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Life and Work Blog

On Talent and Three Ways of the Enneagram

Jul 24, 2019 8:43:56 AM / by Chris Heinz

Note: Read my response to this blog post after thinking more about this topic.

Sometimes connections between ideas come when you’re not expecting them, even in front of a room of people. Recently I was leading an introductory strengths workshop for a team. While explaining the concept of talent, I shared Gallup's definition of talent:

Talent by Gallup

“Talent is naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.”

Each of us is naturally good at certain things, and these things fall into one of three categories—thoughts, feelings or behaviors. We may think in an extraordinary manner, have feelings that lead us to make unique contributions or may behave in ways that cause remarkable results. These talents in thinking, feeling, and behaving are special aptitudes for success in life.

I had taught this definition of talent many times before, but this time was different. I suddenly saw a different side of it, like light shining through a diamond in a new way. My mind jumped to the connection between this definition and another wisdom tool I had been learning—the Enneagram.

Wisdom of the Enneagram

Enneagram wisdom states that there are three “centers of intelligence,” and each of us primarily lives from one of these centers as our essential way of responding to the world. So, when something happens, our “go-to” response or means of interpreting what just happened comes through one of these centers.

What are the three centers?

  • THINKING/HEAD: planning, thinking, organizing information, strategizing, analyzing
  • FEELING/HEART: relating to people, feeling, bonding, comparing, socializing
  • DOING/GUT: acting, behaving, doing, initiating, moving toward or away

These three centers sound amazingly close to Gallup on talent, don’t they? Could it be that the study of talents as presented by Gallup is somehow connected to the Enneagram wisdom of the centers of intelligence?

Maybe these are ancient truths about the soul of humanity that have been scooped up by different parties in different times. Maybe these modes of essential living wanted to be discovered to help us understand ourselves better. Maybe they’re upended diamonds in the rough.

woman sparkle

Talents and Centers

Which leads me to wonder how the 34 individual talent themes presented by Gallup (called CliftonStrengths) may relate to the three talent patterns/three centers of intelligence. To help understand this, below I've categorized the talent themes by centers of intelligence.

Some of them naturally fall into a particular category because Gallup has already separated their 34 talent themes into four domains—executing, thinking, relating, and influencing. The executing themes match to DOING/GUT, the thinking to THINKING/HEAD, the relating to FEELING/HEART. 

That leaves the influencing talents. For the purpose of categorizing them, I looked at Gallup’s definition of each influencing talent, and categorized them as I thought best.

For example, I assigned “Significance” to DOING/GUT because it’s about making a big impact. I assigned “Self-Assurance” to THINKING/HEAD because it’s about having an inner knowing when making decisions. I assigned “Communication” to FEELING/HEART because it’s about putting thoughts into words to communicate with others.

Here's the list:








Thinking about the talent themes in relation to the centers of intelligence is exciting for the insights it may bring for self-awareness, personal growth, and team contributions. There’s a lot we could do with talents and centers, not only understanding why and how we function, but also from where growth can occur.

For example, How do your top talents relate to the centers of intelligence? When you look at your talents in the list above, do they correlate to the centers that are true for your life?

When I looked at my top talents and which centers they relate to, it confirmed what I had already known—I mostly live from the GUT and the HEART, and I struggle to incorporate the HEAD. Therefore, I can become healthier in my GUT and HEART by becoming more effective at using my executing and relating talents.

And in order to live from my whole person, I ought to grow my HEAD center using my thinking talents. My thinking talents—although they’re lower down on my talent ranking—are my best means for growing my HEAD center since they are naturally recurring.

We'll talk more about the intersection of strengths and the Enneagram, but hopefully this post stirred something new and sparkly in you. 

Copyright © 2000, 2018 Gallup, Inc. All right reserved. Gallup®, CliftonStrengths®, and each of the 34 CliftonStrengths theme names are trademarks of Gallup, Inc.


Topics: Strengths, Enneagram

Chris Heinz

Written by Chris Heinz

I help people know themselves so they can be better. I'm a trainer and coach around strengths, the Enneagram, and employee engagement. As the Chief People Officer for EnergyCAP, Inc., I'm also a top-rated Learning Partner for Penn State. I hold coaching certifications from Gallup and the International Coach Federation, and in the Enneagram. My writing has been featured as "Best of the Week" by "Human Resources Today." I'm also the author of the “Made To Pray” book and prayer assessment, which helps people find their prayer strengths. I live with my wife and three children in central PA and blog from www.ChrisHeinz.com.