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The following is a guest blog post from Paul Lapreziosa, Director of Organizational Development at Barry-Wehmiller

Transformational teams are not solely comprised of individuals who bring styles of all behavioral tendencies—true transformational teams are made up of individuals that can represent all styles of behavioral tendencies in an environment of respect.

The basic premise of models such as the prevalent DISC® Behavioral Styles, or other similar models such as Social Styles® or Emergenetics®, is that while each human in the world is unique, we have predictable behavioral tendencies.  First realized by Dr. William Marston in the 1920’s and popularized in the 1970’s through the work of John Geier at the University of Minnesota, the DISC® model asserts that there are generally 4 behavioral styles.  Each brings a unique set of strengths, opportunities, and stressors when overused (which can become a weakness).

In Barry-Wehmiller, the organization I serve, we’ve taught this model within our Listen Like a Leader course for the past 15 years, with the framing that understanding ourselves, our communication preferences, the differences of others, and their communication preferences, allows us to best “style flex”—momentarily modify our communication style to best operate in the comfort zone of another and ensure the message is received.

It is a form of care for another to recognize that you bring a different style from another person and then take action to shift your message to best the other. 

Within Organizational Development we are often asked the question, “So what’s the best team? Is it one that has a team member who brings a strength in each of the 4 behavioral styles?”  The answer provided, taught to me by one of my mentors, Donn Boyer, is that transformational teams are those that have representation from each of the styles and most importantly, operate in an environment of respect.  It is a simultaneously simple and complex responseIt not only requires each member of the team to understand their own strengths and opportunities, but to understand those of the remainder of their team and act to style flex to fill in any gaps—and all the while doing so with respect to each other.  This can be an especially tough challenge, and one that must ultimately start with the team leader.

As CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Bob Chapman has stated, it is the responsibility of a leader to demonstrate the skills and courage to care for those they have the privilege to lead—a statement brought to life by our organizational Leader Expectations: Be the message, Cultivate Enduring Relationships, Bring Out the Best in Individuals, Achieve Values Based Results, and Co-create the Future.

So where does a leader begin?  A simple conversation with those in her or his span of care.  As stated by another mentor of mine, Marsha Burns, it is the work of a leader to know your team member’s needs, values, and expectations.  Set aside time to have a have a face-to-face conversation (hint: not doing it behind a computer screen or attempting to multi-task!) and invite the other to share:

  • What do you need at work: What is it that you currently need right now (training, execution focusing on process, decision making ownership, growing new ideas, new challenges)? How do you need me as your leader to show up to best support you?
  • What do you value at work: What is important to you and why do you come work? What motivates you? What do you find engaging? How do you best receive and respond to information?
  • What do you expect at work: What do you want out of work? What does work provide you with? What is work to you? How do you prefer to be recognized? What is your preferred way to communicate and receive feedback? How can I as your leader best honor the value you provide?
  • What additional information do you need me as your leader to know?


This one-on-one conversation applies to team members brand new to the organization or those who have been in their role for years.  If a leader doesn’t know the answers to these questions, it is the responsibility to understand, acknowledge, and mostly importantly take action to respond to the needs, values, and expectations of their team members.  But this orienting conversation is just the beginning—from here, a leader can help those in their span of care better understand their strengths and opportunities, as well as model what it means to respect the differences each person brings to the table.  The team is likely to follow not far behind.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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