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.

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