Saturday, April 30, 2016

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.

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