A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 108 - The Path to Enlightenment

discby Michael Darling

So, I find myself with some extra time on my hands these days and while cleaning my office the other day - (an odd thing in itself) - I came across something even more arcane or unusual than the thought of me actually cleaning anything;

It was a DISC behavioral template that I worked through back in the early 90’s.

Yes, the 90’s. I told you that I wasn't prone to throwing things away. Deal with it. (deep breath) (…hmm maybe I better read this chart again…….)

The chart showed that I was heavy in the “dominance” and “influence” areas with pretty much zilch in the “conscientiousness” and “steadiness” realms. It was apparently a classic “Inspirational Pattern.” This is what it looked like (above…).

According to the DISC material:

  • My goal is to control my environment by “consciously attempting to modify the thoughts and actions of others.”  Uh –huh….
  • I’m adept at “identifying and manipulating other’s existing motives and directing the resulting behavior toward a predetermined end.”  Yup.
  • I influence others through charm and intimidation and become manipulative and quarrelsome under pressure.  Oh, really?

Well stop the presses and call a meeting! THERE’S a headline!

Tell me something I’m not already keenly aware of!  And you wonder why I write about control issues and control freaks so often?  I’m your resident expert here, that’s why.  (pounding on chest…)

So why bring up this unpleasant bit of history? Well, I’ll tell you.  No no…I’m HAPPY to.  REALLY!

It’s surprising how accurately that profile described the “me” of 15 years ago. And while there were some things I would have liked to change about my behavior at the time, the truth is that I didn’t change a thing.  Nope, not one.  For the most part that report was still accurate 15 MINUTES ago.

Don’t get me wrong; I have changed a lot since then. But what the DISC program revealed had nothing to do with it. I changed when my goals changed - for reasons we’ll get to in a minute - and I realized the behavior that had served me in the past was no longer effective.

That’s what this post is about: the difference between identifying your behavioral characteristics, which DISC and similar programs like Myers-Briggs are probably very good at, and actually doing something about it, i.e. modifying behavior, which is a whoooole different ball game, folks.

So what is the real value of behavioral profiles systems?

Not only was the DISC system dead-on, it also provided tips on how I can be more effective and my staff kind of understood why I behaved like a lunatic from time to time. That said, I think the real value in the exercise was that, for a day, my staff and I all got to be on the same level discovering what each of us was really all about. I remember it being fun and disarming.  Sure there were a few snickers and side-ways glances, but what the heck?

Personally, I think we achieved similar results from lunches and time together when the “walls come down” - getting to know each other in a different setting. That made it easier to face issues and crises together, as a team. We could look each other in the eye and know there’s a real live person with real emotions in there, beneath the bravado and confidence we project as part of our daily lives as executives.  Harder to do these days, but remember this was the 90’s.

So, even though the DISC system told me I could be a “belligerent” jerk (NOOOO…really?)  under certain conditions, was deeply afraid of “being too soft,” and would be more effective by showing some “genuine sensitivity” from time to time, nothing changed because I had a job to do and that was get results, not get all warm and fuzzy with my inner self.

Ok… so what does it really take to affect behavioral change?

In reality, it took a couple of pretty dramatic personal crises to get me to take a cold hard look in the mirror and decide that I wanted different things out of life. And to achieve them, I would need to spend some quality time actually getting to know my family and myself and enjoy life. I needed some balance.  To this day, it’s a struggle for me because it goes against my internal “grain” that is my personality, but I DO keep trying.

Somebody who used to work for Intel’s former CEO Andy Grove - a guy who was famously tightly wound - once told me that Grove became a much nicer and mellower guy after his run-in with prostate cancer.  That’s the sort of thing that motivates change.  I’m hoping I don’t have to learn that way.  I’ve got enough drama as it is.

You see, DISC profiles may be eerily accurate, but they’re still pretty superficial compared to everything you and I have going on under the hood.

That’s because the architecture of the human mind is complicated. It’s actually a lot like an onion.

Here’s what it looks like.


And just like an onion, you peel a layer, cry, peel another layer, and cry some more.

In other words, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you go a bit deeper and find out you didn’t know a damn thing.

The mind’s tricky like that.

You see, what it all really comes down to, the essence of how you and I behave on a daily basis, is a loop. It actually goes something like this:


You can follow the loop for years, even decades, thinking everything’s hunky-dory.  “WE” don’t like change, do we?  So we try very hard to keep that loop moving the same way.

Then, one day, something happens - a crisis, an epiphany - and you realize that the results of all your efforts weren’t what you expected.  You’re forced to alter your perceptions.

The proverbial “light bulb” comes on.  You realize that your path isn’t as well defined as you thought….there are forks in the road on your horizon and you have to make some decisions.

So you change your goals and, well, your behavior won’t change overnight and your path won’t always be clear, but it’s a start. 

May the sun be at your back as you travel the journey, and may your path always lead you to happier places.  I hope to see you there.

As for the reference to diapers and politicians, no real comment is necessary, is it?

Thanks for reading.