Have you ever been in a situation where you interpreted an event completely differently than another person who experienced the same event? Consider this example: You are in a work meeting where you initiated an honest conversation about risks, timelines and action items for an upcoming project. You leave the conversation feeling reassured you have worked through the plan and believe that everyone has clarity to their responsibilities. The co-worker sitting across from you leaves the meeting feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information covered and believes that because you initiated the conversation, you don’t trust the team to complete the project successfully.
Upon first glance, this might sound like a failure in leadership or teamwork. But, what if I told you the failure to relate was the result of a lack of awareness of the unique personality types present in the room?
Navigating work and personal relationships can be tricky. And, the more we believe that our way of interpreting situations and understanding the world is how everyone sees and interprets the world, the more we create barriers between ourselves and those around us.
So, how do we combat miscommunication and confrontation in the workplace? How can your team develop self-awareness of each other's perspectives? That’s where the Enneagram comes in.
In today’s blog we are going to cover:
1. What is the Enneagram
2. The explanation of the nine unique Enneagram personality types
3. Why the Enneagram is important for personal and professional development
4. How to apply what you learned about the Enneagram to your work life
What is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a personality typing system that originated in ancient times that teaches there are nine different personality types in the world. It explains that each person has one dominant number that we adopt in childhood to filter, cope and make sense of our world.
Now, if you are someone who has taken many personality tests in the past, you may be resistant to the idea that there are only nine different personality types in the billions of people present on the earth today. Unlike many other personality tests, the Enneagram takes into account the uniqueness of every individual and teaches that there can be countless personality variations contained within each number.
If you want to dive deeper into the complexity of the Enneagram and learn about wing numbers, stress and security numbers and triads, you can read more at the below helpful resources:
The Nine Enneagram Personality Types Explained
Below we have outlined a basic breakdown of the nine different personality types included in the Enneagram. If you would like to learn your Enneagram type, you can take this free quiz.
Note: Most enneagram tests will give you an idea of your personality type, but you will want to read each number's description to verify that your type sounds accurate to yourself.
Type 1: The Perfectionist
- Type Ones are always looking for ways to improve people and processes. This type can easily spot inaccuracies or things to be fixed in a work environment. The Perfectionist is a great addition to any team and will always give their best effort without taking any shortcuts. The weakness of Type One can come in the form of anger, which presents itself as resentment towards others. Type Ones believe there should be order in the world and their work.
Type 2: The Helper
- Type Twos are always looking to serve and help others in an organization. The Helper is a people-focused person who strives to make each member of a group feel valued. This type is a great team player who will keep teams connected and working well together. The weakness of Type Two is they often forget their own needs or projects to help others, which can cause problems with their individual development. Type Two’s believe that building relationships and meeting needs is essential to happiness.
Type 3: The Performer
- Type Threes look for ways to be the center of attention and respected by the people in their circle. The Performer is a big-picture thinker who has the ability to rally a group of people towards a common goal. This type is great at focusing teams to chase large company goals while remaining focused and optimistic in the pursuit of the goal. The weakness of Type Three is deceiving themselves and others through shape-shifting their personality to fit a crowd. Type Threes believe that they need to succeed and appear successful to those around them while avoiding failure at all costs.
Type 4: The Romantic
- Type Fours, the most creative type on the Enneagram, are always looking for ways to be unique in their group. The Romantic can bring new perspectives and create authenticity in their teams. This type is great at thinking outside the box to foster creativity and innovation in the workplace. The weakness of the Romantic is they struggle with envy, which can cause unnecessary preoccupation with what others in the workplace are doing. The Type Four’s goal is to live authentically and uniquely while achieving depth in their encounters with those around them.
Type 5: The Investigator
- Type Fives are knowledgeable, contemplative and perceptive people who are always looking to gain understanding in the areas important to them. In a professional setting, the Investigator can bring objectivity and rationality to ensure teams stay the course while working on important projects. The Investigator’s weakness is they often work to safeguard their time, energy and resources, which can cause a lack of teamwork with other employees in the workplace. Type Fives work to gather knowledge and understanding to make themselves feel safe in work and personal settings.
Type 6: The Loyalist
- Type Sixes are group-oriented people with a knack for problem solving and bringing order to each area of life. In the workplace this type will keep groups working well together while managing strategic planning for projects effectively. The Loyalist excels at project management and planning in their work environment. The weakness of Type Six is they often struggle with anxiety and project the worst-case scenario onto their projects. Type Sixes work to structure their world and relationships in a way that will give them a sense of security and support at all times.
Type 7: The Enthusiast
- Type Sevens are the most optimistic and energetic individuals on the Enneagram. In a work setting the Enthusiast will rally teams to complete projects quickly while encouraging creativity along the way. Type Sevens are great storytellers who work well in public-facing roles in companies. The weakness of this type is they often overwhelm themselves with to-do items, which often causes them to procrastinate and complete tasks only halfway. Type Sevens seek to avoid unpleasant situations and emotions by using optimism and busyness to distract themselves.
Type 8: The Challenger
- Type Eights are natural leaders with the ability to manage teams effectively. In a professional setting this Enneagram type often serves as the voice of honesty within teams. The Challengers are often the most committed and driven individuals within organizations. The weakness of Type Eights is they have a desire for intensity in every area of life, which can often intimidate other personality types. Type Eights seek positions of authority in their life to avoid feeling like they are not in control of their environment.
Type 9: The Peacemaker
- Type Nines are empathetic individuals who hold the ability to unify diverse groups of people. The Peacemaker works to build strong relationships and harmony in their teams. Type Nines perform best in bringing teams together and resolving conflict within group projects. The Peacemaker’s weakness is they often have difficulty prioritizing tasks and can be perceived as lazy because of their low energy levels. Type Nine’s goal is to avoid conflict and keep peace within relationships by avoiding or masking difficult situations.
The above descriptions are a jumping off point for understanding each type, but are not a comprehensive description of each type. For a better understanding of the Enneagram, I encourage you to check out some of the helpful resources listed below.
- The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
- The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships by Suzanne Stabile
- Typology Podcast
- Enneagram Type Descriptions by the Enneagram Institute
- Your Enneagram Coach Type Descriptions
Why the Enneagram is Important for Personal and Professional Development
After reading about the nine different types on the Enneagram, you may be asking yourself, “How will this knowledge improve my professional life?”. Glad you asked! Here are the top five ways our team at MyGov has benefited from knowing and using the Enneagram in our daily work.
1. Better Communication
With the knowledge of the Enneagram, you now have a framework to better understand how each personality type best accepts information. With this information you can now structure the way you run meetings, talk to co-workers and give feedback in a way that is best heard and understood by everyone.
2. Role and responsibility assignments to team members
Knowing the personality type of your team members can help you place each member in the roles and responsibilities that best fit their work style. If you know that one team member thrives on human connection and gets satisfaction from helping others, then it probably wouldn’t be the best use of their skills to put them in a secluded office space doing research all day. Understanding the core strengths and weaknesses of each type allows you to place team members in roles they can succeed in.
3. Reduce conflict
After reading through the nine types on the Enneagram, you can see that each number has a different structure for interpreting events. This not only can cause misunderstandings between team members, but also conflict. By understanding the motivations that drive each personality type, you can be better equipped to navigate a resolution if a conflict arises with your team.
4. Increased self-awareness within the company
A recent study conducted by Cornell found that self-awareness is the key predictor of success among leaders and teams. By using the Enneagram as a tool to understand your internal dialogue, you can begin to gain self-awareness in your personal and professional life. By fostering self-awareness you can better understand your strengths and weaknesses, what motivates you, how you make decisions and what gives you a sense of fulfillment.
5. Better ways to encourage and motivate
As a team leader, have you ever struggled with knowing how to compliment your team or motivate them? If you know the Enneagram numbers of your team members, you no longer have to struggle to know the best ways to communicate positive feedback to your team. Each number on the Enneagram accepts encouragement in different ways. If you know the key motivators of each number, then you automatically have a framework for how to better speak to team members in a way they will receive.
Where to Go from Here
Using the Enneagram framework will help you better understand the people on your team, make decisions for your agency and promote a healthy work culture.
If you want to take advantage of the positive growth that can come with knowing and implementing the Enneagram in your organization, we want to encourage you to take the next steps. Below are three ways you can leverage the Enneagram to help your team today.
- Have each team member take the Enneagram test or determine their type by reading the nine different type descriptions.
- Post each team member's Enneagram type in a place that can be seen by all agency members.
- If you are a manager, sit down with your employees and discuss their Enneagram assessment results. Discuss how you can both work better together by utilizing the information.
Here at MyGov we have seen the positive effects of better understanding the types of personalities present in our teams. We hope this information on the Enneagram allows you to better connect, communicate and work with the individuals in your agency.