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Can differences strengthen the common culture?

How can we use each other's differences to strengthen the common culture?

Webamp tried to find out on Friday. So at 11 o'clock we shut down the office at Vesterport and drove to the Power Racing Gokart Akademi in an industrial area in Herlev. Here, of course, we had to try the challenging, curvy asphalt track in Denmark's only electric go-karts. But first it was three hours of concentrated DISC-workshop with coach Klaus Veile.

Before the course, all colleagues - from student assistants to directors - took a DISC analysis, which is a profile tool that describes people's behaviour in certain situations. Now it was time to understand the analyses better - and not least to learn how to use them actively in everyday life.

Expectations for the workshop were high among my colleagues. Some hoped for greater self-insight. Others hoped for a better understanding of their environment.

But everyone had one expectation in common: we wanted to learn how to use each other's differences to strengthen both teamwork and performance.

  • Author image
    Nicolai Vittrup
    2. sep. 2020

What is DISC?

DISC is an analytical tool for assessing personality, behavioural and motivational factors. The four letters represent the following general personality types: dominance-seeking (D), influencing (I), stability-seeking (S) and competence-seeking (C).

To give a more concrete example of the four personality types, let's delve for a moment into the Danish film heritage - more specifically Erik Balling's popular Olsen Gang films. The four adult protagonists in the films are textbook examples of the four personality types in DISC.

  • Yvonne - the dominant D
    sees challenges and obstacles as something to be overcome, just as she wants to control her environment to achieve the results she wants. She is concise and direct in her communication and often gives direct orders.

  • Benny - the influencer I
    has basic trust in the world and his surroundings, which he sees as friendly and favourable. He is optimistic and desires and is driven by social recognition. He is open to dialogue and strives for consensus whenever possible.

  • Kjeld - the stability-seeking S
    Kjeld is motivated by stability and is the loyal and caring individual of the group, often putting his own needs last. He is the reliable and cooperative team player who is most comfortable with the familiar. He therefore gets tense easily when things get too unpredictable.

  • Egon - the competence-seeking C
    Egon is the man with the golden overview. He is analytical, motivated by precision and hates sloppiness. He pays extreme attention to detail and is hypercritical of both himself and others when they fail to work within established rules and guidelines.

A common plan despite differences

The Olsen Band's plans usually go awry. But is it because the members are so different?

No. This is because none of the four members manages to adapt their communication and behaviour to the personality type of the other members. 

Indeed, a central point of DISC is that all four personality types are equally important - precisely because all personality types are needed in a team. Because, of course, someone has to be at the front ready for battle. That's where the Ds come in. 

On the other hand, a team cannot do without analytical individuals with the golden overview - and here the C's are indispensable pieces. Similarly, the reliable and stable S's are the foundation of good teamwork, just as the optimistic and outgoing I's are the glue that binds the community together.

The four main characters in Olsen Banden haven't understood this, and it's getting in the way of their plans. 

Just like the Olsen gang, Webamp is driven by a plan: to provide a sublime customer experience and create transparency in a world that seems abstract and distant to many. 

But if that plan is to be realised, our differences must not work against each other. 

On the contrary, it is differences that create the basis for a targeted team effort. But this requires everyone to understand why and how other personality types act.

Several personalities - one team

"Someone is making noise in the office. Others prefer noisy silence and therefore work best with a noise cancelling headset around their ears and their eyes focused on the screen."

That's how we describe ourselves on the Webamp careers page. And judging from the DISC analyses, it's probably a very apt description of the dynamics among colleagues at Webamp. There were Ds, Is, Ss and Cs in the workforce. 

Webamp has both outgoing and more impulsive personalities who work and thrive on the front line or in the line of fire, and more introverted and systematic employees who prefer stability or structure.

We probably don't need a DISC analysis to figure that out. We interact every day and we know each other's little quirks and differences. But we may not always be good at understanding colleagues who have different profiles to ourselves. And that's exactly what the DISC workshop was designed to teach us.

For example, it may be difficult for the very direct and strong-willed D to align his behaviour with the deliberate and predictable S. Similarly, it may be difficult for the analytical and organised C to relate to the talkative and sometimes impulsive I, who prefers to have as many irons in the fire at the same time as possible. 

But in a company where shared culture and respect for the individual must go hand in hand, that understanding is crucial. That's why we learned, among other things:

  • to use concrete examples and get to the point quickly when working with a D
  • to be open to dialogue and appreciative when working with an I
  • to show genuine interest and present the case calmly when working with an S
  • to be precise and well prepared when working with a C

Finally, everyone was invited to hang their DISC analysis at their workstation. Because this way we can always adapt our behaviour and communication to each other for the benefit of the team and our goals.

After a successful workshop, D's, I's, S's and C's all took to the go-kart track in unison - knowing that the answer to the question "can differences strengthen the common culture?" is a resounding yes!