Interview with Cathe Johnson, Ph.D.
Director, Diagnostics Division, Asia Pacific Human Resources
By Solja Nygard Frangos, a freelance writer.
Human resource expert Cathe Johnson, Ph.D. of Abbott Laboratories still remembers what happened when she revealed the results of employees’ Extended DISC questionnaires. “I posted the results – without names – on a big board, and in a few seconds, everyone present had congregated by the board,” Johnson said, laughing. “Everyone, even the few skeptics in that management group of 15 people, was very interested to see everyone’s profile, and they started guessing which profile belonged to whom. It was a neat team building moment.”
Johnson, who works as director of human resources for Abbott’s Diagnostic Division in the company’s Asia Pacific region, used another DISC system for years before switching to Extended DISC earlier this year. Johnson, who got in touch with Extended DISC through University Associates, was looking for a professional system that could fill a need Abbott, one of the world’s largest health care companies, had.
“I believe Extended DISC can serve our needs the best,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t say we use the system as an assessment tool, like many other human resource personnel seem to do, but as a development tool, and as such, Extended DISC has worked well. It provides a perspective on how our employees feel about themselves and it seems to do that task accurately.”
Johnson, who moved to Japan in 1995 and worked for Motorola before joining Abbott about two years ago, said Extended DISC is “packaged nicely and it is convenient to use. I also think this system is more focused on people’s personalities than the other DISC I used was. That system paid more attention to behavior than I believe Extended DISC does.”
She also likes the fact she can use Extended DISC herself – an aspect important to anyone working across the sea from the contact person – and stay self-sufficient. “Ease of use is an important thing for me,” Johnson said. “After I was trained to use Extended DISC, I have been able to do it without help. But if I do happen to have a question or a problem, I can count on Extended DISC’s customer support. That is a killer combination; to be able to run the system yourself, but at the same time, to be able to get help when you need it.”
Although Abbott, which has about 70,000 employees in 130 countries, uses other similar tools, such as a 360 performance appraisal tool, Johnson said Extended DISC plays an important role in her division’s human resource tool kit. “Extended DISC reports are nicely and clearly done and there’s a wide variety of personality profiles,” Johnson said. “Some other systems offer a more limited scale of profiles.”
Johnson, who introduced Extended DISC first to her division’s management group and is now working with the Asia Pacific Division’s five regional teams, said she would file Extended DISC under a “development tool.” She is interested in using the system for team development and building, as well as for individual employees’ development.
“One exemplary use is also related to trust between a company’s employees,” Johnson said. “When a new leader comes to the office, one idea is to ask him or her to share his or her Extended DISC profile with the firm’s employees. That can break the ice between the new boss and the employees, and it can also give the employees a chance to know a little bit about the boss’ personality.”
So far, Johnson has introduced “a few hundred employees” to Extended DISC, but her goal is to have almost 400 people take the assessment before the end of the year. “I just started this past summer and I am not rushing with this,” she said. “But on the other hand, I want both our bosses and their employees to answer the questionnaire, because I believe doing that will benefit the individuals, as well as our teams and the whole company.”
Johnson is not willing to guesstimate what kind of monetary gains her division – or the whole company – has gained from using Extended DISC. “Monetary gains are not the only benefits related to using Extended DISC, though,” Johnson, whose employer reached about $17.7 billion in annual sales last year, said. “Besides green dollars, we can also receive what I call ‘blue dollars.’ Improved relationships between the management and employees are blue dollars. Our teams are also likely to be more efficient when they know more about their individual team members and members of other teams. Basically, using Extended DISC can make us a more efficient company and a better place to work.”
Getting everyone interested in taking the questionnaire was not always easy, though, Johnson said. Some of her colleagues asked Johnson what she had in mind “this time,” when she asked a group of 15 managers to jot down their answers. “Their tone changed after taking the questionnaire, though,” Johnson said. “I gave them their results back about a week before we had a staff meeting, and they could hardly wait until the meeting to discuss their profiles. When I posted everyone’s results on that board at the meeting, it took only seconds before everyone basically rushed to the board to see better. After even the strongest skeptics saw how accurate the results were, they changed their opinions on Extended DISC. ”
Besides using the system as a development tool, Johnson is thinking about trying it as an intervention tool if one of the division’s teams is in trouble. “The company that will succeed will be the same one that has the best leadership and the best relationships between everyone in the company,” Johnson said. “And to be able to have good leadership and great relationships, everyone at the company needs to know themselves and be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. I believe the Extended DISC helps us raise our self-awareness and self-knowledge and understand others better, too.”