Awareness of the motivations, fears, and strengths of individuals can make your job as a manager much easier. The Enneagram, a personality framework based on the idea that each individual has a dominant core driver which influences their behavior, thoughts, and emotions, is one tool that managers can use to help them better understand and communicate with their team members.
The Enneagram types are represented by nine distinct numbers on a circular diagram. Each number represents a specific set of characteristics and motivations, helping individuals gain self-awareness and personal growth.
To unpack this framework and how managers can leverage its insights, I spoke with Enneagram expert success coach Tracy O'Malley. Her candid journey of self-discovery via the Enneagram sparked an enlightening shift in her perspective, which has been a lifeline to many. Now, she uses this transformative tool uniquely, focusing on understanding motives and fears to help individuals feel seen, heard, and valued, consequently leading to personal and professional transformation.
Here's a brief overview of the nine Enneagram types and how they may manifest in the workplace.
Theory of the Enneagram
Tracy explained that we possess three centers of intelligence: feeling (emotional), thinking (intellectual), acting (instinctual). While we utilize all three, one serves as our default, representing our natural strategy for how we perceive the world. These three centers of intelligence form the foundation of the Enneagram and help determine our core Enneagram type. No single type is superior; rather, they are all equally valuable.
It's important to note that for each Enneagram type, their greatest strength can also become their greatest weakness, depending on its origin. When driven by love, compassion, empathy, service, and grace, it manifests as a superpower; however, if fueled by fear, insecurity, unworthiness, shame, guilt, or ego, it can transform into a destructive force in their lives and relationships.
Tracy walked through the nine types and how we as managers need to know about their core strengths and drivers.
Enneagram Type One: The Strict Perfectionist
The Enneagram Type One is situated in the instinctual center, deeply attuned to the present moment. Their fundamental drive is centered around being right and good. These individuals operate within clear boundaries and harbor a deep-seated fear of being wrong or falling short of their ideals. They tend to think in black-and-white, which can be frustrating to managers who think in shades of gray.
Enneagram Type Two: The Considerate Helper
Enneagram Type Two individuals are driven by the core motivation of being loved and appreciated, grounded in the heart center of intelligence. As a manager, recognizing their need for validation and creating an environment that fosters appreciation can greatly boost their performance. However, it's important to ensure that Type Twos are not overcompensating and neglecting their own well-being in the process.
Enneagram Type Three: The Competitive Achiever
Type Threes, also heart-centered, strive to be the best and achieve greatness in their endeavors. Managers should acknowledge their relentless determination and provide opportunities for growth and impact. However, it's crucial to help Type Threes find a healthy work-life balance as they tend to push themselves to the point of burnout.
Enneagram Type Four: The Individualist
Type Four individuals are known for their distinctiveness and creativity. Also a heart-centric group, they are focused on being their true self. It can be hard to spot a four because each one is so different from the others. The key for managers is to foster an environment that allows them to express their authentic selves, as fours tend to struggle when trying to conform.
Enneagram Type Five: The Investigator
Enneagram Type Five is a thinking-centered intelligence with a thirst for knowledge and understanding. They seek certainty by trying to know everything. Managers can support them by providing access to resources and information. Creating a workspace that respects their need for privacy and independence while also helping them share their knowledge will allow them to thrive.
Enneagram Type Six: The Loyal Skeptic
Sixes are also thinking centered and driven by a need to be prepared for anything. They are adept at envisioning worst-case scenarios, making them exceptional troubleshooters, strategists, and collaborators. Constantly asking questions, they may come across as controlling or untrusting, but understanding their motivations can facilitate better interactions. Their primary fear is being caught off guard, which makes them slow to trust. However, once they do, they are unwavering in their support.
Enneagram Type Seven: Enthusiastic Visionary
Type Seven possess a keen intellect and are always forward-thinking, seeking certainty through freedom and having multiple options at their disposal. Also thinking-centered, they're known as the enthusiastic visionaries, often underestimated for their contributions because of their fun-loving nature. Their unique perspective allows them to see the world with endless possibilities. As managers, it’s important to give them a sense of freedom and choice because attempting to confine them will result in losing their interest. And beware, they can be easily distracted by shiny objects if not cautious, and their greatest fear is being restricted and denied opportunities.
Enneagram Type Eight: Protective Challenger
Individuals who are Enneagram Eights operate from the instinctual center, keenly attuned to the present moment and what actions are needed. Motivated by independence, autonomy, and control, Type Eight individuals strive to embody strength and power. This innate drive can be a tremendous asset when channeled positively. However, when an Eight is not in a healthy state, traits like domineering behavior, aggression, and excessive directness may emerge. The core fear of being betrayed, violated, or placed in a vulnerable position drives their actions. Managers often struggle to work with Eights as they can be challenging to guide, but their presence can be immensely valuable when their potential is harnessed.
Enneagram Type Nine: Adaptive Peacemaker
Enneagram Type Nines are also instinctual, seeking to foster harmony within their surroundings. They emphasize what action should be taken now while avoiding or minimizing conflict, their greatest fear. Unfortunately, this pursuit often leads to settling for short-term peace, creating long-term issues. As an Enneagram Nine, the real challenge lies in embracing conflict to achieve the lasting harmony they desire.
Use the Enneagram to Better Lead Each Person
Understanding the Enneagram types can be a game-changer for managers aiming to create a cohesive and productive team. By recognizing the motivations, fears, and strengths of individuals, managers can tailor their approach to communication, delegation, and motivation. Embracing the unique qualities of each Enneagram type will not only foster personal growth but also lead to enhanced team dynamics and overall success.
Remember, a supportive and nurturing work environment is key to unlocking the full potential of your team members. Use the insights gained from the Enneagram to build stronger relationships, boost productivity, and create a harmonious workplace that cultivates individual and collective success.
Listen to the entire episode HERE to learn more about conflict management.
Keep up with Tracy O’Malley
- Follow Tracy on Instagram here
- Subscribe to her podcast show here
- Check out her website for more information here
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