Discovering Behavior Patterns

Getting to know the different types of personalities you may encounter in your firm, and just as importantly, the kinds of clients you may meet is an integral skill to bring into the workplace. Differing behavioral styles can cause friction in the workplace and can create unnecessary tension or misunderstanding when they are not acknowledged and addressed.

This particular behavioral anatomy was first explored by William Marston, a Harvard University psychologist, in a study published in 1928 that stated that most people tend to have behavioral patterns that fall into four distinct groups. The four behaviorally types make up his coined moniker of DISC: D for dominance, I for influence, S for steadiness, and C for conscientiousness. The patterns are easy to identify and adequately deal with and lawyers who take advantage of recognizing them can effectively mitigate friction and build better work relationships. To give an example, a John Doe was able to vastly improve his working relationship with his boss once he understood his particular behavioral style. Doe would often find it challenging to brief his boss on working projects because his boss wouldn’t have the time during the day to set aside for Doe’s consistent updates. The boss would then appear later and ask Doe questions and, inevitably, to change his course of action. The boss was distrustful of Doe, and Doe felt criticized and under-appreciated. That’s because Doe is an Influencer – someone who is people oriented, very talkative, and loves to motivate. He is an excellent communicator but tends to get on rants, and when he is brushed off, he feels rejected.

As is the case in most of these sorts of situations, the boss’ primary DISC behavior patterns are Dominance and Conscientiousness, so he was unable, or rather unwilling, to sit around and listen to Doe’s continuous updates because he prefers direct, to the point discussions. These individuals are fast-paced and often impatient and prefer to get the job done and see key results while fearing getting taken advantage of and losing control. The second behavior trait of conscientiousness is often associated with accurateness and order, hence why it is often paired with the dominance trait. These individuals are analytical and see most things as black and white, or right and wrong. They don’t like criticism and try to avoid it by working and doing the job right the first time.

Doe was giving longer report updates, and the boss was doing everything to avoid having to attend these meetings. When he did, his conscientious side played a role and he would engage so as not to seem incompetent and would end up micro-managing Doe. He eventually assessed the DISC chart and realized he needed to make one key communication adjustment: promptness. He was straight to the point in his presentations and even made all the key objectives and results in a bulletin form. This eventually led to the boss wanting to have more frequent 10-minute meetings, and in turn, he relinquished some of that control he was trying to impose on Doe through micro-managing. So, a relationship that started with mistrust and haste became one that was more natural and respecting in nature.

Applying it to Court

Getting that hang of DISC judgment can help in the courtroom if appropriately implemented. For instance, lawyers with an acute understanding of DISC personalities can positively apply it in the process of jury selection. If a lawyer prefers jurors who exhibit a strong sense of right and wrong, they will be on the lookout for persons showing the conscientious traits. Distinguishing between ‘D’ and ‘C’ individuals, as they both tend to be formal and rigid can be done by looking for persons whole speak more rapidly in a group setting and eliminating those choices. The ‘C” individuals will usually be the ones who don’t interact with the other jurors and will tend to answer questions with more precision.

Understanding the DISC analogy can also help a firm with their marketing efforts. A successful business understands that first impressions can often mean more than any business proposition. A lawyer that can identify the type of traits they are dealing with when meeting a prospective new client will effectively leverage that into a proper introduction. A client with a formal style and fast pace will want to get right down to business and will not appreciate their time being wasted. If a potential client is more relaxed, the lawyer will know they are dealing with an ‘I’ or ‘S’ individual and will know that they like to develop a little bit of a rapport and relationship before getting down to brass tacks. They will want an explanation of services offered and continued availability and support, as well as the lawyer’s track record. If they’re able to convey that effectively, they’ve just banked a long-term, trusting client.

In today’s ever-increasingly connected and transparent world of commerce, lawyers who learn to develop the right kind of relationships will have a competitive edge in business development, firm management, jury selection, and so much more. Becoming intimately acquainted with DISC behavior styles will do just that and help lawyers get ahead of the competition.

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