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 doing 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 S, who is The Supporter.

Kind, sensitive, and serious, Supporters tend to be underestimated by their counterparts because they are not overtly animated or expressive. Ss are friendly yet play things close to the vest, revealing their feelings only to their innermost circle. They also greatly value stability and peaceful solutions that benefit the group. They dislike confrontation and will often go to great lengths to avoid it, so the common misperception is that they’re pushovers. 

While they have a long fuse, Ss have equally long memories. Once their fuse is lit, years’ worth of frustration can boil to the surface with a shocking, grudge-holding ferocity. So a word of advice to the more expressive and energetic among us: Do not underestimate your introverted companions. Their quiet, steady loyalty and systematic approach to tasks may not be wildly dynamic, but their genial nature and love of procedures make them excellent project and office managers—which no business can live without.

Since they are not naturally self-promoting or free with their opinions, S-type business owners often feel uncomfortable in their sales efforts. Their distaste for the spotlight means they benefit greatly from marketing that starts with existing clients, who can be sources of repeat business and also of referrals. By going back to their “group roots,” Ss can cultivate clients and colleagues into raving fans who help spread the word on their behalf.

Each of the DISC styles has a specific emotional motivator that tends to guide their decision making. The emotional motivator for Ss is calm. Harmony. They may not freely offer their opinion on every matter that crosses their path, but they notice and remember everything, so choose your words respectfully. Whereas high Is are emotional but rebound quickly because of their optimism, the S’s reserve and distaste for confrontation causes them to tamp down frustration. Outwardly even-tempered as they are, Ss can be champion grudge holders.

The high S style safeguards a sense of security for everyone around them as much as for themselves. While they require more time and effort to truly know, the quality of their character and deep reserve of affection for those close to them make them loyal, discreet, and thoughtful confidants. Ss who find their voice are powerful precisely because their quiet reserve makes them such insightful observers.  Think of Mr. Rogers. He combined a calm energy and gentleness with a very astute understanding of human nature. He also was able to reframe his view of conflict into an opportunity to advocate for his ideals. He appeared before Congress and successfully secured funding for public television. Mr. Rogers is one of our greatest examples of introverted leadership.

In business, high Ds and Is are like Human Gas Pedals, whereas the Ss are like The Brakes. While this can be difficult to accept for faster-paced risk takers, keep in mind that Ss frequently clean up the mess that gets left behind from lack of follow through. So, when they raise their hand and say, “And how will this get done?” it isn’t intended to burst anyone’s bubble. They have a valid need to know whether big ideas can be realistically implemented and how they will affect the rest of the team. That said, Supporters should keep in mind that they can become paralyzed by their need for structure, and can stubbornly hunker down into their routine to the point where they impede necessary change. The best way to introduce change to an S is to give them reasonable time to digest new information and to ask for their help in organizing the changes to come. Ss are, after all, Supporters who naturally want to contribute to constructive endeavors. Give them the space they need to adjust to a change, and they will reciprocate with dutiful (and much-needed) skills.

To sum up, S’s are the peacemakers: Friendly, considerate, and modest. Their reliability and stability enables them to perform with great consistency. Ss work best in small, familial environments and appreciate positive feedback and encouragement. They are essential to the long-term health of any organization, as they can manage routine, people, and procedures with an interest and patience unique among the DISC styles.

Small Business, Big Voices: Episode #20