By Karen Schumacher
Karen is a Real Colors® Master Facilitator and owner of Crescendo Leadership Development where she seeks to grow leaders through consulting, coaching, and training.
In the early stages the COVID-19 Pandemic, one of my customers asked me for help as they were trying to strategically plan for precautions internally for their office. As I met with the owner and his leadership team to strategize, they were, like many people and companies…freaking out. I noticed most of them were not behaving in their Primary Colors. This group’s colors are:
CEO = High ORANGE/GREEN
CFO = GOLD/ GREEN
COO = GOLD/ORANGE
Directors are GREEN/GOLD
**Each have BLUE as their lowest color. Which is why they use me to help remind them of what BLUES need!
Normally I facilitate these discussions, but during this meeting I sat back and listened. This group of leaders have been working together for a long time and usually balance each other out. Not on this day. They were not in sync and definitely not listening to each other.
I finally stopped the meeting and asked, “Who in here feels out of control?” One by one each of them raised their hands. I asked why and what exactly felt out of control for them. As they gave their answers, I took notes. Here’s what we learned:
- It came back to their Real Colors. For each leader in that room, they had shifted out of their Primary Colors and were all over the place. For each of them it seemed their GREEN was overwhelmed with data coming in from too many sources. They were having a hard time discerning what was factual and what was not. Because of that, they didn’t know what data to use to drive a solution that made sense for their employees and their business. As they listened to me say that, they shook their heads in agreement. Top that with something that’s probably new for many of them…leading with their BLUE. Individually and collectively this group’s BLUE is low, and yet, that’s what was coming out. I heard empathy oozing out of their statements and in their voices. They were concerned about their families, their employees, their customers first– not about the company. Because BLUE was everyone’s lowest color, it felt different for it to come to the forefront. Two of them agreed and even jokingly asked how to make it stop. 😊
- For a couple of them their ORANGE was coming out where it normally didn’t as they were asking what they could do to make this fun for everyone. Some of them suggested they send people home and declare it as “family game day” or “clean your house day” and don’t come to work. They were trying to make light of a serious situation.
- Finally, to satisfy their GOLD they adapted established policies and practices to keep their people safe and healthy. The communicated new processes to their customers and took control of what was happening. It was really the only thing they could control.
Before giving tips on using Real Colors to communicate through a crisis, we want to take a moment and recognize there are many organizations and industries that are struggling. We send our genuine condolences. And for all of you, we hope this helps you and your team navigate through this situation successfully.
BLUES need to know everyone will be okay.
- Ask them to create a needs assessment for employees. One of my customers had their team create a list of high-risk employees and there is a volunteer group who picks up items needed from the grocery store once a week for them if their families can’t. Additionally, they can reach out to remote employees via phone or text to make sure everyone is okay and no one feels abandoned or alone.
- Since many people are suddenly working from home, a few people are the keepers of the birthday and anniversary list. It is the responsibility of these BLUES to make sure that everyone whose birthday or anniversary comes up gets a special email to the department wishing them well. (They are having way too much fun with this by the way.)
- Be empathetic. Be sincere. Be nice.
GOLDS need to be able to create processes and put checkpoints in place to ensure the organization continues to run smoothly.
- Ask them to help create procedures for working from home or a current/future disaster recovery plan.
- Have them identify ways to measure success and review the current company goals. Task GOLDS to identify what needs to shift and change so people can feel like they accomplished something amidst the chaos.
- Be positive. Be specific. Be honest.
GREENS need to help solve problems, and they are good at helping research information.
- Ask them to research and decipher best solutions for specific problems. There are many programs out there to help organizations, and GREENS would excel at researching the options.
- Have GREENS partner with other colors to understand other ideas and ask greens to help find a way to make them work.
- Be confident. Be direct. Be smart.
ORANGES need to know the vision for both themselves and the company.
- Ask them to think of ways to do business differently whether that’s delivering products, communicating with customers, working from home, etc. ORANGES thrive on change and will excel at this challenge.
- Have them help define winning and success for themselves and their teams. They will influence others so, let them help define where the organization is going next.
- Be energetic. Be positive. Be engaging.
Remember, you have all four colors in you. The above information isn’t meant to stereotype, but it’s meant to remind us we have preferences for communication, how we process change, how we interact, and how stress affects us.
If you’d like more information on communication through a crisis or activities that apply Real Colors language and concepts to social distancing, virtual communication, and virtual meetings, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help!