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Color me direct.  Ever wonder why some people react in unexpected ways to your

communications – or maybe on reflection, your style was completely misinterpreted?

Cate Lawrence, founder of Lawrence Research Associates, recalls a personal

confrontation in which a co-worker had accused her of everything from acting

behind his back to conspiring to get him fired. Lawrence conducted a work session

on Saturday (Jan. 24, 2009) at the University of Colorado’s Wolf Law Building in front

of about 30 men and women from all professional walks.

The two eventually ironed out their differences, but not before Lawrence had spent

months undoing the damage of a misunderstanding that actually was intended as a

respectful gesture. Lawrence has a style that respects other’s time. Until the incident,

she was not in the habit of reporting lack of news. Her silence was interpreted as an

evil plot.

Color Lawrence structured and systematic

Lawrence uses a system of recognizing personality types that are coded with rainbow colors. According to an online analysis completed in minutes, I’m red, which means I’m direct, task oriented, and outspoken. Picture a hammer.

I could have been the co-worker who became paranoid when a team member had not reported developments over a course of weeks. (That would be unsettling for a red like me – but I’m getting help.)

Lawrence is a yellow. When dealing with yellows, picture a blinking yellow light. She wants information and needs to know why. My question is usually “what’s in it for me and is it going to waste my time?”

About 10 minutes into explaining her color wheel, Lawrence offers another real-life example. While speaking, she noted, supposed listeners may be thinking of other things, distracted, playing role games or otherwise disengaged. About the role playing, she went back to her college days when she worked in a kitchen to help pay for her graduate studies. She says she looked the part of kitchen help and students would stroll through the kitchen giving her one-word orders such as over-easy, hard boiled.

“I thought of myself as a graduate student, but to them I was a kitchen appliance,” Lawrence quipped. Lesson: perceived roles are important to engagement.

The relationship approach is billed as “Management by Strengths, A Team Building Program.” Lawrence explains the traits of the four personality styles to help attendees understand the colors they were assigned in their online analysis that scored responses to questions. Through MBS, attendees learn how they can adjust their temperament to play roles and achieve goals. Lawrence claims tempering traits to fit the traits of others is extremely effective for sales people and anyone who needs to be more persuasive. Apparently, I need to keep working on tempering some of the red traits. I’m not just red, I’m fire-engine red.

The work session provides two exercises. In one exercise people of the same stripe huddle and come up with descriptions of how they can be recognized and how they want to be persuaded. (Easy task: Reds are the ones who can’t shut up. We’re also the confident ones other reds find attractive.)

A second exercise requires attendees to pair up and try and walk in the shoes of other colors – not as easy as it sounds, I would learn. I found it very awkward trying to avoid swinging my red hammer long enough to get my points across.

I was grateful for having been paired up with the helpful Kimberly Cohen  (a red) of Liberty Mutual in Highlands Ranch. She patiently counseled as I stumbled through my attempt to wear blue. Blue fit over my personality like something from the boy’s section. (I’m a very stocky 5’10”.)

I thought it was going to be easy having worked with creatives whom I could recall are indeed harmonious, fond of stability and generally “blue sky”-thinking “nut jobs.” (Think of a long fuse.) This, however, was one time I couldn’t look at the clock and then proceed to steam roll a co-worker. My assignment was to be persuasive. (I felt this strong urge to get to the bottom line: we’re on a deadline!)

I have rough edges, needless to say. Thank goodness it was an exercise. I found myself rambling and desperately trying to find the right words sharks use to speak to tunas. I can imagine myself becoming very frustrated with Lawrence’s “polyphasic thinking” as I take repeated stabs at trying to persuade her she needs a communication analysis.

The exercise was doubly beneficial for me because I also learned that my elevator presentation on my business needs work, too. Thanks, Kimberly and Cate. (Back to the MBS textbook for me.)

January 27th, 2009 - Raymond Alvarez 
Review: Management by Strengths Boot Camp

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