connecting the dots - Blog Top Image

Connecting the Dots

Between DISC, Emotional Intelligence, and Leadership

Recently, after a session, a participant asked me, “what stage of emotional intelligence do you think is the hardest?”  It did not take me long to reply that, for me, self-awareness and self-management rise to the top. Why? Well, I am usually quick to point out behaviors of others – positive or negative. However, emotional intelligence does not start with other awareness, it starts with being aware of myself and managing my reactions. 


If you have taken the Emotional Intelligence class through YCNS, you have been introduced to DISC. DISC is a short assessment that measures tendencies and preferences, or patterns of behavior. For example, it can measure how you respond to challenges, how you influence others, your preferred pace of doing things, and how you respond to rules and procedures. These behavioral preferences fall into 4 dimensions: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance. 

Dominance refers to the extent to which an individual places emphasis on achieving results, winning, and affecting the bottom line. Those who have a high preference for dominance actively take on challenges and typically get straight to the point. They value competency and concrete, immediate results. They may be described as confident, demanding, blunt, outspoken, ambitious, or direct. As a result, they may appear to display a lack of sensitivity or concern for others. 

Influence refers to the extent to which an individual places emphasis on persuading and convincing others. Those who have a high preference for influence value relationships and display a sense of energy, openness, optimism, and enthusiasm. They may be described as magnetic and trusting, but may appear impulsive and disorganized, sensitive, or overly optimistic.

Steadiness refers to the extent to which an individual places emphasis on cooperation, loyalty, and sincerity. Those who have a high preference for steadiness tend to have deliberate dispositions and are dependable. They may be described as calm, patient, and consistent, but may have trouble adapting to ambiguous situations, promoting themselves, and approaching difficult conversations. 

Compliance refers to the extent to which an individual places emphasis on quality, accuracy, ability, and competency. Those who have a high preference for compliance are typically independent, motivated by opportunities to learn, appreciative of the details and tend to do high quality work. They may be described as careful, cautious, systematic, tactful, and analytical but may fear criticism, being wrong or making decisions too quickly. 


DISC is a great tool to develop self-awareness because it allows you to be attentive to what makes you “tick” - what drives you, what gives you energy, what drains your energy and pulls you down. Being in tune with these things can help clue you into situations that “charge you up” creating emotional highs, or frustrating situations that can pull your emotional state down. 

Once we are self-aware, we can move toward self-management, controlling our reactions to overcome challenges, diffuse conflict and positively affect business results. Let’s look at how 2 managers chose to move from just being aware, to learning how to manage and leverage their reactions.


Meet Annette, a sales manager who has a high preference for Dominance and Compliance. Annette’s focus tends to be on accuracy, results, and action. She has high expectations of her team and finds energy in achieving unique accomplishments. She brings value to the organization in that she initiates and implements change.

Annette’s team is ambitious and focused on achieving results too, but they also crave interpersonal connection and engagement. Knowing that this is important to her team, but not something that comes naturally to her, Annette has learned to be intentional about displaying greater personal warmth and tactful communication. For example, with part of her team working remotely and some in the office, she is intentional about greeting team members warmly and genuinely when she sees them in the office and reaching out via IM to check in with those online. During her weekly one-on-one meetings with team members, the first 15 minutes are reserved for team members to share information about what’s going on in their world outside of work. The rest of the meeting is used to talk through and prioritize tasks, review upcoming initiatives or projects and/or answer questions to ensure that expectations are clear. Finally, she makes it a priority to treat the team to lunch out together every six weeks so that they can connect on a casual basis. As a result, Annette has seen collaboration and engagement among team members increase and several innovative ideas come to fruition.

Now, meet Tony, an enthusiastic and optimistic manager who has a high preference for Influence. Tony likes the challenge of working under pressure against tight deadlines and with limited details. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious, and people like his collaborative approach. Three new team members were recently added to Tony’s team to work on some critical projects. He quickly learned that, while they fit in, they work best with more structure and need time to process information. Knowing this, Tony tries to be proactive and concise with his communication and gives the team space and autonomy to gather and analyze details or come up with questions. After they have had time to think, Tony brings the group together to leverage their thought processes and engage them in conversation to better understand what he or the rest of the team may not have thought about. Using this information, the team established plans and timelines that allowed them to meet the deadlines on these critical projects without “just winging it.” 

In these situations, both Annette and Tony used what they knew about themselves and were intentional about managing their actions to achieve a successful outcome for their teams. They realized that they can be a more effective leader as they follow the process of first being self-aware, and then planning strategies that work for them (self-management) to produce better results. This is the sweet spot of emotional intelligence: choosing to move from just being aware, to learning how to manage those reactions.

What do you think?

  • On a scale of 0-10 how would you rate your manager as being self-aware? How about yourself?
  • Think through the last 2 days at work. Think about or write down the names of people who have frustrated you. Now think about how your reactions would look on video. Anything you might want to adjust?
  • Do you agree or disagree that increasing emotional intelligence is important, especially as a leader of others?

Take the DISC Assessment now to become more self-aware, increase your emotional intelligence, and improve your leadership skills!



Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Communication & Collaboration, Leadership & Influence

Faye Howard

About the Author

Faye Howard

Faye has a master’s degree in training and development and has held multiple roles in training, curriculum design, customer service and marketing throughout her 25+ year career. As a trainer and facilitator for Your Clear Next Step, you’ll see her energy come through as she teaches people the skills to be a better version of themselves, motivating them to leave a positive, lasting impact on others. Faye has made her home in Pella, IA with her husband, Seth, and their 3 boys since 2005. Faye is an encourager and intentional about influencing those around her. Therefore, in her free time, you’ll find her in the stands cheering on her boys in various activities, enjoying a walk or cup of coffee with a friend or immersed in a good book pulling out nuggets of wisdom.








Receive a weekly dose of inspiration in your inbox by signing up for our weekly newsletter