Can You Move Your “C” – Just a Little?

I talk and write quite a bit about behavioral styles – the four different scales as illustrated by the DISC (dominance, influencing, steadiness and compliance scales). These four scales represent four different areas of behavior – Problems, People, Pace and Procedures.
Let’s look today specifically at the “C” scale, the one about rules and procedures. Some people are naturally high on this scale, meaning that they are good at following and enforcing rules and procedures. You want the person inspecting your airplane to be a strong “C,” you want the police officer enforcing traffic rules to be a strong “C” and you want the person analyzing scientific data before a new drug is released to the market to be a strong “C.” It’s a quality control scale, a rules scale and a data scale. The high “C” style protects us and keeps us safe in many cases.
The lower “C” style, by contrast, is the creative problem solver. Low “C” doesn’t see a rule, they see a way of doing something that probably could be improved! They tend to think outside of the box and seek new, different and creative ways to solve problems and make change happen.
In a situation I encountered this week with the Assistant Principal at my son’s school, it reminded me of the dilemma of the “C” style entrenched in our public school systems. The truth is that most school administrators and many teachers are high “C.” They make rules, they enforce rules and they dole out punishment when the rules are broken. They don’t want to hear from a child “I was confused” or “I didn’t realize”; they just want to enforce the punitive consequences and get on with their day. At least, this is the experience I frequently encounter when talking to administration at any level! With children in high school, middle school and grammar school, and as a very interested parent who enjoys hearing about my children’s experiences, I am often left wondering “Where are all the low ‘C’s’ in the school system?”
As human beings we are multi-faceted and have many different preferences and ways of learning. Children don’t fit into a box any more than adults do. In many cases kids need a creative outlet and a way of expressing themselves that doesn’t fall into the “norm.” I see this a lot also with the “I” scale, the influencing. There are some people who are very talkative and enjoy engaging, while others are low “I” and would prefer to just sit and listen. Why is it that the child who sits and listens is tagged as uninvolved and uninterested? One teacher told me he didn’t enjoy having children in his class who couldn’t contribute anything!
Of course teachers are only human, so they are going to have their own filters and styles, and we know that it is easier to communicate and connect with someone who is “like me.” But when we see an environment where almost everyone in leadership is of the same mold, as we often do in a public school setting where it is rules to the nth degree, we see a lot of children in pain because they simply don’t fit into the structure. I often wonder, as I am interviewed about bullying, whether children lash out because they feel they don’t fit and can’t make it work in the structure as it is.
I think it is time to infuse a bit of low “C” into our school structures. We want safety and rules in place to protect our kids, but we also want them to learn that thinking outside of the box can have its rich rewards too. Seeking to understand and leading with inquiry to learn about a child could make the difference for a child who is suffering in silence because they just can’t find a way to do it “right” and fit in.