In the previous episode we started with four personality types dating back to antiquity, today known best under DISC theory, color-coded as Red, Yellow, Green and Blue and RPG-coded as Fighter, Bard, Druid and Wizard.
Today, we are going to take a closer look at the introverted spectrum of our fellowship – Druids and Bards, and look for synergies, different paths to reach a goal and the perfect party.
The Green Druid
Druids are the Stable type. They are on the introverted, calm and passive side but are interested in relations and people. Just not too many people at once and not for too long. They are team players -they care about others, and like to help, support, develop, heal, repair and restore. They hate conflicts so they try to de-escalate the situation or back off if things go too far. They speak much less than Yellows which leaves space for listening and they listen carefully and empathically. Always kind, always keeping their word. They don’t like to be in the spotlight and they stay away from risks. Changes are risky, and so is making decisions and Green avoids or postpones both, sometimes losing a great opportunity. Predictability is good. We did things this way all the time and it worked, so why change it? Occasionally Green would say yes while they think no, not because they are lying bastards, but because of the lack of assertiveness, desire to avoid tension and fear of upsetting their peers.
In the company, Green Druids are those you can count on. Green developer might not be the fastest one, the most up-to-date with bleeding edge technology or the most diligent, but if he commits to do something, consider it done. Green will use proven and stable technology that won’t get you in trouble in production… …unless some security issue is discovered. Green will pause their tasks to help others in need. Green knows if there was an argument in the room a moment ago, even though he just arrived and will proceed to de-escalate and make things run smoothly again. Green will calm down Red, listen to Yellow and cheer up Blue. Green acts as a glue and a good spirit for the team – always somewhere there in the background. However, if there is a fast decision or risky change to be made – Green freezes.
How to handle Green? Spend some time building relation, gain his trust and make sure the environment is safe. Never break a word given to Green. Be careful with surprises and unexpected changes. Don’t try to trick him into things, Greens are good at detecting bullshit. Assure that his input into the team is appreciated, even if he lags behind with technical tasks. Don’t pressure too much and force deadlines on Green – let him come up with the estimation himself. Make sure they see and understand the goals as they might miss them. Support him in making decisions.
Famous Green Druids: Mahatama Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Princess Diana, Luke Skywalker, Marge Simpson, Frodo, Ned Stark.
The Blue Wizard
Wizards are the Compliant and Analytical type. They are interested in things, much like Reds, but with significantly less hassle and extraversion. The total opposite of Yellow. They are logical and rational, detail-oriented and operate based on data and facts. Lots of it. Blues don’t need an audience or recognition for accomplishments – they are simply doing their job. They don’t speak much, but when they do – every word carries its weight. They consider the pros and cons, think of all the risks and prepare for them. They are methodical, diligent, precise and thoughtful. They often love the process more than the outcome and they tend to be a perfectionist – nothing is ever done, and there is always something to polish or some corner case to be handled. It takes time. A lot of time. They tend to be seen as pessimists and killjoys – every time Yellow comes up with a new and exciting idea, Blue will find seven reasons why it might fail. They may appear as cold, distant and emotionless, but it’s misleading. They do have emotions, it’s just that they don’t express them much.
In the company, Blue Developer handle the details. Blue will use a new library after carefully examining possible risks and listing the pros and cons of several other choices including writing the thing themselves from scratch. He will think of nulls, zeros, unexpected negatives, empty strings, overflows, race conditions, slow network, events out of order, hard drive going down, traffic spikes, SQL injection, backup, second backup, geographically distributed backup, 512-bit symmetric encryption key just in case, that corner case that never happened in production for 7 years and on and on. They will cover everything in 7 layers of automatic tests. And boy, the system will be indestructible and beautiful, but… there will be no one to use it since the company will go bankrupt meanwhile.
How to handle Blue Wizards? Reserve lots of time, not for small talk but for discussing facts, data, charts, tables, checklists and additional materials. Be on time – Wizards are never late, so shouldn’t be you or you lose points. Skip the grand vision and speeches, and get to the point. Be prepared and let Blue prepare as well – send the materials beforehand so that Blue can go through them earlier and think of questions. Don’t pressure him with a decision – Blue needs time to consider everything. Put at least some boundaries on discussion length and number of questions. Be specific with requirements and deadlines. If you say you need a ranged weapon for the battle, you will get a fire-enchanted trebuchet while what you really needed was a sling. Make sure Blue’s voice is heard among quarrelling Reds and Yellows. If you need to crack a particularly complex and demanding intellectual problem – Blue is your guy.
Famous Blue Wizards: Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger, Warren Buffett, C3-PO, Hermione Granger, Mr Spock, Lisa Simpson, Sheldon Cooper.
The Perfect Fellowship
Can you already see your colors? And those of your fellows? Good, good. Now, how does all of this combine together in the context of a team? Which colors are the best and which ones do we need in the team the most? The answer is probably obvious by now. None of them is better than the other and we need all of them to succeed – whether it’s a Dungeons and Dragons adventuring party or a software development project. Modern business and agile principles favor teams that have all the competencies and talents to make things happen with increasing autonomy. Roles become blended and dynamic and communication within and outside the team is essential. To create good software, you need all four – decisiveness, innovation, reliability and attention to detail. If you miss any color in your team, one dimension might suffer and bring everything down with it. A diverse team is something much more than a mere sum of its parts and also provides a better opportunity for growth for each member as we learn from each other.
Let’s now take a small break from adventuring/software development and consider preparing a team integration/tavern visit. The one who comes up with the idea to decompress will most likely be Yellow. Yellow knows all the pubs, restaurants, where to go for bowling, billiard, and escape rooms, who has the best selection of craft beer and can probably get a discount or reservation in a place that’s officially fully booked. Blue will jump to prepare an online Excel sheet to pitch options where to go, then create a poll based on that to vote and a second poll to select a perfect date, which will include options like “definitely no“, “definitively yes” and “I could make it but I prefer other days” and calculate the optimal date. Green will make sure everyone remembers the date, that there are decent food options for a fellow vegan co-worker and at the end of the long night of drinking will help that one guy that just can’t hold his liquor to safely get a cab or Uber home. Red will make a decision in case of a tie in a poll and lead the assault on the pub. Everything comes together nicely.
Synergies and Divergences
On the micro-scale of close cooperation, certain colors might work better than others. Following our traits scales – Blue works well with Green and Red works well with Yellow because of similar energy. Blue can work well with Red and Green with Yellow because of the similar focus. The Red and Green pair might be challenging, same as Yellow and Blue, but everything can work out in the end when we are conscious of other people’s styles of communication and talents. What color proportions in the team are the best? Of course, there are many other factors to consider, as every experienced consultant loves to say – it depends. Certain fields will draw more of a specific color to them. An accountant team will probably have more Blues on average, and a sales team will have more Yellows, but having a team of a single color is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, it’s rare for people to have just one color.
Remember, that people are complicated beings, have various motivations and many paths can get you where you need to go. Consider, for example, a developer switching to a managerial role. Red might want to do this because it will give him more control, impact and a powerful vehicle for moving forwards fast. Yellow might like the idea of being in the spotlight, preparing motivational speeches and painting glorious visions. Green genuinely cares about people and wants more tools to help them grow, support them and make teams run smoothly. Blue might see the organization as a complex machinery of interconnected moving pieces – alive, inanimate or virtual, with endless optimizations and polishing opportunities. Does this mean that any of them would be a bad manager? No, they would all be unique and can truly shine under different circumstances.
If the topic of character classes and personality colors is interesting to you, I highly recommend Erikson’s book. I hope it will save you some unnecessary troubles down the road – professionally, personally and of course when fighting dragons and exploring dungeons. Stay tuned and colorful!