Workplaces and individuals face a variety of options when choosing the best development tools to improve performance. From personality tests to leadership assessments, there is no shortage of tools to evaluate us.
This article intends to compare the DiSC profiles assessment and the Clifton Strengths Assessment, weighing out the differences and providing a little history.

DiSC Profile Assessment Overview

The DiSC theory originated with American psychologist William Moulton Marston, who published the Emotions of Normal People in 1928. It established the Marston Model of the Four Dimensions of Behavior, which is based on directly discernable and quantifiable phenomena.
The theory derives its name from Marston’s four original dimensions called Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance which were later changed to:
• Dominance
• Influence
• Steadiness
• Conscientious

The primary objective of DiSC assessment results is to be a tool for measuring an individual’s behavior.
A person with a Dominance behavior style, for example, is “direct, forceful and outspoken with their opinions”. An Influence style is “outgoing, enthusiastic, and lively”. Steadiness describes someone who is “gentle, accommodating and patient with others”. Conscientious style is “logical, reserved and precise.”
The dimensions themselves are presented in a quadrant system that creates the DiSC Circle.

DiSC Profile Assessment Overview

DiSC Assessment Design

In the 1940s, industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke took Marston’s theory and turned it into a behavioral assessment tool. In its original form, individuals would fill out a checklist of adjectives they believed accurately described themselves. By the 1970s, the assessment had evolved into a self-description tool that featured a series of questions designed to force users to choose between two different descriptions to most accurately characterize themselves and the format still used today.
An individual’s assessment results fall somewhere on the continuum of the DiSC Circle. They receive the letter of their behavioral style D, I, S or C and then are shown their distance from the edges of the circle to see where they stand within their style’s quadrant (i.e., how firmly they connect with the characteristics of that style).
Since 1972, more than 50 million people have taken a DiSC assessment test.

Clifton Strengths Assessment Overview

Developed after over 25 years of research, psychologist and Father of Strengths Psychology Don Clifton introduced Clifton Strengths in 2001. The tool analyzes people’s skills, knowledge, abilities, attitudes and personality traits and categorizes them into 34 signature talent themes. In 2007, Strength Finder 2.0 was released and became the upgraded version of the assessment used today.
Rather than measure a person’s behavior as DiSC assessments are designed to do, Clifton Strengths gives teams and individuals an opportunity to discover their natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The tool itself is meant for development and coaching.

Each result moves beyond simple insight descriptors such as “people person” or “pays attention to details” to creating a language through which individuals can express who they are, what they need, what they give and what they value.

Strength Development Program

Clifton Strengths Assessment Design

The Clifton Strengths assessment is a timed, online measurement tool consisting of 177 paired statements. For each pairing, respondents choose which statement best describes themselves. Upon completion, they receive their Signature Themes report which presents their top 5, or five most dominant themes, out of the 34 possible options. There are 278,256 possible combinations of Top 5 themes and more than 33 million different sets of Signature Themes, so each result is unique to that individual.

To date, the Clifton Strengths assessment has more than 25 million individuals who understand their innate talents.

Performance through Strengths Based Coaching

Both Assessments Are Accurate; Clifton Strengths Is More Eloquent

As outlined above, DiSC assessment types are based on Marston’s Four Dimensions of Behavior, while Clifton Strengths is based on 34 personality themes.
Behavior defines how someone acts, which can be more situational. For example, if someone is taking a DiSC assessment for their work, they may not be thinking about how they act in a different setting. Therefore, there are actually many different DiSC assessment and report offerings such as Everything DiSC Sales Profile; Everything DiSC Management Profile; Everything DiSC Productive Conflict; and Everything DiSC 363 for Leaders.
Clifton Strengths does not measure a state; rather, it measures a person’s traits. It is a development tool that applies to all facets of life. While with DiSC it may be easier to remember your one letter for your behavioral style, knowing your top 5 themes gives you real insight into your talents.
For example, knowing someone has Arranger in their top 5 indicates to a peer, coach or friend that they can “organize, but also have a flexibility that complements this ability. Arrangers like to figure out how all the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.”

But this theme is different from someone with Responsibility. An Arranger is like a juggler who momentarily touches all the balls; Responsibility is like a football player who tenaciously holds onto the ball. These subtle distinctions demonstrate the value of knowing your Clifton Strengths Signature Themes versus your DiSC behavioral style.


DiSC results provide a broad awareness of your behavior style, for example, are you forceful or logical? But after acquiring this knowledge, further work is needed to understand the subtleties between two people who work with the same general style.
Clifton Strengths provides a personalized report which gives the insights about your combination of dominant talents that can be utilized in tasks that result in achieving consistent positive outcomes.
Many organizations use both instruments. Even with the applicability of Clifton Strengths, coaching is still a necessary step toward improving performance. However, the Clifton Strengths assessment not only provides context for performance development, it builds a common language within an organization to shed light on studying what’s right with people.
Taymour Miri
Taymour Miri is an ICF master coach and a Gallup certified strengths coach and more recently one of the first 136 coaches worldwide to be awarded an Advanced Certificate in Team Coaching. He has 30 years’ experience in leadership roles and 20 years of experience in coaching. Taymour has trained over 1,500 coaches across five continents and is the founder of International Coaching Education (ICE).