I have the privilege this semester of teaching a “Professional Practice” class for college seniors in Clinical Laboratory Science. These arethe folks who will be doing (among other things) any blood tests that you may have drawn in a doctor’s office, hospital, or health fair.

Since I had input into the curriculum, I decided to teach a module on personality preferences, so I could link that to effective team management. I used the DISC (r) model that is widely available. You may be familiar with it – there arefour categories ofbehavior preferences. It’s a useful shorthand for understanding one’s preferred way of behaving.I use the model toteach self-awareness, as a bridge to awareness of others (or, as we may say in Lean, respect for people!).

I shared the basic information about the four quadrants, and then asked the class of 25 to divide themselves up into the groups as they saw themselves: Dominance (“Let’s just do it and get it over with!” and “No touchy-feely stuff for me!”), Influence (“Let’s hear everyone’sgreat stories!” and “Let’s have fun with this!”), Steadiness (“Let’s understand why we’re doing this, first of all!” and “Let’s make sure everyone feels comfortable with this.”), and Conscientious (“We need to know that we’re making the right decision!” and “If only everyone would just do things the RIGHT way!”).

Then, I asked each group to come with ideas for employee recognition, in about 10 minutes.

Lo and behold, I couldn’t have asked for a better demonstration!

The Dominance group, about 25% of the class, was done first and had one sticky-note with 5 ideas on it, all related to individual rewards, such as a bonus or preferred parking space.

The Steadiness group, about a third of the class, was done next and had 5 sticky-notes with ideas related to personal rewards and also social rewards – mostly activities with groups that could be shared.

The Conscientious group, about 40% of the class,was not finished by the 10 minute mark; they asked for more time. They had stopped at their first idea,a certificate of recognition, and their sticky-note had a full paragraph about the wording and appearance of the certificate.

(There was only one “Influencer” so I had her join one of the other groups.)

The students had a lot of fun with this exercise. They all started comparing their friends and acquaintances, and I reminded them that a) this was a situational-sensitive preference, and everyone displays all of the traits at various times, and b) not to stereotype anyone else!

I thought it was a great opportunity to get students, near the beginning of their profession, to understand a little about personal dynamics when working in groups. I hope it pays big dividends when they get out into the “real world.”

How many of you use a personality-type profile or assessment when your teams are in their forming-norming stages? Please share your best practices!

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