Managing people in the workplace can be very rewarding yet extremely challenging, depending on a whole host of factors- some within our control, others not so much.
I’ve had some great moments managing people, watching and helping them achieve their goals, but I’ve also made my fair share of mistakes over the years. I’m grateful for both sets of experiences and to quote a famous random saying,
"Mistakes are not a problem, not learning from them is."
When you make that move into managing people, most organisations will send you on a whole host of courses to level you up and prepare you for the rocky road ahead. Some of these courses can become tiresomely formulaic, to say the least, however, now and then there will be something you learn that strikes a chord and introduces a new perspective.
That lightbulb moment for me was learning of different peoples' colour temperament and learning how to manage them accordingly.
It’s not to say that this way of categorising people’s behaviour is revolutionary, and it’s something we all do subconsciously to a degree, however being aware of it and purposefully tailoring how you communicate because of it can be a very powerful tool in your arsenal.
The basic premise is that a colour can summarise most people's personalities, and with it, the colour carries a list of traits an individual would typically possess, which sets out a route for approaching that person to get the best result.
We’ve all had those moments when we’ve approached someone unprepared only to be caught out as we didn’t anticipate a certain line of questioning. Taking some time to think about your audience, tailoring your approach to what they will respond to, and being accordingly prepared will help you communicate with them in a far more effective manner.
Below is a very top level way in which I now analyse people that I have to manage or work with on a daily basis, it helps me tailor my approach accordingly.
Traits: Empathetic, Patient, Personable, Encouraging,
Approach: 1 on 1 meetings and regular catch ups are ideal. Take time to not always dive head first into a work conversation, ask them how they are, how they are feeling, build a friendly rapport.
Approach tough subjects with sensitivity, be tactful.
Traits: Analytical, Formal, Questioning, Precise,
Approach: Be prepared and armed with the facts and figures to back up your point unless you want to get caught out. A free flowing conversation may not always be easy so a little more prompting may be needed although they will produce good focused work when set on the right path.
Traits: Creative, Freethinkers, Resourceful, Enthusiastic,
Approach: Include them in the decision making process, have a joint conversation, try to solve the issues together but be careful to keep the conversation on track as it can tend to wander. They are great at coming up with new ideas and ways to tackle issues but don’t like being dictated to..
Traits: Competitive, Purposeful, Strong Willed, Driven,
Approach: Get to the point and produce the headline facts or figures promptly with actions to take away and get moving on. The story behind it all is sometimes irrelevant, they want to know what's happening and how we make it better going forward.. They are not afraid to speak their minds or challenge you.
You & your team
As soon as I’d learnt of the colour temperaments, I couldn’t resist categorising both myself and everyone in my team to see what colour or combination of colours best fitted all our personalities. The next step was to discuss my analysis with them and ask for their assessment of me. It was a great tool for instigating an honest conversation with the group and we had a great deal of fun, plus came away armed with valuable insights into how we could all communicate more effectively.
Thinking outside of your immediate team you will start to notice certain departments in your workplace will have more of a certain colour temperament, demonstrating certain job roles attract a certain type of personality.
I can safely say that within the group where I learnt this technique certain individuals displayed a reluctance to ever assign themselves to the red category. Maybe it’s the negative connotations associated with the colour red, who knows, but people tended to see even the positive attributes as slightly negative. Traits such as driven and competitive seemed to be less desirable than those traits associated with the blue (empathetic, personable) and orange (creative, enthusiastic) colours. I put myself in both the blue and orange categories only to be shocked when told by my team that they saw me as red. There was a great sense of self-realisation in this, comparing what I thought I was projecting and what people in my team actually saw. Not only did I learn how to tailor my approach towards my team depending on who I was interacting with, but also to look at myself to assess what I projected on a daily basis and whether I was comfortable with this or desired to change.
Colour temperaments are a great way to quickly assess your team and give you a great point of reference if you are ever stuck with how to get the best out of someone. It’s not just managers who can benefit from them either, everyone in the workplace can get something from this to help them to deal with fellow colleagues or even situations outside of the workplace.
Do remember that this is just a point of reference and should be used in conjunction with good judgement, it’s not a complete one size fits all, unfortunately. It will aid you in better management of your team and could also come in very handy when stepping into the boardroom with your manager pitching for that next pay rise.