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Life and Work Blog

Why I Was Wrong about Strengths and the Enneagram

Aug 7, 2019 10:13:53 AM / by Chris Heinz

Recently I published a blog post about the intersection of the Enneagram and strengths. I was wondering how the CliftonStrengths assessment, which identifies natural areas of talent, might relate to the Enneagram tool, which explains nine personality types. After a couple of weeks of reflection and feedback, I’m rethinking some points I made in the blog post.

Rethinking my views on my blog is no big deal to me. Sometimes I use the blog to develop my thoughts, receive feedback, and reflect. Granted, I’m doing that “out loud," but that’s fine with me. I don’t mind putting out content that's in process. To me, one thing flows into another, and I’m thankful for the journey.

Here’s what I affirm:

Strengths and the Enneagram resonate with three common and core “modes” of living: THINKING, FEELING, AND DOING. This is seen in Gallup’s definition of talent: “Naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior that can be productively applied.” This is also seen in the Enneagram’s three centers of intelligence as thinking/head, feeling/heart, and acting/gut.

Both tools are extremely valuable for understanding yourself and your place in this world. For a while I looked at Strengths and got along just fine, but now that I’m learning from the Enneagram, I wouldn’t want to go without either of them.

But here’s what I’ve rethought from last blog:

You may remember that I “assigned” each of the 34 talent themes to a different center of intelligence as a means of understanding how talents may relate to the Enneagram. But I think that’s wrong to do.

Talent themes are types of talented behavior. They reveal HOW you go about getting positive results. For example, my "Communication" talent helps me to put ideas into words so others can receive them. How are ideas transmitted clearly from my head to my hearers? Through this talent. In this way, talents and strengths are the means of driving the outcome.

But they’re not the same as centers of intelligence or Enneagram types, which is why assigning talent themes to them isn’t relevant. I’ve heard from a few folks who have years more experience than me in using both tools, and they say they’ve found no correlation between talent themes and Enneagram types.

That’s because what these tools reveal is different from each other. Not competing, not contradictory, just different. 

For example, on the Enneagram I'm a NINE, which means WHAT I do naturally is:

  • go with the flow
  • accept people without judgment
  • avoid conflict
  • see from multiple perspectives

river flow

The NINE is in the acting/gut center of intelligence.

At the same time, my top talent themes are:

  • Responsibility
  • Connectedness
  • Belief
  • Positivity
  • Individualization
  • Relator
  • Developer
  • Woo
  • Commmunication
  • Activator

The talents are HOW I go about doing well, WHAT I naturally do. And so I "go with the flow" through Connectedness (everything's connected), Positivity (we'll make lemonade from these lemons), Activator (I'll get right on that). 

I "see from multiple perspectives" through Individualization (I see what's important to you), Developer (it's got potential), Relator (she's really sincere).

The thing is, even though the NINE is in the acting/gut center, not all of these talents would be thought of as "doing" talents. I pull from other centers of intelligence to do WHAT I do naturally.

So you see, together the insights from the Enneagram and strengths tell a fuller story and provide more depth than one of them alone, which is why I wouldn’t want to go without either of them.

I’ll continue to explore the intersection of strengths and the Enneagram…even if I have to rethink at times...and see where the journey leads.

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.