Appoint the strongest blue, factual-thinking style leader in your team for decisions in this time.

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 “Appoint the strongest blue, factual-thinking style leader in your team for decisions in this time. ”

I’ve been watching myself and other leaders in my client base with a keen eye during the past three weeks of the Covid-19 crisis. As a small business owner, communication consultant (specialising in human behaviour and risk communication), registered counsellor, and certified HBDI brain profiling professional, I’ve noticed trends. I want you to pause, and re-evaluate which thinkers are in which roles at this moment and change it if it needs to change.

Most of our DevCom clients and team members are familiar with the HBDI tool. For those who have completed their HBDI brain profile, do yourself and your teammates a favour and quickly pull out your HBDI profile. If you don’t have it handy, let me know and I will send you another copy. If you have a team profile, also grab that, and review it again.

I’ve noticed myself, and the leaders that I’m dealing with, going fully into our stress profiles in the HBDI tool. To refresh your memory, this is the dotted line, the adjective pairs, and the work attributes. Now, notice your response under stress. If you tend to go into the futuristic yellow quadrant or the red relational quadrant, find yourself a strong blue factual and green practical counterweight in this time.

As much as it is an opportunity to remake your business and dream about the new future and the different relationships we have now and will have in the future, the kind of decision making you need RIGHT now in the business, is factual, analytical and practical, structured thinking.

I am a 3 1 1 1. Under pressure, a 3 1 1 2. 1 represents your premier thinking style which gives you energy, 2 means that you are neutral to that way of thinking, and 3 sucks the life out of you, but you can do it. As a high yellow holistic person, I’ve mapped out scenarios. I’ve played out many “if this then that” situations, and they are mostly optimistic, filled with wow ideas for the future.

With my strong red relational quadrant, I’ve created accurate messages for clients and also supported many with my debriefing and counselling skills, and health communication background. With my high green practical quadrant I’ve worked very hard these past few weeks, defaulting into my standard stress profile where my red and green increase, and my yellow decreases. My thinking under pressure is that I can work myself out of the crisis and I usually force my team to work just as hard.

“The kind of decisions that factual and practical thinkers should be making now”

1. Evaluating the cashflow with a critical eye, cutting on luxury items, negotiating prices with suppliers, taking options for payment holidays, reviewing your insurance policies and payments, etc. They should stretch and turn every freaking rand, twice. This means they will say no. A lot. Don’t shoot the messenger and don’t overrule them (I am really preaching this to myself mostly!).

2. Have the wisdom to know which are long-term ROI elements you simply can’t cut on. Marketing, internal communication, key product development and innovations, etc. need to not be on the cut-immediately-list, it needs to be evaluated very carefully.

3. Adapting the sales pipeline to realistic targets and timelines. No, it is not as optimistic as the future thinkers say, or as guaranteed as the relational, loyal thinker motivates it is. Relationships can be as strong as they may be, your clients’ blue thinkers will also be cutting and holding their cash.

4. Freezing all hires, you can review hiring again after three to six months. Even if you interviewed and made an offer, see how you can delay the hire at all cost. First prize is to keep your team for as long as possible, and not cut on long-term loyal staff.

5. Get the most out of what you have already. If you have existing retainers and contracts with freelancers, don’t terminate them (if you can help it). Rather ask them to do a bit more for a bit less, within reason. Everyone is protecting their core income and willing to make a bit less profit. DevCom has not charged any of our existing customers for the extensive Covid-19 work we have added in this time, we are playing swings and roundabouts, and we are willing to do a lot to retain our customers and help them keep their businesses open. Of course, we do this within the guidelines of the blue thinkers, so we don’t make a loss while doing that.

6. Reviewing HR task lists, roles and responsibilities, and balancing the workload to prioritise income- generating work. Which roles are critical, and which are not? This work-from-home status may be going on for a while. If you cut all things, and just have to generate an income in this state, who is going to be on the income-generating-list?

7. Stopping all non-essential projects. These are value adds and they can resume at some point, but for now, you have to pause some training, evaluations, parties, workshops, etc. Review perks and costs on all levels. Use alternative free resources that have become available on the web and keep as much cash as possible in the bank. Again, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (green thinkers will help with this), but make the lists, and debate them thoroughly.

8. Map the scenarios. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. The plan for the worst part is terrible, energy-sucking-work for optimistic, strategic visionary thinkers. Leave the blue realistic thinkers to this task, trust them, and listen to their advice. Give input and make whole-brain decisions.

9. Speak out. Factual thinkers usually don’t speak up unless they are asked. Don’t think that their silence means everything is under control. Ask them. Listen to them. And let them make the decisions for now, even though it means that you can’t immediately get the growth, talent, returns, dividends, bonuses, events or marketing strategy you want.

10. Blue and green thinkers need to define new parameters within which the rest of the thinkers can think within. Let them give you a new set of rules to play the game with for the next three to six months. I’m not saying we can’t do anything, but — we have this amount of budget, this is a no-go right now, and these are possibilities (if this, then that). When you give these parameters to the yellow creative thinkers, and the relational red thinkers, they can build a new vision and relational picture in these frameworks.

“The role of the strategic yellow and relational red thinkers in this time.”

1. Bring your strength of new ideas, relationship building and practical doing within the new framework that the blue thinkers have laid out.

2. Grieve your losses. Remember, the plans you made, the vision you hold, the talent you have in the pipeline — all of that is important and you’ve emotionally committed to it. Discuss that with the team. They will need to use energy to understand your emotions and visions but know that their plans will get you there in the long run.

3. It is not never; it is just not right now. Set up your planning with an interim phase. Put your holistic thinking and creativity towards a short-term, medium-term, and long-term focus. Map out all your ideas. Don’t lose them. Things are changing so fast; they might just fit into the next blue framework. They are not lost. They are just paused.

4. Don’t make emotional or experimental decisions in this time. You will regret it. You will also damage your personal leadership brand, and your business, and the faith your team puts in you. Acknowledge the emotions but ask the blue thinkers to strongly weigh out the pro’s and the con’s, and make informed, data-based decisions (Ramaphosa vs. Trump – you get the picture?).

5. Use your strengths to build your team and client relationships. It is an important investment from a human and business perspective. Use the time you would agonise over practical and financial and other decisions (delegate those decisions if you are not the best thinker for them at the time), and focus on what you are good at under your stress profile.

6. Be a team player. Do things for team members that they don’t expect; check-in on other team members and add your value in gold through taking this pressure off the green and blue thinkers, even if it isn’t in your task list. Show up with your thinking style in ways that relieve pressure, not add pressure. Reds are drama queens sometimes, and yellows can be sulky if we don’t get what we envisioned. Let it go (see bullet 2 and 3 above).

7. Listen. Most of all, listen to all thinkers in this time. And follow your intuitive nature. We know that what we are hearing is the right way to go, mostly, but we resist because of our optimism, vision, invested relationships, or other thinking styles that are easier to get behind. Listen. And trust your teammates, they have your best interests at heart.

We need whole brain thinking now more than ever, and we need to let the blue thinkers help us to form the framework for decisions right now.

May your business ride out this storm with factual thinkers making the tough calls, supported by the relational thinkers to facilitate the human impact of the decisions, and don’t stop the practical thinkers from doing. It all will add to the strategic, visionary, yellow plan you have for the future.

-Mari Lee, ABC

Founder and CEO of DevCom


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Appoint the strongest blue, factual-thinking style leader in your team for decisions in this time.

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