Cracking The Code: Smarter Communication With Every Personality

person sitting with laptop, in a dark room

Private practice owners who understand the personality styles of their teams can unlock its full potential

By Mike Osler, PT, DPT

“How many times is this going to happen?!”

John’s frustration was palpable as he continued to vent. “This makes no sense! Every time I roll out a new strategy, everyone seems on board during the meeting. Yet, the very next day, the same people who were quiet are bombarding me with questions!”

John was the owner of a private practice with five locations and grew frustrated with what felt like years of resistance. The pattern became predictable:

John would convene his leadership team and identify a new course of action. After a series of head nods and silence from his team, he would leave the meeting feeling everyone was on board. Over the next couple of days, John would slowly but surely hear reservations from his team. Some wanted more information and clarification about the plan. Others simply felt like the decision was made too quickly and more time was needed. At best John felt the pain of their quiet resistance, and at worst it felt like downright insubordination!

John is a fictional character in this article, but his story represents scenarios I hear quite often. As a private practice owner, success hinges not only on quality care and great patient experiences but also on the leadership teams’ emotional intelligence and ability to communicate effectively. Understanding the diverse personalities of team members is essential to fostering a thriving and harmonious work environment. To be heard and to inspire my team, it’s essential to first understand my own personality traits and how I typically communicate. Once I become more self-aware, I can seek to understand the perspectives and traits of others.


The DISC Personality Profile is a simple yet powerful tool to understand the unique traits and communication preferences of different personality styles. The DISC categorizes personalities into four traits: Driver (D), influencing (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C) (Figure 1). By identifying these traits within a team, the leader can tailor communication to effectively connect with each individual.


Owners and team members with a high D-trait are decisive, results-oriented, and goal-driven. D’s want the job done now.


Individuals with a prominent I trait are outgoing, people-centric, and prioritize relationship-building. They thrive on social interactions and acknowledgment. I’s want the job done in a fun way.


Team members with a high S-trait are also people-oriented but tend to be more reserved. They are dependable, patient, and are often averse to change. S’s want the job done in a way that encourages everyone.


People with a high C-trait are detail-oriented, analytical, and value precision. C’s want the job done the right way.


Each personality trait adds value to the team. For instance, individuals with a higher D-personality may be strong leaders and decision-makers, driving the clinic’s growth and taking action to drive results. To effectively communicate with D’s, be direct and focus on presenting the benefits of your ideas in a clear and concise manner. Influential team members often excel in marketing and attracting new patients through strong community relationships. I-types also make great social chairs. Steadiness-oriented individuals contribute harmony and cohesion to the team, creating an atmosphere of loyalty and teamwork. Conscientious personalities excel in quality control, compliance, and process improvement, ensuring the clinic operates with precision and efficiency.


Just as each personality style brings unique strengths, every style also has areas for growth to be more effective leaders and teammates. As a private practice owner, it’s essential to identify these areas and provide appropriate support and encouragement for your team members to grow both professionally and personally.

For those with a high D-trait, promoting active listening and incorporating feedback from other team members can help develop a more collaborative and supportive leadership style. Influential individuals can benefit from developing a focus on attention to detail, ensuring their ideas are implemented, not just talked about. Steadiness-oriented team members can grow by confronting their avoidance of conflict and trusting relationships enough to address poor performance. Conscientious personalities can work on trusting the expertise of their team members, sidestepping over-analysis, and asserting themselves more.


An emotionally intelligent leader appreciates these differences and fine-tunes communication to foster a more productive, motivated team. But first, private practice owners must look in the mirror and be self-aware. Owning and leading a business requires a certain focus on results, taking action, and embracing change. Without surprise, most PT private practice owners possess distinct personality traits compared to the general population. For example, although just 3% of the general population has D as their highest trait, as many as 40% of private practice owners have D as their highest trait (Figure 2). A high D-trait is 13 times more common in owners! Just as significant is a common variance in the S-trait. Less than 20% of private practice owners have the S-personality trait as their highest, despite it being the highest trait in 69% of the general population.

Owners and leaders must recognize differences in these two traits can be leveraged for success or a recipe for leadership disaster. According to this data, most owners will be more focused on results (high D) and willing to change quickly to achieve those results (low S). On the other hand, most teammates will be more focused on relationships and need time to adapt to change, not because they are proverbial sticks in the mud, but because they want to sure everyone and everything is going to be okay with the change.


Let’s return to our fictional CEO John. John sees the need for a new incentive plan for his team to attract and retain top talent while ensuring quality care and running a stable business. When touching on benefits and compensation, an area where leaders must tread carefully, John takes a new approach.

John looked at the options and made a decision for the new incentive plan. The old version of John would inform his team of the change and roll out the new plan effective this month. The new version of John, equipped with DISC profiles and ready-to-apply emotional intelligence training, shares the idea with his leadership team, then does something out of character. He asks for questions, tells them to sleep on it, and then reconvene next week.

John knows the data says about two-thirds of his team will have S as their highest trait. They are not resistant per se, they just need time to adjust to the change and want to make sure the future is going to be OK. To communicate with them effectively, he must address their concerns and ensure a stable and fair structure. He emphasizes how the plans contribute to the long-term success and growth of the clinic creating more stability and opportunity.

The second most common trait is the analytic and accurate C-personality (Figure 2). Teammates with the C-trait need time to ask questions, research why the new plan is needed, and understand how the new process will work. When communicating with them, John shares data-driven evidence and clear expectations regarding the incentive plans. He allows time to process the information and provide thoughtful feedback.


People are predictably different. There are many useful personality assessments available: the Myers-Briggs (MBTI), Enneagram, Strengths Finder, Working Genius, Harrison Assessment, and The Big Five to name a few. There is value in using personality traits to increase self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and ultimately collaboration of any team. One advantage of the DISC is its simplicity. With a few hours of studying leaders can learn the four quadrants and begin to identify traits in their team.

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Mike Osler, PT, DPT

Mike Osler, PT, DPT,is a Certified Coach and DISC Personality Assessment Trainer through the Maxwell Leadership Team. He serves as the Director of Business Coaching at 8150 Advisors and can be reached at

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