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Thought Leadership 31 May 2016

The rules of living colourfully

Even if you’re only on day one of your journey with Insights, you probably already know about the colour energies.

You remember - Fiery Red, Sunshine Yellow, Earth Green and Cool Blue energies. They’re the colourful basis of almost everything that we teach because they’re fundamental to understanding ourselves – and others too.

We know that once you’ve enjoyed your Insights Discovery workshop and gone back to your desks it can be hard to really live what you’ve learned. It’s only natural that when the phone is ringing, your inbox is full and you’ve got three meeting scheduled for the same 45 minutes that other things slip down your list of priorities. So now that you’re back in real life, let’s look at some of the basic ground rules of living colourfully.

It’s all about the colourmix

While you’ll probably have a natural affinity for one colour energy over the others, every single one of us is a mix of all four colour energies. How we show up on any given day is down to a lot of factors – the situation we’re in, how stressed we are, who we’re with, what we’re working on, how we want to be perceived (or not).

Nobody is any one thing; human beings are not that simplistic. We’re all made up of four colour energies, which we can dial up and down, just like the graphic equaliser on your old stereo.

Your colourmix is a reason, never an excuse

Let’s imagine that you’re someone with dominant Sunshine Yellow energy and very little Cool Blue. Does that mean you’re no good at detail, process and tasks that require concentration? Of course not!What it does mean is that you will become more effective if you can learn how to work in a way that suits you. That might mean working on detailed documents for short bursts, interspersed with chats over coffee or tasks that need teamwork. Or perhaps you need to squirrel yourself away in a meeting room, or perhaps work from home, so that you get fewer interruptions and can focus more easily.

Whatever it is, it’s in your best interests to find it. You’ll work more effectively, deliver better results and feel more satisfied with your job. As alternatives go, crying ‘but I’ve got too much Sunshine Yellow energy, I can’t possibly write that code/create that spreadsheet/use that new database' aren’t going to serve you, your team, or those stereotypes very well.

Your unique colourmix may be the reason you behave the way you do – but don’t use it as an excuse to stop you being great at unexpected things.

Your colourmix describes you – it doesn’t define you

And while we’re on this subject, it’s sensible to guard against pigeonholing – both because, well, people hate that, and because your colourmix may be a pretty accurate description of you, but it is not the only definition of you.

Your colour energy order isn’t a static thing. Rather, it is a fluid thing - in constant flux, there to be used to tackle any situation you find yourself in. Therefore, stereotyping and pigeonholing is reductive and inherently unhelpful. Don’t accept it when others do it to you, and definitely don’t reduce others in that way. Embrace the colourmix!

No colour shaming allowed

At Insights, we talk a lot about kindness and being respectful of the preferences of others. And I don’t want to take us back to our schooldays, but here’s a rule for life – no teasing!

If you’ve only got one team member with a preference for Cool Blue energy, don’t use your collective extraverted preference to make him or her feel bad about that. No laughing ‘Steve won’t want to come out for a drink, he’ll be too busy at home alphabetising his bookshelves’. Similarly if you’ve got a colleague who displays a lot of Sunshine Yellow energy, leave out the ‘Let’s not invite Susan to the meeting; we need to make some tough decisions, not waste time on impractical ideas’.

If you note one thing from your Insights Discovery Personal Profile, make it this: the language we use in the profile is uniformly positive. While we don’t shy away from pointing out weaknesses, we’re out to make people feel empowered to change, not shame them into change. That’s not how people work.

This is just the beginning

Learning about your own colourmix, and that of your colleagues, is a starting point in a long conversation of learning and development – it’s not an end point where you’ve suddenly got everyone figured out.  So take your lead from us, and appreciate the beautiful colourmix that’s all around you.

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