The Golden (or Red, Blue, or Green) Path to Success

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By AMA Staff

Shoya Zichy is the creator of the award-winning “Color Q” personality profile system.  Formerly president of the Myers-Briggs Association of New York, her roster of clients includes Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, UBS, and the U.S. Treasury. She is the author of Career Match, and her latest book is Personality Power: Discover Your Unique Profile—and Unlock Your Potential for Breakthrough Success, published by AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.  Zichy spoke to AMA recently for an Edgewise podcast. The following has been adapted from that interview.

AMA: First things first: What is the Color Q system that you talk about in the book?
Shoya Zichy: Color Q is a personality system that combines the work of Carl Jung, Myers-Briggs, and modern day brain research. It provides insights into four basic temperaments and their corresponding needs, values, talents, and behaviors. Each person has a primary, or dominant, style and a backup style, and then leans toward either extroversion or introversion. These traits combined create 16 personality groups.

AMA: How did you come up with this idea?
SZ: A number of years ago I worked as a private banker in Hong Kong. One of my challenges was dealing with high net worth clients from many different nationalities and backgrounds. One day I discovered a book that summarized the different ways in which people take in information and make decisions. Suddenly, I understood why I was so much more effective with certain clients than others. I went back to my office and color-coded all my clients into four groups. Then I got the staff together and we created specific strategies for dealing and communicating with each group and client. And lo and behold, our new business shot up by over 50% in the next six months.

I continued using these strategies with clients on other continents—the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America—and found that the system worked in all cultures. So when I left the financial services industry, I decided to create seminars that would introduce the model to other professionals to help them read and deal not only with clients, but also with bosses, co-workers, and even family members. Over 70,000 people around the world are now using this material to enhance their careers and personal satisfaction.

AMA: What are the four primary groups, and can you give us some real life examples of each?
SZ: Sure. First you have the golds, who make up 46% of the population. Golds are grounded, realistic, goal-oriented, and excel at organizing people, resources, and processes. Dentists and accountants and commercial bankers are some of the professions highly represented in this category, which includes people like Warren Buffett and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Then you have the reds, which are 27% of population. Reds are action-oriented, spontaneous and focused on the now. They are highly skilled negotiators and excel at seizing opportunities and making things happen. Donald Trump and Barbra Streisand are reds, as are many politicians, real estate developers, and Wall Street traders.

The third group—the blues—are the smallest, only 10% of the population. If you are theoretical, always driven to acquire knowledge and are good at dealing with complex systems, you’re probably a blue. Many journalists, strategic planners, and computer programmers are blues, as are individuals such as Hillary Clinton and Al Gore.

Greens, the last of the groups, make up 17% of the population. They are empathetic, creative, and expressive. They are good at catalyzing others to their goals and communicate with eloquence and flare. Those in advertising, writing or human resources often fit this profile, as do anchor Diane Sawyer and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

AMA: How can people use the Color Q system to improve their careers?
SZ: Well, the key to enjoying your work life and boosting your career success lies in knowing your unique core strengths and then finding the work environment that allows you to make the most of them. First, you can use the self-awareness to create your personal brand and reduce conflict with key people you need to work with. Then, equally important, create diversified teams, which research shows produce the best results. The bottom line is that people who are similar get along better. But teams of people who are different produce more innovative work.

Second, you need to recognize different work environments and cultures. If you have a gold component, whether it is primary or backup, you will thrive in a structured organization with a clear hierarchy and definition of your responsibilities. If you have a red component, you do best when there is almost no hierarchy and routine, few rules, and when long-term planning is a low priority.

If you’re working in the right culture for your personality, you will do better and be happier.

AMA: Okay. Here’s the question of the day: Can the Color Q model help me get a bigger salary?
SZ: Yes, it can, and here’s the deal: 50% of the people in the world consider themselves to be more empathetic, diplomatic, and apt to take things personally and avoid conflict, as opposed to the other half who consider themselves to be more direct and frank, objective about criticism, and apt to meet conflict head on.

Research shows that the more empathetic group tends to be generally underpaid by 25%. The reason is not because people do not recognize or value their work or contribution, but because they are not tough enough in the negotiations process, both with regard to the initial job interview or in their annual review session once they are employed. The reason is that their relationship with the person they are negotiating with is too important to them. So they will often accept a figure below what they could get if they drove a harder bargain.

Here’s my advice: One, if this is the case, recognize that you may have this tendency.  Two, make a detailed list of all your accomplishments. And three—and most important, rehearse the process with someone tough and critical several times before the actual negotiation session. This will give you the practice to push the envelope as far as you can.

AMA: Obviously, you can’t administer a test to your boss or client to determine his or her “color.” So how can you use the Color Q principles to better understand them?
SZ: You can learn a lot about people by the appearance of their office and how they operate. Let’s take it at a simple level. As I mentioned earlier, everyone has two components—primary and secondary. If someone has a gold component, his or her desk is usually uncluttered with no or few piles of paper. Everything is neatly filed. Golds begin and end projects before starting new ones. They are serious, formal, and always on time. So when dealing with a gold, tell him or her your precise expectations, then provide a stable environment with clear channels of communication and authority. You need to be decisive and organized, emphasizing firm procedures and deadlines. Then get out of their way and respect their unique ability to get things done.

If the person has a red component, the desk is a mess of papers and piles. Everything is a work in progress. Other clues: reds are loose, relaxed, and humorous. Sometimes they’re even sitting with their feet up on the desk, and they may also be time pressured or late. When dealing with a red, talking face to face is always best. Memos typically do not engage them; they get bored with them. They need fun, freedom, and independence.  They are most productive in a flexible and self-paced environment. Reds are difficult to control, and impossible to micromanage, but they will not disappoint you if you give them freedom to follow their instincts.

If the person has a green component, their office decor will be colorful, chic, or Bohemian, with many pictures of the family and friends. He or she will often engage in a lot of small talk, in an effort to personalize their relationship and put you at ease. So when dealing with greens, recognize that they need a harmonious environment. They become troubled and distracted by competition and conflict. It’s important to personalize your work relationship. Ask about their family, hobbies, and pets in appropriate ways.  Establish a shared vision, and allow greens creative freedom to address it. Give frequent feedback, but keep it diplomatic.

If the person has a blue component, his or her office will be filled with research studies, business references, and awards. Blues create a sense of distance and have a desire to keep their relationship on a professional basis. Typically they will be brief, terse, and constantly appraising you. Chitchat is limited. When dealing with blues, you need to be strategically visionary to capture their interest. Explain to them the future implications of what you’re doing and how it might have global consequences. Above all, provide them an autonomous environment with minimal guidelines. Debate with them. Don't take their challenges personally. It’s a sign you've got their interest. Listen to their insights, because they can make you a lot of money.

Research shows that emotional intelligence is more important to career success than having a high IQ. I hope the book will provide the self awareness and tools for self-management people need to enhance their success and have fun in the process.

Learn more about Personality Power: Discover Your Unique Profile—and Unlock Your Potential for Breakthrough Success.

Learn more about developing effective work relationships at these AMA seminars:
Developing Your Emotional Intelligence

Building Better Work Relationships: New Techniques for Results-Oriented Communication

About the Author(s)

AMA Staff American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.