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."

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