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Team Building

Team Relationships: Understanding Style and Building Relationships
By Rich Meiss • Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Creating High Performing Teams Series: III


Team Relationships:  Understanding Style and Building Trust

By Rich Meiss


In his bestselling book on teams, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author Patrick Lencioni postulates that the biggest contributor to dysfunctional teams is a lack of trust.  We would only disagree in that without a purpose, a team may have all kinds of trusting relationships and still be dysfunctional.  But short of this lack of purpose, there is nothing that will undermine a team’s efforts as much as poor interpersonal relationships.


Strong team relationships begin with a common understanding of the team values.  When team members have established the operating standards upon which they will build their behavior and make their decisions, they have built a strong foundation for their team.  (For more information on how to build a set of cohesive team values, see the article in this series titled “Team Reasons:  Establishing the WHAT/WHY/HOW of Teams”.)


Beyond the team values, the next biggest contributor to team relationship success is an understanding of the different personality styles of the members.  In today’s workplace, there are three commonly used models of understanding personality.  These are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Social Styles model, and the DISC model.  While we are fans of any model that will help team members better understand each other, we use the DISC model in our work with teams.  DISC stands for a model of human behavior that looks at Dominance (D), Influencing (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). 


For purposes of this article, we are going to utilize the DISC model.  We will look at the DISC model along two continuums of behavior, which we will label pace and priority (see diagram below).    At the top of the horizontal axis are those people who tend to have a faster pace about them.  They are often competitive, and express their ideas and beliefs openly and forcefully.  They like to tell others what to do.  At the bottom of the horizontal axis are those people who tend to have a slower pace about them.  They tend to be more cooperative, and tend to ask more than tell. 


          D              Faster Paced        I




           C              Slower Paced        S



Please understand that there is no right or wrong, good or bad place to be on this scale.  Each place is just different.  The position each person occupies on the scale depends largely on the traits he or she inherited and on early learning and programming. 

The next horizontal continuum looks at priority.  On the left side of the continuum are those  whose main priority is tasks.  They tend to be more formal in their approach to things, and are more controlled in their expression. 

On the right side are those whose main priority is people.  They tend to be more informal in their approach and more self-expressive.  They will often share their emotions freely with those around them, while those on the left of the continuum are not comfortable revealing their deeper feelings.


                        D                                                                                           I

    Task Oriented __________________  People Oriented

      (Formal)                                           (Informal)

                        C                                                                                           S


As in the previous example, there is no one best place to be.  This has nothing to do with a person’s emotional maturity, abilities or commitments.  It has to do with a person’s comfort in expressing their emotions and their priority around task or people.  Remember, different does not equal wrong, different just equals different.











By putting these two continuums together, we have now formed a four quadrant system by which we can characterize behavior.  We will call the upper left hand quadrant the “D” behavior, or directing.  The upper right hand quadrant is the “I” behavior, or interacting.  The lower right hand quadrant is “S” behavior, or supporting, and the lower left hand quadrant is “C” behavior, corrective or calculating.  Each person is made up of some combination of all four of these behaviors. Most people, however, tend to have a more prominent style and then maybe a secondary and tertiary style.


The Directing, Interacting, Supporting and Calculating Styles


The Directing style (Directer) is decisive, results-oriented, competitive, independent and strong-willed.  These strengths when over-used can become domineering, harsh, tough, impatient, and pushy.  The Directer is motivated by challenges and prefers a fast-paced environment.  He or she fears being taken advantage of.  To increase their effectiveness, Directers need to develop more patience and learn to slow down and socialize.


The Interacting style (Interacter) is enthusiastic, persuasive, people-oriented, stimulating and talkative.  These strengths overused can appear to be undisciplined, excitable, disorganized, manipulative, and reactive.  The Interacter is motivated by people contact and an open, accepting environment.  They fear a loss of influence.  To increase their effectiveness, Interacters need to develop more objectivity, be more organized, and learn to be brief and low-key.


The Supporting style (Supporter) is dependable, agreeable, amiable and calm.  These strengths overused come across as unsure, insecure, wishy-washy, and conforming.  The Supporter is motivated by stability and prefers an organized, secure environment.  To increase their effectiveness, Supporters need to be more decisive, say “no” more easily, and develop greater comfort with change.


The Calculating style (Calculaters) are accurate, persistent, cautious and perfectionistic.  These strengths, when overused, may appear as critical, picky, judgmental, and slow to make decisions.  The Calculater is motivated by control and accuracy, and prefers an environment that maintains high standards.  Their fear is criticism of their work.  Calculaters can increase their effectiveness by being more open and tolerant of themselves and others, and by developing an acceptance of realistic limitations.


How to Interact Successfully With Each Style on a Team


Once you understand that different people have different behavioral styles, you get a sense of how conflict develops on a team.  Each style has unique strengths, weaknesses, motivations, goals and fears.  Team members need to learn how to adapt their style to get better results with each DISC style.  Here are some general tips on how to do this.


When dealing with a directing style person, provide possibilities for them to get results, solve problems, or be in charge.  Stress the logic of ideas or approaches.  Whenever possible, get them into a discussion about their goals and end results.  Remember that Directers can be demanding and competitive.  They will tend to tell you what is happening, and want to be in control.  Help them meet these needs.


When dealing with an interacting style person, allow them to express their hunches or ideas.  Provide ideas for transferring talk to action.  Allow time for fun activities and creative ideas.  Provide incentives for them, and avoid confrontation if at all possible. Remember that Interacters can be excitable and stimulating.  They will want to be the center of attention and have the opportunity to interact with people.


When dealing with a supporting style person, show them sincere interest and give them positive recognition.  Be patient in drawing out their goals and needs.  Present new ideas in a non-threatening manner, giving Supporters time to adjust to change.  Remember that Supporters tend to be soft-spoken and team oriented, wanting to include everyone.  They like recognition but do not need to be the center of attention.


When dealing with a calculating style person, be prepared to answer their questions in a patient and persistent manner.  If you disagree, make sure to disagree with the facts, not the person.  Give them permission to make changes based on their standards.  Remember that Calculaters can be cautious and sensitive.  They tend to ask probing questions and like to plan ahead.


*To get a sense of your DISC style, you may want to complete a DISC Styles Survey.  For a more complete analysis of your behavioral style, you may want to complete a full DISC Profile or its online equivalent.  See the references at the end of this article for more information.


Understanding Style and Building Trust


As we come to understand the different styles of team members and learn to adapt to them, a strong sense of trust is built in the team.  Members recognize that they need to utilize the strengths of their style, complement their limitations with the strengths of other’s styles, and use the agreed-upon team values as the final arbiter of team decisions and actions.


A University of Minnesota study concluded that trust is built on these four foundations:


Straightforwardness - Confronting people and issues.

Openness              - Giving and receiving feedback willingly.

Accepting             - Being non-judgemental of others.          

Reliability             - Doing what one says one will do.


When these four characteristics are present, a climate of trust is usually apparent.  The interesting fact is that each of the DISC styles tends to have strengths and limitations in these four trust factors, as follows:


Style                           Strength                         Limitation

D - Directer            Straightforward              Accepting

I -  Influencer         Openess                       Reliability

S - Supporter          Accepting                      Straightforward

C - Calculater          Reliability                     Openness


Here are some ways to maximize trust in team settings once members have an understanding of their behavioral styles:


-       Honor and celebrate your strengths!  Put yourself in situations where you

can use your strengths often.

-       Minimize your limitations.  Continue to look for ways to develop yourself

in the areas in which you are weakest.  As much as possible, avoid putting yourself into situations where your strengths cannot be used.

-       Surround yourself on the team with others whose strengths complement yours.  The best teams will have the strengths of each style present – Directers, Interacters, Supporters, and Calculaters.        


Use the power of DISC personality styles to create trusting high performing teams!



*The DISC Personal Styles Survey ($6.00) is easy to use and provides people an insight into their behavioral style – how and why they do the things they do.  Individuals who know and understand their style can capitalize on their strengths, enhance personal effectiveness, and improve relationships.   Free shipping if you mention this article when placing your order for the survey.


Visit our web site at for information about the Creating High Performing Teams seminar.



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