The Discus Shift Pattern is a unique type of DISC profile that shows the movements and adjustments within a candidate's approach.
A characteristic of the DISC profiling system is its production of two fundamental descriptive profiles. These go by various names, but within the Discus system they're referred to as the Internal and External Profiles. This separation of the results into two major profiles is based on the principle that a candidate's responses will vary according to their situation, and that there are two broad kinds of situations: those where the candidate feels a need to adapt their natural behavioural style, and those where they do not. The External Profile relates to the former situation, and records the kinds of adaptations the candidate feels it necessary to project. The Internal Profile is designed to do the opposite, showing the candidate's unadapted behavioural style.
It certainly isn't true to say that all candidates will adapt in this way. Indeed, many demonstrate the same behaviours regardless of their circumstances, and for these candidates, the Internal and External Profiles will tend to be of a very similar shape. Other candidates, though, demonstrate a greater or lesser degree of adaptation, and the corresponding changes from one profile to the other are referred to as shifts. In Discus, the shifts are plotted on their own, separate, profile - the Shift Pattern.
This illustration shows a typical shift pattern configuration, with the shifts between the Internal and External profiles being shown in a pattern of arrows on the Shift Pattern. Most of the DISC factors here are fairly close to one another, and indeed the Influence and Compliance factors are so close in this case that no shift is shown at all (the diamond shapes on the Shift Pattern demonstrate this). The Dominance factor is slightly higher on the External Profile than the Internal, and this is shown by the small arrow pointing upwards on the Shift Pattern. By far the most emphatic movement, though, is seen in the Steadiness factor, which is relatively high on the Internal Profile, significantly lower on the External. This is shown by a highly extended downward arrow on the Shift Pattern.
We can interpret these shifts in various ways. At the most obvious level, they tell us something about the ways that a candidate is likely to act, but beyond that they can help us to predict how they will act in differing circumstances. They can also tell us something about the candidate's perceptions of a situation. Finally, we can apply an understanding of the DISC sub-traits to gain a deeper understanding of the movements between profiles.
Because the External Profile shows how the candidate is likely to behave in situations where they adapt their style, it provides a context for predicting their behaviour in those kinds of situations. In this example, we'd expect to see typical low-S behaviour - for example, comparatively rapid decision making and direct action, flexibility and a readiness to accept change.
Where a factor in the Shift Pattern shows a detectable shift, this implies that the behaviour in question will tend to be limited to certain environments. In situations where a candidate does not feel the need to show this adaptation, we can expect to see the more 'natural' style of behaviour emerge, as described in the Internal Profile. In this case, we would expect to see a style of behaviour more associated with the Steady factor, with the candidate demonstrating a more thoughtful, patient and calm approach.
Situations where the candidate feels ready to set aside their adaptations tend to be favourable ones, but the same kind of effect can be seen in more pressurised circumstances. These are cases where the level of pressure is such that the candidate finds it difficult to maintain their adaptations. The classic case of this is 'losing one's temper' (where the adaptation breaks down to reveal a more forceful and aggressive style), but different factors have different responses in this kind of situation. In our example here, as pressure mounts, we'd expect to see a more dogged, persistent style, together with a loss of flexibility and resistance to change, as the more dynamic and responsive elements of the adaptation fall away.
As well as giving us information about their behaviour, the very fact that the candidate is showing a particular shift in their style can tell us something about their perceptions of their environment. That they feel the need to adapt in a particular way shows that they see their conditions as demanding, or at least expecting, behaviour of that kind. This kind of information is useful in extending a DISC analysis beyond individual behaviour, to look at the factors operating within a team, for example, or any other working environment.
Though it may not be immediately obvious, we can in fact apply another level of analysis to the Shift Pattern using the standard DISC Sub-traits. These help us to examine the relationships between separate shifts on the profile, and uncover information about their relationships. For example, in the example here, the downward shift in Steadiness combines with a slight upward shift in Dominance. Higher Dominance and lower Steadiness corresponds to the sub-trait of Self-motivation, which is defined as follows:
" This type of person feels a need to be active all the time, and is impatient with those who are unwilling or unable to keep up with their urgent pace. They react quickly to new developments, but never lose sight of their own goals and ambitions. "
So we can deduce that these are the kind of behaviours that will be emerging in the candidate's style. Because we're considering shifts in this situation, rather than actual DISC factors, we cannot presume that their behaviour will necessarily be as active and impatient as these comments suggest. It will be true to say, though, that they are adapting their behaviour in this direction.
The kinds of adaptations shown on the Shift Profile are not without consequence for the person showing them. They can require unfamiliar or potentially uncomfortable types of behaviour, and the more complex and extreme the shifts, the more potential there is for generating discomfort. Discus refers to this effect as Profile Tension, which is essentially a measure of the variation between the Internal and External Profiles. The greater the extent of a candidate's shifts, the higher their level of Profile Tension.
Profile Tension alone only tells half the story, because different people are affected by these adaptations in different ways: some individuals find no difficulty in adapting to unfamiliar situations, while others find this a negative experience. From the Internal Profile, we can gain an insight into a candidate's Adaptability. This is a measurement based largely on the Steadiness factor: as we've already seen, low Steadiness suggests a flexible, style of behaviour, more able to cope with change, while those with higher Steadiness prefer a more stable, predictable approach. Hence, those candidates showing lower Steadiness will tend to more Adaptable, and better able to adjust their approach to meet the demands of a situation.
Of course, the Steadiness factor itself can shift from one profile to another, as it does in our example (so that, in this case, Adaptability is one of the features that the candidate is emphasising in their External approach). To address this effect, we always measure Adaptability from the Internal Profile, representing the individual's basic approach, rather than their more transient External style. Discus will compute these values automatically from a set of DISC results, and presents the information in the Traits section of the Results, like this:
(This illustration is derived from the example profiles shown above). We can see from this that, though the candidate is adapting to show themselves as more flexible and responsive, the high Steadiness in their Internal Profile shows that Adaptability is not a significant natural element of their behaviour. From this analysis, it's conceivable that the candidate is experiencing a certain amount of pressure, something worth investigating further. Indeed, because we can see which shifts are most significant on the Shift Pattern, we can even assess a likely cause, at least in broad terms. This illustrated above, where Discus has isolated the probable cause as 'Adapting to rapidly developing situations.'
It will be clear from this that the Shift Profile has a great deal to tell us about a candidate, and in particular the ways that they relate to their environment.
DISC reference library
Become a DISC expert with our extensive online DISC reference library.
Team building with DISC
Explore the theory behind modelling teams using the DISC technique.