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How Your Personality, Work Style, and Communication Impact Your Ability to Embrace Change

We are currently living in one of the most volatile, uncertain, chaotic, confusing, complex and ambiguous times in history.  While we have no control of what happens outside of us, we have all the control in the world about how we navigate our work life and work relationships. 

When we are operating on autopilot at work, we are often out of touch with how our attitude, beliefs, communication style and work behaviors may be causing  workplace friction.  It’s easy for us to see that someone else (especially those we perceive ourselves to be below and victimized by) are to blame for how we feel and what’s not working, but the truth is we are all part of the problem. 

Workplace personality conflicts and automatic disempowering behavioral and communication styles often ruffle feathers of those who think, speak and do different things than we do. 

Unresolved conflicts exasperate friction and separateness, kill teamwork, derail innovation and stagnate personal, group and organizational effectiveness. 

It’s important to know and understand that each of us has a predisposition for how we operate at work, how we get things done, how we communicate, and how we handle stress and pressure, especially in the face of change. (which seems like it is daily)

Our personality type likely falls into one of four main categories, and quite often falls into a combination of two or more “types”. This is not meant to pigeon hole or type cast people. It is a way to understand yourself and others so you can elevate how you can work best with others and they can work best with you.   

We all have our individual personality, desires, values and workplace strengths and ultimately it is those strengths or superpowers that have served us well up to this point. However, these same strengths all too often cause us to limit how we see the work world and people around us. These blind spots hinder our ability to get ourselves and others to the next level, because we can not readily see what doesn’t work about our predominant communication and workstyle. 

The truth is our personality archetype, while familiar and reliable in moving us forward in life, has a “dark side”. 

When we are rigidly stuck inside our fixed viewpoint and ways of being, it constrains our effectiveness, especially when we are needing to stretch beyond our norms and evolve, which is required in today's volatile, uncertain, complex, chaotic and ambiguous world. 

Our predisposition for a type of communication and workstyle can be very beneficial to us while navigating change in its own unique way. 

However, these same benefits, when overused and are the ONLY way of operating, become a detriment to fulfilling the intention of the change initiative. 

When each of us is leading, promoting, planning, and implementing change, our change team must have a healthy balance of communication and workstyles for ANY change initiative to be successful. There are those who catalyze change and are excellent at getting the ball rolling, yet are too impatient to weather the storm of obstacles that disrupt progress.  There are those of us that cheer the project and people on yet when deep concentration and detail orientation are required we tune out. There are those of us that are outstanding refiners and worse-case scenario thinkers, but our worrisome perspective often causes others to uninvite us to the change initiative. Then there are those of us that are fabulous at implementing, following through, and bringing projects over the finish line. The challenge for our workstyle is we like to work at our own pace and problems often exhaust us. 

The easiest and oldest personality archetype instrument is the DISC. William Marston invented this observable behavioral model in the late 1920’s and it is now a baseline for hundreds of personality archetypes and assessment models.

Marston’s model offers a simple and elegant solution for understanding yourself and others at work.  He categorizes communication and work styles into 4 main quadrants of observable behavior. D - I - S - C.  

Each quadrant brings a unique set of communication and work style behavior that is complementary to the other three.  

Real power in life and at work begins with two main competencies. First, in our ability to self manage by choosing our responses and behaviors, especially while under pressure and navigating new challenges. Second, in our desire and ability to surround ourselves with people who think, see, speak, and act differently than we do.


When each of us is operating above the power and freedom line of the 7 levels of effectiveness, in a state of courage or above, we are much more willing and open to try new ways of being, beyond our familiar programming. 

However, when we are operating below the power and freedom line, in a state of frustration, fear, or hopelessness, we will often unconsciously double down on our dominant work and communication style, because when we are below the line, we lose our ability to see our own actions and interpret others’ actions and behaviors effectively.  

When we are upset, we narrow in on ourselves and our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs, and follow the same neural pathways we have for years.  In other words we stick to what is comfortable, even when we “know” it may not be in our best interest. 

Let’s dig a little deeper by introducing you to different people with different personality types, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Sam Smith

Meet Sam Smith. Sam has been a top producer his whole life. As a high D, he makes things happen and it's highly appreciated by his bosses. A high D is decisive, and results-driven. They get things done. No matter what project or challenge it is, Sam takes it on with a vengeance. When roadblocks occur, Sam knocks them down like bowling pins, anyway, anyhow, and with little regard for the impact of his actions on people or on the overall long-term workability of his solution. 

Unfortunately for Sam and those he works with, in his pursuit of results he leaves a wake of disregarded processes, dead emotions and mistrust. Quite often people avoid talking to Sam in the early stages of identifying a problem because they believe he will blame them for the problem. Many people who work for him feel like they can't do anything right to make him happy. 

His impatience causes him to cut people off mid sentence and all too often those who work around Sam don't experience self actualization because he steps in and hammers through each challenge as a Lone Ranger. 

Sam’s behavior, when focused, can be beneficial during change because he will be the one who gets excited about making the changes and his energy is strong enough to catalyze people to action. He has the capability to create the big WHY and to mobilize troops to make the changes. If Sam is not careful, his eagerness to make change happen NOW will cause him to initiate far too many projects with undefined outcomes and too little resources. When Sam cannot control his desire for constant change, people around Sam experience exhaustion, overwhelm, and cognitive overload. 


Meet Donna. Everyone loves Donna. As a High I, she brings people into the organization and creates amazing ideas where everyone can learn, grow, and succeed. She is sociable, enthusiastic, and energetic. Donna is the one who brings flair and excitement to projects, initiatives and interactions.  She’s always showing up with a way to make things more creative and engaging. Her fast-paced and talkative nature often sets the tone for how to get work done and how to run meetings.

However Donna’s high I personally type comes with some challenges. She is often so frantically busy and disorganized, she becomes like a tornado in the office. It’s as if she is a flurry of high level information that often leaves out the real intention and detail that others need to be successful. Donna often says yes to everything but doesn’t follow through, so she has created mistrust amongst some of her most important work relationships. Like all of us, she has many blind spots in terms of getting work done and execution. She doesn't enjoy accountability and refuses to babysit people, so follow up is non-existent in Donna’s day-to-day work world.

Her workstyle and communication is definitely an asset during change initiatives because she encourages and inspires everybody to get involved, buy-in, and contribute. However, if Donna does not self manage, she will start more than she or others can finish. Because she is not so keen on details, she might overestimate what people are capable of accomplishing and underestimate the amount of effort it takes to make things happen. One complaint Donna’s people have is that so many projects start and then become chaotic because of a lack of discipline and rigor around execution. 


Meet Tom. As a high C, Tom brings a  cautious communication and workstyle to the world of work. Tom is someone people count on for accurate, sound, and current data. He prides himself on being impeccable with the details. He is precise in everything he does. Tom is the kind of guy that will take the time to explain exactly how the watch is built, how many man hours went into building the watch, how much it costs to build the watch, and where all the raw material for the watch came from, yet he might never get to telling you the actual time. 

Tom has been seen walking through the organization and one-by-one pointing out what people are doing wrong. While paying attention to problems and what’s not working is important, Tom’s primary focus is there. The adverse impact of having a bias for what’s broken is that Tom all too often misses all the things that are working, which creates a lot of negativity around him. 

Tom’s personality type is one you definitely want on a change project because he's a refiner. He’s the one that will tell the team when it is off track and what problems may occur that the team didn’t even think of. 

Tom needs to be careful about being the dutiful, doubting Thomas and remembering that one negative correction has the same weight in a human being’s mind as five positive acknowledgements. Another challenge Tom often experiences with change initiatives is analysis paralysis. The amount of time he spends analyzing outweighs the amount of time he spends actually supporting the change effort. 


Meet Cali. Cali is steady and conscientious. As a high S, she cares about the people around her and wants to maintain a stable work environment with happy people. She invests more than most in doing things that give people a sense that they matter. Regular team building events, birthdays, and celebrations are expected by her employees. Cali also works diligently to ensure people are growing and learning on the job and have a high quality work life balance.

However, Cali’s achilles heel is that she too doesn’t enjoy accountability or the requirements to make it a regular conversation at work. She struggles with accepting when real change is needed. She prides herself on the team she has built, yet is extremely challenged in new ways of thinking because everyone on the team has similar views, communication styles, attitudes, beliefs, ideals, and goals. With no process-oriented people in the workplace, they lack the kind of architecture that would allow people to understand the importance of personal accountability and give people a clear path to higher levels of contribution. 

Although it would seem like everyone is thriving in a workplace that values people this much, it simply isn’t true. The lack of accountability and structured roles lead to resentment, perceived favoritism, and siloing. 

Because Cali’s workstyle and communication focuses on being steady and consistent, she will often continue to repeat habits, behaviors, and ways of working, even when they don’t work, because the discomfort of change is so threatening to her. Often being proactive and taking on change spurs insecurity and fear because of the unknown. Cali didn’t know that this was an issue and didn’t know that she didn’t know, so she kept things the same as they had always been. 

Cali’s personality archetype can be an asset during change because she brings the team together and makes sure everybody feels included, important, and that what they're doing matters. She also goes out of her way to make sure people have what they need to be successful. It’s important for Cali that she regularly revisits the things that are not working, or not working as well as she’d like them to, and then makes a prioritized list of what change needs to happen. Cali will need extra time to process what changes are needed and what role she needs to play in making the change happen.


Meet Hal. Hal is a new CEO. He’s not even 45 years old. He’s accomplished so much in his career by leveraging his personality strengths as high I and S. 

As a high I, he is very interactive and likes collaborating with people. He makes his personal mobile phone number available to anyone and everyone so he can be viewed as being approachable and interested in what they have to say.  He is extremely inclusive and often facilitates meetings with 15 plus people on a topic better served with 8 or less. He listens to everyone’s input and often leaves meetings more confused and more exhausted than when he started.  He tells his coach he does not feel like he has enough time in the day to do everything he needs to. 

Hal also has a secondary dominant workstyle of the stabilizer.  He utilizes his high S to mold a stable and steady perception to those he interacts with. For Hal, relationships are his number one priority. Hal brought in all his good sales and relationship skills to his role of CEO. The only problem is that he overuses his innate “need to be liked” All too often that underlying need is the star of the personality show rather than being a supporting cast member. 

This means Hal has to do a lot of backtracking and cleaning up on a weekly basis because when he feels under threat, he unintentionally allows people to do what works for them individually, even when it has a negative impact and costs the organization as a whole.  

 Another challenge for Hal is he admits that to get along with others, he has stepped over broken agreements and turned the other way when key leaders were not operating concurrently with the organization's values, rather than dealing with those conflicts head on. Hal’s biggest challenge is he is a perpetrator of cordial hypocrisy. 

Sandee Shore

Meet Sandee Shore. Sandee is a high D and has all the energy of this workstyle. He makes things happen, however he also takes everything on, often at the same time.  Sandee has gotten promoted in every role he’s ever had because he is always willing to step in, step up, and make it happen. Sandee has been a catalyst for innovation in his current role and opened up 3 new markets in his 1st year in the Chief Sales Officer role. 

He’s also a High I, so he’s an incredible inspiration to people. He will convince them to do things that they thought they couldn’t and didn't even want to do in the first place. 

What doesn’t work for Sandee is that he has a group of people, specifically in sales, that spend more time trying to get on his good side than actually working independently. Sandee will do anything for his friends, so everyone is trying to be his friend, rather than focusing on getting their work done and achieving results. 

Because of this, in Sandee’s organization there is a lot of manipulation, posturing and power plays.  When his people want to do something that Sandee may disagree with, they wait until he is so busy that he couldn’t possibly be paying attention to strike. Because many think they are his friends, they believe their behavior will be overlooked and sometimes it is. This leads to widespread talk of favoritism and bro club endorsements. 

Sandee admits to being extremely competitive to a fault and believes that creating competition will make people better. He can’t see and he doesn’t even know that he can’t see that he has created competition among his own team, driving them apart when they should be working together.

Sandee is often frustrated with the back channeling and side deals his organization invents, but is too busy to deal with it when it comes up, so chaos blooms until there is a major breakdown that stops Sandee in his tracks. 

Barb Mitchel 

Barbara Mitchel has been an Executive Director of a powerhouse non profit for the past decade.  She has a big heart and passion for what she does and takes her career very seriously. 

She has a unique pattern of behavior as she is a DC combination.  Her dominance is known to everyone who works with her. She makes no bones about personal accountability and integrity being her highest values. Her high C detail orientation and precision with how things should get done gives her ample motivation for ensuring every role is thoroughly defined and all processes are documented. 

Barb expects and inspects her team members to say what they are going to do and then do it. When problems or challenges occur, Barb reminds her people of the big WHY of their noble cause. She reminds them that complaining and excuses have no place in serving the public. 

Barb recently asked her coach to help her uncover her “soft side”. She’s smart enough to know that using neuroscience to evolve her leadership is needed now. After reflecting on recent key employee turnover, she is beginning to believe that she is overusing her left-hemisphere dominant brain behavior and leaning too heavily on her task mode network.  

Barb is ready to Evolve her leader within by cultivating her right-hemisphere dominant traits of empathy, connection, and creativity. She is aware that this will require her to more deeply understand her default mode network and how to spend more time in the “not doing mode”. 

So What's Next?

Every human has the freedom to choose to evolve the leader within. 

A gift that brain science gives us is the hope that we too can change and develop ourselves in any and every way we desire. When people at work have the courage to take on their own evolution, growth is possible.

We will never be able to outrun the constant VUCA in our personal and professional lives. What we can do is give ourselves every opportunity to effectively shift and navigate how we work and interact with others. The beauty of being a human being is that our attitudes, workstyles and behavior are malleable. Remember that our behaviors, workstyles, and communication style were all developed in us as children.  The amazing power of our brain is that we have neuroplasticity and we can change. We can upgrade our personality program at any time we choose. It does take self-awareness, commitment, and discipline. And if it is important to you to have power over your circumstances and to improve how you are perceived by others then the ball is in your court. Evolve your leader within today in our upcoming Evolve the Leader Within Seminar Series. Join us for a 2-hour session each week and elevate your contribution!


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