The last few articles have surveyed important issues creatives should consider when they contemplate growing their firm. Most importantly, you should plan ahead about what role you’ll serve, specifically, whether or not you’ll stay involved in creative production. We’ve identified a few different roles that will need to be filled as you grow such as client service and client acquisition.
We’ve also explored how the creative production role might change based on whether you plan on staying fairly small, or if you intend to grow much larger. Team members in a small firm will need to be more self-managing and to be able to interface directly with clients. Not all creatives thrive in such an environment.
It’s one thing to set your goals, settling on the kind of team you’ll need to build. It’s altogether another to find the right people to fill these roles.
Using DiSC to Screen Candidates
There are plenty of job boards that will find you candidates for any open positions. They’ll get you resumes, and then you’ll need to work through the interview and evaluation process, examining the basic skills, talent, backgrounds, and overall fit of each candidate. But aside from those important fundamentals, how can you identify some of the deeper level attributes and temperaments we’ve discussed in how various roles fit the kind of firm you want to build? What makes one otherwise qualified applicant better suited for your roles than another? That’s where a DiSC profile can be extremely helpful.
There are many different personality profiling systems out there, but I’ve always been partial to the DiSC Classic 2.0 profile. I’ve found DiSC to be extremely accurate and dependable, in part because it focuses on an individual’s work style, work temperament, and work motivations—rather than trying to access their entire personality. Since its focus is strictly limited to the context of work its information and assessments are highly relevant for determining when an individual will thrive in one context over another.
A complete review of the DiSC system is well beyond the scope of a brief article like this. If you want to get a deeper understanding of DiSC, check out The Essential DISC Training Workbook. In this article, I want to lightly cover some of the key dimensions that you want to look for in determining the fitness of a candidate for specific roles, in different sized firms.
Your DiSC Profile
Let’s start with you, as the owner. The DiSC system accesses four main aspects of a person’s work temperament D – Dominance, I – Influence, S – stability, and C – Conscientiousness. It also groups the various combinations of highs and lows on these dimensions into sixteen overall classifications such as Achiever, Perfectionist, Persuader, Practitioner, Specialist, and so forth.
There is very little correlation to any of the four main dimensions with being an owner of a business. However, a business owner ought to rank relatively high on the Dominance facet. If you’re not at least around the middle to upper range of this dimension, you will likely end up finding yourself frustrated by some of the duties of managing and running a business. Owning your own firm will require you to make many hard decisions. You’ll sometimes need to push back on clients that may take advantage of an overly generous and conflict-avoidant owner. Not to mention managing internal problems on your team.
But aside from needing a somewhat higher D dimension, most of the other dimensions are owner agnostic.
As already mentioned, DiSC profiles are highly accurate, and in some cases, for some roles, might even be definitive in determining fitness for some roles. But more often than not they are just helpful guides. So don’t take any of the suggestions below as gospel. Rather use them as a guide for filtering between otherwise qualified candidates.
Production Members on a Small Firm
A talented creative can have almost any kind of profile. (By the way, one of the overall types is called “creative,” but that’s a bad label, it doesn’t have anything to do with our kind of creativity.) But if a creative candidate is going to have to interface with clients, and be self-managing, as a part of a small team, you’re going to want to avoid any very low “I” dimension candidates. The “Influence” facet essentially identifies extroverts and introverts. A High “I” is a highly relational person. A low “I” would be someone who is most productive in an undistracted environment. Since creatives on small teams will need to do more client-facing activities than those inside larger firms, you’ll want to look for candidates with relatively solid people skills.
Additionally, since members of small teams need to rely on systems and processes, rather than on managers to direct them, look for candidates with an average or higher “S” dimension. The “Stability” dimension describes how an individual responds to structure and process. A high S thrives in a structured environment, a low S might feel suffocated and irritated by being required to use systems and follow processes.
Needless to say, a client-facing account manager ought to have a relatively high “I.” Generally speaking, they tend to be a bit lower on the D dimension as they are wired to respond to client needs rather than directing them. Though, that said, the best account managers should be able to confidently offer strategy, and not be entirely led by a client. So depending on how strong your strategic offerings are, you may actually need account managers with higher D’s. I’ve found that good account managers tend to have lower S dimensions. You never know what a client might throw at you, or when they might change directions, or disrupt your schedule, and so account managers need to be able to flex with changing circumstances. If their Stability dimension is too high, inflexibility may compromise their ability to function well in this role.
The new business role definitely requires a relatively high D. Anyone involved in sales needs to be able to face down many “no’s,” and overcome barriers and objections. They need to be confident.
But they also need a relatively high “I” since building trust is a critical aspect of sales. And so good soft skills of emotional intelligence, and reading people’s responses are extremely important for this role.
Existing Staff With Conflicting Profiles
If you’re in the process of filling open positions, using a DiSC profile can be extremely helpful. But what if you already have staff and discover that their profile is not a great fit for their role?
If there’s a really big mismatch, then you probably already knew that there was a problem, without having to use DiSC. But as I said earlier, these profiles are helpful tools, not absolute determinations.
When there is a slight mismatch, a DiSC profile can be very helpful in clarifying where discontinuities between someone’s profile and aspects of their role may be creating tension. Everyone has aspects of their job they love and aspects they don’t. We all have to adapt and learn to tolerate the parts we don’t love. When an employee can see, objectively, in a DiSC profile, some of the reasons why they might be experiencing some tensions in parts of their job, that information can help them to more easily come to terms with those issues. Self-awareness is very useful in learning to tolerate the struggles inherent in any job.
And so whether you’re looking for new employees to join your growing firm, or need some insights in managing existing team members, consider having your staff and candidate take a 20-minute DiSC survey and use that information to guide your growth.