How the Enneagram Can Help You Solve More Problems

Jul 28, 2017 | Downloadable Tools for Leaders, Executive Coaching Blogs

The Enneagram is a powerful personality profile that reflects the complex nature of being human. A few years ago I took the assessment and learned that I was an Achiever with a Helper wing (I’ll explain about that more later.). Since then I’ve studied my type further to better understand my basic fears (feeling worthless), what gets me jazzed up (impactful projects), when I feel more connected to others (through vulnerability), why I have a tendency toward jealous thoughts (which I’m then ashamed of), and why honesty and authenticity are so important to me (and why I’ve built a business around it).

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The Enneagram is a time-tested assessment that helps individuals understand all this for themselves too. There are 9 types, and according to Enneagram Institute, here are their basic descriptions:

  • 1 THE REFORMER: the Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic
  • 2 THE HELPER: the Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive
  • 3 THE ACHIEVER: the Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious
  • 4 THE INDIVIDUALIST: the Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental
  • 5 THE INVESTIGATOR: the Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated
  • 6 THE LOYALIST: the Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious
  • 7 THE ENTHUSIAST: the Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered
  • 8 THE CHALLENGER: the Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational
  • 9 THE PEACEMAKER: the Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent

Before you go diagnosing yourself, take this free assessment first. Please note: different Enneagram providers apply slightly different labels to the types. For example, Ones can be labeled as both as Reformers and Perfectionists.

In combination with my DISC profile and Myers-Briggs, I use the knowledge I have about my Enneagram style every day to help me solve problems effectively. For example, knowing that I can have a tendency to be waaaaaayyyy too hard on myself to be successful gives me the freedom to take a few deep breaths and re-gain perspective when I start freaking out about not doing enough or living up to some ridiculous standard I created in my mind.

It also gives me the confidence know that my Enneagram style equips me to be pragmatic, flexible, aware of the perceptions I create about myself, and driven to achieve goals. I love all these things about myself.

The Achiever is my dominant style, but no one has a pure personality type. Instead the adjacent numbers often inform how we show up in the world, too. I have a Helper wing, which, in my case, also informs how I want to connect with others. The Helper is all about giving and receiving love. I love love! But it gets me into trouble when I over-commit because I’m trying to please someone else in hopes that they’ll love me.

When I’m feeling like I’m not doing enough to reach my goals, I’ll stop and ask, “What does the Helper want to do to connect with someone?” Because I also need connection with others, this gives my Achiever a break from the striving it does, wearing me out.

Get Past the Confines of Your Personality

Until we’re really aware of how some of our unconscious thoughts, habits, and beliefs that direct our life, we can’t really take control over them. Instead they tend to cause frustration and tension. And we end up making decisions based on a limited set of information.

Instead of just looking at the facts or checking your gut before you make a decision, you can explore solutions from the various parts of your Enneagram style. For example, I have a client who is a Loyalist. While loyalty is a noble value, and he certainly has demonstrated that, he also has a tendency to be suspicious, fearful of change, and unable to move to a new job, even as he knows that his current job isn’t what he wants to be doing. His responsibility for his career has earned him fast promotions, but he HATES to make mistakes because he feels less in control.

While we often spent time exploring his fears in our one-on-one sessions, we also focused on how his sense of duty to family and spouse could help him create work-life balance; how being consistent and responsible made him very thorough in his detailed finance work; and how he could trust his spouse to teach him new things.

The use of the Enneagram isn’t limited to personal development. You could also ask the same questions for a work project: who is the Challenger in our staff meetings? We’re in the middle of a frustrating project. How can our Enthusiast bring some joy back to our work? When do we bring the Investigator into our planning so she can help us be more innovative?

The Enneagram acknowledges that we’re all complex with many wonderful qualities, but also with a dark, fearful side that can hold us back and keep us from connecting with ourselves and others. Once you’ve taken the assessment, I encourage you to sign up on Enneagram Institute’s email list to receive daily tips on how to maximize your type and discover those dark unhealthy places.

Once you’re done, I’d love to hear what you learned!