I lead with yellow energy. I like to be playful. Sometimes my yellow energy leads people to believe that I am not taking them seriously. How can I be true to myself while also demonstrating the respect and appreciation I truly have for my colleagues?
Yellow Energy Fosters Positivity
Life of the party, class clown, funnyman, wisecracker, jokester. These are all phrases that you have likely heard describing you, and ones you probably enjoy! You personally appreciate keeping things light and fun. Why take ourselves too seriously? Psychologists tell us that laughter releases endorphins, which make us feel good about ourselves and others. This good feeling creates a bond between people and cultivates a sense of togetherness on teams.
Yellow energy brings enthusiasm to our life together, which often engenders a sense of hopefulness and optimism. When we are laughing together we can often find the silver lining and the reasons to celebrate. Being playful can help the team to see the bright side, which helps people not get mired down or discouraged by the challenges. We all benefit from the opportunity to laugh together.
4 Tips to Using Yellow Energy
Using our yellow energy well includes awareness of how it can be received by others. This is very contextual, as people will respond differently to your playfulness differently based on the reason you are gathered, personal stress levels, different color energy preferences, and the positional authority level you hold in the organization. Let’s address each one of these for more perspective.
Why Are You Gathered?
First, why are you gathered? Playfulness is valued during the regular gathering of people among whom there is high trust. In other words, a healthy team meeting in the normal rhythm of collaboration is solid ground for your lightheartedness. High trust teams are characterized by safety, a team in which the best interests of one another are fostered and protected. Trust characterized by safety provides a strong foundation for playfulness. Be mindful, however, if you are the leader of a team that you don’t know well or is experiencing high change or conflict. Being a jokester in a context in which people are already feeling vulnerable or insecure will only make things more fragile. You may be perceived as inappropriately exerting power, not aware of the concerns or fears of the people around you, or even callous to the challenges around you. Until connection and safety can be established, be prudent in how you use your yellow energy.
Be Mindful of Chronic Stress Levels
Second, be mindful of chronic stress levels. All of us experience stress and each one of us handles stress differently. For this conversation I am not referring to everyday stress that comes from the daily activities we take on at work or home. Rather, I am raising awareness of how your yellow energy may be received on a team that is failing to meet the milestones, feeling under attack by colleagues or clients, up against a threat to the success of their endeavor, or other chronic challenges. In these situations you may be tempted to lighten the load with humor or lightheartedness. However, you may be better received by first acknowledging the weight people are feeling and that the challenges are real and painful. People need to be seen, and when stressed they want to be appreciated. When confronting stress it is not that you shouldn’t be playful, it is just that the playfulness will be better received after you acknowledge the challenges people are facing and offer tangible ways that you will help.
Be Aware of Your Opposite Type
Third, be aware of people who are your opposite type. Not everyone values playfulness the way you do. In the case of yellow energy, what do people who lead with blue energy need to feel connected? In addition to safety that is addressed above, high trust teams are characterized by dependability. Dependability is the confidence that you will follow through on your commitments in addition to holding other team members accountable. Your humor may be perceived as a deflection of your responsibility or changing the rules of the game. When the team is behind or failing to meet its goals, it is important to demonstrate that you are holding both yourself and others accountable to the commitments made. Playfulness can erode trust instead of engendering it. Be mindful to take people and their commitments seriously. Look for ways for your playfulness to deepen trust and reinforce dependability.
Be Mindful of Your Position
Fourth, be mindful of the position you hold in the organization. The more positional authority you have, the more you need to be intentional about using all four colors when leading others. No one likes to be made fun of or mocked. And if you hold a position of authority, it can feel degrading to those who report to you if they are the butt of the joke. People want to please you and demonstrate their value to you as the boss or group leader. Therefore, they will stretch to accept and tolerate behaviors even if those are not their preference. You may think your yellow energy is making things light and enjoyable, when in fact it is eroding trust in you and even fostering resentment. If you have to say, “I’m just trying to be funny” then you probably aren’t. And that is an important time to practice reflection, invite a coach to give you feedback, do some introspection on how your playfulness is being received and how you can channel it so that it delivers the positive results you intend.
Like all our leadership behaviors, playfulness can either be used well or can be used in a way that prevents teams from thriving. Knowing when and how to use your playfulness and when to throttle it back is an important part of leadership maturity.