Education News

An Interview with George Boelcke : About Personality, Color, and Achievement

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales , New Mexico

1. You have written a number of books about leadership, personality, parent/child dynamics and relationships. What is your basic premise?

Throughout history, man has been studying man in an effort to find some common denominators or lots of answer to why we do what we do – and how we do it. Generally this has been done in sets of four types from Hippocrates to Carl Jung.

Why? Because if we understand – we judge less, sell better, strengthen all of our relationships, create less turnover at work, grow the dynamics of our families and become better managers.

In relationships, opposites attract. Almost half of us are in a relationship with someone whose personality type is very different than ours. Consciously, or unconsciously we just look to others for things we don’t have. But that doesn’t make it easy. When the “I love you just the way you are” changes to now I want you to be more. and do less. we’re in trouble. After all, you cannot change someone’s personality type. That’s why the divorce rate is approaching 50%. Then we re-marry and the divorce rate goes higher – we get stupider! All because we’ve never understood the insights to our partner’s personality type. Until then, we only have one set of glasses if you will, through which we view the behaviors, actions, mannerisms and so much more of other types.

In our work lives it’s even worse. Opposites certainly don’t attract. If everyone just did things my way we’d get along great. Or the best line I hear so often in seminars: I communicate really well – but others sure don’t. No, at work it’s even more of a problem. Yet how boring or ineffective would an office or team be if we were all the same personality type?

2. In your books, we are exposed to certain personality types- through ” colors”-

What are these four types and what traits and attributes do they seem to personify?

Blues live life through feelings, dream the impossible dream and seek to make a difference in the lives of others. They have a huge sense of intuition, love to hug and connect with people in caring and genuine ways. (Think Oprah Winfrey).

Golds are very business-like and private. They believe their word is their bond, that everyone must be on time, organized and plan things through properly. They follow their to-do lists and seek closure since they prefer to do one thing at a time, do it very well and then move on. Golds view the world as black or white, right or wrong and are definitely the rule makers and rule followers of the world. (Picture President Bush)

Orange is the fun and action group who want things NOW and hands-on instead of theory. They believe life is a game to be played to win at all cost and want to be paid on commission or bonuses since they work hard and play hard. They’ll tell it like it is and are great multi-taskers and the energy of any group or team as well as risk-takers and entrepreneurs who tell it like it is – quickly and bluntly. There really isn’t anything they can’t do in their mind and they love to be the center of attention. (Picture Donald Trump – yet if you’ve watched the Apprentice he’s never hired someone who shares his personality.)

Greens are the scientist and engineers of the world. They live life through logic and are very calm, cool and collected. They love to learn (and teach) and will really never open their mouth or commit to anything until it’s perfect. There really isn’t a problem they don’t want to tackle – the more complex – the better. While emotional stuff makes them quite uncomfortable, they love intricate discussions, puzzles and their valued alone-time on the computer. (Picture Gil Grisham of CSI whose favorite saying is: I don’t like people, I like evidence because it doesn’t lie.)

3. In your mind, what ” type ” or color are most teachers? Principals? Students?

Our personality type very much influences our career choices. In the school system, the administration at all levels is about organized, planning and task oriented. It’s why the vast majority of staff are high Golds. When it comes to teaching, the same logic applies. Over 50% of teachers in Elementary School (and daycare & kindergarten) are high Blues. They love connecting with students, seeing them come alive and getting feedback.)

In high schools, more than 50% of teachers are high Gold. There is just a lot more structure, planning, discipline and a ton more rules which makes it a comfortable environment for Gold teachers.

In general, if a high Green enters this field, they’ll be math and science teachers and will be in the College and University areas in much larger numbers. They really don’t enjoy repeating themselves or routine tedious tasks – so in post-secondary education they get to use much more of their talents.

The saddest fact is that high Orange aren’t teachers. Oh sure, here and there, but the need for fun, energy and freedom makes it a real challenging career for them. Yet students would learn so much just from their behavior.

I recall doing a Colors seminar for the largest high School in Canada (Lord Beaverbrook in Calgary , Alberta .) Out of the 200+ teachers, only 8 were Orange teaching Physical Education, band, building construction and welding.

4. How does your model relate to say Gregorc and his ideas about abstract , random,concrete, sequential?

Personality types have been developed, evolved and taught in a number of different ways. From Gregorc (complex and perhaps missing the “practical” aspect but very valued by high Greens who want sophisticated) to Myers Briggs (16 personality types) which is great in psychology and HR but tends to be a one-way street of learning) to Kolb used by many school systems. True Colors was developed by Don Lowry in 1979. Don Lowry was a Middle School teacher whose main drive was to make it practical and a little fun to teach kids age 13-15 some practical tools.

The value of Colors is that a three-hour seminar gives participants practical and powerful tools in simple ways that allow them to spot our different personality types and understand some communication tools and our very different values and stresses. It becomes part of their vocabulary and culture of the office. For most church groups, relationship seminars, conventions or corporate session that is much more powerful and valuable than a two or three day session focusing on more depth or theory.

As an aside, I have had many groups that have done the Myers Briggs. The first question I ask is who remembers their four letters: MAYBE three or four hands go up. I would argue that if it isn’t practical, fun, user friendly or retainable, it is of limited value to typical teams, offices or relationships.

5. How would teachers be able to use your knowledge to run a more effective classroom and help kids learn?

It’s a complex question that certainly has different answers for different levels of the school system. However when teachers understand the personality types of their students, the ability to motivate, give instructions, reward, recognize and challenge different kids takes on a whole new dimension. It’s doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. For example – high Greens want quiet when they study and if some of them want to go to the library – let them. They will go and they will study – learning is a lifelong hobby and not a chore. High Golds (as kids or adults) hate vagueness. So they look for specific instructions and all the details: How many words, is this graded, when do we hand it in, typed or handwritten, how many pages, how much of the mark is this…)

6. Should kids of different “colors” or personality types be taught differently? Parented differently?

Absolutely! I hope so! Some of it I covered above, but think of our four different personality types as speaking for different languages. If I speak French with you – you won’t understand me! If someone is high Gold they want details, facts, stick to the point, a commitment and I had best come through with my promises. That applies to kids as well as sales situations or teachers.

Yet a high Orange wants the highlights – if I’m going to explain something I best do it fast and cover it in the length of time it takes to ride an elevator or they’ll tune me out. I need to make it fun and interactive with tangible results or rewards (what’s in it for me?). Those are very different ways.

I cringe when a parent says I treat all my kids the same. I really hope that’s not the case.

7. When a “gold ” teacher is confronted with a class of blues, oranges or greens, what should they do? How should they cope or compensate?

Ah, Yes ! The example of that huge percentage of Gold teachers. Some of it we talked about earlier already.

To start, the challenge for a Gold is to get out of the “I always do it this way.” The word change is a really hard one for Golds who take the same way to work, eat at their same favorite two restaurants, repeat vacations, sleep on the same side of the bed, etc. So most of understanding personality types starts with ourselves. For Gold that means stepping out of their comfort zone and looking at things in a non black or white way. Team teaching makes a huge difference. After the seminar, even Golds will admit they need to find a team teacher whose personality is totally opposite ( Orange ) to give the kids a whole different dimension in the classroom – back to the example of now speaking two languages if that makes sense.

8. I know that you have a wonderful web site with songs, and all kinds of support. Could you tell us what is at your web site and what people can procure from it?

The web site: is designed to give people a starting point of some insights into personality types. It’s one of the most comprehensive in North America and the place to start is the page: What Color are you? It’s a three sentence mission statement that will give someone a pretty good insight into their primary personality type. Web clips from seminars and a lot of material on what we’re like at work and at home can already give anyone some basic understandings.

The book Colorful Personalities has the full assessment in it as well as chapters on kids, relationships, work, gift giving, what stresses our last Color or personality type causes and extensive sections on each type.

My passion is to have people understand that we’re different, how we’re different and the basic practical and easy to use tools to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. I cannot count how many times an employer has supplied feedback that so and so was about to get fired because she was just not doing the job. Yet after understanding Colors, a slight job change and this person is one of the most valued staff they have – because she’s allowed to do what works for her personality type.

Or an e-mail from a high Orange man who shared that I saved him $200,000. How is that I asked? Well, my wife is totally opposite from me – I now understand that I stopped loving her for who she was and stopped seeing us as a powerful team instead of her being a roadblock to my great ideas and instant decisions. THAT makes it all worthwhile – THAT is payday to me.

9. Have you found male/female differences in terms of the colors? In other words are male gold individuals different from female gold individuals?

Well, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, aren’t they? A great book that just misses two more personality types. It uses two instead of four. To answer that question we have to take one step back. We are NOT one personality type. How boring would the world be if we were just one type? Not at all. We are all the four types, just in various degrees (score), preferences and amounts. We all know when it’s time to buckle down, get organized and get the job done (Gold.) When it’s time for caring, sharing and talking from the heart (Blue). When we go out and just have fun, relax and live for the moment with our friends, that’s quite Orange (something they do all the time – it’s why they have so little stress). And don’t we all have times when it’s important to be alone, think things through before deciding and researching something before committing? That’s certainly our Green traits coming out.

So a Gold male won’t be any different than a Gold female. What will be different is the influence of their second Color. If the female has second Color Blue, she’ll be a lot softer, more forgiving, less judgmental or rigid than a Gold/Green male would be.

What is quite different are the two personality types least seen in society: Blue males (warm, caring, hugging, emotional and spiritual society says, rightly or wrongly, should be females). So a Blue male will have feelings that run very deep but what we see is their second Color as a mask. (remember the media keeps saying we should have more male elementary teachers? Well it’s the world of Blues and there just aren’t enough Blue males to ever make that happen.)

The other one is a high Green female. Society says strong, calm, cool (maybe cold) logical vs. feelings should be males. So a Green females is very misunderstood and quite lonely. (We keep looking to increase the female percentage in fields like engineering and sciences – well it’s not going to happen – there just aren’t enough high Green females.)

10. What question have I neglected to ask?

Other than the school system – what are some other fields where you can highlight a couple of reason to understand personality types?

In relationships, we’ve already talked about some of it. The challenge is to get a copy of the Colorful Personalities book and just look at the pages of your stresses with your partner. In ten minutes you’ll have some huge eye openers from each other in what you do to set them off and stress them out that you never even knew.

With kids – when you understand what they value, how they think, act and behave you’ll have a lot less stress. Yes, Gold kids have a clean room – honest! And Orange kids will have a messy room – for life – so relax and deal with it! Is that something you want to make a huge issue about for the next 10+ years?

Yes, your Green kid will fight you to go to Grandma’s house – they’d rather stay at home on the computer, or they’ll bring a book. They’re not social creatures – it’s nothing you did – it’s what they are.

Yes, your Orange kid is a handful and the class clown. They want attention – good or bad – attention is attention. What if you knew how to channel that into positive ways and learned that their goals and rewards can’t be longer than a week or they’ll totally lose interest?

In church groups and committees – only high Blues and Golds volunteer. They’re 80% of volunteers in the country. Sorry – that’s the way it is. So you’ll have the same group of people until you learn what Greens and Orange want and need to volunteer and contribute. They’d love to help you just make it really hard for them to participate.

At work – what happens if a Blue boss who always had time for someone, asked about their family, remembered birthdays and social functions is replaced with a Gold boss who seems to micromanage and certainly isn’t interested in having fun at work. All of a sudden it’s new policies, strictly enforced, don’t be late any more and that is not the person that will share what their weekend was like or hand around your desk to ask about the kids/ What happened? What if we understood what we get from this new boss that’s just as valuable?

And we wonder why there is a huge turnover issue in teams?

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my work and ideas !