Each month, Grant Mazmanian gets a call from a contractor who exclaims: “I've got a production guy who's a great change-order guy. I want to make him a salesman. Man, he'd make a good salesman — look at all the work he brings in!”

And every month, Mazmanian, of Pinnacle Group International, in Media, Pa., patiently pulls the production guy's profile —based on DiSC and PIAV assessment tools — and compares it with hundreds of remodeling salesperson profiles in his database.

Inevitably, Mazmanian tells the owner it isn't a match. His production guy is a “warm call” salesman. While he's very capable (he loves to please customers), he doesn't have the high assertiveness, or “D” personality trait, to cold-call prospects.

In fact, the production guy is afraid of customers.

Mazmanian suggests that the production guy take a Saturday to try selling. “They realize it's not for them, and no status is lost,” Mazmanian says.

What makes Mazmanian, a certified professional behavior analyst, so certain of the qualities of his client's employees is a combination of experience and tools. He has been working with contractors for 15 years and uses the DiSC, a behavioral profiling tool used since 1945 on about 20 million people, and the PIAV, a 20-year-old personal interests, attitudes, and values assessment that measures why people act the way they do and what drives them.

Very quickly, often within hours if they're taken online, assessment tools like the DiSC and the PIAV provide detailed behavioral and values feedback to help build productive teams, develop effective leaders, train sales forces, improve customer service, and ease frustrations and interpersonal conflict.

Some view such tools as voodoo. “No damn computer can tell said one production DiSC profiling for years, but who is now a devotee. They wonder how answering a short question set (24 questions for DiSC; 12 for PIAV) can pinpoint their operating style. But it does. Real and anecdotal evidence proves that these tools work well — uncannily well.

“We wrestled with things like, ‘Is this manipulation?' But it's good manipulation,” says Mark Scott, of Mark IV Builders, Bethesda, Md., who has worked with Ruhmann Associates of Raleigh, N.C., for seven years on DiSC and PIAV assessments. “It's more communication than manipulation. We have a hard enough time doing our jobs. Why not use a tool that makes it easier?”

Tough Guys Finish First Joe Almendarez, a field superintendent with Mark IV, admits that he's an exacting person. “Don't give me theory, give me fact,” he says. Andy Hannan, his production manager, puts it another way. “Joe was a tough employee.” Almendarez is the oldest superintendent on a 15-employee production team and has very defined values of what he believes. He was a loner who didn't like group situations. But working with DiSC and PIAV assessments, Hannan learned Almendarez's communication style, which was very unlike those of his younger superintendents. Slowly, Almendarez came to understand the team's communication styles, and they learned his. “The hardest thing we've done is getting him involved in the team,” says Hannan. “Now, they wouldn't do without him.”

Key to the solution was the team's “Do and Don't List,” a brief compilation of communication styles, obtained from their Ruhmann Associates assessments (see “ Contractor Cue Cards”).

If there's a conflict now, “we sit them down and we say, ‘Here's Joe's Dos and Don'ts and here's Paul's Dos and Don'ts,'” Scott says. “And within 30 seconds, whatever is an issue between them is gone. It eliminates the BS.”

Almendarez says he carries everyone's Do and Don't list in his briefcase. He pulls the list out as needed.

Rich Ruhmann of Ruhmann Associates says Do/Don't lists can be powerful, because they quickly show how people with different communication styles can talk to one another, be understood, and solve problems. Many contractors, he notes, are high “Ds” on the DiSC assessment tool — very quick at decision-making and very direct. Yet production employees tend toward the “S” side — they're steady, organized, tremendous team players who dislike conflict and sudden change. Interacting with high “Ds” is loaded with potential conflict, because the high “D” challenges everything.