I was sitting with my team of trainers at the beginning of the year to discuss the team’s annual workplan. I wanted to review last year’s achievements and define team targets on training, marketing and professional development for the coming year. After wishing everybody a happy new year, I introduced the agenda, and asked my team members how they feel about the team and the task that lies ahead.



Irene was the first to take the floor: “We have so many ideas about new courses and possible new clients. Let’s focus on what gives us energy and what inspires us instead of flogging a dead horse..!”

Antony was frowning while Irene was talking: “Hold on, we should take a critical look at what has worked and what hasn’t. We have to learn from our success and failures.”

I saw that Daniel was becoming impatient. “We know pretty well what worked and what didn’t. We should have a quick brainstorm about what we want to do in the coming year, take a decision on the priorities and then divide the work among the team members. In two weeks’ time we come together to finalise the plan.”

Sandra had been listening quietly. I invited her to comment: “Before diving into the content, we should talk about our team dynamics and who will take the lead on different topics. Otherwise we’ll just find ourselves in the usual situation of long to-do lists, with nobody having the time to actually do it…”



Do you recognise this in your team: some people become agitated quickly, while others see many obstacles on the road, or dig in their heels? Do you also sometimes feel that you’re surrounded by people who don’t understand that they’re dragging their feet…?!

Book - Surrounded by idiotsYou’re not alone! Thomas Erikson wrote a book about this feeling of being surrounded by idiots. He gives us a valuable insight into why all of this happens. In his book, he explains how people function and why we often struggle to connect with them. He uses the DISA model to explain that in principle all behaviour is perfectly normal, understandable and part of a relatively predictable pattern.

  • Dominant (D) people, like Daniel, usually look for direct action, quick results in the short term and are less inclined to spend time on team relationships and personal engagement. They want to get things moving!
  • Inspiring (I) people, like Irene, are often very extraverted and creative people who throw in new ideas and try to get others interested to follow them. Inspiring people don’t see problems: they only see opportunities!
  • Stable (S) people, like Sandra, are usually calm and reserved. They are very supportive of others and care for the harmony in the team. For them, the world is about people!
  • Analytical (A) people, like Anthony, are cautious and precise. They carefully analyse a situation before (re)acting. For them, it’s all about facts and figures: making mistakes is no option!


(This model is also known as DISC: Dominant, Interactive, Stable, Conscientious.)

People are rarely a pure D, I, S or A. While Erikson explains that most people are fairly consistent and predictable in their behaviour, he emphasises that human behaviour is not carved in stone. As humans, we have the unique ability to adapt our way of communicating in different situations. To get out of our usual patterns, we have to make an extra effort. Getting to know ourselves better and understanding other people’s behaviour is a first step towards communicating more effectively in any situation!


Are you curious to learn more about your own DISA traits? Join the Leadership and People Management course to learn more about yourself and others..! Or get in touch with Jan Kuyper, writer of this book review, for more information on leadership.