At MOHR Retail we always say, changing your personality may be difficult, but changing your choices is not. Here’s why that’s significant: Being more effective and successful as a retail leader, teammate, or customer-facing associate doesn’t require changing who you are; it does require you to be 100% present and intentional about the choices you make when communicating and interacting with others.

While it’s a lot easier to change your choices than your personality, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some challenges. Today’s workforce is busy — often to the point of being overwhelmed — trying to manage more with fewer resources and less time, amid more urgent and pressing priorities. This is especially the case in retail, and let’s face it: It is hard to be intentional and thoughtful in our communications when deadlines are looming and stress is high. To make better choices, you need both an awareness of how you tend to communicate and some strategies and tools for optimizing your approach in the moment.

One of the best tools we’ve found for helping people understand themselves and intentionally adapt the way they communicate, even under high-pressure and demanding circumstances, is the Everything DiSC® on Catalyst learning platform, powered by the DiSC personality model. The DiSC model describes four basic personality and behavioral styles: D-Dominance, I-Influence, S-Steadiness, and C-Conscientiousness. We’re all a blend of the four styles, and usually one or two stand out. Those stronger styles will impact the way we communicate, approach problems, make decisions, and all other aspects of work and interpersonal interactions.

Here’s a quick look at how the different styles communicate:

Everything DiSC® on Catalyst Communication Style Snapshot 

D = Dominance

  • Focus on results and control
  • Likes challenges; digests information quickly; may wing it; can be overly demanding

i = Influence

  • Focus on involvement and approval
  • Uses social charm and network to get things done; energizes others; doesn’t always focus on details

S = Steadiness

  • Focus on trust and cooperation
  • Strong loyalty and relationship focus; may take on too much or resist change

C = Conscientiousness

  • Focus on process and quality
  • Good analysis and use of data; tends toward perfection; may struggle with deadlines

The styles have some commonalities and overlapping behaviors as well. For example, Ds and Is digest information quickly and like “headlines” and not details. High Cs and Ss are more thoughtful in how they approach situations. High Ds and Cs share their interest in logic, rational arguments, and details, while high Is and Ss share a focus on relationships and people.

No one style is better than another. The key is understanding what your natural tendencies are so you can use those insights to be more intentional in the choices you make and more effective in the way you interact with others.

Successful Retail Leaders Communicate with Style

While most leaders understand that it takes people to drive results, sometimes our personal communication style can push us away from being fully present and aware. In hectic and stressful situations — like the everyday retail environment — your natural communication style will become supercharged. That works wonderfully if you are a leader whose natural style tends toward a focus on listening and engaging people (DiSC style S). It might not work so well if your natural tendencies are a drive for action and results (DiSC style D).

It is not that Dominant leaders don’t care about people; it is just not what they think about first, and that can have an impact on direct reports and other team members, who may feel they’re not being trusted and valued. Just as that focus on action and results can be a strength, it can sometimes be an irritator that breaks down communication and ultimately prevents leadership and front-line store teams from contributing their best work. In some cases, it can lead to disengagement and, eventually, turnover.

It’s true that your communication style is in your DNA. It’s also true that this isn’t an excuse, it’s an insight. It allows you to see how your natural tendencies serve you in certain situations and can interfere in others — and how you can either lean in or adapt and adjust when it makes sense to do so. In other words, you can make the choice to use communication styles to your advantage rather than letting them become a hinderance to getting the results you desire. Skillful leaders recognize how their style impacts others and strive to flex to other styles to create more collaboration.

Great Retail Leaders Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All

Often, clients will ask us, “Since we’re focused on getting results, shouldn’t we hire high ‘D’ leaders who have that drive for action and results?”

In a word, no. As an early mentor of mine used to say, “Who would pay money to visit a national aquarium if there were only goldfish in the tanks.”

There is a risk to hiring any one DiSC style exclusively. And a leader does not necessarily have to have an outgoing, gregarious personality to be successful in the retail industry. What’s most needed in retail is a diversity of communication styles, leadership strengths, and talent. Keep in mind, too, that DiSC is a communication style indicator. It doesn’t measure intelligence, experience, or competence. It only gives insight into the types of behavioral choices you tend to make when communicating with others. Having leaders who approach the business from different perspectives is what drives results. Diversity strengthens the team, and inclusive engagement of all styles and perspectives is what drives sustainable, longer lasting commitment and results.

Consider how this plays out in your own environment. What’s the strength of having cautious (high C) people on your retail team? More patience, more thorough thinking about implications, and more detailed planning. That may be just the slowing down you need in order to speed up results in the long term. High Cs are sometimes assumed to be the naysayers and negative folks who take a long time to process information and get on board, when what they’re really doing is asking the important questions to help prepare for a more successful initiative. They feel more confident and contribute greater when they have more information and details, and those details usually result in a stronger, more successful execution.

How Everything DiSC® Powers Retail Learning and Insights

We include the Everything DiSC® on Catalyst survey as pre-work before all of our retail training sessions with all participant levels. We then teach and apply these personal and team insights throughout the classroom experience.

There is immense value in having work teams use DiSC to bridge the communication style gaps that can be interpreted or assumed as conflict, or performance issues with an individual. In teams with direct reporting order, there is a risk of losing a great associate when leaders make assumptions of why the person is not performing, when in fact there are opportunities to strengthen performance by flexing and communicating more inclusively and effectively.

Flexing your style allows you to “speak the language” of the other person. Once you learn how to communicate and flex your own style to meet the needs of others, issues are often resolved and relationships and performance are almost always strengthened. And it is always better and more cost efficient to retain and develop talent than replace them — especially over a misunderstanding or assumption of style and intentions.

When there are disconnects within work teams, using DiSC with the team provides more insight about the root of the disconnect. Once it is determined that two or more team members are just coming at issues from a different perspective, assumptions are reduced and the productive work can begin. This is accomplished through intentional engagement and flexing to each other’s style as opposed to being defensive and making assumptions that prevent teams from working together to accomplish company goals.

We talk about communication style because, whether we know it or not, it is always influencing our decisions — how much information we share, what types of questions we ask, how patient we are in waiting for responses, and a whole host of other behaviors we use daily. Think of your style as your natural default, your autopilot mode.

You don’t have to stay locked on autopilot. You can make better choices by challenging your assumptions and then changing your behaviors. Being aware is the first step to potentially choosing a different communication style approach.

Incorporating DiSC® into Retail Talent Development

Many of our clients use the insights from DiSC combined with our Communication Skills and Leadership Performance Strategies to build stronger cultures with a common language and mindset within their organizations. We combine the insights and discovery of the participants’ individual DiSC communication style throughout the training and encourage them to continuously use the tools provided online to personalize the learning to their specific needs, strengths, and areas needing further development.

We then introduce 4 Communication Skills to help leaders develop the skills that are the “blind spots” on their DiSC profile. It allows participant leaders to:

  • Experience a deep dive into their own DiSC style, with lifetime resources such as continuous learning, videos, tutorials, etc. They can bookmark the DiSC site for easy and frequent access long after the classroom learning has ended.
  • Run comparison reports with other colleagues and direct reports in their organization who have also taken DiSC to gain insights and prepare for meetings and to strengthen relationships.
  • Create mappings for work teams or groups to better communicate on projects or day-to-day priorities and tasks.
  • Improve their leadership performance by applying a set of 4 Communication Skills as part of their leadership toolbox to compensate and practice the behaviors/skills that do not come naturally to them. 

» Download more information about Everything DiSC® on Catalyst and discover how this powerful platform can help you achieve your retail learning and business objectives.

MOHR Retail is an Authorized Wiley Partner, Everything DiSC®  Suite Survey Provider & Certified Practitioner. We offer a full suite of standalone and DiSC® surveys for individual coaching, teambuilding, and strengthing workshops in additon to our leadership solutions using the  DiSC communciation style surveys. Get in touch to discuss the right solutions and assessments for your company or team needs.


About Mary Beth Garcia

Mary Beth has worked with a variety of retail and hospitality clients as a strategic partner, delivering leadership, communications, retail programs, consulting, and executive coaching for such diverse companies as Academy Sports and Outdoors, Altar’d State, Amazon Fresh, Advanced Auto Parts, Bvlgari, Cardinal Health, Compass Group, Darden, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Foot Locker Group, Haggar Clothing, King Ranch, LVMH, Michaels, Saks Department Store Group, SMCP, Southeastern Grocers, TBC, TJX Companies, Ulta Beauty, and Whole Foods Market. Prior to her consulting work, Mary Beth spent more than 20 years in retail management and operations for companies such as Macys, g.Briggs, The Bombay Company, and Sunglass Hut International, holding numerous leadership positions in sales, store, district, and regional management and corporate communications, training, and operations. Based in Miami, FL, Mary Beth served on the Executive Advisory Board for the University of Florida’s Retail Education and Research Department from 2003-2014. She holds an A.A. Degree in Retail Management and Fashion Merchandising from Bauder College.