How do you communicate effectively with blue, red and green stakeholders in order to build trust and reduce conflict?
Alexander Matthey, MSc, PMP®
3PM Experts, CEO & Co-Founder
In Project Management many people insist, that the Project Managers spend 90% of their time communicating with stakeholders. But no one can ensure the quality and the effectiveness of their communication method. All of us hear messages transmitted by others in our own way – interpreted by our own Motivational Value System (MVS).
How can this happen? Our MVS system relies on the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) principle that is based on an American model of psychological testing. SDI likens people's different “core motivations” to 3 colors: BLUE, RED and GREEN. The BLUE color is for altruistic careers, the RED color is for go-getting leaders and the GREEN color is for analytical, independent types. Flexible, visionary people displaying all 3 colors in equal measure are called “HUBS”.
It is well known worldwide that we do business with people we trust. Communicating with others and talking to their own MVS – empathetic listening - allows us to build trust quickly and co-operate better. It allows the Project Manager to build a positive climate amongst the stakeholders, motivate team members to perform better and reduce conflicts.
Discovering our communication partner's value system, GREEN, BLUE or RED type of person, allows us to strengthen our communications method and improve the quality of our interactions. This empowers us to encode any message to fit to our discussion partner's MVS and assures us that the feedback we receive from our stakeholders is completely aligned with our original message.
Our ability to understand and influence others depends in large part on having a very good understanding of ourselves – how we prefer to interact and relate with others, our interpersonal strengths, what motivates or demotivates us, and what actually happens to us when we are under conflict and stress. Understanding ourselves, our strengths and limitations, helps us to be more effective when communicating with others. So, to understand ourselves better, we must use a personal standardized inventory.
In order to understand the differences and similarities between people, many different types of inventories can be used like DiSC Profile, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). Each one of these different types of inventories has its own particular strengths and limitations. One important key point is to differentiate between a “motivational model” and a “behavioral model”
- The “behavioral model” focuses on patterns of behavior and characteristic traits that define a specific type of personality – this model is recognizing what someone does based on his personality
- The “motivational model” looks behind behavior to understand what are the factors that drive behavior – this model is recognizing why someone is likely to do something based on his motivational value
Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) was developed by Dr. Elias Porter in 1971. SDI is based on Relational Awareness Theory (RAT). RAT is based on the premise that one's behavior traits are consistent with what one finds gratifying in interpersonal relations and with concepts or beliefs one holds about how to interact with others to achieve those gratifications.
Although many personality theories are about people, this theory was meant for people. It was intended to provide an effective means for understanding one's self and for understanding others so that interpersonal relationships could be mutually productive and gratifying.
So, because every one of us perceives the world in a unique way, our values depend on how we perceive the world. RAT and SDI help us to better understand ourselves and our behavior. Also, RAT and SDI allow us to better understand others, their behavior and the way they perceive the world.
According to SDI, each one of us is a mixture of the following three (3) motivational values:
- The desire to be logical (self reliant)
- The desire to be in action and
- The desire to nurture
So, we can be grouped based on which of these values we use to build up our senses and self worth. Also, we have two (2) sets of perceptual circuitry that are measured by SDI:
- One when things are going well
(our comfort zone) and
- One when things are not going well – mainly when we are under stress or in conflict
(our stress zone)
Dr. Elias Porter stated: “The more personality theory can be for a person rather about a person, the better it will serve the person”. So, some of the advantages of SDI include, but are not limited to:
- Recognizes differences in relating styles
- Deals with differences in our behavior when things are going well vs. when we are under stress/conflict
- Addresses the underlying motivations for different relating styles
- Deals with what motivates and what demotivates us
- Gives a better understanding of what is going on when we are in conflict
- Offers a simple framework for understanding and recognizing the Motivational Value System (MVS) of other people
The seven (7) different Motivational Value Systems (MVS)
The SDI is a self-scoring motivational assessment tool. It measures the Motivational Value System (MVS) of a person when things are going well and their Conflict Sequence when the person is in conflict or stress. This is very useful tool for project managers to use it to understand their own style and preferences - then to recognize situations where borrowing another style would generate a better outcome. Also it can be used to understand the style and preference of their stakeholders
SDI looks at behavior in the following ways:
- Behaviors are tools used to get some result or confirm our sense of self-worth. These behavior tools are also used to ward off things we do not want.
- Motives come from our wish to feel a strong sense of self-worth or self-value.
- Our individual Motivational Value System is consistent throughout our life and underpins all of our behaviors.
The SDI is outcome oriented - it is telling us what the reason behind the specific behavior is. Therefore it is easier to act on this learning and apply it easily to interpersonal behavior choices (http://www.personalstrengths.com/
As it was mentioned before, according to SDI, each one of us is a mixture of three (3) motivational values:
- 1) The desire to nurture (BLUE color)
- 2) The desire to be logical / self reliant (GREEN color) and
- 3) The desire to be in action (RED color)
These three (3) motivational values describe the main three (3) MVS:
- BLUE: Altruistic-Nurturing
- It's main concern is the protection and growth of others
- RED: Assertive-Directing
- It's main concern is for task accomplishment and achieving desired results
- GREEN: Analytic-Autonomizing
- It's main concern is for making sure that things are properly thought out
The other four (4) MVS are a mixture of the main three MVS/colours.
- HUB: Flexible-Cohering (displaying all 3 colors in equal measure)
- It's main concern is for flexibility and welfare of the team/group – they try to build team consensus
- RED-BLUE: Assertive-Nurturing
- It's mail concern is for protection, growth, and welfare of others through task accomplishment
- RED-GREEN: Judicious-Competing
- It's mail concern is for justice, leadership, order and fairness in competition
- BLUE-GREEN: Cautious-Supporting
- It's mail concern is for affirming and developing self-sufficiency in self and others
Value Relating Styles of each Motivational Value System (MVS)
The chief characteristics of the four (4) main MVS are:
- BLUE (Altruistic - Nurturing): “Living to enrich others!”
- Trying to help others and not insult them
- Supporting and raising others
- Trying not to bring other people in difficult position
- Defending other people's rights
- Being open and responsive to the needs of others
- Ensuring others can reach their potential
- RED (Assertive - Directing): “Compete to win!”
- Striving for immediate action
- Accepting challenges
- Competing for authority, responsibility and positions of leadership
- Achieving desired results
- Taking risks as necessary and being alert to opportunities
- Seeking and claiming the right to earn rewards
- GREEN (Analytic - Autonomizing): “Self-reliant and analytical!”
- Making sure that things are properly thought out
- Being practical and fair
- Being objective and right
- Being cautious and principled
- HUBS (Flexible - Cohering): “Inclusion oriented!”
- Feeling proud to be member of a team
- Being open minded and willing to adapt
- Being curious about other people's opinions
- Trying to build consensus
Discovering the communication value system (Red, Blue or Green MVS)
So, how can we use the chief characteristics of each MVS? How can team members and stakeholders easily categorized? How do we communicate better with team members and stakeholders in order to reduce conflict and built trust?
Using the previous chief characteristics of each MVS, we can categorize our stakeholders by their MVS. Also the SDI Premier Edition booklet can be used to discover someone's MVS. So, knowing someone's MNS, we can address the message to him as he would expect the message.
Leadership styles of different MVS
Each MVS style has a distinct leadership style. These leadership styles are:
BLUE: Leadership by Enablement & Support
Blue (Altruistic-Nurturing) is a supportive style of leadership. Stakeholders with a Blue MVS tend to have a heartfelt concern for the people they lead. They feel that a positive, nurturing work environment will ultimately lead to better results. They may be more willing to bend a rule or let go of a desired outcome in exchange for better morale or the benefit of an individual employee.
RED: Leadership by Direction & Example
Red (Assertive-Directing) is a directive style of leadership. Stakeholders with a Red MVS tend to be outcome oriented. They may try to find the quickest route to a desirable result and want to be the first to market with new products or ideas. They tend to be persuasive and to organize people and resources to get things accomplished. They may be willing to over-burden individuals or reduce research time in pursuit of results.
GREEN: Leadership by Procedure & Exception
Green (Analytic-Autonomizing) is a Procedural style of leadership. Stakeholders with a Green MVS tend to be concerned about processes, fairness, and order. They may prioritize standards, accuracy, thoroughness, and a keen eye for inconsistencies in their decision-making. They may be more reactionary to people issues and willing to defer an opportunity or restrict access to needed resources until certain of the appropriate action.
HUB: Leadership by Consensus & Teamwork
Hub (Flexible-Cohering) is a consensus-based style of leadership. Stakeholders with a Hub MVS tend to be concerned about incorporating input from multiple sources to produce a result acceptable to all parties. They tend to select strategies that allow future flexibility and preserve or generate future options. In an effort to balance their decision-making, they may make decisions that look inconsistent to observers.
Different communication styles
As far as we discover our stakeholder MVS, then we know how to communicate with him. This means:
- A BLUE stakeholder speaks with great confidence because he knows that everyone will understand exactly what he meant to say.
- A RED stakeholder speaks with great confidence because he knows that everyone wants to listen to him.
- A GREEN stakeholder speaks with great confidence because he knows that he is right.
- A HUB stakeholder speaks with great confidence because he knows that everyone wants to agree with him.
Receiving Communication – Preferences by MVS
|Color||Prefer:||Do not prefer:|
|• BLUEs||▪ Face to face meetings |
▪ One to one meetings
|▪ Email |
|• REDs||▪ Telephone |
|▪ Report |
▪ Personal letter
|• GREENs:||▪ Personal letter |
|▪ Face to face meetings |
▪ One to one meetings
|• HUBs||▪ Face to face meetings |
▪ One to one meetings
|▪ Email |
Project Managers spends 90% of their time communicating with stakeholders. Discovering the MVS style of our stakeholder can greatly increase the communication because we hear messages transmitted by others in our own way – interpreted by our own Motivational Value System (MVS).
Our MVS system relies on the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) principle. SDI likens people's different “core motivations” to 3 colors: BLUE, RED and GREEN. The BLUE color is for altruistic careers, the RED color is for go-getting leaders and the GREEN color is for analytical, independent types. Flexible, visionary people displaying all 3 colors in equal measure are called “HUBS”.
Communicating with others and talking to their own MVS – empathetic listening - allows us to build trust quickly and co-operate better. It allows the Project Manager to build a positive climate amongst the stakeholders, motivate team members to perform better and reduce conflicts.
Myers, I., The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Instrument (MBTI), from http://www.knowyourtype.com
Marston, W. (1928) DISC Personal Profile System from http://www.discprofile.com/williammoultonmarston.htm
Porter, E. (1976) On the Development of Relationship Awareness Theory: A Personal Note, Group & Organization Management 1 (3) 302-309 Available from: http://gom.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/1/3/302
Porter, E. & Collins, M. (1976) Relationship Awareness Theory: Manual of Administration and Interpretation, Ninth Edition Carlsbad, CA:Personal Strengths Publishing, Inc
Jennings Group (2006) Leadership Institute Master Class: Leadership Principles – Winning through emotional intelligence, The Project Management Institute
Farris, W. (2001) Comparison of Psychometric Instruments – Strength Deployment Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation, Neo Personality Inventory: Is the Strength Deployment Inventory a Valid Research Instrument for Measuring Motivational Values in an Individualistic and Collectivistic Culture? A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty Committee of the School of Education, University of Southern California in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree DOCTOR OF EDUCATION
© 2008, Theofanis Giotis MSc, PMP® & Alexander Matthey MSc, PMP®
Originally published as a part of 2008 PMI EMEA Global Congress Proceedings – St. Julian's, Malta