The Enneagram is making the rounds in social media, self-improvement circles, and spiritual communities, but is it good for business? In this post, we explore that question.
But first, some background. The Enneagram (meaning "nine figures" in Greek) began in the fourth century as a psycho-spiritual tool by the Christian desert fathers who wanted to encourage spiritual growth and put down sin. The Enneagram describes the nine core drives of humanity that color our behaviors, relationships, feelings, motivations, etc.
Enneagram wisdom says that by understanding our core drive, we can move toward health. Here are The Nine Drives™ of the Enneagram:
Like I said, it has primarily been a tool for psychological and spiritual growth, but just as it's making rounds for these purposes, it's also making rounds in the business world. I've started using the tool at my workplace and I'm delighted at the growth I've seen in myself and colleagues.
Here are five reasons why the Enneagram is good for business.
The Enneagram is a self-awareness tool that helps you understand yourself better, but the value doesn’t end at yourself. That’s because self-awareness tools become team building tools when you apply your individual insights to working with others. And when teams improve, the whole organization improves.
As written in the Harvard Business Review:
“There is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, manager, and leader. That quality is self-awareness.”
The Enneagram is not just a personal self-awareness tool; it’s a team building tool, and not only that, it’s an employee engagement tool that together return great dividends to the entire organization.
The Enneagram teaches there are three centers of intelligence, which are core modes of living—thinking, feeling, and responding. Each of us has our innate, go-to response to what is happening around us—we step back and think; we feel in relation to others; or we instinctively respond by pressing in or avoiding. Even though business is supposed to be objective—it’s not—business is highly subjective.
For long we’ve valued intellectual intelligence as a vital business skill. And now we’re embracing emotional intelligence as another critical business skill. Soon we'll add instinctive intelligence to the mix—and value all three centers of intelligence of the Enneagram. Business is a whole-person enterprise, and the Enneagram helps us to utilize our whole persons—thinking, feeling, and responding—which are critical parts that shouldn’t be left out.
When you see successful businesses utilizing a tool that you're not, you've got to wonder what they know that you don't. Successful businesses are using the Enneagram to improve their organizations. In the book, Tribe of Mentors, Drew Houston, the co-founder of Dropbox, wrote:
"Over the last few years, I've found myself looking at all my important relationships through the Enneagram lens...I wish I had discovered it much earlier."
And Dropbox isn’t the only business using the Enneagram. Other notable businesses include: Disney, Stanford Business School, Salesforce, the Central Intelligence Agency, Kaiser Permanente, Johnson & Johnson, and the United States Federal Reserve System. Like I said—if they’re using it, and you're not, what are you missing?
According to Gallup, today’s employees want to grow and develop. In fact, two of the important drivers of employee engagement is the sense that employees have opportunities to grow and that there are leaders who discuss their growth with them. If they don’t have these things, today’s workers are more comfortable finding a different workplace that does. But the Enneagram offers incredible opportunities for growth.
For example, when I led my first Enneagram workshop in the workplace, I used the tool to discuss topics like: conflict, value to a team, team roles, task roles, communication, emotions, and motivation. In addition, we talked about healthy and unhealthy behaviors, how to approach folks from different types, and becoming whole through the three centers of intelligence.
At our organization, we use the CliftonStrengths® assessment to identify areas of talent, and we use the RightPath assessment to identify innate behavioral traits. As the Chief People Officer, I thought that is all we needed, but then I discovered we were ignoring core drives. What if you’re awesome at using your talents and traits, but they’re taking you in the wrong direction? That’s what the Enneagram reveals.
The qualities that on their own may be awesome, may be taking you in the wrong direction. Yes, use other assessments for what they reveal, but also use the Enneagram. This is a fascinating intersection.
Have you considered using the Enneagram for your business? When self-awareness deepens, team building gets stronger, which leads to better employee engagement. This is good for everyone! Want to learn more?