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Managing in Turbulent Times
By Rich Meiss • Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Do Effective Managers Minimize Fear for their Employees?      


FEAR:  Fear is a reactive mechanism that operates when our identity is threatened. It works to erode or dissipate attention and action.

DiSC® and the Effective Manager:                                 Minimizing Fear                                                                                       

One of the major challenges of managing in turbulent times is maintaining the morale of our employees.  Competent managers recognize the importance of minimizing fear in the workplace, while still holding to the high standards and results that they expect.  They accept that one of their major roles is to be a coach – that is, to “grow people while getting great results!”  And one of the ways they do that is by providing feedback that is targeted to the employee and his or her behavior style (or personality).

Popular personality models that are commonly used in the workplace today include the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Social Styles, and DiSC.  We are fans of any model that can help people better understand themselves and others, and we’ve chosen the DiSC model to use in most of our work.  We like the DiSC because it is valid and reliable and quickly understandable.  The four quadrants of DiSC are represented by the model’s acronym and give some indication of the style characteristics:
 D – Dominant
 i – Influencing
 S – Steady
 C – Conscientious

Each of the styles has strengths and limitations – and each style also has a natural fear.  An effective manager will find a way to compliment the strengths of each style, while also correcting (redirecting) the limitations without tapping into the natural fear of the person.  In a time of economic downturn and general anxiety such as we live in today, it is important for a manager to understand these style differences and to use the information to minimize fear and build productivity.

Imagine a manager who has noticed an employee coming to work late once or twice a week.  This manager knows that to avoid confronting the behavior is like giving permission to let it continue.  In coaching language we call that “what I allow, I teach!”  So the manager decides to deal with the late behavior and talk to the employee. 

An effective coaching model to follow for all styles in redirecting behavior is the WWIINN model:
 W – What I really Want is (“for you to be on time, everyday”)
 W – Here’s what I’ve Witnessed (“you’ve been late twice this week”)
 I – This is the Impact of your behavior (“team members are taking on more work”)
 I – Use an “I” statement (“I cannot allow this to continue”)
 N – What I Need from you (“need you to be here at 8 AM, everyday”)
 N – What do you Need (“What do you need to do to make that happen?”)

In addition to using the WWIINN model of coaching, this manager needs to be sensitive to the natural fears that the DISC styles tap into.  The main fear of each DiSC style is:
 D – Fear of being taken advantage of
 i – Fear of rejection (personally)
 S – Fear of loss of stability; insecurity
 C – Fear of criticism (of their work)

So the skilled manager would adjust the WWIINN formula slightly based on the DiSC style of the employee:

D – “Dorinda, I know that you’re a person who likes to get great results, so you know the importance of timeliness.  Yet you’ve been late for work twice this week.” 
 (Complete the WWIINN formula.)  Be direct with the High D, and focus on their desire for accomplishment.  Avoid having them think they are losing control. 

i – “Ira, you know the value of getting along with your teammates, so being on time every day is important.  Yet you have been late for work twice this week.  Now I’m sure that you didn’t mean to do that, yet the impact is ….” 
 (Complete the WWIINN model.)  Reassure the High i of their value to you, and let them know you believe that they mean well, while also sticking to the desired outcome.  Avoid having them feel that you don’t like them.

S - “Sam, you are a reliable person and understand the importance of being on time.  Knowing you, this is probably just a little slip this week, but you have been late two times.” 
 (Complete the WWIINN formula.)  Reassure the High S that you believe in them, and that they are an important part of the team.  Avoid any indication that their job is in jeopardy.

C – “Coreen, you are someone with very high standards, so it surprises me that you’ve been late for work twice this week – once by seven minutes, and once by twelve minutes.” 
 (Complete the WWIINN model.)  Focus on the High C’s need for correctness and quality.  Avoid criticizing their work or having them think you believe they’ve compromised their standards.

By understanding the DiSC style needs of each employee and adapting communication style and behavior to meet those needs, the effective manager gets better results.  And in doing so, he/she also helps employees grow, while avoiding tapping into their fears.  For more information on how to redirect the behavior of each DiSC style, see the article titled “DiSC is a Language that Unlocks People's Potential.”

If you are interested in learning more about the DiSC Model of Human Behavior or would like to experience the on-line DiSC Classic Profile to discover your unique behavioral style, check out our website at or call us at 952-446-1586.

DiSC® is a registered trademark of Inscape Publishing Inc.

© Copyright 2009.  Meiss Education Institute.  All rights reserved.



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