand each other’s personality-driven motivations, Taylor says, what happens in the typical shop goes something like this: “Say you’re having a team meeting, and you’re the D. You come in with a to-the-point plan to get something done. The S and C don’t much like change, or they think it’s too fast, or they don’t understand the impact or their role in it. You’ll think they’re on board, but behind the scenes there’s a lot of foot dragging and muttering, which is poison in your workplace.”

Taylor’s description of a pre-DiSC-trained shop could have been straight from the floor of Gapsch CARSTAR in St. Louis, Mo. Lisa Rush, general manager of the shop with 28 employees and about $4 million in annual sales, says she has a strong D personality. “I say things in a very point blank way, because in my mind I already know the why and how of a decision, and I think people should just do it,” she says. “I didn’t realize that other people were thinking, ‘Where did that come from?’”

So That’s What She Meant!

Knowing who’s who and where they’re coming from, on the other hand, encourages greater understanding, buy-in, and cooperation. “DiSC really opens up tolerance and respect in people,” Taylor says. “Once you understand that other people weren’t born to make you miserable—that they’re just different from you—that builds in a lot of forgiveness.”

“DiSC really opens up tolerance and respect in people. Once you understand that other people weren’t born to make you miserable—that they’re just different from you—that builds in a lot of forgiveness.” 
—Sharolyn Taylor, DiSC workshop instructor

Rush had her whole staff take the DiSC personality tests. Understanding each other’s type (or types, as many people are a combination) has dramatically increased discussion and even humor, she says. “People will say something like, ‘Wow, that was really a D statement’ I don’t think you realize how much perceptions of what you say vary until you start paying attention.”

Adapting How You Communicate

Once you understand people’s motivations and perceptions, Taylor says, you can adapt your own style. You’ll be amazed at how much more cooperation you get, she says. For example, if you’re the team leader and you’re a D, Taylor says, “Don’t just go into a meeting and turn everyone’s world upside down. Say: ‘We want to do X by a certain date, and I’m interested in what your ideas and opinions are on how to get there.’”

In one-on-one meetings with people, she says, realize that D types will need you to be blunt, as they don’t read between the lines. S types will need a gentler touch. C types will need clear parameters or expectations, and i types will need time to talk.

Steve Howard, general manager of Procraft CARSTAR, a 12-employee shop with $1.3 million in revenues in Great Falls, Mont., says DiSC made him aware of how to approach a very meticulous painter on his staff more diplomatically. “I’m a D, and he’s a high C,” Howard says. “He doesn’t like to multi-task. I know how to better read his moods now and coach him along to multi-tasking when he needs to.”

In meetings, if your team is particularly dominated by strong D, i, and S types, Taylor suggests implementing a seven-second rule after posing a question. “The leader should ask a question and then count to seven,” she says. “This gives the more passive styles a chance to completely interpret the question and respond. Otherwise, the i types jump in because they can’t stand silence, and the Cs and Ss will sit back because they don’t want to look foolish.”

Besides better adapting to each other’s styles, DiSC can also help shop managers plan where to put new employees and what types to look for in building a stronger team. “I’m a high i and a low C,” says Gerald Wicklund, owner of Wicklunds CARSTAR & Glass in Liberty, Mo., an 18,000-square-foot shop with 22 employees and $2.5 million in revenue. “I knew that I needed some strong Ss and Cs on my team to pick up where my weaknesses are.”

“DiSC training helps managers understand why a person does this or that, so it’s a good retention tool, and it also helps you understand your customers better and improve their satisfaction.” —Willie Ramirez, director of human resources, carstar

Willie Ramirez, director of human resources at CARSTAR corporate headquarters in Overland, Kan., says the company will be rolling out DiSC training to franchisees in 2009 because of its popularity. “The appetite for it is pretty big because it’s easy to understand and apply,” Ramirez says. “DiSC training helps managers understand why a person does this or that, so it’s a good retention tool, and it also helps you understand your customers better and improve their satisfaction.”

Although the shops we talked to hadn’t yet figured out how to best capitalize on DiSC with their customers, all say they are interested in applying it to better sell to, serve, and retain customers. “It is helping me predict a little better which customer wants you to give them all the details, and who just wants to know the basics and when you’ll have it done,” Rush says.

Empowering Employees

Now that she knows her style, Rush says she has modified it, explaining the how and why behind her decision-making process and asking for collaboration from her team. In fact, the increased trust that employees feel since the DiSC training has changed the entire shop dynamic from top-down decision making to a committee style.

“We get employees to participate in a committee, get a combination of our ideas and theirs and meet in the middle, rather than managers simply presenting the plan,” Rush says. “That’s been huge. There are a lot of good ideas we would have missed out on had we not changed to this style.”

Rush points to the “recycled rides” program as the best example of her staff’s newfound empowerment and enthusiasm. Through CARSTAR and the National Auto Body Council (NABC), CARSTAR-affiliated shops are rebuilding 100 totaled cars for local families for the holidays. Rush’s shop is donating a van to a St. Louis family with six foster children.

“We initially thought we’d have to pay employees for this, hope they’d see the value in it, and next year have more participation,” Rush says. But her employees quickly took charge and ran with it, not only working on the van but also getting more donations for the family, such as gas cards and toys for the kids. “I’ve never seen as much employee participation,” she says. “We haven’t had to beg for help. They’re constantly asking ‘What else can I do?’ and really pulling together to get it done—people who don’t necessarily work so well together. It’s tremendous.”

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