Behavioral Style

Be aware of behavioral types and turn emotions into chosen actions

Chapter 4 p.4

The other day I heard somebody say that his team leader “is a true elephant”. Now, was that a compliment or a negative remark? Somebody once said to me that I must be careful not to lapse into ostrich behavior. What is it with all these animals ? Are we a business or a zoo?

I Answer

Various models and topologies exist that can be used to describe human personalities and behavioral types. Mike Matulovich divides behavioral types into three main categories, which he calls the Elephant, Ostrich and Rhinoceros. The names give us clues to the type of person and behavioral style we can expect to find in each category.

I Ask

I can guess what the behavior of an ostrich and a rhinoceros could be like, but what makes a person an elephant?

I Ask

Let me give you a summary, then I will explain it fully in the diagram after the summary.

The Rhinoceros
Positional Power
The Elephant
Personal Power
The Ostrich
Lack of Power
This type of person is characterized by the use of external control. This type of person is characterized by the use of personal control. This type of person is characterized by lack of control.
They are emotionally immature and use the power of position, title, etc. They enjoy the respect of others. They exhibit a low self – worth and self-esteem.
Insecure since they are constantly “in debt”. They attempt to hide their insecurity from themselves and others by using aggressive means. They are able to negotiate. Ruled by a Scarcity Mentality and that they are a born losers.
Ruled by a Scarcity Mentality and hence have difficulty in sharing recognition, credit, power, success or information. Secure in themselves since their power is based on internal control and not on the external control of position, seniority or title. They expect to be cheated, stepped on and to be unappreciated by others.
They are threatened by the success and development of other people. Abundant mentality – there is enough for everybody – they can share credit, power, information,
ideas, etc.
Expect the worst, invite it and usually get the worst.
They believe that in every transaction there must be a winner and a loser and are determined to win at all costs. Have confidence in themselves and are therefore not threatened by the success of others. They defend themselves by hiding behind a wall of apathy and indifference towards themselves and others.
They need to control others that report to them. Emotionally mature. “Reside” almost permanently in the victim’s corner.
They build weaknesses in themselves by becoming dependent on external factors to get things done. Curious. Either give up, give in or get out. They will not attempt to problem solve and very often will not even acknowledge that there is a problem.
They create weaknesses in others by causing them to react on the basis of fear or conformity; thus stunting their own reasoning, freedom, growth and internal discipline. Have courage and compassion. They avoid having to take personal responsibility for anything and uses six strategies to achieve this:
Build weaknesses in their relationships. They become strained; fear replaces co-operation; each person involved becomes a little more arbitrary, a little more agitated and a little more defensive. They ask for, welcome and listen to feedback.
  1. Don’t play.
  2. Keep others from winning.
  3. Don’t complete anything.
  4. Destroy the game.
  5. Play the nice guy routine.
  6. Become a problem.
Avoid certainty at all costs. Plead
No control
Not Deserving
Use their imagination to create a vision of the future, focusing on solutions as opposed to being caught up in past problems.

I Ask

That’s interesting! I won’t tell you where I see myself… But can you give me an idea of the behavior that I can expect from each type in the work environment?

I Answer

The three behavioral types most often manifest themselves in the work environment in terms of ‘Assertiveness’. Take note of how the degree of assertiveness corresponds with the core characteristics of each type, as explained in the diagram below.

Assertiveness = Aggression Assertiveness =Assertiveness Assertiveness = Submission
They force and threaten, and control and manipulate others. They encourage others to be self-controlled, motivated and to achieve results of which they can be proud. They allow others to control and manipulate them. They plead and abdicate.
Believe that they have rights and that others do not have equal rights, therefore they often violate others’ rights. Believe that all have Equal rights, stand up for their own rights and respect rights of others. Believe they have few rights and that others on same level also have few rights. They believe they must remain submissive.
Express their ideas and feelings in a manner that might be hurtful to others and do not allow others to express their ideas or feeling, unless they are in agreement with their own. Express ideas and feelings openly and honestly and encourage others to do the same. Reluctant to express ideas and feelings.
Demand more information and accuse the source of poor clarification. Ask for information and clarification in order to understand and succeed. They give up easily if ideas are challenged.
Will not ask for more information or clarification for fear of criticism or rejection.
Question and challenge in an attacking and personal style and will not allow others to question and challenge them. Question and Challenge in a constructive and non-threatening manner in order to arrive at the truth. Afraid to question and challenge
Encourage others to question and challenge and they learn from the process.

I Advise

I’d say that a high Emotional Awareness and Inter-dependence are Elephant characteristics…

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Understanding DISC Profiles

Update: If you are considering a midlife career change it is very important that you complete a DISC profile.


I Ask

Somebody said that understanding DISC Profiles can be extremely useful in dealing with customers and colleagues. I’m not so sure what it is exactly, let alone how to use it. Can you explain it to me?


I Answer

Your DISC Profile gives you an indication of the behavioral style that you prefer based on the DISC Dimensions of Behavior Model.

This model provides for four Behavioral Dimensions, each of which encompasses a set of key characteristics and personal behavioral preferences.

The acronym DISC indicates the main characteristic of each of the four styles or dimensions:

D – Dominance

I – Influencing

S – Steadiness

C – Compliance

The table below describes typical behavioral characteristics of persons with High “D”, “I”, “S” and “C” preferences:

Understanding DISC profiles for career development

High D – Dominance

  • Active, positive movement in an unfavorable environment.
  • Observable characteristics: strong, forceful, competitive.
  • Basic orientation: task-oriented (results), moves people to action, desire to cause change.
  • Positive motivators: directness, does not like to be entertained or restrained.
  • Negative motivators: does not like being taken advantage of , especially criticism of their character (self-concept/ego).
  • Basic growth factors: impatience is a behavioral limitation, they are selective listeners, tend to have a blind spot regarding other’s views and feelings.
  • Sees environment as antagonistic/hostile.

High I – Influence

  • Active, positive movement in a favorable environment.
  • Observable characteristics: optimistic, easily relate to people.
  • Basic orientation:  social, high-keyed emotionally, loves to entertain.
  • Positive motivators:  needs social recognition, needs companionship, needs group morale.
  • Negative motivators:  social rejection – experience disapproval in relationships or criticism as personal rejection by others.
  • Basic growth factors: disorganization in task behavior is a competency limitation.
  • Sees environment as supportive / favorable.

High S – Steadiness

  • Passive, agreeable movement in a favorable environment.
  • Observable characteristics: pragmatic, objective, team payer, family person.
  • Basic orientation: concrete results-oriented, bottom-line approach, prefers concrete to abstract.
  • Positive motivators: proven practices, clear objectives, follows procedure.
  • Negative motivators: loss of stability, suspicious of the unknown, does not like change.
  • Basic growth factors: possessiveness and adherence to the code of order.
  • Tranquility is a key limitation.
  • Sees Environment as antagonistic / hostile

High C – Conscientiousness

  • Cautious, tentative movement in an unfavorable environment.
  • Observable characteristics: accurate-the most precise of all patterns, the quality control person.
  • Basic orientation task orientated (Detail): highly intuitive, people readers, cautious in relationships.
  • Positive motivators: the correct or proper way, most self-discipline.
  • Negative motivators: criticism of their work or their effort in a situation.
  • Basic growth factors: overly critical and demanding of both themselves and others because of their high standards (though this criticism is often unspoken).

I Ask

But what practical value does these concepts have?


I Answer

DISC Dimensions of Behavior helps you discover and capitalize on your unique behavioral strengths. DISC can also help you realize how overusing your strengths can create misunderstandings, tension and conflict.

Knowing how to be responsive to the communication needs of others is the key to success in relationships.

Understanding the Dimensions of Behavior helps you to better understand the behavior of others whose strongest behavioral preferences lie in the dimensions (styles) which differ from your own.


I Ask

Is there any way to determine the behavioral preference of a person, say for instance, a customer…?

The DISC People Reading Guide is a most valuable tool in this regard, especially if you use it in combination with the DISC Behavioral Styles Summary:

Outgoing / Direct

  • Faster Pace
  • More telling
  • Louder speech
  • More inflection

More competitive and directing (“D” need)

  • Closed posture
  • Unexpressive / Cool face
  • Feeling unexpressed
  • Formal
  • Focuses on “What?”
  • Priority on goal and Results

Reserved / Indirect

  • Slower pace
  • More asking
  • Softer speech
  • More monotone

More accepting and doing
(“S” need)

  • Closed posture
  • Relaxed / warm face
  • Feelings expressed
  • Casual
  • Focuses on “How?”
  • Priority on cooperation and stability

More talkative and interactive (“I” need)

  • Open Posture
  • Animated / warm face
  • Feelings expressed
  • Casual
  • Focuses on “Who?”
  • Priority on people and approval

More assessing and thinking
(“C” need)

  • Closed posture
  • Unexpressive / cool face
  • Feelings unexpressed
  • Formal
  • Focuses on “Why?”
  • Priority on quality and analysis
DISC Behavioral Styles Summary
Major Goals: Results
People involvement
Security / Stability Accuracy
Major Fears: Losing control of environment
Being taken advantage of
Loss of approval
Sudden change
Loss of security
Criticism of performance
Lack of standards
Dislikes: Being controlled by others
Lack of results
Handling complex details
Working alone
Hostility, conflict
Unclear explanations
Under Pressure: Domineering
As a buyer responds to: Options
Saving personal effort
Assurance of stability
Personal attention
Evidence of quality and accuracy
Logical approaches
Decision style: Quick Emotional / “Gut feel” Deliberate Analytical

I Explain

It might be a smart move to fill in your own DISC Profile, as well as those of your team members on this page. It would be very helpful in guiding you in your interaction with them.

Just bear in mind that behavioral preferences are not cast in stone and can change over time…


DISC Profile Example

DISC Profile Example

If you are not sure of what your DISC Profile is ask your team leader for assistance.

My profile is that of a counselor.

Counselors are particularly effective in solving people’s problems. They impress others with their warmth empathy and understanding.

They find it easy to look for the good in others and have an optimistic outlook. Counselors prefer to deal with others on the basis of building long- standing relationships.