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More Questions on Strengths and the Enneagram

enneagram strengths Apr 28, 2020

Lots of people have been asking us questions about Strengths and the Enneagram.

Some came from our introductory webinar on the intersection of both tools. Some came from our next-level webinar on taking a deeper dive. Some came from our Enneagram workshop. Some will come from our upcoming Strengths workshop. Either way, they're good questions.

(If you have a question, you can submit one the bottom of this page.)

If you had one tool to use first, which one would you choose and why?

I would use CliftonStrengths first for several reasons: 1) understanding strengths is easier than understanding the Enneagram, so it’s nice to have a basis in the simpler tool before moving to the more complex; 2) finding talent thru the assessment, aiming them toward the right outcomes; and turning them into strengths is a definable process that you can use first with strengths and then with the Enneagram.

What's the best way to find your strengths? Just buy access to the online quiz? Or is it better to go through a practitioner like yourself?

You can find your strengths with the CliftonStrengths assessment, either thru a direct purchase from Gallup or thru a coach like myself. The advantage of going thru a coach is you can also schedule a strengths debrief, where you can be intentional with your strengths development. Even if you meet only once with a coach, it’ll be more effective than doing it on your own. 

I have not yet been able to identify my Enneagram wing. I am a Type 3 and my top 5 are Focus, Consistency, Relator, Achiever and Command. Could my strengths help me identify my wing type?

Wings are the numbers to the left and right of your core type. Different Enneagram teachers believe different things about wings—that we have just one wing, that we start off in life with one wing and mature into the other, or we can live from both wings depending on the situation. Suzanne Stabile, a very prominent Enneagram teacher doesn’t give much attention to wings. How you treat wings is up to you.

To answer your question, I don’t think your strengths can help you find your wing. You can use strengths in a variety of ways. If finding your wing is what you’re after, look at the core drive for the wings. As a Type 3 (to succeed), your options are Type 2 (to help) or Type 4 (to express). All three of your numbers are from the Heart Triad. As you seek success, do you tend to be more others-focused (doing practical things to help others, in tune with their feelings and needs) or are you more focused on expressing what’s true for you?

With the Harmony Triads (e.g., 3, 6, 9), do those always cover the gut, head, heart centers? So each person in their triad has all three centers?

Yes, each Harmony Triad includes a type from all three centers, so living into your Harmony Triad is a way to live from your whole person.

What Enneagram books do you suggest?

There are lots of great Enneagram books out there, and what’s nice about the Enneagram being “open source” is that no one needs permission to write one. Here are books that have made a difference to me, although there are many others on my reading wish list:

  • The Enneagram by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert
  • Bringing Out The Best In Yourself At Work by Ginger Lapid-Bogda
  • The Enneagram in Love & Work by Helen Palmer
  • The Road Back To You by Ian Cron & Suzanne Stabile
  • Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram by Calhoun & Loughrige
  • The Enneagram Personality Styles by Clare Loughridge
  • The Art of Typing by Ginger Lapid-Bogda
  • The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile
  • Using the Enneagram in Prayer by Suzanne Zuercher
  • Nine Portraits of Jesus by Robert Nogosek

Can we not respond in any of the Enneagram modes in a given situation? Or are we locked into one single mode?

Yes, we can choose to respond by any of the three Centers of Intelligence—Head, Heart, Gut—although we may more naturally respond by one. It takes work to approach life by all three centers, but that’s the work of growing according to the Enneagram.

Is there a set Triad for each number? If I'm a 1, what would my Triad be?

An easy way to remember the triads is to look at the keypad on your phone. Notice the vertical columns: 1-4-7; 2-5-8; and 3-6-9. These are the Harmony Triads.

Which 3 are the "Heart," which are the "Head," and which are the "Gut?”

  • Heart: 2-3-4
  • Head: 5-6-7
  • Gut: 1-8-9

How do you engage people in "illuminating their brilliance" with this fascinating info...when they can be intimidated by the idea of "taking a test"?

If folks don’t want to take an Enneagram assessment, they can still go about finding their Type. I would recommend learning about all nine types and the Centers of Intelligence and recognizing where there is resonance. Dig deeper into the types that feel right. Share impressions with people who know them. Talk with someone who knows the Enneagram well. See where this discovery takes them.

What if your test scores reveal that your Harmony Triad numbers aren’t the top three highest?

This is going to be expected. We tend to have a “repressed” type or even two repressed types. These are underdeveloped parts of us that need to be developed. The invitation through the Harmony Triad model is to grow the parts of us that bring us into our full selves—Head, Heart, and Gut.

I know my Enneagram type and my top strengths. Am I on the best career path?

Yes or no, it depends. I wouldn't draw any conclusions yet. This would take some coaching to explore.

How does my 7/8 Enneagram mesh with strategic, ideation, belief, connectedness, futuristic?

The drive of the Type 7 is to enjoy. This means you’re forward moving, like new things, are innovative, and can motivate people. Your Type 8 wing makes you even more influential, direct, and decisive. You use your strengths in service of these drives. Three of them are thinking strengths (strategic, ideation, futuristic) and you can see the resonance with them and your Type 7 drive, which is from the Head center. All three of these strengths are about moving forward around a compelling vision and set of ideas.

Your belief and connectedness strengths will ignite passion in you to do what you believe in, and will also enlist others to come along with you. Overall, you’re probably a passionate, forward moving person, maybe not great with details and routine, but skilled at leading others into your vision.

Most of my life I've been fighting my core type because it’s generally not accepted to be a Type 8 and a woman. What does it do to people when they “stuff” their core type?

I’m so sorry this has happened to you. The world can be cruel to people. Stuffing your core type is stuffing a big part of you. This can develop a sense of shame about who you are. The Enneagram journey is an invitation into healing so you can become the person you were made to be. You can’t change what happened to you, but you can change what you do about it now, and I’m glad you’re on this journey. The world needs you.

In the words of Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I've heard some things about the Enneagram that make we wonder if Christians should use it. What would you say to that?

I wrote a blog post on that topic.

I am certified in Strengths and I want to add Enneagram coaching. What are some cost efficient programs I could try so I can be certified?

There are lots of options for getting certified in the Enneagram depending on your needs. You’ll have to do your own research, but I can let you know what I did based on what was important to me. I got certified through Clare Loughrige of Crossroads Soul Resources. This is an affordable, powerful, Christian-oriented program that is now doing remote training as well as onsite training. In addition to Crossroads, I would also recommend Dr. Jerry Wagner’s certification.

With CliftonStrengths each person has a unique combination of Strengths, how can a person have one Enneagram type?

It may sound simplistic to have just one Enneagram type, but finding your type is just the starting place. From there, you can discover:

  • the two other types in your Harmony Triad so you can live whole person thru your Head, Heart, and Gut
  • wings, which are behavioral flavors to the left and right of your type
  • sub-types, which are different ways of living out your type

Just as CliftonStrengths brings extraordinary individualization to each person, so does the Enneagram.

Can you cover the concept of wings in the Enneagram, e.g., I'm a 7 with an 8 wing?

Wings are behavioral “flavors” or “influences” on your home type. Your home type is the driving force behind WHY you do what you do. For example, as a Type 7, your core drive is to enjoy. The fulfillment of life, discovery of what’s novel, avoidance of affliction, and forward advancing, are all things you do in your pursuit of enjoyment.

That is why you do what you do. But the wing, influences how you live that out. Your 8 Wing will impact your 7 Type by making you more decisive, more outspoken, and more intense than if you had a 6 wing, which would make you more thoughtful, more suspicious, and timider.

Are there direct correlations between the 34 CliftonStrengths and the Nine Enneagram Types?

Sure, there is an agreement in the three “modes” of living. Gallup defines talent in three areas: thought, feeling, and behavior. The Enneagram’s Centers of Intelligence arrange our go-to responses to life as: head, heart, and gut/instinct. But you will be hard pressed to find correlations between specific talent themes and Enneagram types.

What I mean is, you may identify certain talent themes that are more relational by nature, and assume that a person with those themes will also live mostly from the heart—the Types 2, 3, and 4. But you will find that sometimes this is true and sometimes this is not. What is more helpful is seeking to understand HOW one lives out her TYPE, that is WHICH talents she uses to live out who she is. Make this your aim, and people will continue to fascinate you.

I’m a Type Nine and my top strengths are Input and Intellection. How do you marry the two?

This is a great question that relates to the correlation question. As a Type Nine, you’re looking to be at peace. You’re known to be agreeable, flexible, see multiple perspectives, and seek resolution. I can see your strengths of Input and Intellection being so helpful! With Input, you gather information, archive it, and use it to be supportive. With Intellection, you enjoy discussing ideas, points of view, and principles.

Can you see how valuable these strengths are?! You will naturally be objective, bringing information forth to help others make decisions and see more clearly. You will be able to discuss ideas without choosing sides, which Nine’s tend to hate. You will be level-headed and cool down a situation. All of these are great contributions you can bring as a result of this awesome marriage.

Is your coaching and Teresa's coaching faith-based?

It depends what kind of coaching the client is looking for. If the client wants a faith-based approach, we can offer it. If they don’t, then we don’t. Both Teresa and I are Christians, and we actually became friends while students at Professional Christian Coaching Institute.

What motivates your Connectedness theme and can we look upon talent themes as being motivated the same way as Enneagram Types?

My Connectedness theme is motivated by being part of something bigger and by seeing connections between two separate entities (like Strengths and Enneagram!). I do think we can regard talent themes as being energized or motivated by certain conditions, just like we are also motivated toward certain outcomes, emotions, responses, etc. in our Enneagram Type.

How can you use CliftonStrengths and the Enneagram together to help people see themselves in a more expansive light rather than limiting?

Well, both tools should not limit you, but rather free you. As one high in Individualization, I resist pigeonholing, predicting or assuming I know how people will behave based on an assessment. I think of personality tools as a place to start. You get some insight, you see if it resonates, you use it for growth, you sometimes adjust the narrative, and so forth.

Approach assessments with curiosity and discovery. Just because two people have the same talent theme doesn’t mean they use it the same. So, you can’t limit people to their talents and you also can’t limit people to their Enneagram Type. I know two Type 1’s and they are pretty different from each other, even though their core drive is to perfect.

Looking at my results from an Enneagram test, I’m tied between a 9 and a 2. How do you use the tool when you are tied for your top result?

Nine’s and Two’s can look really similar, but there are some big differences:

  • 2’s live from the heart and 9’s live from the gut/instinct
  • 2’s core drive is to help and 9’s core drive is to be at peace
  • 2’s do things for people and 9’s do things to establish calm

Discovering your core type can be a process that does include taking an assessment, but should also include discovering with people who know you, living into the top types, seeing what “fits” more, and also consulting with someone who knows the Enneagram. I would say use the assessment as a source of data, but devote yourself to a more rigorous discovery approach.

What is a strategy for introducing Strengths/Enneagram for the first time to a team? How do you convince them it's worth trying out? How do businesses use these tools?

I like to put the whole picture in front of them by starting at the end. Employee engagement drives all these incredible benefits, but high employee engagement doesn’t happen by chance. To get there, you need healthy teams. But healthy teams also don’t happen by chance. You need employees contributing in their best ways. You get there by deepening self-awareness.

So I’ve found that: self-awareness drives healthy teams, which improves employee engagement. Strengths and Enneagram are ways to hit all three of these areas at once. They are skill-building, team-building, morale-building, and ultimately revenue-building.

What strategies have you seen orgs/leaders use to successfully integrate CliftonStrengths and/or Enneagram into their cultures?

In addition to the points in the question above, I’d recommend focusing on six areas to integrate these tools in your culture:

  • Leadership: getting buy-in from organizational leaders
  • Assessment: having every employee take an assessment
  • Training: growing in knowledge and practice of the tools
  • Coaching: receiving skilled coaching around the tools
  • Publicity: making employee and team data accessible
  • Peers: enlisting peers to advocate for the cause of the tools

What are good resources for learning to apply my Enneagram Type in the workplace?

Dr. Ginger Lapid-Bogda is a pioneer in the field of applying the Enneagram in business. I have several of her books and they are very helpful. I recommend her resources to you. You would also benefit from working with someone who knows the Enneagram and can help you to contextualize the Enneagram to your workplace.

Each Type has great workplace value to bring, but we don’t always know how to bring it. As soon as I learned the value of Type Nine’s in the workplace, I started to consciously deliver in those ways that were more natural to me. Armed with my Strengths, I love what my Type and Strengths bring together at work.

Can we be in balcony and basement of our Enneagram types just like with on Strengths?

Yes, in my business, I use the language of “strengths” and “shortfalls” to describe either great capabilities or limiting behaviors for CliftonStrengths, Enneagram, and other methodologies. The goal is to maximize the strengths and minimize the shortfalls.

What I like about Strengths is that they’re positive. Does the Enneagram tend toward being more negative?

Both tools are aimed at growth. While Strengths does focus on what’s right with people, there is the reality that talented behavior still needs to grow, and even if we’re using a particular talent theme as a “Strength” (consistent, near-perfect performance) one day, it doesn’t guarantee the next day will be the same. You may fall seriously short the next day.

The Enneagram is more of a holistic tool, including emotions, communication, conflict, identity, so forth. So it’s true that it will expose weaknesses more readily than Strengths, but I wouldn’t want to go without either…and that’s saying a lot because I’m high in Positivity!

How about the idea that each Enneagram Type is triggered in different ways depending on the situation?

Yes, each Enneagram Type can be triggered in different ways because their core drives are all different. What’s interesting is that while the external behavior may be the same, what drives the behavior internally may be different.

For example, let’s say you have two people who perform the same action—picking up a cup that has spilled and then wiping up the water. The Type Three’s drive is to succeed, so perhaps she does the action so her kitchen will look clean. The Type Six’s drive is to secure, so perhaps she does the action so no one will slip and fall. Understanding someone’s outward behavior is one thing, but understanding someone’s inward motivation is quite another.

To take another example, consider stress management for Strengths and also for the Enneagram.

What are your favorite modules, tactical strategies or team activities for working with a team through strengths/enneagram?

When we do team workshops, we have instruction, handouts and activities, reflection, and application. The best ones get the people understanding themselves, exploring their findings, and getting reactions from others, in pursuit of gaining insights about the larger team. When they can take their new understanding, feel connected to their team, and then solve problems together, that’s a really good day!

Do you have any views on the VIA Strengths in comparison to the Gallup strengths?

Here’s an article on the Gallup website that compares the two.

What is the science, validity and reliability of the Enneagram? Are you able to recommend a reliable source of Enneagram?

For scientific sources regarding the validity of the Enneagram, I would look to Dr. David Daniels, who taught at Stanford University Medical School for over 30 years before focusing his career on the Enneagram. See his article on the Enneagram in the Journal of Adult Development. Also look to Dr. Jerome Wagner, who taught psychology at Loyola University. He wrote his dissertation on the Enneagram, which became his highly researched and statistically validated Enneagram assessment called the WEPSS.

What Enneagram assessment do you recommend?

I recommend the Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales (WEPPS) because it’s the only Enneagram test that was reviewed by the recognized appraiser of psychological tests, Buro’s Mental Measurements Yearbook. Unfortunately, the WEPPS isn’t built around the Harmony Triad model of the Enneagram, which is the one I prefer, but the results can be supplemented with Harmony Triad materials.

What would you say are the differences of the Enneagram, DISC, and CliftonStrengths?

I would say very broadly that the Enneagram is about drive, CliftonStrengths is about talent, and DISC is about temperament. Teresa hosted a podcast episode where she discussed DISC and the Enneagram. I was also a guest on her show and we discussed CliftonStrengths and the Enneagram.

Each of the CliftonStrengths theme names are trademarks of Gallup, Inc.


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