The Enneagram

The Enneagram. Have you heard of it? Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t.  If not, at some point you will. And the reason is because more and more leaders are learning about this dynamic system that is helping teams to become more cohesive and effective. I’ve been working with the Enneagram for a little more than a year now, so I’ll take this space to share with you what it is, and how it may be able to help you and your team. 

What is the Enneagram?
In short, the Enneagram is a map for self-discovery and personal growth based on 9 basic personality types. In the late 1960’s, being influenced by many of the ancient wisdom traditions, a teacher and philosopher named Oscar Ichazo developed the “modern” Enneagram and began teaching it in Chile. At Ichazo’s school, many religious, philosophy and psychology leaders learned the system and eventually brought it back to the United States. Since then, thought leaders such as Richard Rohr, Don Riso, Russ Hudson, and others have brought contemporary learning and understanding to the Enneagram. 

As one author put it…

The power of this system is its ability to accurately and clearly describes why one thinks, feels and behaves in particular ways based upon core fears, desires, and motivations. It’s value is in its ability to harness and transform self-limiting behaviors into life-enhancing personal empowerment. 

Through self-discovery, one can create and sustain meaningful and lasting relationships, which are the key to team effectiveness. 

Understanding the Enneagram
The Enneagram is based on nine personality types. Each type has a number associated with it. The four numbers to consider are…

  • One’s Main Type: This describes your main personality type. These numbers are labels, not rankings. There is no “better or worse” type. 
  • Wings: The type on either side of the main type. The wing complements your main type, and influences your total personality. Your wing is the “second side” of your personality, and it must be considered to better understand the whole person.
  • Security: The path one takes when feeling secure. From this number, we “draw” positive energy when we feel safe. 
  • Stress: The path one takes when feeling stress. We move toward this number’s negative aspects when feeling stress.

How Do I Determine My Type?
There are a few ways I suggest to determine one’s type…

  • Read. One of the best books for understanding the Enneagram, and determining one’s type is  “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.  This book is a great Enneagram primer. By using stories and easy to understand descriptions, Cron and Stabile help the reader to easily identify their main type.
  • Start with your “Center”.
    Each Enneagram number is in one of three “Centers of Intelligence”. The Center of Intelligence describes the primary way one receives, processes and acts on information. Those three centers are…

    • The Thinking Center: “What do I think about this?”
    • The Feeling Center: “How do I feel about this?”
    • The Gut or Instinctive Center: “What am I going to do about this?”

To begin determining your main Type, seek to determine which of the Centers of Intelligence best describes how you process information. You can then begin working on narrowing down the three types in that Center to your main type.

  • Assessments. There are a plethora of assessments out there to help uncover one’s type. Assessments should be used as confirmation of one’s type, not necessarily for determination. I suggest using one of the following assessments…

How can the Enneagram Help My Team?
Each team is made up of individuals with unique sets of traits, strengths and areas that need improvement. If each person can understand more fully those areas, they can then know better how to work toward building their team, and contributing to success as a whole. The Enneagram can be used to help each team member identify those unique areas (and blind spots), and help them develop new ways of communicating and collaborating. 

To Learn More…
To learn more about the Enneagram, and how it may be able to help your team, check out the following resources…

Image courtesy of Beth McCord, Your Enneagram Coach