Many of the problems I see in businesses — if not relationships in general — stem from either a misunderstanding of others or a focus on our challenges rather than our strengths. So I’m going to do a 4-part Dear Coach series on the DISC behavioral types to help us better recognize our own motivations as well as others’. Today I’m featuring The D who is The Director.

Ambitious, confident, and goal-oriented, the Director is naturally a strategic thinker who lives in Big Picture mode. Following the rules is low on their list of priorities, as conventional thinking usually gets in the way of their vision. They are a fearless group, diving right into a project and confident in their ability to sort out the particulars later. Since they are agents of change, they need strong managers on their team who can tend to the day-to-day.

You will never have to pull an opinion out of a Director; they’ll happily give it to you whether you seek it or not. This is simply a function of how they process information and take action. Ds like to brainstorm, pull different ideas in, and run with the best. They need to be in an environment that allows them to take risks and lead the effort.

Each of the DISC styles has a specific emotional motivator that tends to guide their decision making. Ds are motivated by anger. Keep in mind that a D’s anger is more akin to frustration. They tend to be intuitive, processing information and acting on it very quickly. So this action-oriented bunch is provoked when progress is slow, and they’re not shy about saying as much. There are actually two advantages to the Director’s anger. First, they find anger motivating, and they can channel it into incredible productivity. Those of us who recently watched The Last Dance saw how Michael Jordan intentionally focused his anger toward competitors to achieve his six championships. I’m not saying MJ had the healthiest approach, but there’s no denying that Ds who harness their competitive spirit are often able to turn around the toughest of situations. If a project is stalling or sales are down, leave it to the Ds to channel their frustration about the lack of momentum into a flurry of action that will get the ball rolling again. Sometimes their sheer drive can be perceived as abrasive. No doubt Directors can be unintentionally insensitive to peoples’ feelings and personal space in pursuit of their objectives. They are unafraid of tough decisions, so when others around them are reacting more gradually—or being wishy washy—they can become easily irritated and impatient, if not irate.

The second upshot to their anger is that their interest in the future means they’re far less likely to hold a grudge. By way of example, my husband and I saw a documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright. His grandson recalled how his father (who was also an architect) and his grandfather would have blow-out arguments with one another. An hour later, they would resume collaboration on a project as if nothing had happened. While everyone else was left confused and exhausted by the fight, Wright and his son simply moved on. That’s typical of a high D style—the blow up can be fierce, but because they don’t live in the past, moving forward and meeting the challenge before them is what matters most. 

All of this isn’t to say that their fiery behavior doesn’t have drawbacks for those around them. Ds who haven’t yet figured out how to use their powers for good can leave a lot of scorched earth. Over the years I’ve had to counsel my high D clients whose deep reserves of energy and ambition wreaked havoc on their relationships. They need to remember to take time to mentor a team member who needs their support, or be fully present with their family on vacation. Their other struggle is delegation. Directors have exceptionally high expectations and don’t always trust that someone else will do the job fast enough or to their standards. They also can lack the patience to train someone to take over their tasks. Being relentlessly driven by their vision and the tasks at hand needs to occasionally take a back seat to the feelings and learning styles of those around them. Ds who learn to balance their own potency with the needs of others are very powerful.

To sum up, Ds are a courageous, passionate, and entrepreneurial group who invest a great deal of themselves into accomplishing their goals. Their love of competition pushes them to achieve where others may be too timid. For innovation, strategic thinking, and growth, you want a D on your team.

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Small Biz, Big Voices: Episode 18