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How to understand your team using one question

I am a firm believer that questions don't just get you answers, they also result in action. and it all boils down to just one simple, open-ended question: "tell me about you."

Now, I know questions might not seem like a very exciting topic, but if you are leading a team, wanting to lead a team, or even working with others, learning to ask the right questions should be at the top of your priority list. Questions don't just get you answers; they get you action because it is THROUGH questions that you learn about your peers and how to clearly steer them in the right direction.

When asking questions, you want to:

  1. Do it regularly.

  2. Do it with an open mind and an open heart.

  3. Ask certain types of questions that elicit specific responses.

The purpose is to get to know your team, so you want to ask about strengths, weaknesses, motivations, desires. Really get to know how to communicate best with them.

Knowing this information helps you be a better coach, mentor, leader and teammate. Who doesn’t want that?!

When it comes specifically to communication, one size does not fit all.

people are going to respond differently based on how you talk to them. That's not manipulative, that is simple psychology. You cannot talk to every single person the exact same way and anticipate and expect the same results. If you talk to one person with aggressive tones they might respond well to that. I know that for me, as crazy as it sounds, I was motivated by drill sergeants berating me and yelling at me to run faster. That motivates me. Although this method definitely doesn't

motivate everyone, in fact, that kind of shit really turns some people off. With that same person, if you had a conversation where you were really wishy-washy and didn't quite know what you were looking for, they're not going to respond well to that. On the opposite end, if you are that aggressive dominant type personality with someone who was shyer and more reserved, they are not going to be okay with being spoken to in a direct manner. You're going to want to get to know that individual better first.

So how do we figure out how we talk to different types of people?

I did a lot of work with this when I was working on my master's program in organizational development, we learned a lot about how to talk to different personality types. But one of the best ways that I learned was not actually through that education program but was when I was working in network marketing. Network marketing teaches the D. I. S. C. personality profile. It was taught as a recruiting tool because you need to know how to talk to people, how to work with their different personalities, their fears, their wants, their needs, their desires. Even though I am no longer in a leadership position with a network marketing company, I still fun myself using this tool in everyday life. If you do a quick Google search you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of hits on the “disc” personality profile. The easiest way to get to know someone's disk personality is with one simple question. Actually, the question isn't even a real question, it is a statement. That statement being, “tell me about you”. When you ask an open-ended question like this, giving them the openness to explain who they are, you’ll get what's most important to them. Surprise surprise! People are going to talk about what most interests them and what is most important to them when given an open-ended prompt, and from that, you are going to be able to learn not just what's important to them but what their hopes are what their needs are, how to communicate with them and how to reinforce the behaviors that you're looking for in your team in them. It sounds like a whole bunch of deep psychological mumbo jumbo, but trust me. This one works. So, let's get into a little bit more about each of the personalities.

D. I. S. C. stands for the 4 different personality types-

Dominant personality

Influencing personality

Steady personality

Calculated conscientious personality

let's dive in more to each one.

(Rather listen along? Tune into The Beyond Leadership podcast, now!)

D - This is your dominant, driven, demanding, determined, personality.

when you ask them to “tell me a little bit about you” you're going to get information about their job, what they're in charge of, what kind of groups they coordinate, what they do for management, how they work with their money. Very dominant and aggressive answers. This person is reinforced by action, so they want success and challenges. The D personality wants practicality and to know that they are in charge, and often times not just of themselves and what they're doing, but if a team or a business. They're really focused on results, they make quick decisions, they like power and authority.

When it comes to communicating with the D personality, let them do the talking because they're going to tell you exactly what they want exactly what they need and to be perfectly honest they might not listen to you because often that aggressive dominant personality, even if you are the one who's technically in charge they'll think they know better, that's how you're going to work with your D personality.

I - This is your influencing, impressive, interactive, inspirational super interested in people personality.

When you give them the prompt “tell me about you” you are going to get exactly that. You're going to get to know that individual, what they like and don't like, who their friends are, what they do for fun. They are the more fun, outgoing, enthusiastic, loves to talk personality. They are people-oriented, super enthusiastic, and love receiving recognition for the work they do. Good work, for them, is reinforced by fun, freedom, approval, that recognition, attention, prizes, applause. They want to know that they're doing well and they want to be showered with love and attention for doing it.

When it comes to communicating with the I personality, you want to focus on relationship building. Again, let them do the talking because they do plenty of it, but take a genuine interest in them, an I personality can often tell if you are faking it because they are so good at working with people. So if your interest is real, authentic and you really want to get to know them an I personality is really going to appreciate that.

S - This is your steady, supportive, sentimental, and submissive personality.

They might come across as a little bit shy when you ask them to “tell me about you”. She's not gonna do that (and I say she because most often you are going to find this personality type in women). An S personality is going to tell you about her family, her children, her husband, her parents, how she's involved in her community. She's probably not going to say “I” or “Me” a lot. She's looking for something that's going to fit around her schedule, allow her family to show up as number one because that is her top priority. Often people with an S personality are strict rule followers. You're gonna find this a lot in new moms. To reinforce positivity with someone who has an S personality, you're just gonna want to be open with them, let them know that you accept them, that you are loyal, that your organization has traditions. They need to feel that community around them.

When communicating with an S personality, you are going to end up doing most of the talking. They might not ask a lot of questions but again they're going to want to know that what you have to offer on your team or the project that you are asking them to work on. At work they want to know that it's flexible they want to know they can work around their family schedule, they want to know that they can still be home for dinner. None of this is to say that they are not hard workers, because they absolutely are, they're going to give you quality work because YOU are going to turn around and treat them like family and a part of your community.

C - The conscientious analyzer, detail-oriented, cautious, competent, calculated, concerned, very careful.

when you ask someone with a C. personality to “tell you about themselves” you're gonna get a very analytical answer, you might even get a question back like, “what do you mean?” or “what exactly do you want to know?” because a C

personality wants to give you the answer that you are looking for. They like structure as reinforcement, so they enjoy being busy, having goals to work for, and working to achieve those goals. They are very high achieving and they love new training. If you can get them in a school, training, seminar, or course they're going to eat that up because they're very logical, very good at problem-solving. Everything needs to be in its place. They are darn near perfectionists and it takes a long time for them to warm up to change.

When it comes to communicating with a C personality don't get too personal too fast, you want to be able to build your credibility with them. Let them know about you before you start asking and trying to pull more information about them, and when they ask you questions be sure to have thorough and well-thought-out answers because the C personality is going to have a lot of questions.


So there it is, your quick and easy one statement question that you should be asking every person in your organization whether they're your boss, work for you, or they work in the cubicle next to you. Get to know the people that you work with because it is going to make your life so much easier. You're going to be able to better distribute the workload, you're going to be able to hand out tasks or receive tasks better, you'll be able to give and receive feedback better when you know how to communicate with somebody.

If this little psychological deep dive was interesting to you I would encourage you to check out the freebie I created for my five questions that exceptional leaders ask, that will shoot you over an email with a pre-recorded video on everything you need to know about asking regularly scheduled questions to your team for the purpose of growing your organization and scaling your business.



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