What “ True Color” Should Your Mentor or Protégé Be?

260 273 Ellen Ensher
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true colors in mentoring programsI am a big fan of using the True Colors assessment with my students and clients when I teach them about mentoring. The True colors provides a somewhat abbreviated version of the well-regarded Myers-Briggs instrument as it provides insight into personality type. Personality type is a big topic in the organizational behavior field. Human resource management and career development professionals can find personality assessments to be really helpful when working with clients. I just used this on Monday with my Legg Mason clients and they seemed to get a lot of value out of it.

However, personality types have not been considered too much in mentoring, which seems like a strange oversight. Understanding each other’s personality type can go a long way towards building a successful mentoring relationship. So take a minute, and find out your color.

It takes about 10 minutes to complete the instruments and participants generally find themselves sorted into one of four types:

1) Orange are the Artisans and remind us that life is meant to be fun. Orange people are playful, spontaneous, and fun. Their top values are competition, variety, and action. Orange people get very stressed by boring routine, stupid rules and slow anything! Oranges might be perceived as irresponsible, flaky and not serious enough. In terms of leaders, my guess is that Richard Branson would be a great example of an Orange personality. Another guess is Greg Mortenson (author of Three Cups of Tea and founder of Central Asia Institute).

2) Gold are the Guardians. They are stabilizers and prevent us from living in chaos. They like to get things done in an orderly fashion. They are dependable, responsible, and get it done right and on time. They get very stressed by late people, slackers, and lack of clarity and messiness. However, Golds might be perceived as controlling or dull or rigid. Many leaders and CEO’s are Gold. My guess is both Mitt Romney and Barak Obama are Gold personality types.

3) Blues are idealists and harmonizers. Their top value is to help us get along together. They value relationships, harmony, beauty. They get very stressed when there is fighting, dishonesty, or a lack of communication and connection. Blue people are very impacted by mean people and are very sensitive to other’s energy and moods. Blues can be perceived as weak and overly emotional. I have not had the pleasure of meeting her in person, but my guess is Oprah Winfrey is likely a strong Blue. (and yes, I am a Blue so perhaps a bit partial to this color…..).

4) Greens are both rational and visionary. They are often innovators and believe they have all the answers (and often they do). Greens are usually quite intelligent and have deep knowledge and passion about their subject matter. They get stressed by stupid people, too much emotion or general incompetence. Greens do not suffer fools lightly and can be perceived as arrogant. I suspect Steve Jobs was a strong Green.

One caveat, I am simplifying personality types quite a bit here. Of course, people can be a combination of these types as well and because the True Colors sorts people into four categories, the finer complexity that one would expect in a more sophisticated instrument like Myers Briggs is not present here.

So what does all this mean for mentoring? If you have a mentoring partner with a different “color” should you be worried? Yes and no. Differences are good because they stimulate dialogue and increase understanding but they must be addressed so here is a short primer:

If your mentoring partner is Orange:
-Loosen up, appreciate their humor and jokes
-Allow some time for irreverence and blowing off steam.
-Provided unstructured structure
-They are probably quite socially adept and have high emotional intelligence- think about how you can learn from and build on those strengths.

If your mentoring partner is Gold:
-Be aware of the importance of time and planning.
-Be sure that you are attentive to their need to organize and control
-Understand that Golds like rules and structure so consider that in coaching conversations.

If your mentoring partner is Blue:
-Spend some time getting to know them as a person and asking about their day
-Ask their opinion on interpersonal issues.
-Be gentle with critical feedback but be careful of the tendency to avoid it because you fear their emotional reaction.
-Capitalize on the harmonizing skills of the Blue by allowing them to be the “good cop.”

If your mentoring partner is Green:
-Provide logical explanations and data to support your claims.
-Be clear and succinct and linear in your communication.
-Appreciate their great ideas and leverage their passion and vision.

And remember, there is no good or bad color. So what “color” should your mentor or protégé be? Understand the differences and “it’s all good.”