Star Trek is one of the most widely recognized and beloved TV series of all time. Pivotal to the success of the original version was the relationship between Captain James T. Kirk and his Science Officer and right hand man, Spock. As half human and half Vulcan, Spock had virtually no feelings or emotions.
This frustrated the fully human Kirk, who wanted a deeper relationship with his friend. You might look at that as a clash of personality styles.
That’s something we see in the corporate world today, where people tend to fall into four distinct personality styles. These styles differ in the areas of decision making, what the individuals value, and how they prefer to communicate. Labeled by color, here is a brief summary of each style:
- Blue – These are “relationship” persons who thrive on harmony, teamwork, trust, and a collaborative environment. Blues are the people persons.
- Gold – Known for their strong skills in planning and organization, Golds usually rise to management levels. Most CEOs are Gold personalities.
- Green – These are your technical people. Engineers, scientists, IT programmers, and CIOs are generally this color.
- Orange – Recognized for their abilities to persuade and perform, they are the energizers of the team. They are “big picture” people who like to move fast.
When it comes to communication, you need to be aware of your own style in order to make the most of your communications with others and connect with them. This is a skill that needs to be practiced. It is our nature to view people not like ourselves as “difficult” when we really should be viewing them as merely a “different” personality type.
Most professionals in the position of CIO are Green personalities. What this means is that they desire a lot of information and data, they make decisions based on logic, and they are by nature skeptical. In other words, they tend to be more like Mr. Spock than the emotional Captain Kirk. This is important to understand as a CIO so you know how you come across to others.
Communications styles are either direct or indirect. Direct individuals are talkative and get right to the point. Indirect individuals prefer to listen and ask questions. Direct individuals like to convince and persuade, tell others what to do, and take action. Indirect individuals prefer to observe what’s going on, then ask questions and pay attention to the answers. Most CIOs tend to be indirect, preferring to ask questions for information, to observe, and then to take action only when they’re sure it’s the right direction.
Communication styles also fall into the categories of open and self-contained. People who are open answer questions immediately, usually volunteering much more information than you are asking for. In fact, they will likely talk without pausing to formulate their response. They go with the flow.
Self-contained people tend not to answer a question directly. They might skirt giving an answer, or give an answer unrelated to the question. They might even come back with a question to the other person before addressing the original question.
Odds are that a given CIO is going to be an indirect and cautious communicator, preferring that the people who approach them are more reserved rather than outgoing. That will likely result in a conversation that will be slower paced, with occasional lapses of silence between responses. CIOs are more comfortable with people who are inquisitive and who respond well to skepticism.
A person dealing with a CIO is best advised to come prepared to listen well, to be measured in their own responses, and to provide worthwhile information and details, without expecting quick decisions on moving forward. CIOs are typically slower in making decisions because of that desire for all the details.
What about when a CIO is dealing with other C-suite executives, with differing communications styles? Well, usually Chief Marketing Officers and Sales Officers are Blue or Orange personality types. That means the CIO, being a cautious and indirect communicator, will have to become more open since Blue and Orange personalities enjoy small talk and being more relational. Oranges are direct, offering quick answers with more information. Blues are indirect, so they will be more likely to thinking through answers before they talk, just like the CIO.
Chief Operating Officers and Chief Executive Officers tend to be Golds. Like the CIO, they are cautious. They will be measured in their responses and not likely to answer questions directly, rather going back and forth in asking other questions. But Golds are also direct, so the CIO needs to get straight to the point.
Chief Financial Officers are usually Greens or Golds. If Green, they will relate just fine with the CIO. If Gold, direct communication is best.
About Stu Schlackman
Stu Schlackman is the author of Four People You Should Know. He’s a veteran technology sales executive who trains and coaches sales and service teams to turn them into top performers. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Master of Business Administration from Kennedy Western University.