The Enneagram – unlike other personality typing systems – identifies what individuals are motivated by at a fundamental level. It has a unique ability to reveal unknown individual strengths and blind spots. These realizations ultimately propel a sense of self-awareness and mindfulness that can be wielded in the workplace.
Personality assessments like the Enneagram are becoming more widely used in the workplace to help leaders determine their current and potential employees’ strengths and pitfalls. Insight managers gain from these types of examinations are helping them learn how to work more effectively and build better relationships with their employees.
The Enneagram stands out from other personality assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, because it doesn’t just “label” people. Instead, it helps you identify your strengths and how you can better work with individuals who have different personality types than you.
Recently, I interviewed Chelsie Sargent, certified International Enneagram expert and E3 Enneagram Trainer, about this compelling topic. Below are some highlights from our first conversation on introducing what the Enneagram is, where it comes from, and how it can be useful in the workplace. Tune into Thrive By Design: The Podcast this week for the full interview as we kick off a four-part series with Chelsie.
Don: Chelsie, almost every employee has had some experience with personality tests in the workplace. In fact, some experts estimate that up to 60 percent of workers are now asked to take workplace personality assessments. What is the Enneagram and why are companies asking more workers to take personality assessments like these?
Chelsie: The Enneagram has been around for about 2,000 years. The way that I like to describe it is the Enneagram is the Rosetta Stone of personality assessments. You’re right, there are a lot of different personality assessments out there that companies are starting to incorporate. I favor the Enneagram for many reasons. There are many different layers to it. It is very complex, and in the years I’ve been studying it, it is spot on. It is composed of nine different personality styles. Enneagram broken down is ennea, which means nine, and gram, which means points.
Don: One of the things that I have not appreciated about personality tests is how they tend to label people. What I appreciate about the Enneagram and why we have an Enneagram Workshop at E3 Solutions led by you, Chelsie, is that it doesn’t simply label people. It really is more about identifying strengths and context about a person. The best part of the Enneagram work that I like is the extensive discussion about how, if you’re a 3, for example, you get along with 4s or 5s, what they like about you, and what they find challenging about you. It really adds a lot of context for leaders, helping them to not just cope with their employees’ personalities, but to integrate and work with them.
Chelsie: Absolutely. A lot of other personality assessments box you into a corner, and the Enneagram shows you a way out of that box. It has so many different layers of who you are and how you react to different people, and it starts from the basis of personality. Many experts say the Enneagram is very evident in someone’s life by age five, and the personality adjusts and incorporates experiences as the person experiences life. By the time someone is an adult and entering into the workforce, it is paramount to understand how you view yourself, how you view others, and how you get along well with others, specifically in management positions.
Don: The Enneagram has been around for a long time in the U.S. Now you can go to Amazon, for example, and find books not only on the Enneagram, but also on the Enneagram in the workplace. It feels like there’s been a lot of adaptation of the Enneagram into the workplace. Can you help me understand that a little bit better?
Chelsie: People crave self-awareness. We’re hungry for self-awareness and hungry for understanding how other people think. The way people interact is really important in the workplace, and as different generations work together, that has really defined engagement and relationships among co-workers. The Enneagram adds valuable context, because with the nine numbers, not only do you get to see your personality type, you also begin to understand that not everyone sees through the same lens that you see life through. That is an important concept to really understand and incorporate when you are working alongside other people.
Don: We measure engagement in organizations, and we do it by manager. It’s not unusual in a company to have some work groups that are 100 percent engaged and other work groups that are 100 percent disengaged in the same company, the same pay scale, and the same organizational culture. The only difference between those two extremes in the work groups is the manager. Managers who tend to have these highest scores around engagement are the ones who are the most emotionally intelligent. They’ve figured out a way to identify people’s strengths and work with them. The managers that seem to be locked into a one size fits all are the ones with disengaged employees. These leaders are top-down, hierarchical, and punitive to employees. If someone doesn’t see the world as they do, as you just referenced, they tend to want to fire them, like there’s something wrong with them. The Enneagram tells us something different, doesn’t it?
Chelsie: It does. It helps you not take things so personally. When you have a conflict with someone, it opens up doors and windows for you to be able to step back and say: They are literally seeing this from different angles than me. How can I come alongside them instead of having power over them? That is a powerful approach to leadership.
Don: The Enneagram does a wonderful job of helping explain an individual’s impact on others – whether that individual is a manager, which is a pervasive impact in the team, or a team member. We do need managers to be more self-aware of their impact. They didn’t have to care in an environment of labor abundance. If you, as a manager, had an employee whose personality you didn’t like, you could just let them go. You might come up with some sensible reasons for doing that. But in today’s market of labor scarcity, we can’t afford to lose good employees because there are personality differences between people. The differences don’t have to be negative – those differences can be sources of insights.
Chelsie: That is where the Enneagram offers this sense of empowerment. Instead of looking at an employee as an obstacle, really start to address how you can step alongside this person and start working with them. Understand that everyone is seeing things differently and to make an empowering work environment, you can help people be their best versions of themselves by being your best version of yourself.
When leaders want to understand their own leadership styles, the Enneagram is incredibly useful. It can help them learn their personality strengths and blind spots, so they can be more mindful, conscientious, and effective. It helps them understand their individual needs and disposition of team members. This enables them to walk alongside their team members and motivate them instead of discouraging them. The Enneagram helps leaders who want to influence, encourage, develop, maintain, and relate to a variety of personality types. It’s a tool to enable them to seek deeper satisfaction and engagement in their jobs. It fosters a healthier everyday life, which includes their work life, and helps them create enjoyable relationships with their colleagues.
Don: What are the best and most appropriate ways to determine your Enneagram type? How can someone go about finding out which of the nine numbers they are?
Chelsie: One of the things that I usually refer people to is twofold. One is to find a good book or resource that you can start reading and understanding all the numbers. I tell people who do not have very many touches with the Enneagram to just start learning about all of the numbers. Don’t simply try to read the titles of the numbers and pick out the ones that sound most appealing to you. The other part is to talk to someone who is knowledgeable in the Enneagram, because they can echo things to you about your personality.
I use the Enneagram all the time in my counseling practice, and it is a beautiful tool to use with my clients when we’re really trying to get down to the deeper meaning of why they do what they do. Since I have a lot of knowledge about the Enneagram, I can reflect about things to them and pull out deeper understandings of a number. A lot of times, people come in thinking they’re one number and leave having a greater understanding and sense of what number they really are. Read and understand the numbers, get an overall sense of what the Enneagram is, and talk to someone who is familiar with the tool are really good places to start.
Don: Is there any caution that people should have or know as they start to explore the Enneagram?
Chelsie: Very good question. I tell people right off the bat that this not a tool to “type” other people. The Enneagram is a personal tool to dive into self-awareness, self-actualization, and self-understanding. It is a tool for you to learn about yourself. One of the more complex parts of the Enneagram is when you get down into deeper levels of it, the Enneagram comes from motivation – we are all motivated by something. For example, for the 9, which is called the Peacemaker, their motivation is internal peace. They want to hold onto their internal peace, so they are going to structure their life and world around maintaining peace. That’s a really important thing to understand if you are a 9 or if you work with a 9.
This tool is not for you to start looking at other people and saying they have these certain behavioral characteristics on my team, so they must be a 1, or a 4, or a 6. It’s meant for you to reflect internally: “I’m a 6, and because I’m a 6, how does that impact those around me? How can I be aware of how my words and actions are going to come across to other people, and how can I utilize my strengths and really be aware of my shadow sides?” The self-awareness piece is key, and the Enneagram reveals your motivations, what you’re doing, and how you’re impacting the world.
In the next three episodes of this podcast series, we will be diving into the nine different types, their key characteristics and motivations, and how you can lead with greater self-awareness using the Enneagram.
- The Enneagram is composed of nine different personality styles, and understanding these styles can help people become more self-aware and interact more compassionately with each other.
- This assessment is a powerful tool for leaders to learn how to work with and understand what drives employees of different personality styles.
- When managers want to understand their own leadership styles, the Enneagram can be useful in helping them determine their personality strengths and blind spots, so they can be more mindful, conscientious, and effective.
Seeing Through Your Blind Spots, Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review.
The Enneagram Institute, EnneagramInstitute.com.
The Enneagram in the Workplace, The Narrative Enneagram, EnneagramWorldwide.com.
What is the Enneagram? Dr. David Daniels, DrDavidDaniels.com.
The Enneagram offers robust and perceptive tools for deepening your understanding of yourself as a leader, which in turn helps you understand your team in productive and practical ways. If you’re looking for more guidance on this insightful personality examination, our Understanding Your Leadership Type: An Introduction to the Enneagram Workshop tailors Enneagram training specifically and purposefully for management teams to help you discover your personal Enneagram style. During this workshop, you’ll gain traction on a developmental plan for improved leadership choices, effective and engaged employees, and a healthier workplace environment.