The People Challenge would definitely have to rank up there in the list of things that causes frustration and stress to the business owner.  After I sold my accounting practice in 2001, I promised myself that I would NEVER EVER have employees again. I will just work by myself and just subcontract out anything that I didn’t want to do. I had enough of employees who thought that I owed them a living.

Well, NEVER is a strong word. And one shouldn’t use it lightly. Because 6 months after that day when I declared I was NEVER ever going to have an employee again, I was back in business and I had more employees than ever before. You could say I’m a slow learner!

We Can’t Do It Alone

I learnt very quickly that there is only so much that I can do on my own. If you want to go far, you will find that you have to take a team with you. Yes, they slow you down. Yes, I found it really frustrating when I have to explain a task or concept for the 100th time. Yes, I know that I can go faster alone. But alone has limits. Possibly enough for me to accept that dealing with the people challenge might have its benefits.

Big DreamsBig dreams cannot be implemented without help. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto to help him. Batman had Robin. Laurel had Hardy. Or to the modern day success stories – From Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) to the big IT giants such as Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft), Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack (Apple), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) to the oldies such as William Procter and James Gamble (Procter and Gamble) to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard (Hewlett Packard).

So instead of tearing our hair out and promising that we would NEVER EVER have employees again, it’s best that we learn how to deal with people. I remember this lecturer telling me once that University would be a wonderful place if it didn’t have any students LOL. A business would be great if we didn’t have to deal with whinging, whining customers that expect you to read their minds and who think they own you just because they pay you some money. They expect you to discount and work for next to nothing whilst they themselves are insistent that they cannot discount their services or products.

Difficult PeopleGood employees are like good accountants. They are worth their weight in gold. I would have to say that in 40+ years of running a business, I have only met four employees who fell into this category – two from my own business and the other two from my clients’ business. What does that tell you?

Working with Difficult People

It means that we need to learn how to work with “difficult” people – whether they be your own staff or your customers. Who knows, perhaps some of your staff and customers consider you difficult to deal with!  I know in my younger days, some of my employees were petrified of me (I can’t understand why … I was such a caring patient boss LOL) although I’m told I have mellowed considerably in my old age. Or perhaps, its because I learnt how to relate to “difficult” people.  Dale Carnegie said “About 85% of the factors contributing to …success are related to the ability to work effectively with people.”

What is the answer to the people challenge that we face in business?

We are Different

We are differentThe starting point of understanding people is to realise and accept one simple fact – we are all different. We must learn to celebrate the differences. Different is not bad, it’s just different! Imagine what you could accomplish when you truly understand one another? Have you ever wondered why you do the things you do? Why do you seem to get along with some people and have a harder time with others? Have you discovered all your talents, gifts and natural abilities?

There is no easier way to do this than to use the DISC Model of Human Behaviour based on the work of Dr. William Marston. Marston theorized that people are motivated by four intrinsic drives that direct behavioral patterns. He used four descriptive characteristics for behavioral tendencies which are represented by four letters of the alphabet: D, I, S and C. Thus the concept of “DISC” was introduced. When you combine DISC with an understanding of how our brain works (a concept discussed in the previous article on Feast and Famine), you start to understand human behaviour. You begin to understand that having to deal with the people challenge might not be as difficult as you first thought.

Understanding DISC

Let me explain how an understanding of DISC can be used in your business to give you that leverage against your competitors.

Basically, DISC uses our behavioural tendencies (which is neither good nor bad) to explain how we should interact with people. People are either OUTGOING or RESERVED. People are also more TASK ORIENTED, or PEOPLE ORIENTED. We all have these tendencies at different times and in different situations – it is the mix in us that dictates how we “see” life and those around us.DISC summary

  • The “D” in DISC stands for the DOMINANT type which is OUTGOING and TASK ORIENTED
  • The “I” in DISC stands for the INSPIRING type which is OUTGOING and PEOPLE ORIENTED
  • The “S” in DISC stands for the SUPPORTIVE type which is RESERVED and PEOPLE ORIENTED
  • The “C” in DISC stands for the CAUTIOUS type which is RESERVED and TASK ORIENTED

Once I understood this, I was able to very quickly pick up on the personality of each potential client that I meet with and I was able to better relate to them. Why is this important? It meant that my sales conversion rate went through the roof. The people challenge was no longer a challenge!

How can we use DISC in Business

DISC has been used in business to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Minimize conflict
  • Build trust
  • Raise morale
  • Boost sales
  • Reinforce/restore relationships
  • Enhance communication
  • Decrease employee turnover
  • Improve service quality
  • Maximise team performance

It may sound like the miracle snake oil cure for all your people challenge problems. The skeptic in us will ask how can it do all those things? Trust me, it does. However, remember that DISC is not an overnight fix. It takes time to train yourself and train your staff on an understanding of human behaviour.

For example, I am a very high “D” in DISC. So, when I’m buying a car, I do all my research before I even head to the car yard. At that point, all I want to do is test drive the car and get out of there. I’m not really interested in idle chit chat. I don’t want to be sold to.  I always tell the Salesman that this could be the easiest sale they’ve ever done … if they don’t try to “sell” me. I had already made up my mind. I get totally turned off by the salesman who then proceeds to sell me the benefits of the particular car (they obviously didn’t listen to a word I said!) and they usually end up losing the sale. The salesman who could pick my personality and didn’t waste my time on a sales pitch got me as a customer – boosting sales for his business.

Dr Rohm, the founder of Personality Insights, produced a video on Soft Skills and How to Quickly Boost Team Performance. They are worth watching – video explain so much better than the written word! Do watch both the videos – it’s not long. So enjoy!

Can You Identify the Different DISC Profiles?

Can you pick the personalities in, say, The Simpsons. In the cartoon, Kent Brockman is your “D”, Homer Simpson is a very definite “I”, Marge Simpson, his long suffering wife is your “S” and Lisa Simpson their daughter a “C”.

If you’re interested in reading a detailed description of each, have a read of Patrick Marman’s blogs. Patrick is a Certified DISC Trainer and has written a series of articles explaining the DISC Model of Human Behaviour. His blogs are extremely informative and definitely well worth reading :

If I had one regret, it’s that I didn’t learn about DISC earlier than I did.  I truly believe that if I did, I would have handled some of the people issues I faced very differently to the way I did and probably had a much better outcome for my business. But as they say … Better late than never! This is one tool that I use in my mentoring and coaching all the time. Having learnt how to use and apply DISC, I honestly do not know how anyone can mentor or coach another person without having them first take a DISC assessment.

DISC assessmentHave you done you done your DISC Assessment?

If you have never ever taken a DISC assessment, I strongly recommend that you do so. Communication and connecting with others are essential for long term success in every area of your life. The DISC profile you receive will give you the tools that you need to boost your emotional intelligence and interact with others. If we understand ourselves and those we interact with, we can adapt our communication styles to enable us to better connect with others and get rid of most of the people issues! I finally understood!

There are, of course, other psychometric assessments that do almost the same thing. The other well-known one is Myers Briggs (which I have also done). However, my personal preference is DISC. It is easy to learn and easy to apply. In fact, I was so impressed with how it could be used in business that I ended up becoming a Certified DISC consultant – a decision that has made a huge difference in the way I handle the people challenge in my businesses.

If you would like to learn how you can use DISC to solve your people challenge, connect with me. Do it sooner rather than later. This is one business stress you can remove just by getting an understanding of how it all works!

I’m going to take a break from Business Challenges for next week and deal with another more urgent matter on hand – surviving and thriving through Covid-19. I will return with a deep dive into Overcoming OVERWHELM a bit later on – another Challenge, Frustration and Stress that never goes away.


Patsy Lim FCAAbout the Author:

Patsy Lim’s business and financial background (having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1980), together with her entrepreneurial spirit enables her to apply a potent blend of strong financial and accounting expertise, deep practical business experience, and entrepreneurial flair and creativity to complex business problems. As an entrepreneur, she understands the issues that an entrepreneur faces. So, unlike some accountants who only know the theory of business, Patsy has had hands-on experience of what it means to be IN business, to start a business, to grow a business, and most of all, to manage a business when times inevitably get tough!

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