Understanding personality style preferences to generate greater outcomes.

By Laurie Thompson

Fall is a good reminder of the power of colour. To me, the spectacle of green, yellow, and red trees against a clear blue sky is autumn’s most redeeming feature.

We use a colour-based tool called Insights Discovery Colours Evaluation to understand our team’s different style preferences. This tool is based on Jungian theory and classifies people into 4 different colour energies: Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red. This combination of colours helps explain individual style preferences. Think about yourself and things you look forward to, things that give you energy AND things that you dread, that drain you. These things are unique to each of us.

Everyone at SW&A has completed an Insights Discovery Colours Evaluation to help us identify our style preferences, and we have our own spectacle of colours: Fiery Reds, Sunshine Yellows, Earth Greens and Cool Blues. Understanding our colour preferences helps us to see that everyone’s take on a situation is different based on our own personal bundle of experiences. And this is a great advantage. Embracing our diverse styles helps us avoid the pitfalls of groupthink where teams are unable or unwilling to present alternative points of view. It allows us to see situations through different lenses, leading us to smarter, more creative solutions

Everyone is a combination of all of the energies in differing degrees, but many people have a dominant colour. Here is a very brief, simplified explanation of preferences by Colour Energy.

  • Blue: Tends to be introverted, has a strong desire to know and understand the world around them. They like to think before they act and maintain a detached, objective viewpoint. In a few words: show no bias, objective, detached
  • Green: Tends to be introverted, focus on values and depth of relationships. They want others to be able to rely on them. In a few words: calm, loyal, personal
  • Yellow: Tends to be strongly extraverted. Has a positive outlook, focuses on building good relationships. In a few words: cheerful, spirited, buoyant
  • Red: Tends to be extraverted, has high energy, and a bias for action. In a few words: positive, assertive, bold

When you understand someone’s colour, whether client or colleague, you can communicate more effectively with them. For example:

  • Emails: What is the best way to get your message across — will more detail help or hinder? Would it be better to use an assertive or conciliatory tone? Take time to consider the style preference of your audience and tailor your email to mesh with their style.
  • Presentations: Imagine this – you are presenting to the technology team and you’ve opened with a pithy 1 page summary of key strategic implications. Before you get to slide 2, several hands raise for questions: “How did you get to that conclusion with the 25% fact at bullet #1? That’s not what I’ve seen in our internal stats; we’re closer to 32%.” Right away, it’s clear that you opened with the wrong slide. Conversely, starting a presentation to the Board of Directors with the top 25 facts on awareness, usage, and purchase levels would likely fall equally flat. Half the audience would be irritated by bullet #3 and the other half would be asleep. Instead, consider the style preferences of the teams you are presenting to and do your best to accommodate their styles. For instance, if you have a mix of Blues and Reds in the room, make make your oral presentation direct, concise, decisive but have a hand out or pre-read for the Blues with critical supporting facts for each implication. Whatever your solution, you’ve already shown respect for your audience by considering the best way to reach them.
  • Facilitation Sessions: Consider whether you have lots of Yellows bursting to chat and play team games or lots of Greens who dread team games but like the idea of turning to the person beside them and sharing. Choose the best mix of ice breakers, energizers, and exercises to bring out the best in everyone. It makes for a better day in the room and stronger output afterwards.