This is the first in a two-part series on the concept of personality colors, taken from Dr. Geller’s new book, “Leading People-Based Safety.™”

Several years ago, I had one-to-one conversations with top executives of a large Fortune 100 company. Each VIP office was spacious and uniquely luxurious. I did notice one common feature — on every mahogany desk sat a brass plaque with the executive’s name and a colored circle. After three interviews, I realized each color on the three nameplate circles was different.

Sure I was curious about these colored circles, and I asked my host to explain. He said each color identifies one of four distinct perspectives and personalities. In other words, each color represents the person’s true character. He then went on to describe the personality characteristics of each color — Orange, Green, Blue and Gold.

He and his colleagues are convinced the most productive and synergistic teams include representation from each of the four personality colors.

Personality characteristics
If you were asked to describe your personality, you could undoubtedly list a number of unique qualities you perceive in yourself as compared to others. And you could also list a number of behaviors, attitudes and life events that are influenced by your personality, and vice versa. In other words, we cannot deny certain aspects of our personalities — attributes, dispositions and tendencies — influence our ongoing actions and our interpretations of those actions. Needless to say, this can be a valuable tool for leaders, first to assess their own personality, and then the diverse nature of their fellow workers.

Four personality colors
The most prominent personality theorists and researchers, from Hippocrates to Carl Jung and Myers/Briggs, have classified people into four groupings. Professor of psychology David Keirsey, for example, developed the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which identifies individuals as one of four different types of temperaments. In 1978, Don Lowry, who became interested in Keirsey’s work, introduced the notion of four personality colors. In ’78, he founded True Colors Inc., a program that identifies personality and career types according to the archetypes set forth by the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. True Colors makes Keirsey’s psychological theory more “real world” by assigning each personality type to a corresponding color.

The True Colors® program has workshop participants identify themselves using four colors: Blue, Gold, Green or Orange. Each color has particular strengths and each analyzes, conceptualizes, understands, interacts and learns differently.

In the spring of 2004, LBC Global (now True Colors International) acquired True Colors®. Thousands of teachers, human resource managers, parents, students and corporations have attended seminars, stage shows and the True Colors® University, read related books, and become certified as True Colors® facilitators.

By showing us how we are inherently different from others, Lowry’s concept of personality colors facilitates mutual appreciation and support of people’s values, attitudes and behaviors.

Grouping desirable attributes
A particularly attractive quality of this approach of “coloring” one’s personality is the use of only positive characteristics. According to Wikipedia, here is a brief sketch of Lowry’s four-color system (with particular attention to how the colors would play out on a safety team or group):

Golds are practical and sensible, and favor structure and organization. Regarding industrial safety, Golds are detail-oriented and appreciate the need for governmental rules and regulations (i.e., OSHA and MSHA), and they support the traditional “discipline” approach to mandatory compliance.

Blues are empathetic, reflective, aware people. They believe in loyalty and belongingness. I believe Blues are most receptive to People-Based Safety™ because of their attention to person factors beyond behavior, including emotions, feelings, interpersonal trust, belongingness and actively caring.

Greens are determined and persistent. They are apt to resist change — if change is not supported by theory and data. They tend to value information above feelings in making decisions. In terms of safety, you’d want a mix of Greens on your team to evaluate ideas and suggestions on the basis of the evidence — not “flavor-of-the-month” marketing hype.

Oranges are competitors. They have a strong urge to act now, to win, to succeed. In terms of your safety committee or team, you would want to include some Orange types because they tend to throw themselves into projects, and they would work hard for the project’s success.

Next month: Personality traits versus states.