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Never judge a book by its colour

Posted by Paula Fifield on 10th May 2019

You walk into a business function that consists of 100 people. Now, what if 99 of those people clearly find you likeable but one person makes it equally clear that they really don’t like you at all. Would you congratulate yourself on making a fantastic impression on the vast majority or would you privately pull yourself apart about that one person who didn’t like you, wondering what you did wrong and feeling like an utter failure? 

If it’s the latter, you’re probably like me — a green personality type. Like Kermit the Frog famously said, ‘It’s not easy being green’ (though I’m not sure whether this was a direct result of personality training or he was simply referring to his epidermis…).

I AM PREDICTABLE. AND SO ARE YOU.

During a recent training session on Insights Discovery, which looks into personality types, the trainer kept presenting situations like the one described above…just casually throwing them out there, one after the other, while I sat increasingly mortified that I am just so PREDICTABLE! 

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there weren’t colleagues of the other three ‘colour persuasions’ sitting around the table looking equally shocked, embarrassed or amused when the trainer managed to fit their entire psychological stamp into a few words, but still… m.o.r.t.i.f.i.e.d.

However, having now de-greened and looking at things a bit more objectively, the benefits of the colour training have subsequently come into sharp focus!

One of my personal ‘greenisms’ (yes, yes, just because we share a colour doesn’t mean there are not a multitude of shades, my friend…) is an ability to appreciate the contribution each personality type brings to the team. The blues with their analytical and process-driven approach, the reds with their fiery energy and focus to get things done as efficiently and swiftly as possible, and the yellows with their creativity and glass half-full outlook.

SALE YOUR COLOURS 

Our MD Debby Penton wrote about this subject back in 2016, but after this recent refresher course which involved some of our newer recruits, we’ve reaffirmed internally that teams of mixed personality types operate more efficiently and successfully across both client services and sales. The mix ensures that a broader range of perspectives are considered, which generally leads to reduced risk and a more balanced outcome.  

In B2B sales situations where the purchase is of high strategic importance and high commercial value (which tends to apply equally to PR and to sales of technology!) the average number of people involved in the decision is five. As such, it’s very likely you’ll encounter a mix of personality types and trying to identify these in advance will most definitely offer some competitive advantage. 

A good rule of thumb is to engage any reds and yellows first as this personality type tends to have less of an appetite for detail but wants to be inspired and convinced quickly that the engagement both in the short and longer terms is going to be of value. Once the big picture has been set, supplying more detail and proof of success for the blues in the room whilst ensuring you remain personable and authentic for the greens is a decent game plan. 

NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COLOUR

There are of course risks in categorising people and making assumptions – even in the simplest of ways i.e. men, women, people that wear socks and sandals together or Man Utd supporters. All greens are not the same, nor are all people who wear socks and sandals together, although let’s face it… no, nope and – why would you even…?! As such, I urge my teams to take the colour categories with a modicum of salt. 

Personality colours are fun, and they can be extremely valuable, but human beings are messy creatures. An individual is very capable of flipping over to their opposite colour on the Insights wheel when under a lot of pressure. If you’re unlucky enough to encounter a prospective client in this stressed state during a sales situation, ensure you’ve prepared sufficiently to be flexible in your delivery — that way, you can avoid ever feeling like an actual Muppet 🐸

Paula Fifield

Paula began working with the agency in 2007 as Business Development Director and was appointed as a board director in 2011. Prior to Wildfire, Paula worked at Sun Microsystems, Orange and Morse Group in a range of marketing, customer relationship management and business development roles.

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