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Let me colour you…

November 26, 2009

The Colour Coding Theory is a modern day buzz. So when my (then) employer announced a Colour Coding training session, I eagerly seized the opportunity.

The session was targeted at co-workers who deal with clients on a regular basis. It started out with the key question: How is it possible that some colleagues manage to productively interact with clients, while others miserably fail?

The answer (of course) lies in the fact that successful colleagues know how to naturally shift their personal colour palettes to mirror the clients’ own. Whereas the rest of us, well —we just don’t.

The Whole Brain Model

The Colour Coding Theory is loosely based on the The Whole Brain Dominance Model by William (Ned) Herrmann. This model describes our preferences in thinking and (inter)acting. It specifies our preferences into four categories, colour coding them: yellow, red, green and blue.

The Whole Brain Model (diagram)

The diagram depicts on which level each colour type prefers interacting with others. Though it’s all stated quite boldly, it’s not a judging contest and there’s no right or wrong here. These are just the areas in which each type tends to peak.

Characterising the colours

Here’s a little of what I’ve learned on the characterisation of the colour types.

Yellows. Okay, if you look at the diagram again, you’ll see that the yellow types are quite intellectual and conceptual. They love expressing themselves in broad strokes and general metaphors. But on the whole they’re incapable of working out the details.

Best a
pproach: Do ask in-depth questions and don’t bother them with details. Know that you’ll have to work that out on your own.

Reds. Then there are the reds. The outgoing types who love to connect. They love people, they breathe people. And they hate anything that’s constrictive.

Best a
pproach: Do be social and open. Don’t focus on procedures and facts.

Greens. The greens are a bit old school. They love things to be organised in a certain structure. If it isn’t, they’ll organise it themselves. They abhor nonsensical babbling.

Best a
pproach: Do be practical and clear in naming the goals that are to be achieved. And please don’t act chummy on your first interaction. That’s a definite no-no.

Blues. The blues are commonly the analytical types. They adore statistics and hate fussiness and theatrics.

Best a
pproach: Do be formal and factual. Don’t ever make promises that you can’t keep. And don’t beat around the bush.

Green old me

Taking myself as an example: I’ve got quite some red in me, a dash of yellow and I suspect very little blue. Overall I tend to peak more in the green. Though at first glance I might come off as a scatterbrain, I’m very good at creating structure. Especially where analysing and structuralising information is concerned and translating this into clear crisp writing.

On the downside, I’m a sucker for details. I can really loose myself in the simple weighing of words and rhythm. And many a times to the dismay of many a colleague, I can be a scrutinising perfectionist.

Green seems to colour most educators, librarians, documentalists and such likes. Fellow data-mongers who love digging into piles and piles of information. With the sole purpose of creating a clean-cut structure.

Best approach: Do present me with clear goals. Don’t give me mumbo jumbo and don’t constrict me. And I’m good to go.

What’s the trick?

You’ve now got a rough idea about the colours and their characters. The trick to all this is simple. Use the Colour Coding Theory to your advantage when interacting with either clients or putting together a good team.

Clients. If you peg a client to be a blue-type, don’t go wasting his time with trivial small talk. Just present him with the information and numbers he needs and you’ve got yourself a bull’s eye.

A good team. When putting together a team, the project purpose is the guideline. Depending on what you want, you gather the qualities you need to achieve your goals. You not only look at professional abilities; but with the colour coding, you also look at the characters you throw together.

It’s like a chemical experiment. Put together the wrong characters, you can totally blow up a project. While a perfect mixture leads to a wonderful energising chemistry.

Mumbo jumbo

Some of you may find the Colour Coding Theory pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo. You’re probably right. For what you’re actually doing is simply mirroring your contact. And that’s an old trick.

In the end it all boils down to plain common sense combined with experience. The theory is just a means to an end. Helping children of the lesser gods, like myself, in pegging our contacts. Or in putting together a good team.

You might be interested in these related links.

LinkedIn discussions:

The Primary Colors of Management
How do you know you have the right team?
Take The Color Code Test
How do you determine a client’s personality?

Video presentation (YouTube)

Ned Hermann, Brain Dominance introduced in Copenhagen, 1980 Part 1
(Please use headphones — low quality sound)

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