Why Change Is So Difficult and How to Get Around It?



Why Change Is So Difficult and How to Get Around It?

“How Are We Going to Do This? It’s Not Urgent, Right?”

The Green person is the most common. You’ll meet him virtually everywhere. What’s the easiest way to explain who he is? Well, I would like to describe him as being the average of all the other colors. Please don’t interpret that as something negative; keep in mind what this truly implies. While Reds are stressed performance seekers, Yellows are creative bon vivant guys, and Blues are perfectionist Knights of Excel Spreadsheets (see pages 13 and 14), Greens are the most balanced. They counterbalance the other more extreme behavioral traits in an elegant way. Hippocrates called them phlegmatic people. The Aztecs called them earth people. Calm, leisurely, and easygoing are some words that could also describe them.

It’s just a matter of stating the facts—not everyone can or should be extreme; otherwise, we would never get anything done. If everyone were a driven leader, there would be no one left to be led. If everyone were an enthusiastic entertainer, there would be no one to amuse. And if everyone were a detail-oriented perfectionist, there wouldn’t be anything to keep in order.

This means that Greens don’t stick out in the same way as others do and they often lend serenity to a situation. Where Reds and Yellows start off in top gear, Greens are significantly calmer. And where Blues get caught up in details, Greens try to feel their way to what is right.

If you have a friend who is Green, he’ll never forget your birthday. He won’t begrudge you your successes, and he won’t try to take the spotlight off you by reeling off his own stories. He won’t try to outdo you, and he will never pester you with new and drastic demands. Nor will he see you as a competitor if you were ever placed in that situation. He won’t take command unless he has been told to do so. And he won’t—

Just a minute please, you might be thinking. That’s just a lot of things he doesn’t do. So what does he do?

You can’t ignore the fact that Greens are more passive than others. They’re not as driven as Reds, not as resourceful as Yellows, and not as orderly as Blues. This describes most of the population.

For this very reason, they are easy to deal with. They let you be yourself. They don’t demand much, and they never kick up a fuss unnecessarily. Children with Green features are usually described as being little angels. They eat when they’re supposed to; they sleep when they’re supposed to; they do their homework when they’re supposed to.

But it’s not just that. Greens will not offend people if they can avoid it. They’d rather not offend anyone at all, and they won’t talk back if the boss makes a strange decision. (At least not to his face, that is. During the coffee break it may be somewhat different, but more on that later.) They usually strive to fit in, which makes them more balanced people. They’re ideal for calming down confused Yellows, for example. And they’re excellent at warming up Blues, who, on occasion, can indeed be a tad too cold.

We often hang out with a family where the husband is Yellow and loves to horse around and take center stage—he comes up with amusing games and is more than happy to answer any questions himself. Everyone else is his audience, and he never steps out of the spotlight. His wife is Green. Calm, composed, and as laid back as can be. When he jumps around and frolics (these are middle-aged people), she sits quietly on the sofa and smiles. She’s just as entertained as everyone else by his antics. When I ask her if she ever gets tired of her comical husband, she sometimes replies quietly, “But he’s having so much fun.”

This is a typical Green trait. They are very tolerant towards other people’s more singular behavior. Is the picture becoming clearer? Greens are the people you might not think about—most of us, that is.

Some Simple Basics

Green people are kindness personified. You can expect a helping hand whenever you need it. They are pronounced relational people who will do everything within their power to save your relationship. And they will invest lifelong. They will keep track of when your birthday is, when your partner’s birthday is, when your children’s birthdays are, et cetera. It wouldn’t surprise me if they even know when your cat first saw the light of day.

It’s often said that Greens are the best listeners, and this is true. A Green will always be more interested in you than in himself, and if perchance he should be interested in himself he would never dream of showing it. You often find Greens in the public sector, where they help others, with no concern for personal gain.

They are also pronounced team players. The team, the group, the family, always comes before the individual, and I would even say that societies consisting of Greens will always take care of the sick and the weak. They will not leave a friend in need; you can call them at any time. They always offer a shoulder to cry on.

Change isn’t their greatest strength, even though change isn’t completely foreign to them. If you can simply justify the change and give him enough time, even a Green will be prepared to try new things. But a Green will remind you that you always know what you have, but you never know what you might end up with. The grass is not automatically greener on the other side, so to speak.

The Best Pal in the World

As I’ve already said, these are naturally friendly people. When they tell you that they sincerely care about how you’re doing, you can trust that they lie awake sleepless for your sake. Just like Yellows, Greens are relationship people and their interest in others is genuine and authentic.

If you ask a group of people if anyone is prepared to lend a hand and no one steps up to help, a Green will jump in and shout, “Choose me!” Why? Because he didn’t want to leave you in the lurch. He knows that if you don’t get any help you’ll feel bad, and even though he can be passive, he’s always prepared to help a friend.

I still remember a young woman I worked with at a consulting firm years ago. Admittedly, Maja was certainly Blue as well, but above all, she was Green. Her problem was obvious: When someone asked for help, she always said yes. Every time.

It was difficult to find her desk due to her workload, but she organized everything in the end. We could always rely on her assistance, handling all the things the rest of us had simply forgotten about. She had a warm and friendly smile, so we asked her to work in reception and have the first contact with new clients. She never failed to serve coffee, fix the cushions, or keep track of how long clients had been waiting.

Maja never forgot anyone’s birthday or anniversary (or their wives’ or children’s, for that matter). She frequently sent short emails to all of us stressed-out consultants reminding us that we had families who also needed to be looked after. Sure, we could take care of our own lives, but in her kindness and thoughtfulness Maja went out of her way to help. It was natural for her, and whenever we asked her to take it easy and take care of herself for a change she almost felt offended. She wanted to take care of us —it simply made her feel good. Of course, there were limits, and Maja constantly ran the risk of someone taking advantage of her huge heart. But when properly balanced, this selflessness is a beautiful quality.

Greens do this naturally. When having coffee, it’s quite normal for you to ask the people with you if they would like a refill. When other colors would likely take their empty cups to the coffeemaker, Greens would simply fetch the coffee carafe and refill everyone’s cup.

A Green wants to stay on good terms with everyone, so he’ll even help people he doesn’t really like that much. Otherwise, there might be some kind of hullabaloo.

He thinks well of most people and is confident in others’ abilities. Sometimes he does this so intensely that it ends badly, but normally that’s the fault of the other person, not the Green himself. He is so good-hearted that now and then others can take advantage of him.

Lasse, a good friend of mine, is a truly genuine friend. It makes no difference how much he has to do; if anyone needs a helping hand, Lasse is there, ready to support him. Sometimes, in Lasse’s eagerness to help with other people’s work, he even forgets to do his own.

On weekends, he drives his own and others’ children everywhere they want to go. He helps people move; he lends out his tools without people even needing to ask. He listens if you call and complain about something. This all takes a huge amount of time, but he enjoys it.

Once They’ve Said They’ll Do Something, You Can Rest Assured That It Will Be Done

If a Green says that he will do something, you can be confident that he’ll do it. If it’s in his power to deliver, he will. It won’t be done in the shortest amount of time possible, but it will show up in your in-box roughly within the expected time frame. Greens don’t want to be caught failing to deliver, as this might cause trouble for others. And because they’re good team players, they don’t want to do anything that can cause problems for the team. Team comes before self, the team being the company, crew, football team, or family. For the Green, it’s natural to look after everyone else around them.

The reason why everyone works so well with Greens is a topic for debate. In some situations, it’s simply because they don’t like conflict. Mostly, however, it’s because they’re controlled by their desire to make those around them happy and satisfied. If they can please you with a job well done, they’ll do it. The desire to please others verges on being a driving force for Greens. It comes naturally and requires no effort. And this selflessness is accompanied by an exalted serenity that lowers the stress level of those around them.

“We Don’t Want Any Unpleasant Surprises. It’s Good to Know What’s Going to Happen. Every Time.”

You can always count on a Green person. In some organizations, it’s a requirement to have reliable employees. Creativity and ingenuity are not at the top of the wish list: In short, you simply need people who understand the job and get it done without a lot of fuss or drama.

Then you hire Greens. They constitute the stable core who will do the job well. They don’t have problems taking orders—as long as the orders are formulated in an appealing fashion. Greens enjoy stability and a certain predictability in the workplace. Or in the home. Or with the family. Just about everywhere.

Whenever trouble is brewing—maybe due to a recession or when new managers take over—we’ll see all kinds of interesting behavior in a group. Reds, who never listen to the whole message, just rush off to do what they believe needs to be done. Unless, of course, they’re busy yelling at the management because they don’t agree with their decisions. Yellows start wild discussions and inform absolutely everyone about their take on what happened. Instead of working, they’ll debate the news until it’s time to leave the office. Blues will sit at their desks and begin the bureaucratic paperwork, formulating half a million questions that no one knows the answers to yet.

Greens? They just murmur. If the management has avoided seriously sabotaging their sense of security, they’ll trundle on without complaining. There’s no point in making a lot of fuss and bother about it. Might as well keep doing what you were before. This, in fact, makes things much easier. We’ll get to how we help Greens to change direction, but they’re great at keeping calm and carrying on.

You’ll always know how a Green will respond to some questions because he doesn’t change his opinion very often.

A few years ago, I coached Greger. He had been a CEO for several years, and his management team consisted solely of Green middle managers. He used to enjoy playing a little game when launching new ideas. He wrote little notes with the answers he thought he would get from each person. “No” from Anna. “Yes” from Stefan. “Maybe” from Bertil. Right every time! Greger knew them very well and knew how they would react to his proposals.

This wouldn’t have been the case with Yellows. They don’t even know how they’re going to respond when opportunities arise. Exciting—sure, but it’s exhausting for those around them. With Green associates, however, you don’t need to worry.

“Who? Me? I’m Not Important. Forget That You Even Saw Me.”

For every Green, the group will always come first. Team before self. Remember that. This is a fundamental truth for a Green, and it shouldn’t be challenged too strongly. The working group, the team, the club, and the family—all these different groups are important for a Green. He often disregards his own needs if the group gets what it needs.

You may think that groups consist of people and if each individual is satisfied the group as a whole will be content. This might happen, but then the focus would be individual rather than collective. The way a Green sees it, if the group feels good every individual also feels good.

Here the Green’s thoughtfulness becomes apparent—he has infinite regard for those around him. This is partly the reason why it’s difficult to get a straight answer from a Green. He’s always trying to satisfy everyone else.

Let me tell you a rather striking story. One Sunday a few years ago, a colleague whom I didn’t know that well called me. I had only been working with Kristoffer for a few months, but I hadn’t really figured the guy out yet.

So when he called me one Sunday morning I was surprised. I saw who it was, but I had no idea what he wanted from me. He greeted me pleasantly and asked what I was doing. I had just bought a new house at that time and was busy renovating. Kristoffer asked what was on the agenda this particular Sunday, and I remember that I said I was worried about the boiler. It was early winter. The temperature was just below freezing, and one of the circulation pumps didn’t really work as it should. Because colder weather was definitely on the way, I wondered if the pump could cope with a major cold snap.

Being a Green, Kristoffer asked a number of questions and gave me lots of good advice. He’d once had a similar boiler, and besides, he knew a plumber whom he might be able to ask to come by and have a look—if I was interested, of course. Kristoffer and I chatted for a while, and I became increasingly puzzled about why he had actually called me.

He asked me where I lived. I gave him the address, and he promised to write it down and give it to his plumber friend. Then, as a kind of “by the way,” he asked me if I had any plans to go into town that day. I lived about twenty-five miles from the office and hadn’t intended to go to work that Sunday. I explained this to Kristoffer.

We chatted a little while longer, and in the end I finally asked him straight out what he really wanted. Then he revealed that he was standing outside the office in his T-shirt because he had accidentally locked himself out when he had popped out to fetch some lunch. I looked at the thermometer. Thirty degrees with light snow. We’d been talking for about fifteen minutes! I got into the car and saved him from freezing to the bone.

Everyone else is more important. A Green never asks for anything.

“I Know Exactly What You Mean.”

They say Greens are introverts, that is, that they’re active in their inner world. This means that they don’t talk just for the sake of talking. When you are quieter than those around you, it’s natural that you listen. And Greens will listen. They are interested in you and your ideas.

Unlike Reds, who only listen when there is something to be gained from it, or Yellows, who usually don’t listen at all (although they will normally deny this fact), Greens hear what you’re actually saying. They have a genuine ear for human problems. They might not offer any suggestions or solutions, but they understand what you’ve told them. Don’t assume that means that they agree with you—but they are good listeners. So far, you have probably tried to puzzle all the pieces together. Where do the different colors fit in? What kind of job would be best for each of them? These are good questions, even if there are no simple answers. One observation that often arises when I work with these issues in different organizations is that Reds, and Yellows in particular, must be good at retail and selling. This is true for sure. But Greens are often overlooked. We always teach salespeople to talk less and listen more, something Greens already do quite naturally.

Helena was a seller I coached a few years ago. She was Green and very gentle in her ways. Most people didn’t understand how she survived in that daunting industry. But I have a theory. She once told me about a time when she met a tough chief executive everyone had tremendous respect for. No one in the entire company had managed to sell anything to him, but after a little coaching from me Helena was determined to have a go. So she arranged a meeting.

They ran into each other in the parking lot at the restaurant where they were to meet for lunch. The stern executive cruised into the lot in a vintage car from the late sixties. Beautiful, shiny, and obviously very special. Helena said the only thing she could think of: Wow!

“Do you like cars?” asked the executive, before they had even greeted each other. Helena nodded. Then he told her about the car, how much he had spent to restore it, the paintwork and alloys, the engine. He showed her what it looked like under the hood. Helena nodded and murmured approval and hoped he wouldn’t ask her any questions, since she couldn’t tell the difference between a Ford and a Chevrolet. But she didn’t interrupt; she just listened. After that it was easy. They sat down, and he asked to see the sales agreement. How did she do it? By doing nothing at all except for one thing —listening. He signed before the food was even served.

Conclusions on Green Behavior

Okay. Do you have any Greens in your family? Highly likely.

Mr. Rogers, Gandhi, Michelle Obama, and Jimmy Carter are some well-known people with elements of Green. And, yes, Jesus. There’s a guy who knew how to help others.


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