By Sandy Seay

2/24/2012 -

Tales from O’Seay’s fables . . . Back in the mists of antiquity, Procrustes was an innkeeper on the road from Trozen to Athens. The problem was that he had but one bed. When a guest arrived who was too tall for the bed, he chopped the guest’s legs down to size so that they would fit. If a guest arrived who was too short, he would stretch the guest lengthwise to make him fit. Thus, when we try to hire an employee who is not a fit for the job, and then try to make the person fit, we make a “procrustean” decision, which has little chance of success, because we are stretching the employee out of shape. Not to worry . . . Theseus, on his way to becoming king of Athens, stopped at the inn, assessed the situation, and made quick work of Procrustes by adjusting the poor fellow to fit his own bed. Theseus was a High D.

Someone once said that there are three types of people – those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who say, “What happened?” If you’re looking for a manager to “make things happen,” you need one with a good dose of the High D (or Type A) Working Style. High D’s are the energy behind a successful organization. High D’s make things happen. High D’s create results. High D’s make good managers. A High D is a confident, goal oriented, energy generating, powerful manager whose focus is aimed at one thing – accomplishment! According to Florence Littauer, the motto of a High D is, “Let’s do it. Let’s do it now. And let’s do it my way.” High D’s come in different degrees. You can have a High D, and then you can have a Mega High D, and then you can have a High D on steroids. “D” stands for “Dominance” so when we say we have a High D, we say we have a person of “High Dominance.” Dominance itself is a strong word, so when we put the adjective “High” in front of it, just like the 1960’s candy bar, we’re working with a Powerhouse.

We find High D’s in virtually every profession, including managers, doctors, nurses, administrators, bankers, ministers, small business owners, priests, engineers and others. If you are an effective manager of people or assets, you are surely a High D, to one degree or another because research tells us that 40% of the general population consists of High D, but 90% of managers are High D. Thus, if you are a manager or supervisor, the odds are high that you have a good dose of High D. Many Seay Management clients have us administer the DISC Profile to candidates prior to hire because the DISC is an accurate predictor of Working Style. If we know a candidate’s Working Style, it keeps us from making a procrustean hiring decision, which is hiring a person who really doesn’t fit the position, and then trying to make the person fit in an artificial or unnatural way.

The DISC Profile helps us identify Working Style in one of four categories – D (Dominance), I (Interpersonal Skills), S (Stability) or C (Perfectionism), or a combination. High I’s are people people. High S’s like to focus in and do one thing at a time. High C’s have to “get it right” and there is only way for it to be right. And then there are the High D’s.[1]

Are You a High D? [2]

Are you in a hurry most of the time?

Do you grind your teeth?

Do you usually read mail or sort papers while you’re on the phone?

Do you read while you’re eating?

Do you find it frustrating to wait in line or in traffic?

Are your facial muscles tense much of the time?

Do you interrupt others while they are talking?

Do you leave the table as soon as you finish eating?

Do you wake up in the middle of the night with your brain’s motor running?

Do you often get annoyed by the idiots on the road?

If you answered “yes” to most of those questions, you’re probably a High D. If you answered, “Yes, of course” to most of those questions, you are almost assuredly a High D. If you thought those questions were idiotic because everyone should know the answer is clearly “yes,” then you are absolutely a High D! High D’s bring lots of nuclear energy to the table -- none of this slow burning coal energy – we’re talking nuclear energy. High D’s like the idea that they’re High D’s and, in a sense, they glory in it. High D’s think High D behavior is normal and they wonder why you don’t think so, too. For example, a co-worker might ask, testily, “Do you know you’re always telling everyone what to do?” and the High D might respond, directly, “And your point is . . . ?”

Characteristics of a High D. Most of the time, you can spot a High D all the way from the observation booth because the characteristics of the High D Working Style are so apparent. For example . . .

Achievement. High D’s strive toward goals and objectives and are very goal oriented. One manager told me recently, “Just tell me what the target is and I will hit it.”

Accomplishment. The most critical part of the job is “getting it done.” High D’s like to make To Do lists but, better yet, like to cross them off, because it’s “done.” High D’s have a Larry the Cable Guy style – “Git’re Done.”

High D’s take charge. In almost every situation – meeting, conflict resolution, problem solving, going over the monthly reports, going out to dinner, playing a tennis match – the High D will take charge. If you have more than one High D, the Highest D will take charge. Even if a High D is in the passenger seat, he’ll tell you how to drive the car.

Do It Now. High D’s like things done immediately and want immediate results. If you say “I’ll get back to you on this,” the High D expects you to get back in 5 minutes.

High D’s are Quick Decision Makers. High D’s don’t need all the information. In fact, they don’t want it -- they want just enough information to make the decision, then they go on to the next thing.

High D’s are “fixers.” They see a problem and their immediate reaction is to fix it, even if it’s not their problem. Coming into your office, a High D might look around and say, “You know those pictures on the wall are crooked,” and then proceed to straighten them.

Extremely time conscious. High D’s live their lives on a time schedule. They’re not good for long meetings, committees, or conferences that have no end and have a visceral need to know when a meeting will start and end. For a High D, the most feared five words in the English language are, “Now, are there any questions?”

Supreme self-confidence. A High D will think, or perhaps articulate, “It will get done. I’m not sure exactly how, but I’m sure it will get done.” Or, “Don’t say it can’t be done, just say how you are going to do it.” Everything is doable to a High D.

High D’s Know that Positive is Powerful. You hardly ever find negativity in a High D. High D’s are confident and forward thinking and don’t want to hear negative thoughts or ideas. In fact, negative words from others make a High D mad. He or she might say, “I don’t want to hear about all your problems. Just do it!”

Strengths vs. Weaknesses. High D’s realize they have strengths and weaknesses but they think their weaknesses are strengths. One chap completed the Working Style assessment form and remarked, “I have all of these strengths and none of these weaknesses. Impatience for example. I’m not impatient if people would just do what I say!”

Little sympathy for emotions. High D’s are not much for sympathy or other emotions. If an employee becomes emotional, the High D may say, “Go back to your office until you can get yourself together and then we’ll talk.” With one exception -- High D’s can move quickly to anger. Anger, properly directed, can be useful. Anger, unrestrained, can be disastrous. Aristotle once wrote, “Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy.”

The movie “Patton,” recalls a scene at 5th Army Headquarters where, in the midst of the Battle of the Bulge, the General began speaking loud and angrily to his staff. “If we are not victorious,” the General thundered, “let no man come back alive!” His aide turned to him and said, quietly, “You know, General, sometimes the men don’t know when you’re acting,” to which General Patton replied, “It’s not important for them to know – it’s only important for me to know.”

Variety is Good. And not only good – to a High D, variety is essential. A High D loves to multi-task and can never do just one thing at a time. A High D takes a different road to work each day. A High D thrives on having multiple balls in the air at the same time. How to Successfully Work with a High D – Yourself and/or Others.

If all of this is true, if a High D brings all this nuclear energy to the table, how do we harness this formidable power source for good? Here’s a first step -- the toughest job for a High D is realizing that he or she is so powerful and radiates so much energy. High D’s will know they are High D’s, they will like it and they may even know that they bring a lot of energy to the table. But they will not have a sense of how much pressure this puts on non-High D’s. Non-High D’s may feel hurt, or dismayed, or uncertain, or fearful, or nervous, or unconvinced or skeptical. A High D must be aware of the power of his or her energy level and, to the highest extent possible, moderate it or channel it in a positive direction. This is self examination and it is hard to do. Socrates, the greatest of all management consultants, remarked to the Athenian Assembly that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Two generations later, in the Lyceum, Aristotle taught that our greatest asset can also be our greatest liability. High D’s have a huge potential for good but, left unharnessed, left unrestrained, High D’s have a huge potential to blow things up, at work and elsewhere.

Second, when you’re dealing with a High D, be direct and get right to the facts of the matter. Don’t ease into a situation, particularly if it’s Bad News. As Johnny Cash sang, “Bad News travels like wildfire. Good news travels slow.” My close friend Dave Thomas, long time highly successful manager in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, would instruct his staff, “Bad News doesn’t age well. If something happens, you need to tell me immediately.” If Bad News happens, High D’s want the Bad News straight from the shoulder, unvarnished and immediately.

Third, in a business setting, High D’s tend to make decisions based on instinct. They’re usually right and they usually have a track record of being right because they have a built in instinct for sensing a situation. This irks some people who sometimes think, “It makes me mad that she is always right!”

Forth, the biggest “fear” of a High D is – being taken advantage of or thinking he or she has been taken advantage of. This is another reason for dealing directly with High D’s. We mean “fear,” not in the sense of being frightened, which would not be a High D characteristic, but in the sense of being “highly irritated.” Or worse. It is in the nature of High D’s to treat people fairly and equally. It is, of course, possible that the occasional character defect of unfairness might appear in some people but, from a Working Style standpoint, High D’s are going to be fair. So, if someone takes advantage of a High D, he or she becomes furious and an important trust bond is broken. For example, a High D hires, trains, mentors and develops an employee and feels that he or she has the loyalty of this person. One day, the employee gets a job offer from a competitor and approaches the High D with this information, seeking an increase in pay to stay. But High D’s probable response might be, “If you feel you need to go, then go.” When Steve Spurrier was coach of the Florida Gators, one day he found some of his players wearing Notre Dame hats so he explained to them, “If Notre Dame is your favorite school, you need to go up there and play for them.” The hats were gone pretty quickly.

Fifth, don’t be afraid to challenge a High D with respect to mission, strategy, problem solving, etc. Do so with diplomacy and grace, of course, but High D’s usually respect other High D’s who challenge them. There is nothing a High D likes better than a good challenge and they don’t like those who kowtow to them. High D’s like to have authority and prestige, not in a prideful way, but in a self confident way. Pride is different – it’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins and is a character issue. Self confidence is a virtue and is a Working Style issue.

Six, some High D’s are “nice.” Or at least they appear to be, although sometimes this is a “mask.” High D’s are “nicer” when they also have a fairly High I (interpersonal skills) that softens the High D. For example, if you have a really High D, but you also have an I that is just below the D, the I softens the D. We call this a person of “steel and velvet,” because although the powerful High D characteristics are still present, they are softer. On the other hand, if you have a High D and a low I . . . run for cover . . . .

Shaping the Charge.

Back in the Dark Ages when I was in the Army, in a tank battalion in the middle of Germany, 3rd Infantry Division, we had a round that was called a “shaped charge.” The idea was that the round was built in such a way as to force the explosion out of the round in one direction, not in a sphere, not 360 degrees in all directions, but in one specific direction. This “shaped charge” gets all the power going in the same direction, where you want it to go. It accomplishes the objective and none of the power is wasted. There is a sense in which the High D Working Style is the same as a “shaped charge.” Whether the High D is “us” or someone we work with, we want to propel all this power and energy in the right direction, in a positive direction. If we do this, we will have Success . . . and, probably, Success On Steroids!


[1] Most of this material comes from the DISC profile itself and from Florence Littauer’s book, Personality Plus, which I highly recommend. You can find her at


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