About Patricia Hagan

I am a Teaching and Learning Coach for the St Vrain Valley School District. I am also a STEP Associate and am working towards becoming a STEP Resident Specialist.

The Language of Grace

It is crucial that we solely operate from a strengths-based approach when we use the Emergentics tool with ourselves, our colleagues and students.  Geil Browing, one of the founders of Emergenetics, calls this using “the Language of Grace:”

The Language of Grace is not just words.  It’s an empowering and effective tool that creates behavioral changes. It starts with you making the conscious effort to choose different language patterns that emphasize positive thoughts and outcomes and then encouraging everyone else to do the same. As your workers become more fluent in this language, thinking patterns in the workplace begin to change (56).

In some instances, when people receive their profiles they say something like,”I don’t have any red,” when in reality everyone has red; that person just might not prefer to live in Red. Similarly, we should view our preferences as strengths. For example, people with a preference in Red can be seen as emotional and overly sensitive, but when we choose to look at the strengths of that same attribute (approachable and caring), we motivate the brains of others and ensure that we build a positive culture in our buildings.

This positive language also applies to the behaviors.  Rather than thinking of my 3/3 assertiveness as impatient or bossy, I might see myself as liking a quick pace. Rather than seeing a 1/3 assertive as being an avoider, I might see him/her as a keeper of peace.

Because school ends on Thursday and some of you will not have access to email over the summer, I will continue this blog in August.  I look forward to featuring some schools and teams who have been using their profiles in their everyday work.  Thanks for the suggestion, Joe McBreen! If you would like to be featured, please comment below.  Have a wonderful summer!



Embracing Your Scratchy

In recent posts I addressed how to communicate with different thinking attributes.  Today I would like to narrow in on the behaviors, Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility, and what it means to feel scratchy.

Think of a time in your life when you were asked or expected to behave in a way that made you feel uncomfortable.  Maybe a friend put you on the spot at a wedding and asked you to give a speech.  Maybe you were asked to change the class or grade level you were teaching for a long time. Maybe you were forced to make an important decision in a very short period of time.

Depending on where we live in the behaviors, 1/3, 2/3 or 3/3, the need to flex can make us incredibly uncomfortable, or as we call it in the Emergenetics world, “scratchy.” However, when we adjust our behaviors to meet the behaviors of others, we are opening opportunities to build rapport with our colleagues and students.

Here are some tips for how to communicate and build rapport through adjusting our behaviors:

First-Third Expressive:  Use fewer words, allow for silence.

Third-Third Expressive:  Speak up and use gestures, engage in constant conversation.

First-Third Assertive:  Take a slower pace, ask for their opinion.

Third-Third Assertive:  Keep the pace fast, give your opinion and don’t shy away from debate.

First-Third Flexibility: Stay the course when making decisions, allow for fewer changes.

Third-Third Flexibility:  Give options, allow for change.

In making these adjustments for each other, we increase the likelihood that our conversations will be more fluid and productive.

Challenge:  Over the next week examine a colleague’s behaviors on his/her profile.  Experiment with flexing your behavior to match rapport.  Please share your experience and outcomes below!


Source: Emergenetics:Tap Into the New Science of Success by Geil Browning, PhD.  2006.



Why??? Teaching to the Blue

Do you have students and/or colleagues who are constantly asking, “Why?” “Why do we need to do this?”  “How do you know this?” People with a preference in Blue ask many questions, not because they don’t understand, but because they need proof.  Until all questions can be answered, the Blue brain is skeptical.

Last week I wrote about the challenge some of us have teaching to or working with people who have a preference in yellow/Conceptual thinking. For some of us, working with people who have a preference in Blue can be just as challenging.

It is important that we keep in mind the brilliance of this thinking attribute. This brain is an excellent critical thinker and is disciplined through process.  This brain will notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in logic and reason.

Here are some tips for teaching to and working with someone who has a preference in Blue:,

  • Know your material when teaching or presenting ideas and be able to back up your claims with research and data.
  • Be efficient in communication
  • Allow time for the Blue brain to read and become informed before coming to class or a meeting
  • Provide time for questions and answers
  • Encourage them to ask critical questions
  • Use graphs and charts
  • Provide time to work alone
  • Provide opportunities for brain puzzles
  • Integrate your technology seamlessly
  • Stay on task
  • Explain the purpose of a task

What are some ideas you have for communicating with someone who has a blue preference?


We Typically Don’t Teach to the Yellow

I will occasionally have teachers ask me, “I have such a preference in green.  How do I meet the needs of students who have a preference in Yellow thinking?” Students who have a preference is Conceptual like to think outside the box and are extremely energized by being given time to brainstorm unique ways to solve problems. They also like the “big picture” and learning through experimentation. In fact, these students do not prefer a formal classroom setting.

I am particularly excited about SVVSD’s emphasis on Design Thinking because students are given the opportunity to delve into their yellow thinking, especially in the Ideate phase.  In addition, PBL (Problem Based Learning) is another way to get Conceptual thinkers fired up! Here are some additional tips for teaching to students who have a Conceptual Preference:

  • Present a variety of options when thinking about the content, process and product of your unit.
  • Be sure to give the “big picture” or overview of the lesson.
  • Occasionally summarize throughout and at the end of the lesson. Sometimes we get caught up in the details, and the Yellow Attribute is not listening.
  • Provide lots of change to prevent this brain from getting bored.
  • Supply written directions.
  • Use as much color, metaphors and pictures as possible.
  • Ask open-ended questions

What are some other ideas you have for meeting the needs of the Conceptual brain?



What Would Your Staff Identify As Your Strengths?

It can be helpful to reflect on your profile and how it has made itself apparent in your school or your workplace.

  • The Analytical Attribute excels at rational thinking and focusing on what needs to get done, relying heavily on facts.  It also will give short directives and will delegate certain details.
  • The Structural Attribute prefers tradition and clear rules.  This attribute excels at bringing order out of chaos and likes to take care of the logistics.
  • The Social Attribute cares about the well-being of others, encourages collaboration and is empathic.
  • The Conceptual Attribute excels at innovation, sees the big picture, looks into the future and is open to “out-of-the-box” ideas.
  • A person in the first-third of Expressiveness is calm, poised and allows others to talk.  A person in the third-third of expressiveness walks the halls, is loud and enjoys conversing with others.
  • A person in the first third of Assertiveness likes to keep the peace and goes with the flow of the group. A person in the third third of Assertiveness is determined and decisive.
  • A person in the first third of Flexibility is focused and has firm beliefs and prefers that others do things his/her way. A person in the third third of Flexibility doesn’t mind change and is open to the suggestions of others.

Whether we are teachers or administrators, it is critical that we take the time to reflect on our strengths and how we might use our preferences to drive the work we do with our colleagues and students.

Source:  Work That Works by Geil Browning.  John Wiley and Sons , 2018.