Blue, red, yellow and green hold insights to improve communication and emotional intelligence

Are you an INTJ or an ENFP? Are you the Achiever or the Challenger? Or, are you made up of four main colors—fiery red, sunshine yellow, cool blue and earth green? 

When it comes to personality assessments, there’s the Strengths Finder, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Enneagram, DISC and dozens, if not hundreds, more. Chances are, you’ve taken one of these and might even know your “type.” The Daniels College of Business utilizes the color-based Insights Discovery System® as a tool for improving business communication and emotional intelligence. 

“We call it seeing the world in color,” said Amanda Cahal, director of MBA global programs and adjunct faculty member in Daniels’ Executive Education.

Rooted in the psychological theories of the late Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, Insights was developed specifically for the workplace. Insights delves into a person’s attitudes and functions—introversion, extroversion, thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition—but unlike the popular (and also Jungian-based) Myers-Briggs, Insights differentiates which qualities are innate preferences versus ramped up according to job function, team dynamics or work environment.

Daniels uses Insights because it’s visual and easy for people and their team members to remember. That’s important because when teams speak a common language about communication preferences and can develop awareness of themselves and others, they can adapt their behaviors to others’ preferences to increase camaraderie and team effectiveness—and avoid clashes of perspectives in the boardroom, operating room or lunch room. The methodology is used in organizations worldwide; is available in 30 languages; and provides a simple, yet powerful framework for understanding your own and others’ personality preferences, communication styles and leadership qualities.

Decoding the Color Wheel

Each color carries a distinct energy. After taking the assessment—a 25-frame survey where respondents select their preferences from a professional perspective among 100 word pairs—participants receive a personalized 20-page report, including a hierarchy of color preferences and detailed strengths, weaknesses, and communication and management styles.

Someone with high blue energy is typically knowledgeable, detail-oriented and has great follow-through. A person with high green energy is seen as patient, caring, encouraging and supportive. Both are introverted energies. High yellow is associated with social, enthusiastic and persuasive energy, whereas high red usually means the person is driven, competitive and action-oriented. Research shows the colors are evenly divided across society, without biases according to gender or nationality. People do, however, adapt their energies to succeed within cultural norms.

“You’re not the same all the time,” Cahal said. “You respond to your environment, to the people around you and what we think we need to do well to be successful.”

This might mean that a person with blue-dominant energy ramps up their extroverted, yellow energy to fit into a more social role or environment. If yellow is not a preferred energy for that person, it could be more draining for that person to be “on” at work every day. Whereas other personality tools can pigeonhole a person into one exacting type, Insights considers the nuanced preferences and energy combinations we can all display across various scenarios. Leaders and team members need to be mindful of these dynamics when managing themselves and others.

“It’s a continuum that’s based on your preferences, not your skills,” said Cahal. “It’s less about the type and more about the individual.”

For that reason, the instrument requires that participants receive a post-assessment debrief by a certified Insights instructor. At Daniels, that includes Cahal and about 10 other faculty members. The debrief incorporates psychology, interpersonal communication and business theory into what feels like a personal life-coaching session.

The Benefits

Insights demonstrates high statistical validity. In addition to a curricular component within several Daniels graduate business programs, Executive Education offers both public and custom Insights programs as continuing education for corporate clients.

In the four-hour public Insights training course, attendees receive a brief foundation in verbal and nonverbal human communication, neuroscience and psychology to understand how the tool works and its impact. Emotional intelligence comprises 80% to 90% of the competencies that distinguish effective leaders, and much of business success relies on influence—which requires active listening and understanding people’s varying perspectives.

“The ability to build a rapport with people is critical,” Cahal said. “Once you have an understanding of yourself, your radar is up. You can look at the people around you and say, ‘what is it that I can walk into the office on Monday doing differently that will affect a relationship at work where I struggle or will increase my ability to make decisions more effectively?’”

Daniels instructors have administered and taught Insights to hundreds of individuals and teams, including groups of five to 100 employees that run the gamut from senior executives to social work students, computer engineers, accountants, police officers, surgeons, military veterans, veterinarians and everything in between. Insights has wide appeal regardless of industry or role since it helps people interact effectively with others to get things done. 

Cahal said if the golden rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the Insights rule is “Do unto others as they would prefer to have done unto them.” Pivoting to embody the Insights rule requires being aware of other people’s emotions and preferences and then being disciplined enough to consciously adapt one’s own communications and behaviors to accommodate them. This is the crux of emotional intelligence. It’s a mindfulness practice, and it works. 

“Having all our teammates complete Insights was invaluable,” said Executive Education client FullContact’s former Chief of Staff Drew Lawrence. “Overall, individuals are more self-aware, teammates communicate better with each other, and we are more efficient and productive as a company.  It’s a rare example of a true win-win!”

Insights is also included as a component of Executive Education’s leadership development programs for entry-, mid- and senior-level managers. The positive results often spill over into personal relationships, as well.

“When we ask our program participants, ‘what stuck with you?’ 85% still say, ‘Insights—it helped me communicate better; it improved my self-awareness; it saved my marriage,’” said Assistant Director of Executive Education Ashley Sodaro.

Sodaro and Cahal remarked that they have witnessed Insights transform dysfunctional teams into ones with a common language and tool to facilitate robust conversations, mitigate conflict and break down barriers.

“The way we approach leadership is that it really does start with self and self-awareness,” Sodaro said. “You can’t change an organization without starting with yourself internally and how you can communicate better with your team. The only way to change other people is to change yourself. It usually radiates out from there.” 

More: Read about how self-compassion is a powerful tool for emerging leaders from Kristin Neff’s keynote address at Daniels’ inaugural Emerging Leaders Conference.