The Key To Success: How To Engage Different Personalities

Updated Dec 21, 20226 min
 The Key To Success: How To Engage Different Personalities

 The Key To Success: How To Engage Different Personalities

Mitch Savoie HillUpdated Dec 21, 20226 min
 The Key To Success: How To Engage Different Personalities

How do you make a genuine connection with someone when trying to motivate, lead or sell to them? How do you adapt your communication style to make the other person feel comfortable, acknowledged, and understood? How do you deal with different personalities under stress? If you are an executive or HR professional, how do you build productive teams with the right people in the right roles?

As an executive coach and corporate trainer, I often get these questions. People want to obtain the key to being a successful leader, salesperson, or coach. The answer is not complicated. It does, however, require a bit of training and practice. The answer lies in how well you connect with and engage the people you are trying to lead, coach, or sell to. If you can genuinely engage people with different behavioral styles or communication styles, you will be able to make them feel seen, heard, and understood. If you can accomplish that, they will trust you with their business and their lives.

Communication Is Key

How well we communicate with others around us determines the amount of success and joy we ultimately attract.

I've worked in the people business since I was a child helping my grandmother at her clothing boutique in Little Havana, Miami. Being a bit of a ham early on, I would help her entertain the clients. Her clients loved her. I noted how well she would build confidence and loyalty with them. She had an innate sense of how to connect with people, which made her a very successful businesswoman, despite being a Cuban exile who had arrived in Miami with nothing – no command of the English language, no money, nowhere to live, not even formal education. What she did have was a fierce work ethic and a strong vision for herself and her family. She turned that vision into several successful businesses of her own. How did she do it? I observed her keenly, the magical way she connected, hoping that some of her magic would rub off on me when I grew up.

Building Connection

In time, I understood that the secret to success was developing a successful connection with others. It takes practice and profound self-awareness. It also takes some knowledge of the DISC Behavioral Profile, how it works, and becoming adept in using it to communicate and truly connect with those around us in personal and professional settings. The DISCbehavioral styles are important to be aware of because they are frequently mentioned in the workplace.

You Can Learn a Lot from Hospitality

My first job in hospitality was as an 18-year-old Singing Waitress in New York City. When working with people in high-paced environments, either you learn quickly how to manage different behavioral styles or fail miserably. I was determined NOT to fail. I studied the servers and bartenders who were most successful, the ones that had a steady stream of regular clients. I paid attention to their personality types. I watched how they interacted with their clients in a relaxed and natural manner, anticipated their needs, and inspired customer loyalty. What made those clients return to their stations again and again? They felt cared for and genuinely engaged, even when mistakes happened. They were more easily forgiving in those cases because they trusted that their favorite server always had their best interest at heart. I studied not just what they said but how they said it, how they made those guests feel. I realized that the top sellers were the most adept at adapting – adapting to situations and adapting to the personalities they served. Behavioral adaptations separated the good from the great.

I also studied the most successful managers leading the teams I was part of. What made us want to go to war for some and run away from others. The answer was the same as with the regular customers. The managers who made us feel valued and important, genuinely connected with us, and showed us they had our best interests at heart, were the ones we could never say no to when asked to go above and beyond. Working in hospitality is a profound education in customer service and conflict resolution. After years in the hospitality industry, I grew confident in my ability to handle even the most difficult personalities successfully. 

Then, I became a Manager. This is where I started to see the big picture.  

Serving and caring for customers is one thing, but managing teams is a different animal entirely. What I had learned thus far, coupled with my natural people skills, helped a great deal but was insufficient when challenged by the personalities I found most difficult to lead, the ones most unlike my own. 

While working for an international hotel group in Beverly Hills, I had the opportunity to attend a Food and Beverage Executive Retreat, where I was first introduced to DISC. 

DISC Assessment

DISC changed everything! 

The DISC Assessment is one of the most trusted tools utilized by highly successful companies worldwide to build productive teams, improve customer service and sharpen sales skills. It is an assessment that determines which of four basic behavioral styles a person will tend to default to, their Natural Style.

The kicker is that a thorough DISC assessment can also illustrate when a person is "flexing,” manifesting a behavioral pattern that does not come naturally to their own. This is called their Adapted Style

Have you ever struggled with getting your point of view across to someone that seemed to move, talk and even think at a different pace than your own? Did it feel off-putting or challenging? For example, perhaps your style was slow and steady, while the other person seemed to rush you along dismissively. How rude, right? Maybe not. Different behavioral styles have different paces and areas of focus.

What happens when your role at work or even in your family forces you to shift your style to cope with the demands placed on you? 

People may be forced to adapt their styles because of career demands, like a shy and reserved person in a sales role. This "flexing" can produce a significant amount of internal and external tension. Working with a DISC certified coach can help you learn how to manage this tension effectively. As far as the external tension, knowing how and when to adapt is key to connecting with people who have different styles than your own.

This tool was so valuable as a manager, speaker, and coach that I became certified as a DISC practitioner. It is one of the most essential tools in my coaching and corporate training toolbox. It is also instrumental in handling everyday life, family, friends, and especially your marriage (just ask my husband!) 

It begins with a thorough understanding of the four DISC styles. While this article is no substitute for a full DISC assessment and training session, it will provide you with an immediately applicable tool to help you understand your own style and how to adapt to others. As a manager trying to motivate a diverse team around a shared vision, it is imperative to understand where each team member lies on this scale in order to inspire cooperation most effectively. 

The Clues of DISC

Many different types of behavioral assessments are used today by companies, leaders, and coaches for understanding and managing people. The reason I personally prefer DISC is that I find it to be a very user-friendly tool. It is simple to learn and to train others on how to use. It is also easy to “pull out of your pocket” quickly in a social or networking setting and put to use immediately. The four DISC clues are your quick pocket tool. Let me show you how it works.

When trying to decipher where someone lies on the DISC Behavioral profile, you start by asking yourself four main questions: 

1-   Are they fast-paced or slow-paced?

2-   Are they people-focused or task-focused?

3-   Are they direct or indirect?

4-   Are they open or guarded?

These are questions you can easily find the answers to within a few minutes of a conversation. As an executive coach, I have helped clients formulate interview questions that will elicit responses indicating what behavioral style someone may tend to lean on. Questions like:

“Do you prefer to work with people or spreadsheets and data (People-focused or Task-focused)?”

You can determine pace by how quick someone is to move or answer a question. A slower-paced person may take more time thinking about the question, carefully considering it, and taking long pauses between phrases. A fast-paced person may answer off the cuff without taking too long to ponder. 

You are looking for quick clues to determine how to adapt your own pace and style to best communicate with this person: slow your roll or quicken your pace and get to the point already! Adapt as needed to meet them where they are and improve your chances of best connecting with them. Establishing rapport is the first step to establishing meaningful relationships. How important is that to you? 

Well, it should be important to anyone in:




-Customer Service




-Wanting to be in a Marriage


Let’s take a deep dive into the four styles and how the clues relate to each: 

Behavioral Styles

1: The D is for Dominance (some call this “The Driver” Style)

• Fast-paced, Task-focused, Guarded, and Direct

• Likes to drive actions and decisions; results-oriented

• Prefers freedom to control the outcome and the bottom line

• Prefers to work independently or manage others freely

• Prefers bullet point facts over long, drawn-out explanations

• Good administrative skills, can overstep authority

2: The I is for Influence

• Fast-paced, People-focused, Open, and Direct

• Quick to speak and act, sometimes without all the facts

• Prefers to work in groups

• Needs bullet point directions or can get quickly distracted

• Big Ideas, can struggle with follow-through

• Life of the party, enjoys entertaining and making others laugh

• Craves validation and being liked

• Good at inspiring others into action

3: The S is for Steadiness

• Slow-paced, People-focused, Open, and Indirect

• Not the quickest decision-maker

• Does not like direct conflict

• Very concerned about the team and their needs

• Supportive of others, invested in their growth

• Enjoys working in group settings

• Resistive to change

• Stability and loyalty are highly valued

4: The C is for Conscientious

• Slow-paced, Task-oriented, Guarded, and Indirect

• Works best with strict rules and structure

• Prefers to work alone

• Needs ALL the facts and specific details

• Cautious and slow to act or make decisions

• Often feels their way is the most efficient and correct, can be too data-driven

• Very Black or White, struggles with “grey areas”


You may see yourself in one or two of these. It is possible to have high tendencies toward more than one style. The question is, when “stuff hits the fan” and tension is high, which do you default to? This is most likely your Natural Style.

When you can understand this, you will better understand yourself and those around you so that you may tap into the magic of successful connection.

The quicker you can assess where someone lies on this scale, the quicker you will know how to communicate with them to achieve maximum connection and cooperation. If you can accomplish that, you can achieve success in any endeavor, personal or professional.


-Mitch Savoie Hill, CPC, is a Certified Professional Coach, international TEDx speaker, corporate trainer, and author. With over 25 years of experience in Sales, Hospitality, Training, and Leadership, she delivers 1:1 coaching to help her clients make successful connections, clarify their vision, map out effective strategies and stretch beyond their horizons!

Mitch is a leadership coach, international keynote speaker, and author.
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