When I moved to Nashville I heard all of these new people asking me, “So Jena, what’s your Enneagram number?”
My what? Is this like a secret Social Security number I should know about? A Nashvillian zip code of sorts? Perhaps a new dating site where I now am scored or something?
After the fifth person in 2 weeks asked me this question I thought, “Welp, it looks like I’ll have to do some intense Googling and figure out what these folks are yapping about.”
And so birthed a deep love, fascination and interest in this topic of the Enneagram. I’ve read books on it, listened to podcasts on it (psst! Check out MY first podcast where we talk all about Enneagram at Work!) chatted with friends about it and made everyone in my circle figure out their numbers as well. I’ve found it helpful in friendships, in understanding why certain love relationships failed (so enlightening!), on family dynamics, on working more efficiently with my clients and in unlocking a deeper level and appreciation in my faith life.
But, for those of you who were like new-to-Nashville Jena, let me break down what the Enneagram is so you don’t feel left out.
WHAT IS THE ENNEAGRAM?
According to the Enneagram Institute, “At its core, the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.”
In layman’s terms? It’s a personality test and typing system that helps individuals like you and me understand ourselves better - our motivations and greatest fears - as well as a tool to help us better relate to other folks we’re in relationship with. Think: friends, family, spouses, and coworkers.
There are 9 type descriptions. Now, I remember looking into this the first time and thought, “Wait?! Is one number better than the other? Are they ranked?!” The answer is a big, fat NO. No number is better/worse. It’s just that - a number.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES?
Different resources use different classifications, but they are generally the same. I stole mine from the Enneagram Institute
1: The Reformer (also known as The Perfectionist)
2: The Helper
3: The Achiever
4: The Individualist
5: The Investigator
6: The Loyalist
7: The Enthusiast
8: The Challenger
9: The Peacemaker
HOW DO I FIGURE OUT MY NUMBER?
So there are a couple of different resources to use to figure out what type you are:
- Read The Road Back to You: This is the most comprehensive book on the subject! I would recommend reading through each type and seeing what resonates most with you. A shorter option would be to head over to the Enneagram Institute and see their synopsis of each type.
- Take a test. Now, these are not always reliable. I recommend checking this one out. I would say that once you take the test, you can THEN go over to the Enneagram Institute and read through the description and see if it resonates with you. Here is a great article on how to decipher your test scores.
- Some of you may see the “wings”. Since there is no pure personality type, you will gravitate to a wing on either side of your number. For instance, since I’m an Enneagram 3, I can either have a 2 or 4 wing. For me, I’m a 3w4. (It’s a struggle, y’all!)
Note: I know that when I went through this process, a lot of the numbers resonated with me. There’s definitely a bit of me in every number. That said, when reviewing the different types, I SO resonated with the majority of being a 3. If you’re honest with yourself, there is probably one type that connects most to how you approach the world.
HOW DOES THIS HELP AT WORK?
Friends, I WISH I had this tool when I was back in corporate America. It would’ve been so helpful when trying to establish common ground with my co-workers - especially my bosses. Looking back, I can think of specific people, guess their types and understand why conflict arose or how I could’ve supported them better.
(For the record: You shouldn’t type someone else. Sure, it’s fun to guess and once you get into the Enneagram it’s hard not to - but it can be very damaging to other people if you mistype them and tell them what you think they are. Let THEM do the research and tell you what they are.)
Through working with loads of people, I have found that people leave cultures and managers NOT job functions. So most reasons for unhappiness in the workplace has a direct correlation to their interpersonal relationships. With a tool like the Enneagram, your team may be able to better understand each other’s working styles and therefore be able to support one another better. Sounds like a better way to work, huh?
Knowing your team members’ types will help you understand what motivates them individually...and also what are their biggest fears. You’ll be able to understand why they don’t function well in certain environments and how you can proactively create a place where they will thrive and grow. After all, thriving and growing employees are employees that stay. Isn’t that what every company wants?
We do know that people are more than their numbers (of course!), but by just doing this work of wanting to understand your employees better, you are communicating, “Hey, I see you. I want to know you. I want to invest in you. I’m here to help you succeed.” Any good manager should want to achieve this level of commitment and trustworthiness with their employees!
For self awareness:
The Enneagram is also a great barometer for ourselves. Often times I’ll look at my Type and will evaluate where I am on the spectrum of health. Based off how I’ve been acting I can ask the questions and identify, “Am I at a healthy level? Oh whoops, looks like I’m slipping into unhealthy regions. How can I start to pull myself back to a better spot?” I encourage you to take a look at yourself and see where you could “improve” into healthier regions. Remember, a healthier you will be able to manage stress better and communicate more effectively at work.
Have you used the Enneagram at work? If so, tell me how it's helped in the comments below!
Again, if you haven’t listened yet - you need to check out this week’s episode of the Your Career Story podcast!
How Understanding the Enneagram can Make You Employee of the Year in 2019
January 11, 2019