The DISC Profile & What Tree You Would Be

Adam Stamm

The other day my nephew mentioned to me that he was on a job interview and the interviewer asked him the question; “If you were a tree what tree would you be?” He felt that the interviewer was wasting his time with such a seemingly ridiculous and arbitrary question. My initial thought was what if this was not an arbitrary question, but I kept quiet. For whatever reason I found myself returning to that question throughout the rest of the day and the next. I spoke to my friend Robert (in his eighties). He had a response similar to my nephew. Robert said that the question was stupid because if you said you were a specific tree, e.g. willow or birch you may mean one thing by it and the interview may interpret that tree totally differently. I tried to explain that there was more to the question than just a one-word answer of a particular tree species.

The next day I asked Steve (in his fifties) the question and shared my theories as to why it was the possibly greatest question in the entire world and how it could reveal a deep look into the psyche of a complete stranger – OK, I got a bit carried away. He thought it was an idiotic question because “how would you know how to answer it”. I just gave him a look. Most people prepare for an interview by rehearsing their list of skill sets, competencies, and strengths (which is already in their resume) and their one weakness (which can always be reframed as a positive). They prepare answers as to why they are the ideal fit for the job. However, how many people truly take the time to figure out what type or kind of tree they want to be?

The more I thought about it the more brilliant the question became. It is not about the tree it is about you. There is no one right answer. What a great way to get a quick read of someone’s personality type and their general behavioral characteristics or preferences without having to give them a personality test or assessment like the DISC Profile or MBTI. Not only can you tell a lot about a person by their answer, but also by how they respond to the question. It is not only the qualities and characteristics revealed in the answer but the qualities and characteristics displayed by the person answering the question.

That night I went up to my wife, without explaining my Nobel prize-worthy theory, and asked her what kind of tree she would be. She immediately responded she would be an Aspen because its expansive root system makes all the individual trees a part of one incredibly large organism.

Then I went into the other room and asked my nine-year-old son the question. Without hesitation he responded; “I would be a Pine tree, because it is big and strong and gives lots of shade and because we use to live on Pine Street.” I asked him what was important to him about the shade and he said it provided shade and shelter to the animals.

It is interesting and telling to compare the above responses to the various DISC styles. Even though there is no correct answer to the question if you understand your DISC behavioral style you will likely have more self-awareness that you can use to help determine your response. Having said that, your response is likely to reveal your DISC type anyway.

We are all combinations of “D”, “I”, “S”, and “C”, but usually one or two of the styles dominate. Let’s look back at my wife’s DISC profile. She is a strong “S”. A team player, supportive, stable, and resistant to change. My son appears to be predominately an “I”. He loves to perform for others and loves the recognition he gets from it. His friends and his younger brother’s approval are very important to him. My nephew and Robert are likely to reveal a lot of “C” and “D”. This is based on comments like This question is stupid, arbitrary, has nothing to do with the job description, and the interviewer is wasting my time. Steve, has a lot of “C” as there should be a correct answer if you are going to ask a question. As for myself, my “C” comes to the forefront, differently. My first thoughts were; “What do you mean by kind?” “Do you mean the type of tree? Its characteristics and qualities or do you mean species.” “I am really bad with tree names.” “Clearly the tree is a metaphor….”

This whole thing got me thinking about what if I gave my nephew an DISC Profile to take and he blogged about his experience taking it and getting the insights and feedback from the report. This could create some interesting exchanges to post and could be of benefit to him. We decided to give this a try. Let the journey begin.