How I Use Color-Coding to Make the Most Out of My Team Members’ Strengths
Any team’s performance or a business ability to change is dictated by each individual’s approach to the same issue, process, situation. The challenge is that everyone reacts differently, at different pace.
Using colors to understand behavior resistance
Yes, like many psychology books, I also use colors to explain some behavior patterns that should be considered when aiming to increase your team’s performance or reduce resistance to change. Now, I am not a psychologist! I have, however, 15 years of experience deploying business change through culture capability enhancement.
So, the notes and hints I write about are proven approaches that worked for me and have been helping business owners and department leaders for years.
I am a passionate learner about behavior and business change and after much research and deployment trial and failure, trial and success, I am sharing my insights and recipe.
That said, you might find information about different behaviors in psychology books and, some may even illustrate different behaviors using colors. However, the color and some aspects may be different so have that in consideration when reading how I use color coding to illustrate behaviors. I use it as I find it easier to explain resistance, frustration, poor performance, or simply difficulties in tolerance to teenagers and my 8 and 10 year old daughter and son. After all, colors are something that many people understand regardless of age, culture, etc.
How colorful is your team?
I use four main colors to understand behavior trends:
BLUE - A BLUE is someone that is data driven, factual and completely moved by logic. So when dealing with a BLUE, no point explaining feelings and how people feel about his or her approach, as you will receive blank looks and will be a complete discredit to your ability as a leader, transformation agent or service provider.
Imagine you are deploying a process change, a BLUE in your team will be an absolute asset as they will be able to data display the problems, the solutions and the improvement trend. A challenge to master with a BLUE is to make them be happy with 80% of their ability to data display a result. This is because a BLUE tends to get tangled in their own way of seeing the world and become detail obsessed, overthinking things, making it hard to adhere to a schedule.
GREEN - A GREEN is someone that will be extremely time conscious. So much so that he/she even creates personal daily challenges to reach goals in a certain timeframe. In a team, a GREEN should hold the master plan and should be allowed to dictate the rhythm of the new deployment plan or set the bar for productivity. A GREEN will ensure targets are met and boxes are ticked.
The challenge at times is that time management becomes an obsession to the point that quality is overlooked and attention to detail is not in their comfort zone.
YELLOW - The YELLOWs have a commercial lense and have the ability to look at a solution and be already thinking on how to use it as well somewhere else. Known for their strategy ability and long term views, a YELLOW knows how to manage up extremely well. An outstanding story teller, a YELLOW, if their focus is channeled properly, they can convince anyone to the new way. If you are deploying a new idea, bring a YELLOW along to convince stakeholders. The daring and confident approach of a YELLOW will make the room completely sold on your new idea. The shortfalls of a YELLOW is that, as he/she can completely magnetize people, can also repel them in big style. Especially when managing down. It's love or hate! No middle ground.
Not necessarily good at reading a room, a YELLOW, can also sound like a cheesy salesman to the more veteran workers.
RED - A RED is the team member that, within seconds of arriving in a new place, knows anyone by name and has this unique ability to read body language. A RED knows exactly where the early adopters and detractors are and has this amazing skill to get along with everyone. So, if you have a RED in your team, make sure he/she will be supporting the deployment and convincing the difficult ones to come on board.
All this emotional intelligence comes with the price of not being known to adhere to a schedule or be very data driven. So, when it comes to productivity targets, probably they have the lowest scores. This has to do with their life mission to serve and get a client happy, no matter what. The best story of a RED I heard was a customer support staff that, due to a flight being canceled, spent hours looking after an elderly customer. So much so that that customer even wrote a recommendation and thank you letter for that outstanding service. At the same time, however, two colleagues alone were dealing with 400 other very upset customers…So, if you have a RED in your team, you should be asking yourself if their unique ability to spot resistance and difficulties is being used at all or they are just going through the motions and routine.
Now, this is not a set in stone rule. Some people don’t have a predominant color, but two. Or some people have such a great balance of the four that they manage to get along with everyone, be a top performer and be the one that everyone agrees deserves the promotion. But mastering a multi-color approach is less common than having a dominant one. So, it’s important you understand these behaviors when running a department, deploying a new idea or aiming to increase your team’s productivity.
How to make the most of a team’s performance using behavior
Here are some ideas to consider when using this idea of color coding in your approach to manage a team:
Aim to get results faster by allowing comfort zone to start with
If you have someone GREEN and a RED for example, ensure the success indicators have that in to account. For example, a GREEN can sell fast in x time (operations fast paced environment) but perhaps a RED should be in a complaints department where retention indicators are more in focus rather than time (operations slow paced environment).
Increase output by pairing colors
If a BLUE is great at data driven but finds it hard to use emotional intelligence and a RED is the complete other way around, pairing them, allows them to be a super employee. The best example of deployment of this I saw was in a bank in Australia where a CEO role was designed to be flexible and part timed by two completely different colors that complemented each other. So do make the most of the fact that employees' ability to look at the same issue differently can be an advantage.
Design career progress plans based on their ability to master different colors
An employee that learns to master and see different colors becomes more tolerant, more able to understand a business and its limitations, bringing the most out of others. All of these are aspects of a great leader, employee, colleague. So, why not use your creativity to include some career progression aspects using color?
Revise your recruitment process
Some of these can be detected at recruitment level with scenario and role play simulations. How people react will say much about their dominant color. As a recruiter or business owner or leader you will know, for example, that a quality analyst role given to a green or a red will result in a slow learning curve and placing a new employee set to fail from the start.
Use common sense
Even predominant color driven behaviors can be clouded by other circumstances such as family, upbringing etc. So be mindful of the FULL picture before going mad in using color driven process change.
Now that you must be wondering how colorful your team, clients, and colleagues are, it’s time to know how to make this knowledge useful.
Can your business perform better? Deploying any change will be easier and faster?
So, start asking yourself:
How well do I know the people I work with?
How well do I know my team?
How well do I know my customers?
What is my own dominant color? Is that affecting my ability to perform better? What should I be aiming to learn next?
Disclaimer: Apologies if some interpretations may offend a reader. I do rely on literal translation at times since English is a second language. My intention with this article is to spread awareness. I welcome your feedback to ensure I will not be constantly making the same errors in translation.
I also write about my own life ,professional experience and learning curve. I am a continuous improvement learner so I welcome you to share extra information and spread awareness with me if you have other ways of analyzing the same issues or you have value-added information to the readers of this article. Thank you for reading.