4 Tips for Using the Enneagram as an Effective Team Development Tool
By: Jenni Catron
About 10 years ago my counselor introduced me to the Enneagram. It was one of the many tools that she used to help in discovering my motivations and convictions. We wrestled for months to accurately type me. Was I a “One” or a “Three”… maybe even a “Five”. She wasn’t in a hurry to determine my type although I was. To her, the process was a sacred discovery that would ultimately help us identify what some Enneagram scholars call the “automatic” self – the way I have learned to show up in the world to succeed.
Ultimately our discussions led us to conclude that my automatic self is a Type 3. Early on in life I learned to succeed by achieving. I internalized the belief that I was most valued when I performed well, whatever the role called for – teacher’s pet, straight “A” student, top of my class, star role in the musical, obedient child. Funny enough my nickname growing up was “Winners” although no one can remember exactly when or how that name was given.
Little about this process was humorous or entertaining. It was raw and many times painful but it was also incredibly beautiful. The Enneagram has been a tool of immense personal growth. It has stretched me and it has given me a framework for continued growth.
For the last decade, I have actively continued to study this tool both for my personal development but also for helping to serve the leaders I work with.
For many years when I would introduce the Enneagram, I would get strange looks and tentative questions “Ennea – what?” I’m pretty sure a few people thought I was drifting into some new age spirituality.
And so I have been mostly delighted with the rise of the Enneagram’s popularity. I’m thrilled that more people are aware of this tool and actively seeking to grow in their self-awareness.
As with any tool, knowing how to use the tool is important for it to be effective. A tool misused can be dangerous.
With a passion to help leaders use the tool well, I want to give you some thoughts on how to use the Enneagram effectively for you and your team.
- Resist the desire to type someone. Sure, it’s kind of fun to try to peg someone based upon what you experience in their personality. But what we see on the surface is not always an indicator of underlying motivation. For example, I have perfectionist tendencies that can often be mistyped as a Type 1. With a closer look, you’ll discover that my pursuit of perfection is directly related to whom I’m trying to please. As a Type 3 I may shift my behavior according to whose approval I’m seeking. If you type someone too early, you may confuse them and yourselves and short circuit their discovery. When you allow someone to arrive at an understanding of their type, I promise you will learn much more about them.
- Remember that the Enneagram is not designed to pigeon-hole someone into a type. While we all have a type that reflects our automatic self and this type will not change, the Enneagram is designed to help us become more integrated. Our automatic type will learn to be more fluid and balanced. As we grow and move to the healthiest version of our type, we will not be as extreme in our type or reflect the negative attributes of our type as strongly. I often hear individuals use their type as an excuse for behavior or I see team members box someone in with phrases like, “as an 8 you always have to be in charge” or “she’s a 4 that’s why she’s so moody”. We must resist the urge to limit people’s potential by seeing them as the stereotype of their number.
- Use the Enneagram to spark understanding of one another. We naturally view the world through our own lens and as a result have difficulty understanding the motivations and behaviors of others. Healthy processing of the Enneagram equips your team to have a greater understanding of one another because you learn the automatic responses and motivations of each type. Using the Enneagram as a tool for learning more about one another can open up curiosity and lead to greater compassion for your team members.
- As a leader, use the Enneagram to know how to coach and develop your team. You will build trust and influence with your team as you seek to understand them. Knowing your teams’ core motivations and fears give you powerful insight to know how to coach them, encourage them and provide feedback. For example, when you’re working with a Type 2 you can be sensitive to the fact that their desire to help everyone often leads them to overcommit and often feel taken advantage of. With this knowledge, you can be on the lookout for when they are overextending themselves and help coach them to be more clear with their boundaries. You can also keep an eye out for other staff who may take advantage of their tendency to rescue others.
Helping your staff be both self-aware and others-aware is a tremendous way to build trust and develop healthy teams. The Enneagram is just one of many tools that can be a powerful resource in creating healthy and thriving organizational culture.
What tools have been helpful for the health and development of your team?