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How Personality Impacts Leading and Managing Change in the Church

If you were a carpenter and didn’t know the difference between a hammer, screwdriver or saw do you think you could make anything of beauty or significance? Probably not!

How does this apply to leading and managing change in the church? When God calls the church to change He is faithful to provide the tools. I Corinthians 12:18 tells us that his primary tools are “The parts in the body that He has placed just as He wanted them to be.”

Regretfully, many church leaders are unaware of the personality profile of those body parts and how that knowledge can be instrumental in leading and managing change . In fact, I shudder when I reflect upon how little I understood just “how fearfully and wonderfully made” were the people I was leading early in my ministry.

I began to appreciate how people are the most important resource leaders have when leading and managing change by better understanding and using personality profiles.

 The DISC Profile – A Common Language for Understanding Personality

Personality refers to the characteristics of the person that account for consistent patterns of feeling, thinking and behaving. Therefore, personality has a significant influence on the way we think, feel and relate to change.

The diversity of personalities is evidenced by the over 18,000 words in the English Dictionary that describe personalities and reflect 171 distinct traits (Greenberg & Baron, 2003). That is a huge number of traits to grasp and understand how they impact organizational change initiatives.

That is why considering the four dimensions identified in the DISC Personality Profile can simplify understanding of the complexities of personality. The initial DISC model comes from Dr. William Marston, a professor at Columbia University in the 1920s, who was curious about human behavior.

Today, DISC is the leading personal assessment tool to improve organizational productivity, teamwork and communication. It also provides a common language that people can use to understand themselves and others within the church.

 What Does DISC Stand For? What Do The Letters Mean?

Dominance Person places emphasis on accomplishing results, the bottom line, confidence

 Influence Person places emphasis on influencing or persuading others, openness, relationships

 Steadiness Person places emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, dependability

Conscientiousness or Compliance Person places emphasis on quality and accuracy, analysis, expertise, competency

We are all a mixture of these four dimensions of personality in an infinite variety of combinations. Yet, most of us reflect dominate or “primary” attributes of one or more of the dimensions.

 How Does DISC Profile Impact Response To Change?

Your predominant personality impacts how you lead, manage and respond to change in the following ways:

The Predominant “D” Personality likes to initiate change.

Most changes in the church are introduced by “D” personalities who enjoy the challenge of introducing change and driving people towards a goal. They instinctively “know” what needs to be done in the organization but may lack foresight and sufficient planning.

Under stress the unredeemed side of the “D” personality wants change to happen “yesterday” and can become autocratic, demanding and abrasive when introducing change.

The Predominant “I” Personality likes to sell or promote the change.

“I” personalities are very concerned how the change will impact people. They can help people understand the big picture and motivate and inspire others to embrace the change.

Counterintuitively, under stress the unredeemed side of the “I” personality can start openly and aggressively attacking the change and the people who introduce it.

The Predominant “S” Personality likes to implement the change.

“S” personalities typically dislike sudden change, are slow to accept change and rarely initiate change. But “S” personalities are by nature accommodating and loyal and once on board will do whatever it takes to support and implement the change successfully and peacefully.

Under stress the unredeemed side of the “S” personality will appear to acquiesce but will work behind the scenes to stall or undermine the change.

The Predominant “C” Personality likes to critique and improve upon the change.

“C” personalities are rational, technical and analytical and will point out the flaws, risks and potential problems in the proposed change. “C” personalities demand due process, rational logic, facts, figures and compelling evidence before they will support change initiatives. Their demeanor may suggest they are against plans and projects when all they really want are answers to their questions.

Under stress the unredeemed side of the “C” personality may not speak up in open forums yet become openly negative in hallway and parking lot conversations.

 The Application

Church change leaders and managers can use insights into how different personalities respond to change in the following ways:

  1. Assembling strategic planning teams representative of the four personalities
  2. Selecting the people to communicate change
  3. Designing communication that speaks to each personality
  4. Facilitating the personality dynamics of Church Leadership, Town Hall and Business Meetings
  5. Assembling implementation teams representative of the four personalities

For more information on using the DISC Personality Profile in your church go to placeministries.org

Posted on February 24, 2015

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5