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DiSC: A great way to help your practice soar

Sept. 21, 2020
Robert M. Maguire, DDS, recommends using DiSC with your staff—a personality assessment system that can help staff better understand each other and build stronger patient relationships.

What is the DiSC?

What is the DiSC? The DiSC is an easy-to-understand personality assessment system that evaluates observable behaviors. Personally, it was one of the keys to the success of my solo, fee-for-service dental practice of 28 years. How does the DiSC assessment work, and what does it measure? The assessment measures how direct or indirect someone tends to be in their communication. For example, you may ask yourself if the people you are talking with are more open or more reserved in their communication. Do they like to talk, or are they better at listening?

Also, the DiSC identifies people’s priorities. Are they more task oriented or people oriented? What about their pace of life? Do they tend to talk, move, and make decisions quickly, or do they operate at a slower pace, tend to be quiet, and need more time to think things through? The DiSC helps you see and identify these different aspects of behavior. In the DiSC system, there are four basic styles of identifiable behavior: the dominant/driver or the “D,” the influencer or the “I,” the sustainer/steadiness or the “S,” and the conscientious/analytic or the “C.”

Why is knowing this helpful to a dental practice? The answer is clear . . . dentistry is a people-centric business. Here’s the plain truth: most people don’t enjoy or look forward to visiting their dentist. That said, the first priority of any dental team should be to provide care in a way that makes the patient feel most comfortable and deeply understood. Building trust with patients and team members must always come first. The best way to do that is through technical excellence, but also through high-quality communication.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Understanding the DiSC is a great way to help you better understand yourself, then better connect with your patients and team by taking the time to observe and understand their behavioral styles. Once you understand others’ behavioral styles, you can modify your behavior accordingly. As a result, your patients and your team members will feel heard. You’ll listen better and be equipped to clearly assess the fears, needs, wants, and desires of your patients and your team.

Who does the DiSC benefit?

Within a dental practice, there are three main stakeholders: the dentist or dentists, the dental team, and the patients. The DiSC can be used to benefit all three. As the dentist and leader of your practice, if you are struggling with communication, the DiSC system can help. Perhaps you are being too direct when you speak, or maybe you are drowning your team and your patients with lots of information. If so, try the DiSC. Are you a dentist who always does things quickly? Maybe you’re very social or a “talker” who likes to chit-chat with every patient. Do you have team members whose personalities are clashing?

Or maybe you have some team members who work quickly and others who take a slower, more methodical approach. In such a situation, you might overhear the frustrated, fast-paced team member say to the slower one, “Could you speed things up? We’ve got a lot of work to do around here.” You might observe the slower one not responding to that remark or perhaps responding a few days later, saying something like, “I was just trying to be thorough and do a good job!”

If your team is struggling, the DiSC can help them better understand one another, strengthen their relationships, and help them work together competently and collaboratively rather than critically and antagonistically. Are you looking to hire the right person for the right job? The DiSC will help you assess a potential candidate’s strengths so that you can place them in a position where they can showcase the full extent of their talents.

Real-world application

I first learned about the DiSC system in 1995 while attending a Dental Boot Kamp seminar in Kerrville, Texas. When I look back at my dental practice, I can say with confidence that the DiSC system helped me grow my practice by boosting my understanding of myself, my team, and my patients. For years, I tried to apply The Golden Rule to my behavior. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Through Dental Boot Kamp and studying with Tony Alessandra, I learned The Platinum Rule which says, “Treat others the way they would like to be treated.” Learning this was an eye-opener for me.

Prior to this knowledge, I was only connecting with others who were like me. Once I really understood my own personality along with others’ behavioral styles, I learned to adapt my style to match the style of the person I was with. The result was an instant connection. If they talked fast, I talked fast. If they liked only tidbits of information (i.e., the bottom line), that’s what I gave them, despite the fact that I’m someone who tends to “waterboard” everyone with lots of details.

According to the “Cross of Dentistry” espoused by Dr. L.D. Pankey, happiness and success in dentistry occurs when you, the dentist, first know yourself, then know the patient, thirdly know your work, and then apply your knowledge. In my dental practice, I used a modified version of the “Cross of Dentistry” that says, “Success and happiness in dentistry comes when you first know yourself, secondly, build an awesome team, then really get to know your patients, most importantly be an excellent dentist, and then ‘go and watch the happiness and money flow.’”


There are many benefits to learning and applying the DiSC, including: increased communication and cooperation with your team and your patients, appropriate job assignments that allow team members to play to their strengths, a more effective practice environment, better rapport, more credibility, and increased treatment acceptance. 

If you’re looking to take your life and dental practice to a place of more happiness, more joy, more fulfillment, and more financial success, start with learning and applying the DiSC. Remember, people are the top priority in dentistry, and it’s the relationships in our lives that matter the most. Lastly, reflect on the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Robert M. Maguire, DDS,MASCL, is a speaker, coach, consultant, and owner of Dynamic Dental Communications. For more information about him and how you can use the DiSC assessment to grow your relationships and your dental practice, visit the fullfillment.coach or contact him at [email protected] or (603) 759-2931.