As a consultant and coach, I get asked a lot about my favorite personality assessments—and those questions usually go something like this:
- Which assessments do you use in coaching, and why?
- What’s the difference between certain assessments?
- Or maybe you’re like many others saying, “I just don’t want to be boxed in like that by an assessment!”
And If you’re curious about the top 3 leadership assessments I use in my consulting practice, then check out this older post.
But the top FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) I’ve been asked lately has been:
Q: WHY THE ENNEAGRAM?
There’s a lot of buzz about the Enneagram these days. And for good reason. From my perspective, this assessment is one of the best at helping us understand, explain and develop our true-sense-of-self (also called our core or our essence).
As most of you already know, I’m definitely NOT the expert on explaining the complexities of the Enneagram. I first explored the Enneagram almost 10 years ago when it was introduced by my Spiritual Formation professor in the Organizational Leadership program at Eastern University . . . and I still have so much more to learn.
But I thought it would be fun to answer your question by explaining WHY and HOW I use the Enneagram in my consulting practice . . . and then I will tag a few of my favorite resources below.
A: I USE THE ENNEAGRAM BECAUSE IT ALLOWS ME TO UNDERSTAND THE LENS THROUGH WHICH YOU SEE THE WORLD.
My job as your consultant and coach is to help you move forward as a leader or help you get unstuck in life, and I do this by understanding the lens through which you see the world. This is my WHY.
- It’s like I get to wear your pair of glasses so that I can see what you see as you describe situations and scenarios and the scenery around you.
- It allows me to put myself in your shoes (or a few different pairs of your shoes).
- It gives me the opportunity to connect with you in ways that may be meaningful to you—not just ways that are meaningful to me.
- It helps me speak your language. If you’re a “thinker” then using feeling words all of the time (since I’m more of a “feeler”) may not be the best way to communicate with you.
So, here’s the deal . . .
#1: Here’s HOW I use this assessment based on ENNEAGRAM CENTERS:
(Keep in mind that these practical, tangible responses based solely on my own personal experiences)
If you’re Heart-centered (Types 2, 3, 4): You often FEEL first. And you use feeling words to describe what you’re thinking, feeling AND what you’re sensing deep down inside. This means I may ask you more “feeling” centered questions to understand what you’re thinking and sensing too.
For Heart-centered types, the most helpful thing I can do as your coach is to help you keep your feelings in perspective, and help you identify and extract your thoughts and senses from your feelings in order to make logical decisions. These are the logical decisions you often know to be best, even in the midst of really intense feelings about a situation. I may also use stories or images to give you a tangible picture of how your development as a leader makes a difference.
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If you’re Head-centered (Types 5, 6, 7): You often THINK first. And you use thinking words to describe what you’re thinking, feeling AND what you’re sensing deep down inside. This means I may ask you more “thinking” centered questions to understand what you’re feeling and sensing too. And then, I will often ask you another version of those same questions to get at what you’re really feeling about a particular situation. I also do my best to communicate with you in short, concise, direct statements before I go on to explain my thoughts behind those statements.
For Head-centered types, the most helpful (and yet hardest) thing I can do as your coach is to help you connect your Head (what you’re thinking) with your Heart (what you’re feeling) so that you make logical decisions that are informed by your feelings too. Thinkers often need help understanding the emotions they may be avoiding by making the choices they make. Or they may need help connecting with team members who they label as being “emotional” due to the way those co-workers express their feelings.
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If you’re Body-centered or Gut-centered (Types 8, 9, 1): You often DO first. You may use a combination of thinking AND feeling words to describe your instinct—what you’re sensing deep down inside. And you often have a hard time putting words to what you sense. It’s like you know that you know that you know (this is not a typo—read it again), but you have a hard time describing how you know what you know or why you believe what you believe in ways that make sense to others.
For Body-centered or Gut-centered types, the most helpful thing I can do as your coach is to help you put words and descriptions to what you sense deep down inside. Sometimes that means I might ask you to rephrase or describe again what you’re trying to say so that I can truly understand what you’re trying to say too. The best way to help you move forward is to remind you of your own words—the goals and expectations you set for yourself at the very beginning of our consulting/coaching relationship. This is because your own goals and expectations come from the deep sense you have about what’s best for you . . . and often, you’re spot on!
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#2: Let’s talk about HOW I use this assessment based on ENNEAGRAM TYPES:
TYPE 1—The Reformer: You often rephrase my questions or my statements when we are in a coaching conversation. And sometimes you take long pauses to think about what I’ve asked you or how you’re going to respond to my statements.
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I was quick to get frustrated by this rephrasing or reframing and wondered why I sounded so confusing to you?! Or why you needed so much time to figure out how you were going to respond to what I was saying.
- Now I understand you do this as a way to make sure that you understand my question or statement, and you’re okay with a long pause if it allows you to provide an accurate answer or response. Being precise, accurate, concise, and getting it right is really important to you. So, I need to give you the freedom to reframe, rephrase and take as long as you need to respond.
TYPE 2—The Helper: You spend a fair amount of our coaching conversation asking ME questions about myself because you genuinely care about my well-being as your consultant/coach. This is because your life mission is to love and care for the people around you.
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I was quick to question if you were just trying to distract us or deflect from our conversation by taking such an interest in me.
- Now I understand that you want to catch up on my personal life too because you genuinely care. This is your way of loving the people around you—by asking questions and getting to know them personally.
TYPE 3—The Achiever: You are quick to assess what I want you to “be” and “do” in our coaching sessions . . . and you’re two steps ahead of me! You are often the most prepared client in consulting/coaching conversations because you have a high commitment to achievement and perception. You want to be successful in our coaching relationship and you want me to think well of you!
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I was quick to get frustrated by what I perceived as your lack of self-awareness. You could say and do all of the right things, but it seemed like you were more concerned about pleasing me with your responses than you were about experiencing real growth and development in your leadership.
- Now I understand that doing everything “well” and “right” is very important to you, and I understand that it’s more about you feeling good about yourself than it is about you trying to please me. I also understand that you need me to see past your performance and press into why you thrive on performing and achieving.
TYPE 4—The Individualist: You are quick to understand what you’re feeling about any given situation and it’s easy for you to put words to those situations in both your personal and professional life. You often need extra time to describe your experiences with lots of feeling words and stories . . . which means a lot of listening at my end and occasional feedback because you need to know that I hear you.
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I was quick to move on from your expressive and detailed stories to help you find a “solution” for your problems or experiences.
- Now I understand that I need to listen and validate your experiences. And that you will often talk yourself into the solution if I give you time and space to share.
Because this is me too—Type 4—I also feel a sense of responsibility to help you put your feelings into perspective by helping you see and understand the situation beyond your own feelings.
TYPE 5—The Observer: You often bring your brightest selves to the coaching experience and you are most articulate about the complexities of life. You like to observe life in general and have a very hard time being in the “spotlight”—which can be tricky for coaching conversations. Once you feel comfortable with me, you love to talk about the intricacies of the things, activities, and ideas you’re into.
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I kept your complexity at arms-length by telling myself that you are just WAY smarter than me, and that you don’t really need coaching because you could figure it out on your own.
- Now I understand that you can easily hide behind your strategies and complexities, whether you want to or not. You want to be seen too, not just heard, but that is a VERY vulnerable place for you to be in. So, I need to find the balance between making direct observations and giving grace and space for your sensitivity and vulnerability (which pops up at the most surprising moments).
TYPE 6—The Loyalist: You are the ultimate team player. And you will participate in coaching if it’s expected of you, and if it means you get to remain “in the group.” Otherwise, you’re a little skeptical or cynical–which often means you’re a little fearful too–of new experiences that may disrupt circumstances or cause things to change beyond your control.
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I was often puzzled as to why you would share your frustrations with me regarding a co-worker, boss or team, but any time I encouraged you to have a hard conversation or create healthier boundaries, you would rise to the defense of your co-worker, boss or team. Hmmm . . . ?
- Now I understand that loyalty is often your highest value, and fear is often “riding shotgun” in your life. This helps me to listen to your observations, express my understanding about those observations, and speak in a way that honors the people you love or feel loyal to while encouraging you to bring your best to the group or team. I often find myself encouraging you to think and make decisions for yourself in a way that honors yourself AND your teammates (not just your teammates).
TYPE 7—The Enthusiast: You tend to be a lot of fun as a client! We laugh together often OR we find ourselves talking about the non-important details of your organizational experience. . . like interesting team days, group conversations, lunchroom interactions, and so on. (Some of the most important people in my world are Type 7’s!).
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I thought it was your life mission to avoid every deep or painful thought or experience in life.
- Now I understand that we need to talk about the fun things in life so that you also feel comfortable talking about the hard things in life. You bring so much joy to the world around you, but sometimes it’s because you want to avoid pain—big or small. And it’s my job to help you acknowledge that pain so you can keep bringing joy. Make sense?
TYPE 8—The Challenger: You bring such a steady, powerful presence to our coaching relationship. This is because I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with a lot of healthy Type 8’s. But you’re hesitant to trust my advice or encouragement unless it aligns with what you already know (sense or feel) to be true about you and the next steps you need to take.
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I often wondered, “Why are you asking me to be your consultant or coach if you resist everything I say anyway?!?”
- Now I understand that you often need a coach as your CRO—Chief Reminding Officer—someone who reminds you of the goals + expectations + values you have already set for yourself and for the team around you. I help you move forward with new ideas when I connect those new ideas to what you’ve learned from your past experiences.
TYPE 9—The Peacemaker: You often come across as shy, reserved, or introverted. You may or may not have an opinion about something, and if you DO have an opinion, you may or may not want to share that opinion with me. You’re okay to stay on the surface at first—It takes a little time for you to warm up to a conversation about your real thoughts and feelings. You place a high priority on learning from me as your coach, and then I do the hard work of helping you learn from yourself—trusting your instinct or your deep sense, remembering past experiences when you were proud of the way you handled things, stirring your desire for peace in a way that allows you to be proactive and responsive (vs. reacting because when you’re in reactive mode, you tend to go along with what the majority thinks, even when you know what to do).
- Before I understood the Enneagram, I would sometimes view you as being apathetic or dishonest. I would ask myself, “How could they really NOT have an opinion about this? They must not be telling me the truth!”
- Now I understand that there are times when you truly do not have an opinion about an action or a decision or a situation. You have an amazing ability to consider life’s biggest questions or decisions from ALL angles—often playing the devil’s advocate with yourself, your boss or your team. This can be frustrating for all, but especially for you. My job as your coach is to encourage you to take the time to figure out what you believe and then have the courage to speak up with your voice and contribute with your presence.
So, that’s it— my very generalized overview of WHY and HOW I use the Enneagram to inform my Leadership Development Coaching. Keep in mind, I am not an Enneagram expert. But it has forever shaped the way I seek to understand others in the world around me. And I hope you find this to be true too.
MY FAVORITE ENNEAGRAM RESOURCES:
For a Simple + Comprehensive Overview:
The Road Back to You + the study guide too!