Where Strengths and the Enneagram Meet

As I shared before, self-awareness is critical for success in life, work, and relationships, and there are plenty of great tools out there. If you commit to learn from just one tool, you will be farther along today than you were yesterday, and tomorrow you will be farther along than you were today. So, what tools do I use when I work with people?

The two tools I like best are CliftonStrengths® and the Enneagram—and I’m certified to use both. Rather than use them separately, I’m fascinated with using them together. This is a powerful combination of talent and drive, leading to whole-self health and success.

What is CliftonStrengths?

According to its owner Gallup, “CliftonStrengths is a powerful online assessment that helps individuals identify, understand and maximize their strengths.” Its origin goes back more than 50 years when Dr. Donald Clifton sought to discover what produces great performance.

Clifton StrengthsFinder is being used by organizations large and small, including 90% of Fortune 500 companies. The assessment ranks your top areas of talent among 34 different talent themes and four categories of talent. By understanding your top areas of talent, you can use them and grow them for better performance.

What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram began in the fourth century as a psycho-spiritual tool for personal growth. It has no owner and has been used and passed down through the generations. Today the Enneagram is being used by organizations like Stanford Business School, Disney, Salesforce, CIA, Kaiser Permanente, and the Federal Reserve System.

The Enneagram describes the nine core drives of the human race. Its name comes from the Greek words ennea meaning “nine,” and gram meaning “figure.” By understanding your primary drive, you can become healthier and more whole.

Here’s my version of the Enneagram and The Nine Drives:

NineDrives_pie_labels (002)

What’s the Intersection?

CliftonStrengths shows what you’re good at, while the Enneagram shows what your internal motivation is. How you live out your strengths is influenced by your drive. There appears to be no correlation between strengths and drive, that is, you cannot predict a person’s strengths by knowing his drive because strengths and drives are like apples and oranges—they're different substances.

But you can understand what substances empower your drive, what strengths give momentum to your motivation. In other words, your strengths power your drive and your drive is the direction you’re heading.

Example 1

For example, I have two friends who have identified as Enneagram Type 7: to Enjoy. They’re driven to be happy, avoid struggle, and experience the highs of life.


Here are their top five CliftonStrengths® themes:

Friend 1

Friend 2

Woo® Connectedness®
Belief® Learner®
Positivity® Achiever®
Arranger® Input®
Communication® Intellection®

You’ll see they have no top five talents in common, even though they’re both Enneagram Type 7 with the drive to Enjoy. Plus, the categories of talents they have are different, too. Friend 1 has two influencing talents (Woo, Communication), two executing talents (Belief, Arranger), and one relating talent (Positivity). Friend 2 has three thinking talents (Learner, Input, Intellection), one relating talent (Connectedness), and one executing talent (Achiever).

So, while their primary drive is to Enjoy (to be happy, avoid struggle, and experience the highs of life), they go about it in different ways, according to their strengths. Friend 1 is going to enjoy life more through shared experiences with lots of people. Friend 2 is going to enjoy life more through thoughts and ideas on his own.

Example 2

As another example, I have two other friends who have identified as Enneagram Type 1: to Perfect. They’re driven to live the right way, correct what is wrong, and create a perfect world.


Here are their top five CliftonStrengths themes:

Friend 3

Friend 4

Belief® Input®
Connectedness® Restorative™
Communication® Responsibility®
Ideation® Connectedness®
Strategic® Relator®

You’ll see that while their primary drive is the same, they have only one strength in common—Connectedness. Friend 3 has two thinking talents (Ideation, Strategic), one executing talent (Belief), one influencing talent (Communication), and one relating talent in common (Connectedness). Friend 4 has two executing talents (Restorative, Responsibility), two relating talents (Connectedness, Relator), and one thinking talent (Input).

So, while their primary drive is to Perfect (driven to live the right way, correct what is wrong, and create a perfect world), they use different strengths to get there. Friend 3 is going to perfect life more through deeply held principles and thoughts. Friend 4 is going to perfect life more through processes and systems in close relationships.

Achiever® Talent and The Nine Drives

Let's look at this intersection in a different way. How might people who live from different drives but have the same strength, use that strength differently? In thinking about this, let's look at the Achiever talent.

Gallup describes "Achiever" this way: “People exceptionally talented in the Achiever theme work hard and possess a great deal of stamina. They take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive.”

When we run the Achiever talent through The Nine Drives, we see distinctives:

  1. Tasks around ideal processes and systems (Angel Achiever)
  2. Tasks that help others (Good Samaritan)
  3. Tasks that are impossible (Super Stamina)
  4. Tasks that express individuality (Prolific Creator)
  5. Tasks that absorb, preserve, and (sometimes) use gained knowledge (Rare Find)
  6. Tasks that secure trust and collaboration (Safety Officer)
  7. Tasks of fun and adventure (Trailer Blazer)
  8. Tasks that make an impact (Shock Waves)
  9. Tasks that keep everyone happy (Eager Pacifier)

As you can see, people are exceedingly fascinating, which is why I’ve made them my work. When you pair the wisdom of CliftonStrengths with the wisdom of the Enneagram, you discover some amazing things. This duo is a powerful combination of talent and drive, leading to whole-self health and success.

We've created a worksheet the compares the two tools.

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


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