Personal development

How to use colour energies to stop stereotyping and embrace awareness

Ah, that series of lightbulb moments when you read your Insights Discovery profile and realise why some of your workplace relationships work way better than others…

Suddenly you have new context for understanding your team members better. You know more about their preferences and the reasons for the differences and similarities between you. You’ve got a new common language for discussing how to approach situations and behaviour patterns and what might work more favourably.

Privately, you’ve uncovered insights into your own behaviour, your reactions to uncomfortable experiences (and colleagues) and even your blind spots. This boost in self-awareness and other-awareness opens new ways of thinking about what you experience with others at work. The common language of the four colour energies, and how your unique colour mix compares with others, now helps you navigate everyday challenges and opportunities and feel better equipped to respond.

But …beware of stereotyping!

Of course, stereotyping is a risk with any psychometric tool. But we need to remember that although we’re now aware of our types as team members, no-one is a one-trick pony. It’s tremendously tempting, once you know that your trickiest colleague leads (in Insights language) with Cool Blue, Fiery Red, Sunshine Yellow or Earth Green, to make hasty assumptions about what they might do, how they’ll react or what they’re capable of.

The best way to view the colour energy descriptors is ‘useful shorthand’; a quick way of giving someone a snapshot in time of our working and communication preferences. Like a signpost to help others understand our landscape, giving us a baseline language to understand what our various traits bring to the table and how they add value. We could also view these descriptors as the first step to appreciating differences.

Here, we’ll look at how to use your new discoveries wisely, without using colour energies to create blame or excuses. First, a quick recap of the four main colour energies…on good days and bad:


Insights colour energy model good bad day


These traits give us useful insight into what kind of behaviour and reactions might, in the main, be expected by people who lead with a certain colour energy.

It’s important though to recognise the traits as adjustable preferences - no-one’s profile is purely led by one colour.


We’re all a mix of all four colour energies, and the uniqueness of our mix is what makes us so interesting and individual.

Knowing and stereotyping are different. How to avoid the box!

We tend to stereotype people mostly when things aren’t going so well.

Perhaps when we’re stressed, offended, upset, or looking for a scapegoat. It’s common to experience colour energy in its bad day form! How many times have we heard ourselves privately mutter things like: “they’re bound to nit-pick and we’ll never get through the meeting” or “they’re bound to stop listening, interrupt and take over”?!

Perhaps these traits do show up regularly, but we can choose to mitigate their impact by being better at framing what we’d like to happen and what our desired outcome is. We have more ability to do this now that we’re more aware of our team members’ preferences and how that affects their communication style. 

The danger otherwise is that once we ‘know’ someone’s personality type, we might put that person into a box and never let them out.

When we stereotype people, we limit their potential

Better to try and understand their preferences, and why certain behaviour occurs in the first place. What does that person need from you to contribute more effectively and how can you respect what lies behind their approach to common situations, so that you get the best from them?

Even positive stereotyping doesn’t work, because our colour energies are always shifting

Our reactions and behaviour differ according to what setting we find ourselves in, or who the other characters are in the room. They might also shift depending on how comfortable we feel, the task at hand, the culture of our workplace or the image we’re trying to portray.

Are you guilty of doing this on occasion?

Let’s zoom in...

We might, for example, assume that our salespeople lead with Sunshine Yellow and are ‘always on’, want to do every client presentation and are less in need of quiet time. We might assume that our data-focused colleagues lead with Cool Blue, our leaders with Fiery Red or our HR team with Earth Green. Not necessarily!

Even people who much of the time appear largely ‘true to type’ (colour energy) might dial up or down their introversion, extroversion and their thinking and feeling (based on Jung theory) tendencies. The more self-aware (and others-aware) we are, the better we’ll be at this.

What’s more, someone with the opposite colour energy to us can still support, guide or lead their opposite type. They simply need to lean into the traits found in the other colour energy profiles.

So when dealing with dense factual reports and numbers, a Sunshine Yellow-led colleague might feel they need to make extra effort to focus intently on the detail, the gaps and the ‘why’ – traits that are often associated with Cool Blue. It’s perfectly possible, and we shouldn’t assume that this colleague can’t get into the detail, it just might take a mental shift to lean in and appreciate the all-essential granular stuff.

Equally, we shouldn’t assume that a more introverted colleague who leads with Cool Blue won’t enjoy a lively, creative product development brainstorm or leading a new client meeting. It’s true that they might prefer a more a structured creative session than less methodical colleagues, preferably without constant interruptions and competing ‘louder’ voices, but if the conditions feel right and there’s enough space to contribute and collaborate, our Cool Blue companions might bring the best ideas to the table. They might just need some quiet time afterwards to recharge.

Perhaps our colleagues who lead with Fiery Red might sometimes hurry along colleagues who seek depth and meaning over brevity and pace. It might feel challenging for them to solve a pressing employee relations issue with a colleague who leads with harmony-centred Earth Green and wants to take time to consider the views of the whole team. But that’s not to say that our results-driven Fiery Red colleagues lack the empathy, listening and feedback skills often associated with Earth Green.

The key is in applying ourselves astutely to each setting and considering whether our default approach is right for a given situation, individual or team dynamic. Active listening, and an awareness of someone else’s ‘why’, has a huge role to play here.


Colour energies are about in-the-moment preferences, not abilities

A significant benefit of knowing your leading colour energy is that it can inform professional development on a deeper level. It can also inform how managers approach relationships, tasks and problem-solving with a range of contrasting team members.

But be careful not assume too much about the roles people seem ‘right’ for. It’s never about ability, it’s about awareness levels and practice in dialling different colour energies up or down.

Our ability to shift from one dominant colour energy to a less dominant one while in the moment is about agility.

If we feel too stuck in - or limited by - our own default colour energy, we might do well to seek some awareness training to help us adapt to what certain people or situations actually need from us. This might help us reframe how we see situations and break unhelpful habits around pre-judging colleagues or reacting too quickly in stressful moments.


Stereotyping leaders is also problematic

At Insights, we talk about four types of leadership manifestations. These refer to different ways of leading, and all four colour energies have their own version of the four manifestations.

If you’re results-driven, you make your decisions based on what needs to get done, when and how, and focusing on deliverables. It doesn’t mean you lead with Fiery Red, although you may do, but it’s important to remember that each colour energy can show results-driven leadership in their own way.  And this holds true for all the leadership manifestations...

Relationship-driven leaders prioritise creating supportive and harmonious team environments.

If you’re a visionary leader, you’ll bring people along on the journey by painting a picture of the future that they can buy into.

Centred leaders are grounded in what’s right for people and how priorities are affected by decisions.

Sometimes it follows that these four sets of leadership manifestations match the language of specific colour energies, but not always. Particularly self-aware leaders endeavour to balance all four of the manifestations and are alert to what their colleagues need (especially colleagues who lead with opposite colour energies) and what the situation calls for, so they can switch from one to the other seamlessly.


How to move beyond stereotyping and towards true understanding

The reality is that stereotypes are ‘shortcuts’ taken unconsciously to help us make decisions more easily and quickly. But the danger is that we let preconceived ideas and over-simplistic images have a negative influence on the way we see people, interact with them and treat them. 

Our brain is designed to organise information, but the nature of stereotyping is that it paints a group of people as all the same. It’s a habit best avoided if we’re to truly respect diversity, difference and our opposite types.


Applying colour energies in the workplace cheat sheet

  • DO learn about the preferences and good/bad behaviour of all 4 colour energies. What’s their ‘why’?
  • DO practice dialling up/down different energies, especially with ‘opposite’ types or when under pressure
  • DO use colour energies to inform professional development, training and appraisals
  • DO get to know the default colour energy mix of your closest colleagues
  • DON’T pre-judge colleagues’ capabilities based on colour energies; their abilities might surprise you!
  • DON’T assume they’ll always behave the same way because of their colour energy mix
  • DON’T ignore the external factors that might be affecting your colleagues’ behaviour and preferences
  • DON’T refer to people using their leading colour energy, e.g. ‘Fiery Red people, Cool Blue people, etc. Each person is a combination of ever-shifting colour energies and cannot be reduced to a single colour energy