The DISC of staffing: Find the right shoe, first, then find the right foot for it.

If the new guy is a clown – so is the guy who hired him. Doing better – much better – is not just doable but simple.

Photo by: Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau

Here’s a sphincter-clencher for anyone who manages people:

How can you get your own mission-critical work done when you’re constantly mediating conflicts?

A better question: How can you hire and deploy so that your people love the way they work together, rather than constantly getting in each other’s way – and hence in yours?

This is the DISC of staffing, and, as always, it’s all about accepting that people are going to be who they are.

The bad news: They ain’t you or some imagined ideal you cooked up in your verbose “help wanted” ad.

The good news: Who they are is wonderful – and hugely profitable, properly deployed.

This question came by way of Facebook Messenger from a young real estate broker I know in Texas. I know him only net-wise, and we’ve never been close. But I have admired him from afar for years, because he embodies so much of what I celebrate in human virtues: He is a Driven entrepreneur at work and a doting Sociable husband and father at home.

This is how our conversation started:

I’ve been reading your recent posts about DISC. We’ve learned the importance of DISC the hard way (through a couple of bad hires). We’re back at it again trying to hire for a listing and transaction coordinator. Organized, high attention to detail, ability to manage details well, execute quickly.

What kind of DISC profile should we look for in your opinion?

My answer:

Cs. High-C Cautious for the strict attention to fussy details, low-s Sociable because you need to be able to trust a lot of your business to this person, so you need for there to be a feeling of family loyalty between you.

[Added for clarity: When I use that style of notation – Cs – what I mean is a person who is temperamentally Cautious as the dominant characteristic, Sociable as the sub-dominant trait, with Driven and Incandescent displays being much less frequent. The sub-dominant trait will color and shape how the dominant pre-dispositions will be expressed.]

Clean, quiet, well-ordered work space – well removed from all chaos – with agreed-upon procedures for in-boxing and out-boxing. A Cs will be very conservative about any sort of change, so be careful that way, too.

Yours is exactly the right approach: Find the right shoe, first, then find the right foot for it.

We batted things around a little, and I followed up with this, illuminating how the sub-dominant characteristic influences the dominant pre-dispositions:

Ci, too much drama, Cd, not enough compassion for the people on the other end of the phone.

The person you’re looking for will be C95+, S75+, D~50 and I<50. I don't trust any DISC test, though. The high-C will be obvious, so probe around with I, D and S interview questions:

Have you ever felt unappreciated at work?

Were there ever situations where you wished you had been given more authority?

Of the people you’ve worked alongside in the past, tell me about some of your favorites.

This is actually pretty simple: You start by identifying the ideal virtues required to do the job, then hire the corresponding DISC type. First the shoe, then the foot that fits it.

Note that personnel management since antiquity has been all about policing vice. That’s ass-backwards. Your objective should be to surface and capitalize on people’s virtues – since expressing those virtues is what they’re actually going to do all day, anyway. You can’t stop people from being who they are – so stop trying. Embrace and rejoice in who people really are and deploy them appropriately.


Any sort of teller job – high-volume, high-accuracy, high-contact – likes a Cs, where the too-chatty Sc will do better smoothing ruffled feathers in Customer Service – and making that change will make both departments stronger, more-coherent, happier, more productive and more profitable.

Car salesman? Id or Is.

Insurance salesman? Ic.

Sales manager? Di. A Ds will dribble away your momentum, where a Dc will kill it all right away.

Operations manager? Ds, but with a lot of C in the third position and very low I. A Ds is a great general, but familiarity breeds contempt.

As my friend noted, force-fitting the wrong foot into the right shoe does not work, often failing catastrophically. Similarly, putting the wrong people together is what incites all those conflicts you have to resolve. Two Di’s can admire each other from a distance forever, but if you put them on the same team, one or both will be gone in short order. Why? Because they will be competing for the same oxygen with the same fire-power.

And this is not just jobs: I’ve talked about using DISC to screen for the ideal motivations in tenants, and that same sort of praxis can be used for any sort of performance-hacking of transactions. Translation: Who needs a proxy-based cluster-frolic like FICO when I can predict to 95+% accuracy how you – you personally – will perform going forward?

This is business, and it is every business. Of all the people who don’t listen to me, the silliest ones, I think, are the ones with skin in the game. Every business will be immensely more profitable when it is built around accommodating people’s actual temperaments, rather than always trying to torque people into the shapes we idealize for them.

In any case, here’s to my young friend – and here’s to his thriving, both at work and at home! Approaching human life thoughtfully has salutary consequences. Who’da thunk it?

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