Helping Different Personalities Through Change



Recently I was reminiscing about my Mother’s adventures. A woman who, in the early 1950s, travelled solo by ship from New Zealand to England, a month-long voyage, and then went on to tour throughout Europe in an old London Taxi purchased by a small group of friends. When she married my Dad, in 1960, they travelled The Kangaroo Route from Sydney to London by aeroplane for their honeymoon. A journey, this time, that took a mere 55 hours of flying over 4 days; not including the 2,100km hop from New Zealand to Australia

I marvel at how people like my Mom are able to embrace change so well while I watch others struggle and resist. A big part of an individual’s reaction to change is rooted in their personality. I am not talking about whether you are an adventurer type – I am looking beyond the surface. We need to consider the fears and goals that drive us. We all have the ability to embrace change, the real question is what drives us? How can we harness that drive to help us move forward with this change and leverage it to our advantage?

For the purpose of this article we will use the DiSC personality profile as the common language. DiSC is one of many Jungian-based personality profiles such as Insights, Colours or MBTI, all of them apply and I invite you to consider how the various personalities in your world react to change.

First, let’s establish the four DiSC types. We are all a blend of the four types. The descriptions below are distilled descriptions of the four types, intended to establish a basic understanding of what they are. For example, I am an i,D. This means that while I primarily display influence characteristics and fears, I also display Dominance characteristics and fears. We humans are complex characters for sure!

Dominance – direct, daring and decisive. These folks are driven by results and the need to be in control. In their extreme they can appear harsh as they use their laser focus on the goal to get the job done. Their biggest fear is loss of control.

influence – intuitive and inspirational. With a focus on people and a more active style, influence type people tend to be talkative and social. While they can be as driven as a Dominance, they will be more people focused than task focused. Their biggest fear is loss of personal acceptance.

Steadiness – stable, sincere and supportive. Steadiness, like influence, is more people focused but with a more thoughtful and introspective inclination. This can lead to the impression that steadiness is resistant to change, it is not; they simply process change a little differently. They are okay with change as long as there is a return to smooth waters. Their biggest fear is conflict and loss of community (team).

Conscientiousness – clear, correct and concise. The more thoughtful style, coupled with a focus on the facts, sees the conscientiousness personality type investigating. They read the data, perform the research, and evaluate it objectively. Their biggest fear is getting it wrong.

Change often triggers our fears. We can use tools like the DiSC personality profile to predict what might be at the root of a person’s resistance to change, adjust our approach, and hopefully assuage those fears. As an i,D, I have concerns about how I am viewed by my peers: do they respect me, will they view me as an asset to the team or a liability? Then my D kicks in, my competitiveness and my drive to win! This helps me understand not only my reactions to change but also the reactions I observe in other people.

Let’s look at each of the personality types and identify some potential false indicators of resistance to change:

Dominance, they will challenge and question you through the change. This is their way of helping move things forward while retaining control.

influence will want to talk it through, with a focus on where they fit into the picture. Learning anxiety can be very high here as they endeavour to maintain their good standing.

Steadiness will question the details of the new process as they are trying to picture the new normal. They will cling to the old system until they have confidence the new system will work.

Conscientiousness will also question the details but with more of a data focus. They will want to see the evidence. They will be supportive of the change when given supporting evidence.

Again, all the above descriptions apply to those who fit a ‘pure styles’ perspective. While there is a small percentage of the population who are one personality type, the vast majority of us are a blend. The key to making this a powerful tool in your arsenal is to watch for these types of reactions, consider the individual, and then adjust your approach appropriately.

My mother was born in 1928, just 25 years after the Wright Brothers’ historic flight. She witnessed firsthand the change in international travel from ship to airplane to jet; where a trip to the farthest corners of the globe that used to take a month, now can now be done in under a day. When I consider the changes to travel over her lifetime I marvel at how she was able to take all of this in stride. Change is inevitable but embracing it? Not always so much. Understanding the personality profile of a resister offers us a compassionate route to facilitate change. Today my sister and I were able to make the 2,300km trip to visit Mom in Fort Lauderdale and return on the same day, a trip that would be over three days by ship, one way. Ain’t life grand!