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I’m a P, a perfectionist. I am systematic, a precise thinker and worker, and I follow procedure. Before accepting an assignment, I want to know all the details. I am also the person who will wait at a red light at 3 a.m. at a deserted intersection. The “Perfectionist Pattern,” as it is called, is one of 15 profile patterns identified through the DiSC Classic behavioral assessment, which measures an individual’s likely behavior in four areas: dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness. While my profile may not matter to you, consider it a warning: At a recent meeting of the Atlanta chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, marketing professionals were apprised of their profiles � and given the tools to assess their colleagues’ profiles. That means they have a communication advantage, an edge that allows them to work better within their firms and with people whose styles and perspectives may be different than theirs. More companies � including law firms � are gaining a competitive edge through the use of personality and behavior tests. The concept is not new. Psychologist William Moulton Marston developed the DiSC test in 1928. (As a side note, Marston also created the Wonder Woman character and invented the systolic blood-pressure test, which led to the invention of the polygraph.) Unlike “personality tests” such as the Myers-Briggs, the DiSC profile is used to predict behavior, particularly in stressful situations. “First you must understand yourself,” Kent Hill, a former marketing professional for the Coca-Cola Co. and Kellogg’s and the founder of BizBrains, an Atlanta-based business consulting company, tells the group of more than 50 law firm marketers assembled at the downtown office of McKenna Long & Aldridge. “Then you can deal more effectively with others.” Prior to the meeting, each participant had taken the assessment online. It consisted of 28 sets of four words each, from which they picked the one that best describes them at work and the one that least describes them at work. The key is not to think too hard but to answer definitively and quickly. Scoring determined which of the four DiSC dimensions each participant fell into and, ultimately, their “profile patterns.” The D score measures how the individual deals with problems. The I is the individual’s people factor. The S measures pace at work. The C expresses how the individual handles procedures. For example, are you a rule follower? During the Legal Marketing Association meeting, Hill explains what people with high scores in each of the four categories look like: “High D’s” make quick decisions, question the status quo, tend to get immediate results and take authority. These people desire environments that include power, prestige and opportunities for individual accomplishments. “High I’s” are “people people” who like to create a motivational environment. They are articulate, optimistic and enthusiastic. They prefer environments where co-workers socialize after hours. “High S’s” are averse to change, are patient and are good listeners. They maintain the status quo and desire a work environment that does not infringe on their personal lives. “High C’s,” like myself, concentrate on key details, are diplomatic with people, are self-critical and use a systemic approach to situations or activities. They appreciate clearly defined expectations and value quality and accuracy. These traits don’t apply just to people, Hill explains. Companies and even countries can be dominant in different dimensions. Ireland and Italy could be considered high I’s, while Germany is a high C, he says. Coke could be seen as a high D and a high I: driven and competitive but interested in relationships. Kellogg’s, where Hill also worked, is a high D and a high C: driven and detail-oriented. To stress the differences in the dimensions, Hill gives a real-world example to try on your colleagues: While reading a restaurant menu, D’s will make decisions right away; I’s will look for the party platters to share; S’s will ask, “What are you having?”; and C’s will calculate the calories in each of the foods. “You start to see the subtle ways these little traits appear in people,” Hill says. But, he adds, “it’s important not to label people because it is situational.” Knowing who leans toward which letter helps people communicate better, particularly in marketing, Hill explains, because you can adapt how you deliver the message � as well as the message � to apply to the audience. This can lead to positive results. “It’s hard to be something you’re not; we’re not asking you to change who you are but to adapt,” he says. “You’re the same person inside, but you’re presenting yourself so you mesh better with the people you deal with.” Hill says he has not seen a clear pattern emerge on lawyers’ DiSC profiles, but they tend to be high Ds and high Cs. Attorneys need to comply with their own high standards, and their predominant strengths are accuracy and intuitiveness. They are goal-directed and tend to be overly critical of themselves and others. “But,” he adds with a slight smile, “there’s no predicting lawyers.” There is some predicting legal marketing professionals, though: Hill pulls up a PowerPoint presentation of how the marketing association members fared on their assessments. Forty-five percent were high C’s; 27 percent were high D’s, 36 percent were high I’s and 24 percent were high S’s. (Some people score high in more than one area.) So how does this group adapt when dealing with the unpredictable creatures in their law firms? Using the charts, graphs and lists Hill provides within each person’s test results, you can learn about each type’s tendencies, ideal work environment, how the person can be more effective and how others can relate better to that type. For example, if a marketing director is a high I and she has identified a lawyer as a high D, the marketing director can use more forceful language and a stronger voice and lean forward when talking. To communicate more effectively with an I, a marketer can smile more, stay focused on the message and recognize that an I person cares about relationships. It may sound like hooey, but it can work, says Cindy Stanton, marketing director at Atlanta-based intellectual property boutique Needle & Rosenberg. As part of a lunch-and-learn program Stanton is setting up for her firm’s attorneys this fall, several practice group leaders are taking the DiSC assessment. Stanton recommended Hill to speak to the Legal Marketing Association after seeing his presentation at a leadership seminar last year. “As marketers, we’re always looking for that edge to better communicate with our lawyers,” she says. Lawyers, too, can use the profiles as a tool for team building and business development. “It makes for a very healthy, effective team to have people of different styles. Knowing each other’s styles and being able to assess them to get the best out of each other is key.” David Huizenga, an officer in the biotech practice group at Needle & Rosenberg, agrees. He took the DiSC assessment recently and learned he was a high I and a high D and fit the Inspirational Pattern (which, according to the pattern profiles given with the results, means he “consciously attempts to modify the thoughts and actions of others” and wants to control his environment. He acts as a “people mover” and initiates, demands, compliments and disciplines his co-workers and others). This is not new to Huizenga, he says. As a seasoned attorney, he has had mentors help him discover and shape his character traits. But he recognizes the advantage of the DiSC profile. “Part of being a lawyer is interacting with other people. Knowledge about how the world perceives me can only help me in how I look at and interact with the world,” he says. Back at Hill’s presentation to the Legal Marketing Association, Carrie Harlin, marketing coordinator for Miller & Martin, came all the way from Chattanooga, Tenn., to learn that she is a high C, with tendencies toward I and S. “I never thought of myself as a high C,” she says as she glances at her results. It makes her wonder how others think of her and how she might come across. “Some of [the assessment] is very true,” she says, such as how she pays attention to detail and works for consensus. How does she plan to use this information? Harlin has been on the job for only six weeks, so she looks forward to getting to know her colleagues more intimately by using the DiSC characterizations. “Every person and style is so different, so I’ll just take this information and adapt it” to the individual she is working with, she says. “As I get to know [the staff] better and can adapt better to their style, they’ll appreciate me more.” Spoken like a true I � or would that be a C? Melanie A. Levs is a reporter with the Fulton County Daily Report, a Recorder affiliate based in Atlanta.

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