In previous productivity steps we planned our work (Step 1), put systems in place to keep our people informed and in sync (Step 2), rolled up our sleeves to get work done (Step 3), and identified strategies to sustain the momentum we’ve built (Step 4). This post goes deeper on Step 5, Leading for Maximal Productivity. 

Another way we can lead ourselves and others to increased productivity is to understand how to leverage your leadership style. Leaders who understand how they “operate,” in terms of what makes them tick, how they solve problems, their communication preferences, and more – can more easily identify their strengths and potential weaknesses, develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and understand the impact of their behaviors on others. 

The connection to productivity is plain. Employees who feel understood and are put in a position to be successful are more engaged and more motivated to work hard. Making the effort to understand how to connect and work better with your people will pay big dividends over time.

Of the different leadership training sessions that I offer, perhaps my favorite is based on the True Colors Personality Assessment. In this system, people generally identify as being one of four colors: blue, green, gold, or orange. The personalities differ in many ways, as indicated below. 

For example, blues are more emotional and value relationships much more than do greens, who most value logic and their ability to maintain control over their emotions. Golds are the most loyal and likely to follow rules as they are established. In contrast, oranges are the most spontaneous, impulsive, and adventurous of the four colors and, unlike golds, do not like to be boxed in by rules and routine. 

Consider the following situation. Sherry, a “blue” leader oversees Tom, a “green.” The former is connected and empathetic and likes to spend time getting to know her people. The latter is more logical and analytical, typically seeking to remedy problems and optimize performance while giving little attention to interpersonal connections. In this case, Sherry may be viewed by Tom as too gushy and emotional and not the focused, process-oriented boss he wants.

Another example: Juan, a “gold,” is promoted to leader of a team that includes Wendy, an “orange.” Here, all of the structure, planning and reliability of the new boss can come into conflict with the spontaneous freethinker who seems to operate by the seat of her pants. Again, an unnerving situation for many folks. 

To avoid the conflicts that may arise in these situations, it would behoove every leader to know what their personality styles are and find ways to ensure that the needs of others in their teams are met. For instance, a “green” may want some private time to process and contemplate possibilities. “Blue” leaders should give them space and not view their distance as personal. Similarly, a “gold” may value a detailed meeting agenda with a pre-meeting advance email allowing them to prepare for the upcoming gathering. “Orange” leaders would do well to respect that need while not sacrificing the spontaneity that makes them unique. 

At the same time, I suggest that leaders educate their teams about the existence of such personality “colors.” Let them better understand their own personalities and preferences as well as yours. Doing so will give them new insights into their behaviors and yours and help them process information, decisions and actions through that prism. (“Now I understand why she acts that way.” “I guess his lack of empathy wasn’t personal after all.” etc.) As author George J. Boelcke put it, “The insights of Colors is one-half awareness and one-half choosing to value others for who they are, instead of wanting them to be more like ourselves.” 

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach who helps busy leaders be more productive so that they can scale profits with less stress and get home at a decent hour. Register for his free productivity webinar at

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