The Enneagram and Business: Nine Personal Paradigms
Building Sustainable Working Relationships Through Honoring Personal Diversity
Our 'mental models' determine not only how we make sense of the world, but how we take action." Peter Senge
"...organizations break down, despite individual brilliance and innovative products, because they are unable to pull their diverse functions and talents into a productive whole. " Peter Senge
Relationships are the heart of any business or organization. Whether we are entrepreneurs dealing with clients and suppliers or we work for a multinational corporation marketing a service to a target audience, we need to create sustainable relationships in order to be successful.
Clients and consumers are not the only venue for relationship-building. Productivity depends on the quality of relationships between departments, managers, coworkers, and subordinates. Understanding how our bosses, coworkers, or employees come at the world makes it possible for us to find a common meeting ground, and "get down to business".
Yet there's a more important reason to develop good working relationships than enhancing productivity or being successful. We spend a lot of our time working. Depending on our ability to get along with others, the workplace can be a joy or misery. Good relationships enhance our work environment and make it more enjoyable to go to work regardless of what we do. Bad ones can keep us from wanting to go to a job we love.
Who Are These People?
We choose our family and our friends, but with a few exceptions, we don't get to choose the people with whom we work. The most diverse group we'll probably ever encounter will be in work and business. So it is essential that we have a map to guide us in dealing with this "personal diversity". Many businesses are educating their workers in ethnic and cultural diversity in the workplace. Still others have actually worked with systems such as the Myers-Brigg's or Personal Style Inventory. These maps offer useful information in working with differing cultural and personal styles. The Enneagram takes us even further: giving us a view from the inside of another individual. We discover information critical to understanding each of those with whom we work. We learn the internally held worldview which is the basis for truly understanding another person. We find what motivates him, his strengths and weaknesses, and how he changes under stress. Most important, we discover how to build a good working relationship through honoring his personal reality.
We needn't wait for our companies or organizations to commit to personal diversity or train everyone with whom we work. Although more and more businesses are bringing the map of the Enneagram to managers and staff, it is likely that we will be using the Enneagram on our own at first. Even this seemingly one-sided approach has a good deal to offer us in building effective and satisfying working relationships.
Get Yourself Out Of Their Way - And Out of Yours
If we interact with others from our own limited worldview, we will miss the synergy that good relationships provide in the workplace. Most of us have learned how to deal with others whose worldview has similarities to ours. It's not surprising to find that we have the most difficulty with those whose views are greatly divergent from our own. Probably the biggest obstacle to building a relationship with someone very different from ourselves is our personality's unconscious bias or worldview. We tend to use our own "personal paradigm" as the gold standard for reality, rejecting those paradigms that conflict with our own. The Enneagram can best be used as it can in building any relationship: to get ourself, our automatic worldview out of the way. We then have an opening where we can begin to look for and accept the presence of worldviews other than our own. Already we are much less limited.
Lucinda has learned her own unconscious bias and learned to get it out of the way of developing a therapeutic working relationship with her clients. Her clients have responded by expressing to her how understood they feel and by returning to work on other life issues in addition to the smoking cessation program.
How Do I "Type" Others I Work With?
The Enneagram gives us eight perspectives in addition to our own, and a framework for understanding why people act and react as they do. We look for clues as to the Enneagram types of the people we work with, and try to respond in a way that honors what we encounter. While we may not truly know their type, it doesn't matter. We can respond to the ISNESS that we observe. If we observe One-ish energy or behavior, we can respond to that. If it doesn't work, we can go back to observing and try another viewpoint. Better yet, we can ask questions from our Enneagram map (without mentioning the Enneagram per se). How do you like to be approached? What is most important to you in a working relationship? What do you like best about work? Least? These answers may not "nail down" the type for us, but they are the information we are really after. We are learning a bit of the internal terrain and ways to understand and honor another individual.
Dan wasn't sure of his boss's type, but he knew enough about his Eight worldview to understand how he might be perceived by others. He was able to pull back from his own bias, and consider how his new boss might like to be approached. He worked with the "Isness" he observed - the Five-like behavior and energy of his boss. His acceptance and honoring of his boss's apparent "personal paradigm" helped him take the steps to building a good working relationship from the start.
The Real Gift - Listening With New Ears
The real gift in trying to ascertain the Enneagram type of those with whom we work is a new quality of listening. Often when engaged in conversation with another, we are already formulating our reply while he is still speaking. When we are listening for the cues that will illuminate his Enneagram point, we listen very intently and completely. If we never figured out another person's type, if all we ever got from the Enneagram was this "listening with new ears", it would be more than enough to change the quality of our relationships. Time and again, people will respond that they've never felt so 'heard' as when another is trying to ascertain their type and understand who they really are. We don't need to feel guilty for having the ulterior motive of learning someone's type. Our true intention, to understand another's reality and grow a relationship, comes through. That is what people respond to. I hear from people in every walk of life, from non-profit organizations to financial planning corporations, that each of us just wants to be understood, and appreciated for who we are. This focused listening starts us doing just that for one another.
Fear of Eights - Disdain of Sevens: Typing Vs Stereotyping
While we are on the subject of "typing" we need to take a look at stereotyping. The true focus in building relationships with others involves inquiry into another's inner landscape, rather than just finding their Enneagram "type". We run the risk of believing that we actually know another person if we know their personality default mode. In many businesses when I initially come in to teach the Enneagram, I find that individuals are legitimately concerned about being pigeonholed. (I know one organization that had their employees wear their Myers-Brigg's* types on their name badges. That isn't a problem unless it stops us from going further, from continuing the exploration of understanding that spans the duration of the relationship.)
Some people tell me that they have learned too many systems where they felt that they were on the receiving end of stereotyping. Or that they themselves learned only enough to categorize others, so the system had limited usefulness to them in everyday work and working relationships.
"Women are too emotional." Men are too aggressive." It's clear to most of us in this enlightened era that these statements are gross oversimplifications and stereotypes based on gender. Stereotyping can be done with any system or way of understanding our world.We must be alert to our inner dialogue when it lapses into generalities such as "I just don't get along with Sixes. Sevens can never commit to anything. Fours are just too dramatic. Eights are scary, confrontational people." These thoughts may crop up as we are learning the map of the Enneagram, and as we are trying to make sense of the reality of others. And while it may be a natural part of the learning process to simplify as we explore others personal paradigms, we know that it is not "real" or the "truth".
A woman who trained as an Enneagram teacher at the same time as I, coined a phrase to describe being on the receiving end of such stereotyping. She called it Point Shame. It occurred when you met someone else who knew the Enneagram and they asked what point or type you are. When you answered, their face dropped, and they walked off muttering "my ex was that Point." She claimed that it felt like all the sins of all the people who shared your Point or type were visited upon you by virtue of the worldview you held in common. I can promise you that it is not a pleasant experience. The converse of Point Shame is Point Pride - where we are enchanted by our personal paradigm and proudly proclaim that we wouldn't want to be any other point. We list the gifts of the point as if they are automatically shining from us with no effort or attention on our parts.
It's easy to stereotype based on commonalities that we notice. We add up these commonalities to create a "mental model" for ourselves. There's nothing wrong with doing so as long as we hold these models lightly, with room for new infomation to enter and reconfigure them. Mental models we might hold after learning the Enneagram and applying it for a short time is that "Eights are intimidating" or "Sevens can't be counted on" . Sure, I've worked with Eights who intimidated me. And I've known just as many "soft" Eights who share the view that "only the strong survive", but enact it fairly quietly. I've known escapist Sevens that I would not count on, but just as many that I would trust with my life. I've known Ones that were picky and critical and others that acted as my most gifted teachers. It is important that we realize the purpose of the Enneagram is to give us a broad map of internal worldview or personal paradigm. It gives us a starting place to begin our exploration of another paradigm or Enneagram "culture". Even our mental models are simply constructs that we create to help us in understanding. We have to continue to question our models, and leave room for them to grow, so they may more closely connect us to the complexity they represent.
Synergy through Diversity
Businesses and organizations are recognizing that the strengths of individuals working together adds up to a synergy: a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. We can actually be more effective when we combine different gifts than when we use strong people with the same gift. There is an inherent weakness when we work with a limited number of views. Self-directed work teams work best when all viewpoints represented are honored for their contribution to the whole of the project. (Unfortunately it can take participants of these self-directed teams a long time to get to know one anothers gifts if they have no map to learn one anothers worldview.) When we individually know our gifts and weaknesses, we can link up with others who complement us.
Now there's a revolutionary thought. "We don't all have to be good at everything." Marion's understanding of Roz's strengths and weaknesses as well as her own helped them work together in a way that combined the best that each had to offer. Roz didn't have to perform the one task that she dreads. Both were able to enjoy their workday, when personal diversity was taken into account and accomodated.
Shifting Your Own Energy
Another way the Enneagram can help us enhance our interpersonal relating has to do with matching energy. Remember our discussion regarding the different energies or force fields of each of the types back in Chapter Three? We can address energy in two ways. First we can learn our own automatic energetic and be aware of its effect on others. Dan, our Eight with the new Five boss, was aware of his propensity for filling up the space and realized that it might be overwhelming for a withdrawing Five. With practice we can choose to "shift" our energy appropriately. How do we do that?
Exercise: Shifting the Energetic
(You might want to close your eyes the first few times you do this exercise.) Imagine or envision your force field and its boundaries. Now imagine that it is expanded to fill the room. Note how your force field feels in your imagining. Imagine that it is contracted back deep inside or behind you. Notice if that feels different. Imagine that it is diffuse and spread over a large area, with a great deal of space between the molecules. Note how that feels. Practice moving your force field.
'Where attention goes energy flows" was the maxim we discovered in Chapter Five on self development. That is literally true for our "force field" of energy. If we imagine it is contracted, we have directed our attention in such a way that it does contract. If we imagine our energy is pulled back into ourselves, it will be. If we direct attention to our head, heart, or gut - that is where our energy flows. At first we may not feel anything (except silly), but with continued practice we'll find an interesting occurrence. We will begin to feel others force fields more clearly. I don't know why it is easier to feel others' force fields initially than it is to feel our own, but it seems to work that way. We can then begin to trust that it is possible to shift our attention AND our energy.
As we become more sensitive to others energetic, or force field, we can begin to match ourselves to the energy we encounter. It's a way of connecting or linking up that creates a non-verbal deep rapport. Many people in business have learned the techniques of NLP, Neuro-Linguistic-Programming, where one "mirrors" the body posture, mannerisms, and even breathing patterns of another to create non-verbal rapport. It's extremely popular because it works! The individual being mirrored feels understood and accepted on some level beyond speaking. Even the person executing the "mirroring" is able to feel a wordless connection with the one who is "mirrored". Thus a rapport can be bridged whether a single sentence is exchanged.
A similar rapport can be established by matching the energetic of the person you are dealing with. In fact, in conflict situations, it may be critical that you match energy to forge a connection where compromise or agreement has a chance of happening.
Exercise - Matching Energy
Be aware of the energy you encounter throughout the day. Practice matching energy to the force field or energetic you encounter with the intention of creating this invisible rapport. Note how your interactions seem to you. Are they easier? Different? Do you notice a connection?
Living With the Boss
Remember, Eights want someone who'll stand up for what they believe, who won't "wimp out". They want someone who'll match their energy (not escalate it, or you might end up being "eaten") and come through. They respect action and clarity, and are impatient with lengthy discussion or explanation. Eric was initially approaching his boss, both in terms of content and energy, the way that Eric himself would like to be approached. But it was not at all the way his boss liked to be approached. And it didn't work at all.
It really doesn't take a huge shift of attention or energy to honor another. We simply need to meet them halfway. Somehow people sense when someone is really attempting to meet them them energetically, to honor their worldview. They begin to feel understood.
Motivations and Rewards
Here's where the golden rule just isn't enough. We need to go beyond "do unto others as you would like them to do unto you" to "do unto others the way they want to be done unto". When we only treat others as we want to be treated, it may not be what they want or respond to at all.
Giving Debbie what Debbie wanted, rather than what Jane would have wanted for herself helped both of these people. Debbie was able to perform well above average in her charge nurse role, and Jane didn't lose a talented staff member over a simple clash of personal paradigms.
Often our reward systems designed to motivate others are based on that which we value. It can be invaluable to have a beginning understanding of what motivates each of us based on our Enneagram type.
What Motivates each of The Types?
Type One: Improvement, Job Well Done
Type Two: Approval in Relationship
Type Three: Approval for Image or Task
Type Four: Being Special - Different,
Type Five: Knowledge and Understanding,
Type Six: Loyalty and/or Security
Type Seven: Unlimited Options and Possibilities,
Type Eight: Power
Type Nine: Connection
Knowing what motivates each of us and those we work with can be a tremendous help in designing benefit and incentive programs. Just knowing that we all won't respond to the same motivators can be a boon for managers and CEO's. Recently I was at an incentive bonus trip on a tropical isle. This trip was given as a reward to the top salespeople in the organization. One participant shared that he liked being one of the top people each year, but that he was terminally bored with fancy hotels and resorts. His dream reward was to be sent to a cabin or lodge in the woods alone. He managed to make the top each year, but the incentive was actually working against him. He just did not value it. And he knew no way to safely communicate this, believing that he was the only "weird" one.
Motivating is useful, even desirable. But most of us would like to go even further. We want to fulfill our potential, to grow as human beings, to be self-actualizing. We want to be inspired. We want our work to be a vocation or a calling. We want to find meaning in the large part of our life that is work. Each of the Nine Enneagram types is inspired differently.
What inspires each of us:
Type One: Empowerment to Improve and Reform
Type Two: Making a Difference to Others
TypeThree: Winning - Being Known As The Best
Type Four: Making A Unique Creative Contribution
Type Five: Quest for Wisdom
Type Six: Commitment to a Cause or Higher Ideal
Type Seven: Visioning - Work as Adventure
Type Eight: Serving Through Strength
Type Nine: Working Together In Harmony
Even when we know our coworkers well, even when we "know" what motivates or inspires them in work, we may continue to treat them as we would want to be treated. We don't lose our personal paradigm, thus we continue to filter information and observations through it. It is as if we are looking through a special pair of glasses that polarizes what we see into our own worldview, cutting out the "glare" from other personal paradigms or worldviews. We can misinterpret what we see and hear from another, when we haven't removed the One glasses or Two glasses from our perception. Case in point:
These mistakes of perception can gifts to us in helping us to understand one another. These cultural faux pas give us important information as to the density and fixity of our own worldview. They help us learn yet again, that we all don't inhabit the same reality. Our assumptions serve to awaken us once again, to continue the inquiry into internal terrain, even with those we know "as well as we know ourselves".
Dealing With Others in the Workplace
In addition to meeting and matching energy, and honoring the general worldview or Enneagram type of those you work with, here are some quick hints for dealing with each of the types. Remember, you don't have to be sure of an individual's Enneagram type if you respond to the "ISNESS" you encounter. In other words, go with your best guess. You'll be no worse off than you were before, when you had no map at all. And you'll begin to gain valuable information to help in growing your relationships.
Honoring Bosses, Subordinates, Coworkers, Suppliers
Dealing with Ones
Be careful with criticism. The Perfectionist's internal critic can take even light criticism and batter herself mercilessly long past the time you forgot the you offered it.
Point out what they do well. A One is often so focused on the next situation or item that needs correcting, she forgets that she's done anything well.
Admit your own mistakes. Perfectionists have a great deal of empathy when you do.
Ask Ones for the best way to do things. Their attentional style just naturally focuses on the best method for any situation, and they are often willing, patient teachers
Dealing with Twos
Show your appreciation for the Giver's genuine contributions; do not take them for granted.
Connect with the Twos you encounter from the your heart center, develop a personal bond or relationship.
Receiving can be hard for Twos, since their identity is tied up in giving and helping. So give to them quietly, unobtrusively. If you get a cup of coffee for yourself, get one for the Two and just set it near them, without fanfare. They will appreciate it.
Dealing with Threes
Give recognition for legitimate accomplishments and successes.
Don't be an obstacle. When a Performer is fixed on a goal, they may run right over the top of you without meaning to. If you need the Three's attention, make yourself the goal by making an appointment. You'll likely then get her undivided attention. Don't waste a Performer's time, get right to the point and let her get on with the work that is so important to her. Gently remind her to give credit to all who work on or contribute to a project.
Dealing with Fours
Don't try to make a Four conform - it is very important that some leeway exist for him to express his uniqueness, even in a corporate environment.
Eccentricity can yield creative endeavors and solutions. Meet the Romantic's intensity without getting caught up in his drama. Don't try to "fix" or change him; attempt to understand instead. Find ways to allow the Four to make special contributions and awaken the "heart" of the organization.
Dealing with Fives
Give them space and privacy to work. Allow lead time for decisions.
Observers like to know what to expect, so provide them with all the information possible, and let them think about the best way to proceed.
Avoid long meetings or discussions without a clear end point. Don't surprise them. Give an Observer a puzzle; they'll work it out. For the more outward types, (2's, 3's, 8's), try not to overwhelm the Five with your energy.
Dealing with Sixes
Always recognize and share the downsides or pitfalls when working with a Loyal Skeptic, so they know that you are at least minimally trustworthy. Listen to their worst case scenarios and ask for their analysis and plans for dealing with those potential problems. Come through with what you promise. Don't misuse authority or leadership roles. Be onsistent and treat others in a egalitarian fashion, don't play favorites. Act as a reality check as to how likely a worst case scenario is to develop. Realize that Sixes may have to ask certain questions over and over, because of the doubting mind.
Dealing with Sevens
Share a Seven's excitement and enthusiasm, then help him narrow his focus. Don't force the darkside or pitfalls. Frame difficulties as best case scenarios. Change your approach from "we have a problem" to "we could have a better future." Allow exploration of options and possibilities which can translate into future visions and innovative solutions.
Dealing with Eights
Be direct and cut to the chase when dealing with an Eight. Give them the critical information: Is the job done? When will it be finished? What's the decision? Stand your ground - be clear and concise. Don't get emotional or lapse into long-winded explanations of the process or details of a project. Eights don't care if you agree with them, but you must be prepared to state your case and stand up for your beliefs. If an Eight is 'stepping on your toes' or' bulldozing' , just tell her. She'll appreciate the truth more than any misplaced pampering of her feelings. Eights want feedback as much as any other type.
Dealing with Nines
Allow time for a Nine to make decision, but it is important to have a clear timeframe. Work out a deadline together. Don't push the Mediator; he'll only become stubborn and passive aggressive. If a Nine is acting out anger in a passive aggressive fashion, call him on it by stating how you feel. Don't usurp a Mediator's agenda or choice, if possible. He'll be angry since it took him so long to figure out what was important to him. A Nine enjoys connection with others and usually prefers working in a harmonious, cooperative environment.
Honoring Clients and Customers
A cornerstone of building sustainable relationships involves honoring the worldviews of your clients. Even if you don't work with "clients" per se, the others you interact with in the course of work are akin to your customers. Some organizations consider that different departments within the company are "customers" for each other. Interdepartmental relationships shift when departments are not engaged in "turf" battles, but rather look at other departments as those whom they serve.
Honoring Your One Client
What the One Wants From You
The Perfectionist client needs to know that you are diligent and thorough in all that you do for them. They may want all the information and full explanations of each detail. They need to know that you've done your homework and will be meticulous. They value honesty and integrity.
They want to know that you take your responsibilities seriously.
It may seem at times as if the One is interrogating you, about every small detail. They may seem critical or as if they are judging you. They may procrastinate in decision-making, feeling they don't have enough information and might make a mistake.
Honoring Your Two Client
What the Two Wants From You
Twos want a connection with you. They want to feel that you genuinely care about them personally. Little need for "mirroring", they'll match to you. They want to know you'll take care of them, because they are special to you. They like to be able to make a contribution to you, as well.
Twos may not really hear details when you discuss options with pitfalls. They are much more tuned into the connection and relationship with you. If you must get some information across, you may need to intentionally mismatch to get their attention. They may get lost in high energy discussions and seem to change their minds midstream (hysteria).
Honoring Your Three Client
What the Three Wants From You
The Three client wants a positive, go-getter who presents the image of success. He wants someone who doesn't waste his time, doesn't hedge or play fast and loose. He's alert to deceit or shapeshifting, since they are part of his own automatic mode. The Three wants to know that you have all the details under control but doesn't want dissertations on each one.
The flip side of wanting a Three-like consultant is that the Three is ever alert to signs of deception or "selling" because that's how they live. And they aren't sure they'd trust themselves to do the best job; just know that it would look good. Mistrust rears its ugly head if presentation is too slick or if any questions are brushed aside or glossed over. The Three will most likely just disappear and find someone else.
Honoring Your Four Client
What the Four Wants From You
The Four wants to know that you are authentic and care deeply about what you are doing. S/he wants to know that you will design a unique program or consult with her/him as an individual. No ordinary, menu driven solutions for them. The Four wants you to try to understand their special needs. Fours appreciate well designed, aesthetic instructional materials.
If the Four feels that you are trying to change them, to make them different rather than offering advice and solutions, they won't work with you. They want to be understood, not fixed. Listening is key with a Four - to hear what they really want. The Four can pull you into an emotional reality or dream of theirs - if only I could .... and clarity of vision or what's needed may be hard to elucidate.
Honoring Your Five Client
What the Five Wants From You
Because the Five feels they have a limited supply of energy, long open-ended meetings are not appreciated. Fives do want to understand and appreciate being given information to reflect on and think about before decisions must be made. The more you can prepare the Five with what to expect, the happier they'll be. Like Ones, Fives often like having as much information as possible.
Fives can withhold information and slow the process. It may be hard to determine what they really want, if they're not forthcoming. Fives also may take time to make a decision or give a go-ahead while they analyze the data. Although Fives don't like to be overburdened with meetings, they greatly appreciate knowing that you are thinking about them and are available, so check in by phone or email periodically. Fives can give off a feeling that they are superior to you - let it go.
Honoring Your Six Client
What the Six Wants From You
The core issue for Six is trust. A Six wants an authority whom they can trust. They want to know that you look at the downsides and pitfalls of every situation and that you have a plan for bailout or disaster. The Six doesn't want a positive Pollyanna - to them that means you live in La La land and surely can't be trusted. They want to know that you come through with what you say you will.
A Six may try to make you the authority and foist the entire responsibility for their decisions onto you. Or the Six will doubt your ability and authority and try to "prove" that you are not what you say you are. The Six may question you and try to debunk your information. (Most likely scenario is some combination of the above - so don't be thrown by it. ) The worst time for a Six is when things are going well. So if you are making them money or giving them what they want, it can be frightening for the Six - they are waiting for that other shoe to drop!
Honoring Your Seven Client
What the Seven Wants From You
The Seven wants someone who sees the possibilities. They appreciate optimism and prefer you deal with the boring, difficult details. Seven wants to know that the bottom line is that there's a great day a comin', and that you see their visions for the future. They also like to deal with someone who's upbeat and "fun".
Seven's overly optimistic view of life may need focus and clarity regarding any downsides. It may be hard for a Seven to focus on a vision of where they'd like to be - they see too many possibilities and options. It may even be hard to talk about their goals or needs, when their monkey mind is bouncing from idea to idea. They might want to make you into another fun pal, rather than their consultant or supplier.
Honoring Your Eight Client
What the Eight Wants from You
The Eight, like the Three, doesn't like to waste his/her time. A cut-to-the-chase plan of action is appreciated. Eights like to have their considerable energy met. They don't like overintellectualizing or to know all the unimportant details. Eights appreciate the truth, even if its unpleasant. If you make a mistake, own up to it - then take care of it.
Excess mentation, emotionality, data just bores and frustrates the Eight. The Eight may confront, just to see how you work under fire, if you have what it takes to hold your ground. They won't want to be handled by or deal with someone who wimps out.
Honoring Your Nine Client
What the Nine Wants From You
Nines appreciate some structure and boundaries within which to work and make decisions. They too need time to make decisions - to let the information settle and priorities be known. Give him time to mull over choices and a deadline by which decision must occur. Nines appreciate having a personal connection with you - need to socialize a bit before getting down to business.
Because it is hard for Nines to know their own priorities, they'll refer back to you "what do you think I should do?" Be careful not to take over, or later the Nine will reflect and may decide that isn't what they wanted. Be sure to keep communication going, so don't get stuck in Nine passive aggressive behavior. Keep the Nine focused on what they want - may need to intentionally mismatch as with the Two. Also, diffuseness of Nines can cause a spaciness in you - stay grounded.
The Dynamic Enneagram in the Workplace - Movement under Stress
The ability to predict dynamic movement on the Enneagram map, particularly under conditions of stress can be invaluable whether you are working with clients, your boss, or your subordinates. When we "move" to our stress point on the Enneagram, we can seem suddenly like we are completely different people. Our behavior, actions, and reactions may seem incomprehensible to others around us, based on what they know of our usual way of being.
American business is Threeish and Eightish. Success and image are important as are "vanquishing" or "destroying" one's competitiion. Both Threes and Eights like winning, like being the best or the strongest. So it stands to reason that most of us in the corporate "jungle" have a Threeish - Eightish overlay. In fact, in many of the companies where I have consulted, people identify themselves as Threes or Eights based on reading brief descriptions of the Nine types. It is only after the conclusion of the day-long introductory workshop that these would-be Threes and Eights separate out into all nine types. We tend to take on the corporate or work culture in which we find ourselves. It feels safer - we blend in. Camouflaged in our work environment, we keep our internal terrain private. We even may suffer from the Three dilemma of believing we are what we appear to be, rather than going deep inside to ask "Who am I really?" We may know who we are inside, but it may not feel safe to let others know. It may not be honored nor seem in alignment with corporate identity or vision.
It can be helpful to know the Enneagram"culture" of your corporation, small company, or organization. It can tell you a great deal about the strengths and weaknesses of your workplace. Southwest Airlines is a noted Seven culture, following the lead of the flamboyant CEO, Herb Kelleher. The main focus of Southwest's culture is that work should be fun, that flying should be fun. The company has been wildly successful in recruiting people - it was named the top company that individuals want to work for. The reason: because work is fun. The bent toward fun has flight attendants singing, dressing up in costume, performing comic bits, and nearly always smiling and laughing. Most of the time, it really is fun to fly Southwest. What a change from dour, inattentive, cranky flight attendants all too often encountered on other airlines. And yet, there is a downside to the corporate culture, as there is with any Enneagram type on automatic mode. Fun isn't always what we need. I am a Seven and I like fun as much as the next person, maybe more. I ought to truly appreciate Southwest's corporate culture. But there are times when I've been travelling for an extended period and I'm just tired. I don't want my flight attendant to be perky or try to make me laugh. I want to be left alone, to fly to my destination in relative peace and quiet. I don't want fun; I want transportation.
J. Peterman is a very Four-ish catalog company. The catalog makes a unique statement with its distinctive shape and format. Elegant clothing and other specialty items are drawn instead of photographed. Item descriptions are embedded in small stories, embellished with drama and emotion. I long to be a part of those stories; its worth it to read the catalog even if you don't order anything. If you do, the payoff is in quality. The downside? Sometimes, it is difficult to tell what a garment "really" looks like by examining a drawing. Occasionally, it would be helpful to have a little more detail about the "specs" of the item and a little less story.
Southwest Airlines and J. Peterman each have a strong, well-defined corporate culture. There's nothing wrong in that. In fact, it may be desirable in terms of vision, focus, and identity. The upsides and strengths of the culture will be enhanced. However, it is important that the downside of the culture be acknowledged, noticed, and dealt with to avoid the natural pitfalls of the corporate "personality" from surprising everyone.
Corporate Personality - Under Stress
Much like people, businesses and associations can move to the stress point under times of difficulty or change. The stress point can be a call to action and help the company weather change or it can show up as the low side of stress point, causing further difficulties and hardship.
The Enneagram map can be a life preserver for a company or organization capsized in the rough seas of change. It allows breathing time and space as you map where the company culture began, where it is, and where you wish it to go. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the main Enneagram culture of the company as well as those of the stress point can yield invaluable information as to the action and tools required for healthy response to difficulties. Accessing the strengths provided by the culture's point and stress point can help a company right itself and stabilize as it sets a new course.
Corporate Personality - In Stability and Prosperity
A company can also use the map of the Enneagram when everything is going well. Understanding the comfort point can help in visioning where the company is going, how it will grow and work in good times. What are the strengths of the comfort point? Knowing them can help an organization find pertinent questions to ask about future direction and evolution. Growing does not necessarily mean that a company will get bigger or increase profits, although that is one definition. Growth may denote a shift in influence, a change in direction, or a refining of vision that enriches the company and all who participate in it. A company may create change from within rather than simply responding to change from external forces. In this way, the Enneagram becomes a map for development of corporate culture and vision.
The Enneagram can be a useful tool in assessing a company's weaknesses and strengths. Additionally, it can be helpful when each worker is speaking a common language when addressing gifts and problems. The Enneagram offers a framework for optimizing an organization's performance and relationships. If self-examination becomes an overall organizational process, conscious behavior permeates the workforce. Nothing could be stronger in promoting good working relationships. And when our relationships are good, it is a pleasure to go to work.
(c) 1998 Lynette Sheppard