What’s Your Workplace MO?

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How to use Color Code in the workplace

October 18, 2019


Welcome to what's your motive in healthcare, the podcast that's all about understanding the core motive of the people you work with and manage in healthcare. Hi there, I'm Megan Guido, your host for what's your motive in healthcare. And today I have a very special guest, Dorcas Hirzel. She is a fellow color-code trainer and healthcare professional who's worked in hospital settings as a nurse in charge of risk management, regulatory and quality control. Dorcas, thanks so much for coming on my podcast and we have worked together for a very long time. We have, and I'm just thrilled to have you here. How  long have you worked in health care? 

Dorcas:  I received my RN license in 1975 and so really long, really long time. how has healthcare changed in that? Oh, it's just been amazing. It really has been amazing. I mean, the technology, just keeping up with the technology is such a challenge. 

I mean, I really admire the people that are doing clinical care and in all aspects, not just nursing but respiratory, respiratory care and other areas. and being part of the care team. 

Megan: Yeah. And now, I know you worked in regulatory for quite awhile. 

Dorcas: I did, yes. I, probably my most recent job started in 1989 and I retired in 2015. Cool. And what was life like working in the regulatory field in healthcare? it was very dynamic. I think it was a challenge in the sense that a healthcare organization has its own culture and sometimes finding that compatible with regulatory requirements is, is a big challenge. 

Megan: And in addition to the work as I'm doing regulatory, also became trained as a color code facilitator. I did. And provided that service to the hospital that you were working for for a long time. 

I’m teaching it at new employee orientation. And then I know you've taught it at different organizations as well and that's, you were really my mentor and that's how I got involved in it. how long did you teach color code then? 


Actually has been 30 years. Wow. And why is it so fun for you? Why do you like Color Code? I think it's, for me it's a labor of love. It really made sense to me and gave me some real insight, not only in my work life and my work relationships, but also my personal life and for instance, my children and, a lot of things became very clear. It's amazing how it does that. It's like the light bulb goes off. It does. Yep. So maybe you can share with the audience, I've gone into some of the traits and wants and needs of the different colors. 

You are a strong red. 

Dorcas: Yes, yes I am. 

Megan: And how did that translate into your work life? 


I think for one thing, I was very driven and being productive is huge and I was in a job where that was important as well. So it seemed to mesh pretty well. but I think, there are challenges, especially I think healthcare attracts quite a few blue personalities because of that human connection and that human bond. And I think that, just learning sort of the composition of our healthcare facility and understanding more about how we were as an organization, sort of what colors we reflected really helped me in terms of approaching others and working with teams. I, I did work a lot with teams. and it just, it, it clarified a lot and gave me some tools that really helped me be more proactive, not just reactive, to be able to really anticipate how people receive information differently, how they communicate differently, how they process differently. 

It was all very, as I said, insightful and again gave me a lot of tools. 


So in your role in regulatory, I mean that's a very somewhat rigid world disciplinary defined what the rules are, etc. How do you color code kind of give you a, a balance to that? 


I found out pretty early in my career that telling people that something is required by law doesn't always give them a lot of incentive to do things differently. But what I found was if I could somehow blend the culture of the organization with the requirements, the regulatory requirements, and show how we are meeting those based on our own culture base based on how we do things. That was a real plus. I think people appreciated that because it wasn't like they had to change because they were, they, they were doing things right. 

It's just that it was a matter of finding a way to communicate sort of our unique culture to the regulators and help them understand how we, in fact we're meeting these very important requirements. 


So a key part of doing that I imagine was incentivizing people like, okay, the joint commission is coming and we know that we have to have all these things in place. How do you motivate a yellow, for instance, who is very motivated by fun, to get on board and be all about roles for awhile? 

Dorcas:  we had training events and actually I engaged a yellow coworker to be the party planner because I knew that wasn't really my strong point. so she was able to put together these, these great events that, where people were learning what they needed to learn. And, and I, I think becoming more comfortable with questions that may maybe asked of them, but at the same time we're able to have a good time. 

So. Cool. So that was a direct way to use what you know in terms of people's motives and what drives them to produce a successful outcome. 


Right. Yes. And I think, for the most part we had great attendance and great response and we use that, many times because healthcare is a pretty serious business. And to give people an opportunity to have some fun and eat some food.


Yeah. So speaking of serious, safety and healthcare, huge topic, they've been talking about it probably since the early two thousands when I know the, To Err is Human  came out and that was such a kind of breakthrough, in terms of the role of safety and it was a wake up call. Yeah. A wake up call. So we've done a good job in terms of realizing the role of human beings and healthcare and the importance of reliability and, ensuring that processes are in place, et cetera. 

how would, I mean it seems like kind of a leap, but it really isn't. Color-code is all about communication and improving communication and relationships. How would that relate to safety in the hospital? 


I think that if you understand where the other person is coming from and that includes what their motive is, their driving motive, then you can approach them in a way that isn't threatening, isn't condescending that you can actually communicate with them in a way that helps them understand what's happening. Like for instance, if you're doing a handoff, which is a care team turning over the care of a patient to another care team, if you know what the motives are of the folks on the team, you can approach them in a, in a very appropriate way. For instance, with a red, they think in and, bullet points. 

They do not think in stories. So you try to tell them a story, you'll lose them. So just get the pertinent information to them as efficiently as possible. With a blue blues tend to like stories. So they want to know everything about their patient and they'll want to know how the best way is to care for them. And those are important points to point out with the white. I think what you need to do is probably just give them the facts, their logic based like the red is blues and yellows are emotion-based. So to know that they're logic-based to provide them with what is necessary for them to do their job with a yellow, I think it's important to make sure that they feel like they can manage the project, whatever it is or manage the care. And so it's important to keep it small, keep it confined, don't give them a whole thing at, in one session. 

But keep them on task, keep them focused. That's very important. And, and I think that provides an opportunity for success of that team. Also I think is important that the team understands who they are, what their team members are and what motivates them as well. We have had a lot of conversations around that. 


Yes, the composition of the team, by virtue of its makeup and the different colors that are on the team is going to have a certain personality or there might be someone who's a little bit more dominant. But as someone who has an understanding of those colors, you can see how to more effectively communicate with them individually, but then it might be more of a challenge as a whole. 

Dorcas: I think collectively, I think we need all the colors. 

And so the ideal team has some of all the colors. but we didn't use color code to actually formulate teams. We basically got the people in there that were closest to whatever process we were looking at and be able to have their input in terms of where improvements need to be made or, and, or changes needed to be made. 


And you're not going to always have the luxury of putting together the team that you want to have. Right, yeah. On team. Yeah. And then there are some downsides to having like everybody who thinks like you may not always be the most productive or the best way to go. 


Absolutely. That's why I say, the most balanced team is where you have all the colors represented. And that again, you don't always have control over that, but at least you can recognize the gifts that each member brings to the team and really look at how you can optimize those gifts. 


Exactly. Focus on the strengths. Absolutely. So let's talk a little bit about that, that whole idea of strengths and limitations that each color has. And I know that I'm pretty familiar with my limitations as a blue, as a blue purist. And, and they usually come out when I'm under some amount of stress and I can even, because I'm pretty familiar with color code and I think I'm gaining on self-awareness, I can even feel myself going into those limitations of a blue. How about you? In terms of a red, how have you had to navigate through your strengths and limitations? 

Dorcas:  I, I am, I feel like I want to be very productive. I want to be, I want to contribute. I am not a processor. so that has been a challenge. I'm not very patient. That also has been a challenge. 

I've had to work on those things. But I think one thing that I found is that if I know someone, for instance, instances a strong white, I have to really tone down my intensity because I just scares them. And so if I can just be a little bit more mellow, make a more relaxed environment for them, then that will help them feel more relaxed as well. And I think it's a great tool to use.

Megan:  Isn't it? When you can know, and we talked about a hundred percent responsibility and that you have control over this situation because you have that tool and you know how to approach that person. Absolutely. To have the most effective relationship. So it really is a gift. 

Dorcas: and it is, it's about diversity. It's about meeting people on their own ground, not expecting them to change for you or not ex, not expecting them to accept you, or to try and change them. 

Right. Because we'd like to try and change people.

Dorcas:  Well blues do.  

Megan: Yeah. I should speak for myself. Yeah. So as a blue, I know that some of my challenges have been not taking things so personally. being able to kind of step back and let someone else run the show. blues are pretty controlling. 

Dorcas: Just like the reds we like high quality. 


Yes. We like the high quality and then, and being on the, what I call the moral high ground, probably want one of my biggest challenges is working with, and you brought up whites, yellows I, I have trouble with because I have a little sliver of yellow and it's so foreign to me. It's probably what I'd like to be. I'm very envious of yellows. I want to be, I don't want to be a yellow want to be, but I've had to learn to embrace yellows. 

And what I might think is kind of flighty behavior is, is them being them. And like you said, kind of giving them small tasks and not just laying the whole thing out and certainly not talking about any negatives. that's not going to go over well with the yellow. 


No. And I think with the whites is similar, in the sense that you give them tasks that aren't overwhelming and then leave them alone so they can do those things because they know how they know how to do it. probably better than you, but just to let them have their autonomy and have their blues are like that too. They like to have their autonomy. but I also think it's very helpful to understand how people process information and make decisions. Because for me that was a big Aha. I thought everybody thought like me and they don't, so I was impatient with them. 

Such as, “Why can't you make a decision about this?” And I think it's so important to be able to say, some people need more time to process information and come up with a solution or decision while others can do it pretty easily on the spur of the moment. those are your crisis management people. but I think being able to, one have permission to say, I just need some time to think about this and I'll get back to you I think is so valuable as well as on the other side. For instance, a red going, "I know you need some time, get back to me when you can.".


Right? Having that awareness and that's something that I know has grown with you in terms of, what I've seen and our personal relationship and how color-code has taught you that, which is pretty cool.

And I think what happens is that, again, this is, this is also about empowerment, about taking responsibility for your relationships and understanding that it's not their problem. It's something I can fix. It's something that I can, I can, I can do to change. And that growing and evolving. And developing in life is what it's all about.

This has been a wonderful time just chatting with you about one of our favorite subjects, which is color code and how it's impacted our life. And just happy to have you as a regular guest. Always appreciate your insights as someone who has taught me so much, and I hope we can do it again real soon. 


I certainly enjoy our being able to work together and teach together and learn from each other. 


So thank you. Okay, thank you. Until then, this is what your mo in healthcare.