How did you first become acquainted with True Colors?

The American Red Cross launched an internal professional development program called the PMDP (People Manager Development Program). The program wasn’t just meant for people with “manager,” “director,” or “supervisor” in their title, but anybody that has direct reports. For PMDP, we chose True Colors as a course to offer our over 20,000 employee population to help them improve their communication styles.

I was selected by my team to be the True Colors Course Owner within the American Red Cross. We actually have 32 facilitators in-house that we have certified but I’m the course manager so I’m sort of like the overseer of those 32.

Why were you chosen to be the Course Owner?

I think from my facilitation experience and my level as a senior consultant at the American Red Cross. I am also the head of the talent organization and development department.

Did you have any reservations about becoming a Certified Facilitator?

No. I was absolutely gung-ho about it (in fact, I remember my director paused a bit when I said it because it was obviously going to be a lot of work.) I just loved the workshop so much. I think it’s an awesome tool.

But I will toss in a caveat: although it is the most popular course we have in PMDP, it can be a lot of work. There’s a lot of scheduling and logistical work (and as my color profile shows, gold is my palest color!)

What overall impact has True Colors had at the American Red Cross?

It has made people more aware and cognizant of others. One realization I’ve had is when we deliver workshops to different lines of services. For instance, we have biomedical staff, humanitarian staff, etc. If I have a group that’s primary biomedical staff, it’s interesting to see that the group will typically lean Gold. However, if we have a group of humanitarian staff, the group almost always leans Blue. So it’s made our managers and directors more aware and it’s encouraged them to be more patient. For example, if you’re going to assign someone a task that doesn’t come easily to them, understand that they can do it but maybe be more patient, provide support, or don’t make it a rush assignment. If the task has to be completed quickly, assign it to somebody whose strength speaks to the task.

What’s great about True Colors is how people can apply the concepts to their personal lives as well as their professional lives. At the Red Cross, we’re trying to make a culture change. It’s not just about knowing your unique color spectrum but applying what you learned to improve your communicate and empathy with other color spectrums. How can you change your communication style with this useful knowledge you now have of those you work with?

I encourage our facilitators to share examples. I always use the example of how my director is a strong Gold. So, when I draft a message to her, I don’t edit it for just spelling and grammar; I take a step back and ask myself “how can I say this in fewer words, perhaps I can change this paragraph into bullet points.”

Again, I’ve said it’s one of the most popular courses in our manager development programs; everyone is clamoring for it. It’s a great team building exercise and it’s fun to see the lightbulb go on as they understand themselves and their team. And people always want to go home and give it to their spouses and children, as well.

What does a day-in-the-life of a Red Cross Facilitator look like?

First, each Facilitator reviews the schedule and signs up to facilitate. It’s up to the facilitator to prep and communicate with their co-facilitator (if they have one) and then arrange their travel. As I said, there’s a lot of scheduling and logistical work. Each Facilitator is responsible for obtaining the necessary materials for each workshop, scheduling travel, communicating with the team or department they’ll be delivering the workshop to, things like that.

What personality traits are important for the success of a Facilitator?

Things I look for in other facilitators are charisma, energy, a willingness to have fun, and good classroom management skills.

We have other non-True Colors courses in the PMDP, but I believe some of them require a more serious teaching approach where True Colors is a fun and high-energy course. (I worked at Disney World when I was in high school and I was a cheerleader, so I think I fit that bill.)

But a lot of corporate facilitators are really just H.R. professionals who have been tossed into the role. The great thing about True Colors is that its program is based on facilitation rather than simply lecturing. So, it’s more fun and once you’ve done it a few times you really don’t have to prep for each session.

What do you think is the best path to becoming a True Colors Facilitator?

I think ideally you take the Personal Success workshop first. In my case, I actually took the online assessment first. I then traveled to Montgomery, Alabama for a training event and actually watched a workshop be presented (part of the training process is experiencing an actual workshop) before the training process began.

Can you take me through the actual certification process?

After going through an actual Personal Success workshop, the Master Trainer then unpacks the entire curriculum. He or she breaks everything down to the tiniest detail and walks through a number of examples and different ways to present the workshop. There are numerous teach-backs with opportunities to critique one another—it was really neat to see how other facilitators outside of the Red Cross planned to deliver it and promote it within their organizations. You come away with other ideas on how to deliver it. It’s a pretty rigorous three-day process, so by the time you leave you know what you’re doing.

I’ve actually been trained to be a facilitator for other programs that are actually longer than True Colors, but these other program’s certification process is considerably shorter. Doesn’t make much sense!

So what’s in store for True Colors at the Red Cross?

Well, we’re working on our 2019 goals right now. I think we’re going to have thirty-nine different True Colors workshops in that time period across the country and even potentially several sessions in Germany. I actually delivered a workshop in Puerto Rico earlier this year. My director just delivered a workshop in Korea at an Armed Forces base. So again, our desire is to get all of our Managers through this course at some point. They have two years to finish the curriculum.

Do have any tips for anyone who’s thinking about becoming a facilitator?

I’d say if you experience it, really believe in it, have a passion for it, then go for it because it’s a really fun and effective program. Oh, and it’s very rewarding!

Dany Hollingsworth

Senior Consultant, LMS, and e-Learning Programs at American Red Cross, National Headquarters, Training & Development
Certified True Colors Facilitator