Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sell From Your High Side

In her workshop "Building Your Business Using the Enneagram," Valerie Atkin of Wells Street Consulting pointed out that selling has gotten a bad rap, as reflected in such clich├ęs as "being sold down the river" or "selling out." Actually, effective selling is improving things, helping people, accomplishing goals, creatively addressing what's missing, sharing and synthesizing knowledge, anticipating what might go wrong, inspiring clients to satisfy their vision, helping them stay on course, and collaborating to meet their needs. 

In case you didn't detect an Enneagram thread in the above, re-read the "Actusally, effective selling" sentence and you'll see how Val encourages all personality styles to acknowledge and use their strengths when marketing their services. And, given her many years of experience with companies of all sizes as a consultant, trainer, and coach, Valan Enneagram style Threeknows her territory.

In one of Val's IEA conference workshops, I discovered another stroke of marketing luck for me as style Nine and for other introverted personalities, the subtle strength of passive marketing: writing articles or books that attract clients and, especially, a web site that sells itself. I say it was a stroke of luck because when I started my web site in 1998, I thought of it only as educational, showing others how to use the Enneagram in business, and as a venue for me to write online articles and case studies. But some of what I wrote there ended up in my coaching book and, as I gradually moved into phone coaching, the site began to attract clients.

A few years ago I hired someone with expertise in coaching, Internet technology, and marketing to help me fine-tune my web offering. He helped me see myself, what distinguishes me from other coaches, and how to make the most of my strengths. He had published three highly successful books focused on pure technology for techies, and took the same “keep it simple" approach to show small business owners how to leverage today's Internet to better market and sell themselves. 

As an Enneagram style Six, he was the ultimate partner. I felt absolutely safe in his hands because even though I’m confident he knows a hundred times more than I’ll ever know in his areas of expertise, he gave me practical information I could act on without feeling bogged down in technical details. Among the many ways his coaching helped me refresh my site, I learned how to search competitor's pages for their "metatags;" where to get free or low-cost, high quality photos and graphics; how to use key words; and how to upgrade with my server so I have instant site statistics at my fingertips. I was able to keep track of number of daily visitors, how long they typical stayed, and on what pages, so I could make sure those pages attracted browsers to explore in more depth.

The home page message to potential clients, I learned, needs to be short, clear, and simple: “What is it, why do I want it, and where do I get it?” Like many of you, it wasn’t easy for me to state concisely what I do and how that’s different from other coaches (part of the “why do I want it?” message). He provided the mirror. And he knew how to gently guide me when I was leaping off in the wrong direction. 

Many people still use their sites as “place holders,” glorified business cards where people can look them up and get contact information. Or their home page consists of a treatise about everything they've ever known, with no quick highlights or easy-to-scan information. Research on eye movement when reading web pages shows consistently that people don't read text thoroughly and they scan for subheadings that stand out. So if browsers don't know you already, you have only seconds to get their attention. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What's the Point? Enneagram Nine? Or Five?

Question: I'm trying to decide if I'm Enneagram style Nine or Five. I've read that the Five's talk style is "dissertations" and the Nine's is "epic tales." How are these different?
"Dissertations" from style Fives are well-organized and logical (and intended to directly influence one's thinking about a concept). This reflects the way their minds work: they'll collect a mountain of information and synthesize it, cull it down (they can even be too reductionist). This style shows up in their language and the metaphors they use as well. 

In contrast, style Nines will wander in their "epic tales." They can be distracted by one thought, then another, go off on tangents, perhaps even forgetting what point they were trying to make. I'm style Nine, and over the years I've learned to stay focused, especially in writing, but when I first started my web site in 1999, you could start reading one of hundreds of articles and eventually link to most of the others, without a trail back to the home page. My computer-whiz daughter pointed out the lack of identifying information on the linked pages (how to contact me, or how to return to the home page), and the links were full-frame instead new windows. So, for example, you could go from my Home Page to Articles, from there link to an article on Anger, then to an outside link, and thus have left my site completely! My whole web site was an epic tale.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Enneagram: A Compelling Vision

Susan Olesek's TED talk on behalf of the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), Both Sides of the Bars, is the most compelling Enneagram presentation I've ever seen, for her own transparency, for her clarity and vision, for her compelling examples, for her intelligent presentation, and most of all for the power of her presence. This is the finest example of how life-changing the Enneagram can be in the hands of someone on an authentic spiritual journey.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Living From the Heart: Enneagram Five

I'm an Enneagram Five. Having spent the majority of my life devouring intellect alone, I'm interested in how one goes about being able to feel. It seems although I can make sense of anything, I sense nothing. While I did have some hearty laughs from the Five poems and undoubtedly related to them, I was surprised by my reaction to the first four lines of "Not Waving But Drowning." This poem aimed at Sevens nearly brought tears. Is there a correlation between these two styles? I believe my mother is a Seven. Would her style affect my responses? Any suggestions on learning how to feel would be appreciated.
We tend to carry an overlay of our parents' Enneagram styles, so it's useful to uncover their patterns, particularly how their styles typically interact with our own. People sometimes misplace themselves on the Enneagram at first because their outward behaviors are conditioned imitations of their parents'. It's important to discover the key underlying passion and fixation, because outward behaviors can be similar among styles, though stemming from very different motivations. 

Further, we have two general ways of relating to others: similarity ("like is drawn to like") and complementarity ("opposites attract"). Because Fives and Sevens are part of the same triad (the "head" triad) it's quite likely a Five would have some similarities with a Seven mother, including gifts as well as down sides of the Seven. There would also be complementarities: a Seven is more likely to be outgoing, for example, while a Five is more likely to be withdrawing.

The  connecting line from Five to Seven reflects developmental issues for a Five (even if there weren't a Seven parent). Theoretically, Seven is a "stress point" for Five. That is, under stress Fives demonstrate some of the down sides of Sevens, such as skating away from reality, getting into more and more activity to avoid facing discomfort or going into emotional depths. From that perspective, a tearful response to the first four lines of Smith's poem could be seen as representative of the stresses a Five may be undergoing:
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
An emotional response to these lines could even reflect a fear of engaging yourself fully in reaching your emotions. From Mark Epstein (Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness):
"Many of us come to therapy -- and to psychological self-improvement in general... having trouble letting ourselves go... blocked creatively or emotionally, we have trouble falling asleep or having satisfying sex, or we suffer from feelings of isolation or alienation. Often we are afraid of falling apart, but the problem is that we have not learned how to give up control of ourselves… we do not realize that to feel more real we have to push ourselves further into the unknown…."
Epstein, a psychotherapist, describes being haunted as a youth with a feeling of emptiness, "an impossible longing in my heart." After an unsatisfactory experience with a traditional therapist, he started a meditation practice:
"In meditation, I had stumbled upon a new way to be with myself… I did not have to run away from my emptiness, or cure it, or eradicate it. I had only to see what was actually there… I discovered that emptiness was the canvas, or background, of my being. I did not understand it, but I was much less afraid. My condition had no name, but I could reach down into it… Western psychotherapists are trained to understand a report of emptiness as indicative of a deficiency in someone's emotional upbringing, a defect in character… (but) emptiness can never be eliminated, although the experience of it can be transformed… Only when we stop fighting with our personal emptiness can we begin to appreciate the transformation that is possible."
I asked this reader to notice how he is able to feel. His first e-mail comment to me was the single word, "Fascinating." I suggested he take himself back to the moment when he experienced what he was reading as "fascinating," to stay with the bodily sensations that evoke that word, and to recognize these sensations as how he expresses feelings or – at the very least – clues to what he's feeling.

With a dear friend (a Five), I experience a deep joy in intellectual interchange. My response is, I believe, similar to a Five's experience, as if one's feelings are being expressed through the intellect. Sometimes, for example, Fives will express anger or frustration through the passion of their opinions. 

I worked with a Five who said to his secretary as we ended a meeting in May, "Please make sure to schedule Mary ahead through the summer, because I'll be away several weeks at our summer cottage, and I want to make sure there's room on my schedule when I'm here." At our next meeting I said, "Last time when you asked your secretary to schedule ahead with me, that was a way of saying you like me and find our meetings useful, wasn't it?" He looked down shyly and said, "Yes." I asked him to look up at me as I said, "I know you find it difficult to say that to me directly, and I won't ask you to do it, but I will say to you I know we like each other and appreciate our time together." His eyes clouded up and he looked down again, saying, "Why is that so difficult for me?"

Why, indeed… Difficult, but not impossible. This reader said Smith's poem "nearly brought tears." Those are feelings, and he's discovered at least one way to get to them. I particularly recommend reading/writing poetry, listening to/playing music, art, journaling. You could write a poem, for example, and ask "What feelings do these words represent and/or evoke?" 

When I asked my Five friend how he reaches his emotions, he said Puran Bair's Living From the Heart had opened his heart. Bair uses the metaphor of swimming for learning to meditate. Bair writes:
"This book is about the heart, both the poetic heart that is the instrument of deep feeling and the physical heart that synchronizes all the cells of your body to a common beat. The development of the heart is the great goal of life, both a practical goal and a spiritual goal... This is not a book of philosophy; it's an instruction workbook that teaches a method, called "Heart Rhythm Practice," to bring about a more heart-centered life... Learning Heart Rhythm Practice is about as hard as learning how to swim, and at least as enjoyable. Some people do learn to 'swim' without any instruction and without following any method. They are the ones with the hearts we admire whenever we meet them. For the rest of us, living from the heart is something to be learned…"

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Independent Style - Enneagram Five

Question: My boss (Nine) and I (Eight) have become interested in using the Enneagram for team development. At your suggestion we bought copies of Goldberg's The 9 Ways of Working, but the third member of our team still hasn't read it. He said he wasn't uncomfortable with the idea, but his body language said otherwise. I think he's probably a Five.
If your colleague is an Enneagram style Five as you've guessed, his is the most private of all nine styles. Theoretically, style Five's driving force is avarice, which doesn't translate into greed as we usually think of it – more a withholding of personal information, a stinginess of emotions

This is also the most independent Enneagram style. The connection to style Eight is attached to unconscious fears of vulnerability, and the connection to Seven is attached to avoidance of pain (or diving deeply into oneself). These are fears we all have, and could be true of your team-mate regardless of his personality style, but would be somewhat exaggerated or perhaps less known to him (more a part of his Shadow) if he is indeed a "Five."

You'll find W.H. Auden's poem instructive:
Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes,
And all the untilled air between
Is private
pagus or demesne.
Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
I beckon you to fraternize,
Beware of rudely crossing it:
I have no gun, but I can spit.
Many style Fives love the Enneagram as a basis for knowledge. And when they initiate exploration of this model, they like to use it at work. My guess is your team mate doesn't want to be ranked or classified by someone else. It may help, if you haven't already done this, to place the emphasis on you and your boss, who are already willing to go public as an "Eight" and a "Nine." Ask him to read about those two styles and to give the two of you feedback. 

If he is style Five, he may be attracted by the opportunity to learn something. Stay away from words that convey emotions, even positive ones, such as how excited you feel about being able to change yourself. Style Fives tend to place their energy into their intellect, and would disdain emotional responses until they feel safe. 

Note: A style Five reader added the following:
"About your recalcitrant Five, I think the key is to find someone who can get into his internal worldview and find out what the block is. He may have some construct like 'psychology is bunk,' in which case winning him over may only be possible via someone who can show him in an objective fashion that the Enneagram is an elegant system for understanding human motivational patterns. I've recently come to the conclusion that someone I've been close to for a long time is style Five. He's not interested in the Enneagram. He has an active mental life and I think he sees the Enneagram as a competing philosophy. Since he processes things more slowly than I, he may have a valid point with regard to the precious resource of time, but I strongly believe the Enneagram can beautifully integrate with nearly any philosophy or worldview."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death!

Question: In your article on Sevens were you implying our fear of pain is fear of physical pain? My fear is not nearly so much of pain as of confinement. The enthusiasm you so accurately describe is a type of inner expansion. I bear my arthritis pain quite nicely, but the confinement of it really gets me down. We Sevens fear we'll be bored, have no options, and if I had to face life imprisonment or death, I'm with Patrick Henry ("Give me liberty or give me death").
This reader is referring to an article about Enneagram style Seven where I wrote, "Their determined cheerfulness manifests a coping strategy developed as children to blunt or cover up any pain. Because they've avoided pain all their lives, their pain threshold is low and they feel pain very deeply... we can all identify with the urge to escape pain by doing something pleasurable." I agree that style Seven's issues are not necessarily with physical pain.  

It's been true of those I've coached that pain refers to whatever brings discomfort for that person, and being confined is uncomfortable for those with Enneagram style Seven. Their avoidance of pain is really more accurately understood as a passion for pleasure, a compulsion to seek variety because reality itself is not satisfying, and that's the real burden of pain that unexamined Sevens bear.

One of my style Seven clients was also an ENTP on the Myers-Briggs, which substantially exaggerated his Seven-ness. Go to this ENTP link and you'll see what I mean. Neither Enneagram Sevens nor Myer-Briggs Type ENTPs like to bother with detail; both are future-oriented, like to leave things open, crave activity and variety. 

That same client (also described in my book Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram) said the worst possible thing he could imagine was being jailed. And he'd felt almost unbearably trapped in his job because the newness had worn off and he was stuck dealing with corporate politics. He'd been fantasizing about people he could connect with in the hierarchy to get him out of there. Instead, I suggested he use his discomfort as a clue that his habitual patterns were kicking into gear; that he was, in fact, feeling imprisoned right then and there and feeling compelled to be released. To his credit he did stick with it, felt less constrained by his own compulsive wish for escape, and ended up succeeding his boss as division manager (I'm not sure that was a happy ending).

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Do You Have Any Feet Left to Shoot?

Question: I was wondering if you have any advice to give an Enneagram Six who's having a hard time getting out of a rut.
One of the characters in a Nelson Demille novel asked another who recklessly exposed himself to gangsters if he had "any feet left to shoot." So I'm not being literal in the title to this response, although the metaphorical shot in the foot can be painful for style Sixes, and it's easy to forget the wound was self-imposed. The positive side of this phenomenon is a willingness to challenge that I call the Patrick Henry Syndrome: "Give me liberty or give me death!" (It's interesting, given style Sixes' focus on hidden agendas, that Patrick Henry also said "Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.") 

People with this Enneagram style typically hold high standards for leadership, their own and others, and want to be helpful to their bosses. In personal relationships they may even seek partners who need help, and then keep the cycle alive by criticizing their partners for their failings. On the up side they're giving potentially useful feedback (and they're good observers about what makes relationships work). At the same time, constantly reminding your boss or your life partner how s/he could be a better person has its obvious pitfalls.

A style Six client, for example, took great pride in his ability to pull projects together across functions, and couldn't understand why he received so little recognition and wasn't being promoted. Yet every time he and I met he had another complaint he'd raised with his boss (style Five): "He's got to see that holing himself up in his office won't help him. He needs to wander around and let people get to know him. He never gives me or the others any praise," etc., etc., etc. Another client, also style Six, bounced from job to job because she'd eventually get into an argument with her boss over some injustice and quit in anger (and without another job waiting on the side). 

In Beginning Your Enneagram Journey, Loretta Brady outlines a process for self-observation that gently reminds us of the joys and difficulties of all nine styles. She says Sixes "offer trust and reliability in their friendships. And they seem able to be committed to others through all the ups and downs of relating..." However, "Because safety is tied to friendship, any change in affection is very threatening....

Sixes tend to conclude "I'm somehow lacking and may be abandoned," but instead of staying with their feelings and embracing their fear, they create a cover that makes it seem as if they know what's going on. This cover is associated with a psychological mechanism known as projection, observing and reacting to something in others we fail to see in ourselves. 

Enneagram Sixes certainly aren't the only ones to use projection, but they sometimes seem to have a corner on the market. As pointed out by William Miller in Chapter 7 of Meeting the Shadow, projections can be positive as well as negative. So the fact that Sixes make heroes of certain people, for example, may be a projection of their own positive traits held in their unconscious. More often than not, however, our projections are negative. Some aspects of projections truly fit the other person (e.g., the Five boss mentioned above was indeed a little stingy with praise). You're probably projecting when your feelings about others are unusually strong and persistent. If you can't let go of focusing on how stingy with praise your boss is, for example, chances are you carry the same trait to some degree. 

Style Sixes may not face the fact that their criticisms are held toward people they desperately want to like them. Nor do they typically realize the degree to which they give away their power, by placing all that energy outside themselves instead of learning to love and trust themselves. It takes real courage to look inside, because to get there you've also got to face what you don't like about yourself. 

Of many excellent self-empowerment strategies, here are two of the best for Enneagram Sixes:
  1. Get feedback from others about how they see you, and listen to it. Don't explain or defend yourself. Just try it on for size for a few days, giving yourself permission to see some things about yourself you may not like, as well as some strengths you find it hard to believe about yourself. (People with this Enneagram style do a lot of self-doubting.)

  2. Notice when you get really hooked by someone's behavior, assume that your reaction is partly projection of some unknown part of your unconscious, and bring it home. For example, if you think your wife or girlfriend is too critical, accept that as partly true but also try it on yourself. Notice the ways you're critical (of her, for example). If you think your boss is too stingy with praise, accept that as partly true but try it on yourself. Notice when you're stingy with praise. (We know already you're stingy with praise for your boss.)
Over time you'll develop the capability to know what fits you and what doesn't. When you catch on to a projection, the strength of your emotion toward the other person will lessen and you'll begin to see aspects of the unwanted trait in yourself. That's O.K. This doesn't make you a bad person; it just makes you more fully human. And the more you accept yourself as you are, the less those unwanted behaviors will own you.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Nailed: Enneagram Styles as Addiction

Question: I've heard our attachment to an Enneagram style described as "addiction." In what sense is that true? 
The word attachment, I was intrigued to learn, comes from attache, a traditional French word meaning "nailed to." 

According to Gerald May in Addiction and Grace, attachment nails our will and desire in addiction -- a state of compulsion, obsession or preoccupation. Such addictions include "work, performance, responsibility, intimacy, being liked, helping others, and an almost endless list of other behaviors." 

Doesn't that sound like Enneagram compulsions? ("I must have order/control, please everyone, be the star of the show, nurse my emotional upheavals, understand completely, submit to/rebel against authority, pursue life madly, tell others what to do, bliss out.")

Years ago, I came home from a writer's workshop quite disappointed. The instructors were great, I admitted to myself, I loved my roommate, the setting was breathtaking, but more than half the writers come year after year, and they've formed cliques that don't include me. My reaction was to keep myself separate. I did not try to connect with people in those groups and spent most of my time with my roommate or alone, deciding I wouldn't return to this splendid workshop the following year because I didn't feel sufficiently welcome.

Shortly after my return, I met with a style Nine client who said, "I realized I've been separating myself from people who could help me. I've said to myself, I don't fit in. The mirror of his self-awareness shone my reflection back to me. I'd blamed others at the writer's workshop for my story that I'm invisible, for my own decision to hold myself apart. We all reinforce our stories this way. Then we can say, "See? I told you [insert your story here]!" 

More than a year prior to that I'd coached this client and his team, but efforts to reschedule over a period of months never led to a committed date. When we did connect, he admitted he'd separated himself from me, thinking, Maybe she doesn't care about me. When I asked what would have let him know I cared, he said, "If you'd sent an email saying you hadn't heard from me and hoped I was doing well." 

What had I been doing instead? Carrying out a parallel attachment, thinking Maybe he hasn't committed to a date because he didn't like my work with his team.

Each of us could have made contact (and faced potential conflict) instead of keeping ourselves separate. Just as I could have reached out to some writers at the workshop who already knew each other. But my client and I were both nailed to a style Nine pattern, acting as if someone else was supposed to bring forth our creativity and they had dropped the ball. We both made sure our story was reinforced: "See, no one cares what I have to say!"  

Style Nines don't own this generic pattern, by the way. All Enneagram styles, when acting habitually, are reinforcing an old, old story that sustains their compulsive patterns. 

I've often coached style Nines to see potential conflict as a way to draw closer to someone. When my client and I took the risk of telling the truth, we opened our hearts and truly engaged with each other. I felt full of love. He told me later, his wife was so caught up in his emotions that she wept when he described our renewed connection. 

Which brings me to the grace part of Addiction and Grace. Gerald May defined grace as a dynamic outpouring "that flows into and through creation in an endless self-offering of healing, love, illumination, and reconciliation." We can't force those moments of blissful awareness and unity, can't control grace, but "we can seek it and try to be open to it." 

A friend tells me the Siddha Yoga path is sometimes depicted as a bird whose wings are self-effort and grace. Through our own steady effort, through our intention to seek the truth, we can help ourselves stay open to grace.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Consensus-Builder

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram style Nine?
I once read an article quoting the Dalai Lama as saying he had work-out equipment in his office, then adding with a laugh, "But I don't like to sweat." This is a perfect metaphor for style Nines and characteristic of Dale Rogers, who said she forced herself to work out to keep her weight under control, but took pride in completing her routine "without breaking into a sweat."

She often went to the company gym at lunch with her colleague, Al, who took equal pride in "sweating like a horse" and jokingly described Dale as "a wimp." More seriously, he continued: "She always seems up to date with what's going on in our company, and could probably sit in the Vice President's chair, but she needs to show more visible leadership. 'Passion' is not a word you'd associate with Dale. She's conservative, doesn't inspire excitement, and sometimes people need to know you can't be pushed around."

Comments from other colleagues: "Dale's much better informed about the new technology than anyone else in headquarters, and she's really good at getting people together for input. She works by consensus, and I've seen her handle some tough personnel situations very well. But I'm not sure she'd be decisive enough in her boss's job." "I often wonder why Dale doesn't take a stronger position. She's a nice person, maybe a little too nice. I've seen her say her piece if she feels strongly, but she needs a better ability to sell herself and to fight for what the department needs."

"She's easy to be around and wears well over time," said Dale's boss, "but she has a kind of 'vanilla' quality."

A laissez-faire manager, Dale had hired people over the years who were competent and worked without much direction. She was kind and considerate, genuinely concerned with the common good. But she'd risen in the organization as it grew in its industry, and was now in a position where more personal decisiveness was required, particularly if she was to be considered as a back-up to the Vice President.

Her vanilla quality was hard for others to articulate. "She's a great manager and competent executive, but -- I don't know how to describe it -- she's not feisty enough."

In her self-assessment Dale described her childhood: "I was praised for being well-behaved, so there was no need for a whole lot of rules. My parents left me pretty much to my own devices. They never came to school events. As a teenager I took up golf so I could play with my father, but he was so engrossed in his own game he never noticed how I was playing." When asked how she felt about that lack of attention as a child, she pondered a moment, then answered, "I just realized that's how things were and figured there was no use getting upset about it."

The Charismatic Leader

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram style Eight?
I have a huge amount of energy that rarely lags," said Chris, the CEO of her organization. "So I get exasperated when people are too cautious or whine a lot. There are some in this organization with a Goody Two Shoes mentality, and I want to push on that." Her company was doing well, so I asked Chris why she'd brought me in. "I'm tired of doing everything myself," she replied. "I don't have enough faith in others to let them take over, so I'd like for you to work with my team and help them develop more strength."

"What about you?" I challenged. "They need to see you're willing to go first."

"Just don't expect to make me into something I'm not," she countered. "I had enough of that as a kid. I set an explicit goal to treat my kids in a different way than I experienced, which was being pounded with negative feedback. My mother was like the mother in the film Ordinary People, constantly disappointed in me. I was too heavy, too loud, too aggressive."

In response to my questions about her children, Chris acknowledged that her husband's more laid-back style acted as a buffer when her parenting was a little too tough. "We have a perfect marriage," she cracked. "A man who can't say no and a woman who won't take no for an answer."

"And you see some similar patterns at work?"

"Yeah, I'm good at grabbing people and moving them toward a vision, but I sometimes jump ahead too fast and leave others behind who wanted to be involved. What really drives me nuts is when there's a hot agenda item and people are wasting time. I'm pretty tenacious, and when I get exasperated with people, I tend to say 'F--- it! I'm the CEO, why can't I throw my weight around?"

The Optimist in La-la Land

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram style Seven?
"Jack's career somehow got sidelined under his previous boss," said Ben. I'm the one who took him off the shelf, but my superiors don't have the time of day for him, and I'm beginning to question my own judgment. Technically he knows his job and he's bright as hell, but not deep in his analysis of existing problems. He's optimistic to a fault, paints a pretty picture for me, which I pass on to my own boss, then I find Jack's not always up front, doesn't do his homework in the beginning, doesn't give me the research and the options."

"He's got no regard for a budget," Ben continued. "And while I like to give a guy a little head room, he abuses it when it comes to spending money on his employees. I called you because I'm typically on the same wave length with people who report to me, but Jack and I are miles apart. I spent several hours talking to him about this two days ago, and his reaction was to 'Yes' me to death. The next day he told me he wasn't sure what I said. The guy's in la-la land!"

When Jack and I met, he greeted me with a delighted smile, introduced me to everyone on his team, made sure I had coffee, then spiraled into a conversation about how to make really great salsa! When we got down to business, he said "I always thought Ben and I had a lot in common. We're both very family-oriented and sensitive to people, and he's promoted me twice in the last two years. But the last time we met he told me we have a 'communication problem.' Then he said I'm 'not a team player,' and after that I kind of went into a fog. I have no idea where he's coming from because my whole organization is team-driven and I preach teamwork and team attitude. I know all my people by name, spend time with them, take them out to lunch, whereas Ben never does that. I'm more of a cheerleader than he is."

(After our consultation was completed, Jack sent me the following cartoon:)


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Streetwise Strategist

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram style Six?
"I come from a working class family," said Ray, "and both parents were strict, so I was rebellious and roamed the streets. I had friends on the honor roll and friends on dope. I was raised to give no quarter: if you showed that things bothered you, it was considered a fault. So in a meeting where others are getting really excited, I might go the other way, and keep it in."

Eager to learn more about himself in the face of a potential career setback, Ray admitted, "My parents weren't readers and I never went to college because they didn't have any money for it. I went off on my own at age 17, and took on some pretty risky occupations until I started here. When I was a construction worker they'd send me to the top because they knew I'd try anything. Eventually I had my own construction business, but I was given an offer here I couldn't refuse, though I never expected to rise as high in the organization as I have. My former boss, Warren, was constantly putting me in undefined situations. The upshot? Until a couple of months ago I wasn't sure about my own competence. I think I'm intelligent -- at least no one's left me in the dust -- but I'm probably not above average."

I told him he seemed pretty smart to me, but he still hedged: "I'm learning and changing, but I hide from people how hard I have to work to do something. When I decided to play golf, I first went to a driving range and hit balls until my hands bled, then played by myself until I could break 100. After that I read a book on golf, then went to a professional instructor for a whole week. It was only after I could play well that I began golfing with people from work."

Ray was relieved to learn about the Enneagram. He would otherwise have been more reluctant to share his anxiety about his competence. But being able to give a name to his counterphobic Six style led him to agree when I suggested he'd been shooting himself in the foot: Warren's suggestion to take an executive course in strategic management was clearly to his benefit, but Ray had kept finding reasons not to do it. He'd walk a tightrope to prove he wasn't afraid, but he'd been reluctant to test himself in an academic environment.

The Independent Type

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram style Five?
When I walked into Lyle Clayburn's office I saw a Christopher Morley quote framed on his wall:
There's only one success. To be able to spend your life in your own way.
"I always thought of myself as the silent type who didn't need anybody else in any way," said Lyle, when I commented on the Morley quote. "Only after my wife died last year did I realize how much I needed my family. When I took this job with all its problems, I came to realize I also need other peoples' help and support. They'd probably feel good if I told them this -- I regret to this day I didn't talk more with my wife -- but I don't want to lose control of my emotions. My boss told me, 'You have to be the rock for these people,' but there are too many of them. I can't shield them all."

Lyle's boss Spencer was disappointed with Lyle's inability to solve problems in his division. "I see him as very bright, very knowledgeable, and he expresses himself extremely well. I knew he was feeling the effects of his wife's death -- though he never said so -- and he has top-notch technical expertise, so I thought this promotion would be the perfect way to help his refocus his energy. Now I wonder how this could be the guy who has all the issues I keep hearing about. When I asked him about it, he told me he expects a lot and gets abrupt when he's under fire. It's also my opinion that he doesn't use his peers as resources enough. They've told me when they send him e-mails they only hope for a response, and when he does respond, his messages are really cryptic."

The company had expected a slow learning curve for a difficult operational function, but upper management was now putting pressure on Lyle's boss to speed things up. "It's not happening," Spencer worried. "We're hearing all kinds of complaints from some pretty big customers, and morale is slipping. I feel sorry for the guy. I know we've put him in a bind and I want you to see if you can help him."

As often is the case when I first start with a client, I felt as if I'd taken a wrong turn into The Twilight Zone. I had an educated guess that Lyle might be an Enneagram Five. If so, he'd been put in the situation from Hell: a job that required close coordination and interaction with both subordinates and peers, at a time when he was already feeling great personal stress and reporting to a boss who was under the gun with his own management.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Innovator

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram style Four?
Leaders with style Four can be vital to the health of an organization because they're not bound by tradition and often view things from a new slant. They can keep an organization from slowly dying out of untested and outdated assumptions. Looking in from the outside has an advantage -- they're rarely guilty of groupitis, the subtle virus that keeps groups from looking at their own process.

A style Four executive, now Director of Sales for a manufacturing company, had an earlier career as a photographer. "I photographed things no one else could see," he said. "A segment of the side of a building, a part of the body, a view of a tree that shows a pattern but isn't identifiable in the usual way."

Another expressed intense dissatisfaction with his role in an organization that was traditional and unoriginal. When asked where he'd prefer to work, he answered without hesitation: "Ben and Jerry's!" It was no surprise that he picked an unorthodox organization whose founders expressed their values through the organization and the people they hired.

When I coached Nick, he was being groomed to take over the top human resources (HR) job for an international company. "I think I'm creative, open, and expressive," he said. "Some people ask me into a conversation just because they know I'll come at it from a totally different angle."

Nick's boss said, "He drives the people crazy who develop policy, but I consider that a compliment."

The Star Performer

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram Style Three?
Style three executives are the ultimate example of the focus on results so valued in American business. They're often expansive, risk-taking go-getters who ensure high productivity for their organizations. Consequently, they tend to be found at top levels in the hierarchy.

Charlotte Owens was described by others as "someone who can keep a lot of balls in the air, a high achiever who's willing to challenge the status quo, and very ambitious. Everything she touches turns to gold." Thus a formidable model for others, Charlotte was also perceived as "aloof," "independent," and "focused too little on the team."

There seemed to be no end to Charlotte's energy. In addition to maintaining high-level accountability in her organization, she was the star performer on a community basketball team. 

"I think sometimes I'm intimidating," she admitted. "I want to be a good leader and an example for others, but I'm not sure how good I am as a nurturer or consensus builder."

Though a superior athlete in high school and college, Charlotte discounted those efforts by saying she had "a room full of empty trophies."

Charlotte's complete story in Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Influential Caregiver

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram Style Two?
"I think it's important to live out my values, to always focus on what we need to be doing to serve the mentally ill," said Emily Dracker, a leader in community mental health services. Emily sought a business coach because of her wish to better influence her peers in the mental health system. "They used to see me as a troublemaker," she said. "Now that I'm running this agency, they see me as a real threat because I'm always asking, 'Why are we continuing to do this?'"

Her peers concurred that Emily ruffled feathers, but they also saw the benefit of her challenging the system. "I think she would manipulate the establishment to reach her goals," said one colleague, "but she's honest and argues from her beliefs: she has such a high value for clients' needs."

"She's very interpersonally oriented," said another, "and very genuine with her feelings; but it's sometimes difficult to know where she's coming from because she can react emotionally." 

My work with Emily centered initially on clarifying her boundaries. This was important because she found herself overly focused on satisfying others' needs. At times she even portrayed a kind of martyrdom with her own staff. "Emily is so caring," one of them commented. "She has a natural talent for feedback." 

"You could idolize her," said another. "She's more of a friend than a boss, and she's done so much for me." 

But when her team members would try to treat her as an equal, giving her feedback about how her own behavior could be at cross-purposes with teamwork, she would be more boss than friend. This murkiness about her role showed up in two ways: (1) seeing them as being the whole problem, and (2) responding to their feedback with tears. "I've worked so hard to support them in spite of their failings. Maybe I've just put too much faith in them," she said. "I think they see me as 'Mom' and want to take out all their anxieties on me. Sometimes they seem so childish!"

Emily's complete story in Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Righteous One

Question: What descriptions and self-descriptions will you hear that suggest someone might be an Enneagram style One?
"She’s done exactly what I asked her to do and she's gotten results," said Paul Turow, the CEO of Jean Thurman's company, "but on the human side of it, she can’t succeed if she doesn’t change." Paul and the President of the company, Mark Kelly, had called me in to work with Jean because her subordinates were close to mutiny. She'd been hired to repair the lack of quality standards in her division, but after a recent planning retreat with her team, one of them complained to Paul, "She basically told us everything we'd done for six years was a pile of shit!"  

Mark had his own take. "I told Jean you don't tell a couple showing off their first baby that the child is ugly!"

"She's not an ogre," Paul clarified. "She has a lot of personality that comes through and a high degree of integrity. She’s extremely intelligent, and if you get in a discussion where she doesn’t know something, within 2-3 days she’ll have learned about it. But at the same time she takes a really strong, fixed position of what’s right and wrong." 

When I asked Paul and Mark what their expectations were for my work with Jean, Mark said, "I don’t want her to roll over just to get people to like her, and I want her to continue having strong systems and high expectations for results." 

Paul nodded while Mark was speaking, then added, "There has to be more respect in the process. Right now she has a disconnect in how to bridge that gap. We've had people threatening to quit we can't afford to lose."

"I've always been the type of manager who will confront people when there are problems," Jean told me. "I know I have the reputation of being rather ruthless, but I’ve been able to turn things around in several different positions because people weren’t performing before I got there and I gave them the choice to shape up or leave."

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Enneagram and Work Culture

Question: I'm a Five and I think one of my team mates is a Three, although he thinks he's a One. It's his call of course. However, he seems to me to have too much personality and optimism for a One. He is almost like a Seven, and that was his second choice on the Stanford Enneagram Self Assessment. I think what's going on here is that as technical professionals we all need to have some strong One "perfectionist" traits. I do too, but Five is really a better fit at a deeper level. What do you think?
First of all, neither I nor any of my clients have had experience with the Stanford Enneagram Self-Assessment, so I can't comment on its validity, but in general I recommend relying more on observation/self-understanding and less on an assessment tool.

Second, this reader is on target that behavior is affected by the culture of a work environment. Michael Goldberg (The 9 Ways of Working) wrote:
"Everyone, of whatever type, must relate to the Enneagram style of his or her workplace or team. The Enneagram is the most cogent and precise approach to organizational culture I know. It focuses employees and managers alike on asking important questions about their own work team: What is valued and what is not? What are this company's goals? What happens on this team when someone fails? How are decisions and plans made?"
In particular, Goldberg described a key difference between organizations with One and Five cultures: "One organizations have strong norms and operating controls to maintain high quality (Motorola). . . Five organizations are focused on closely managing information (C-SPAN, M&M/Mars)."
Finally, as an Enneagram Five, this reader is doing what people with his style typically do--trying to determine someone's number by what he reads. I recommended that he listen closely to how his team mate frames his thoughts. If he insists he's a One, he probably is. If he only thinks he might be, maybe not. One of the ways I confirm clients' self-assessment as style One is by the very certainty with which they identify that position. A mistyped style Six, for example, might say, "I feel relieved to nail my type down as a One." A team mate with style One might say "No, you're wrong! I'm a One."

Regarding the "personality and optimism" of this reader's team mate, I've found healthy and mature style Ones to have a wonderfully developed sense of humor that can even be a bit slapstick compared to style Fives' Far Side-type, intellectual humor. In addition, Fives are more likely to amuse themselves with their humorous insights; Ones might actively seek to amuse others and take overt pleasure in a listener's response. Style One with a Nine wing might be more quiet, but Style Ones with Two wings are more interpersonally warm  ̶  I've worked with several who belie the stereotype of an uptight perfectionist (especially those who operate out of a One-to-One subtype).

Riso's chapter on "Misidentifications" in Understanding the Enneagram distinguishes between Ones and Threes. Some excerpts:
"Average Ones and average Threes are sometimes mistaken because both types are efficient and highly organized. . . The two types are very different, however, particularly in their motivations.
Average Ones are idealists, striving for perfection and order. . . in an effort to control both themselves and their environment. . . Inner-motivated by strong consciences, they are organized and efficient so as not to waste time and other resources or allow themselves to be in a position for their consciences to rebuke them...
Average Threes, by contrast, are efficient pragmatists, not idealists. . . interested in success, prestige, and advancing their careers, and the efficiency we see in them is a way of attaining those goals. Because emotional depth and a full range of emotions remain undeveloped, average Threes are rarely emotionally disturbed for long by anything. . . With average Ones, we get the impression of deeper feelings being held in check or sublimated elsewhere, say into social reform.
. . . Ones are trying to be perfect, while Threes feel they (more or less) already are. . . Ones offer themselves as examples of those who strive for perfection, particularly moral perfection; Threes offer themselves as exemplars of individual perfection. . . as those who 'have it all.'
Both (tend to be) "thinking" types. . . Both have in mind some sort of goal they want to achieve. The difference is that Ones attempt to discover which objective means will best lead to the desired ideal, whereas Threes are pragmatists who work backward to find the most efficient means to achieve their goal."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Sky is Falling!

I'm an Enneagram style Four and my husband is style Six. We've recently adopted our first child and, though we're overjoyed to have a new addition in our lives, this is also a sleepless, stressful time as we adjust to our new roles. I'm particularly stressed because lately my husband seems less like my helpmate and more like an additional child, whose fears I must constantly calm. I feel as if I live with Chicken Little who's constantly crying the sky is falling. I'm having a hard time staying calm and positive when his paranoia kicks in. Any suggestions about how I can better cope with this portion of my spouse's personality, or ways I can make him feel more secure and less pessimistic?
First children can be stressful for any number of reasons – lack of sleep, changing roles, new responsibilities. One particular element is that children seem to evoke our hidden aspects, both the Shadow inner child and the Shadow inner parent. And because our society still pushes parenting more squarely on the mother, she often begins to feel she now has two children. Complicated feelings are evoked in men when children enter the family – as depicted in Frank Pittman's Man Enough: fathers, sons, and the search for masculinity
Actually, this can happen any time the wife nurtures someone else. For example, a style Nine wife spent two weeks helping her mother recuperate from broken ribs, expecting she could return to her style Eight husband and nestle under his protective arm. WRONG! He was feeling needy because she'd been gone, but of course as an Eight couldn't admit it, so it was a tough re-entry for both of them.  

Possibly you, as style Four and recently a mother, are connecting more with your Two energy. This has its up and down sides. On the down side, Fours begin to exhibit qualities of average to unhealthy Twos – wanting to be reassured the relationship is working and/or being more highly self-absorbed and thus having more difficulty relating to the spouse in customary ways (paradoxically, with increasing fears of abandonment). At the same time the husband with style Six is showing some Three behaviors – plagued with self-doubt, experiencing a higher need for approval and support, and feeling competitive (of the new child in this case), with increased fear of rejection. 

When your primary styles are under stress, Fours are more likely to focus on what's missing and Sixes  to uncover potential problems (as you've noted). According to Sarah Aschenbach (Relationships Made Easy) Fours can move to being "self-conscious, moody, hypersensitive" and Sixes to feeling "anxious, vacillating, eager to please" (or countering those behaviors with their opposite). Aschenbach also writes:
Under stress, Fours begin to feel no one understands or appreciates them for their unique gifts. . . As stress increases, they demand the right to do only what they want to do when they want to do it."
"Under stress, Sixes begin to vacillate between caving in and taking a tough stand. . . they may first try to make everyone happy then suddenly turn on one or both of the forces that they feel are trying to tear them apart. . . .
Style Fours often have a unique, protective energy toward children and animals (perhaps some internal re-parenting is taking place?), so you may be focusing so much on your new child you're not offering your husband the love and affection and attention he's accustomed to. That's neither good nor bad, but you might ask yourself if you're living some of your own unmet needs from childhood through this new little person in your life, perhaps overly focusing on the child's needs?

Helen Palmer (The Enneagram in Love and Work) notes that style Four can be as fearful as style Six. So it's possible his paranoia is hooking you because in part you're projecting onto him aspects of yourself you're having trouble owning. Palmer also writes,
In a down phase each blames the other for feelings of low self- esteem. The Four may think, "I'd feel better if I had a better partner" and the Six may ask, "How can this be love when I both love my partner and entertain doubts?"'. . . A crisis develops if both collude in worst-case thinking about their future. . . It helps when either can back down long enough to reaffirm their commitment. A good reminder would be: "This is a difficult phase; but remember, we're committed to changing and staying together." Fair-fight guidelines are useful because either type is likely to quit under fire. . . It helps when both partners can see through their own ambivalence about intimacy. . . It's a breakthrough when either can see the similarity between Four's push-pull habit of relating and Six's alternating pattern of belief and mistrust.
A style Four friend whose husband is style Six offered the following: 
My husband has been good for me. As a Four who feels flawed, his undying loyalty is a gift: he's there for me. But if we'd met at an earlier point in time – when he was more into his anger and I was more into my self-absorption – it might not have gone so smoothly. There could be a problem if the Four is very verbal and likes to process a lot of emotions, because when a Six is hurting that's the last thing he wants to do. The Four's way of processing isn't the Six's way of processing. It would irritate a Six for the Four to process a lot of feelings, even if she just asked questions. What the Six needs is space. It can also be a problem if the Four is pulling back emotionally because of all the attention the child needs, which the Six could take personally. The Six tends to say, "It's my fault" or "I've got to fix it." Any new mother is going to be physically tired, and the things men take as affirmation will go down the tubes. So it may help if she explains to her husband what's going on: "Right now I'm stressed out and I'm pulling back because I'm trying to survive." He'll probably be O.K. with that because it's not about their relationship, he's not looking for a hidden agenda, not worrying she's going to spring something on him.
You can't make your husband feel more secure and less pessimistic; that's his work. But you can look at yourself and work on your own stresses; making it more likely your love for him will be clear and tangible.