Seeing Red

by Onyeka Nchege on November 15, 2016


Frustrated ITer with fumes illustration

Frustrated IT Guru with fumes illustration

A multitude of thoughts and emotions are evoked when we see the color red. Seeing the color red can evoke energy, excitement, and even, fear, depending on its context. Red alerts us to danger ahead and influences us to take corrective action before meeting with an unfavorable demise. It can create the perception of a strong, empowered individual and, in the process, lend confidence to those who need it most.

To give more tangible examples, think of how you view someone in a dark suit wearing a red, “power” tie, or the thoughts you have when you visualize our president answering the infamous, red phone – synonymous with urgency and crisis – or perhaps the feelings you had when receiving a graded test marked up in red ink. Over the course of our lives, we have been conditioned to see the color red as an alert. There are so many interpretations associated with the color red, so how do we know that we are correctly interpreting the color in our daily lives? Furthermore, how can we be certain that we are seeing beyond the preconceived notions of red and identify the symbolic nature of the color in its most pure form?

So, why so much talk about the color red? Recently, my team and I worked together to draft an organizational dept. chart to help us assess and evaluate the organization. We color coded the chart – using red, yellow and green – to represent value against a number of forward-thinking criteria. In keeping with feedback we had received from the organization around communicating and sharing information, concepts, and strategies more broadly, we decided to share the value-added evaluation process. My vision for this experience was to give honest feedback so we could identify those things that we need to work on most and therefore take correction action and so this exercise in transparency should have had a very productive and proactive outcome. Instead, the color red interfered and the outcome was less than positive. Everyone was confused, and maybe even more so, concerned and preoccupied with seeing Red.

As an example, the attribute of “confidence” was coded in red, and everyone else was confused as to how to see that as a positive. To me, seeing the attribute of confidence as red simply meant… In that instance, my interpretation of red was seen as an encouragement and not as a threat. Unfortunately, my team interpreted this same attribute as negative.

If only the group could see past the red color and identify the strength and power (developmental opportunity) that corresponds with the color. Everyone has developmental opportunities. My biggest successes have been born out of knowing, acknowledging, and working thru my developmental opportunities. It was almost as if we were back in grade school, reviewing a graded paper. We just couldn’t see past those red marks. There is so much opportunity in those red marks, yet when we focus on the color and nothing else, we see nothing but identified flaws.

Don’t let the color red interfere with your ability to grow. In this instance, a red coding is nothing but a visual representation of developmental opportunities – we can always change or adjust the color code, for better or for worse. But it’s up to the individual to determine whether or not the red in their life is a symbol of control, power or danger.

Take Action: Next time you’re struggling to accept your dose of red, challenge yourself to see beyond the confusion and identify the symbolic nature of the color in its purest form.

Leadership on the GO…..Its O.N.



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dana martin November 16, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Great read! So interesting how we are conditioned to see only the negative and not learn from it. Something I challenge myself with all the time when I get feedback!

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avatar Onyeka Nchege November 17, 2016 at 1:11 pm

So so true Dana. It’s the conditioning. And it happens so subliminally that we have to be intentional and deliberate about doing something different and seeing something different. Thanks for the comment.

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