Enneagram: Berghoef & Bell Innovations

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Book Excerpt: Solving Problems at Work

Our new book, The Modern Enneagram, just got published. It’s an introduction to the system and its practical applications, with a storytelling style and modern updates. We’re pleased to share an excerpt about ways to use the Enneagram for workplace problem solving with you.

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The Enneagram is a popular way for businesses to help their teams understand each other and improve their performance and communication. It’s a useful tool for mediating disputes and resolving interpersonal conflicts on the job.

After learning about the nine types, Julia, an Enneagram Type Seven, started applying her new knowledge to her job of managing a team of graphic designers at a branding firm. She had her colleagues take an Enneagram type assessment, and they now have a common language to talk about each other’s personalities and viewpoints.

Let’s take a look at a scenario where the Enneagram helped solve a problem involving a diverse group of people in Julia’s workplace.

Bob is a repeat client of the firm where Julia works. He has contracted with the company to rebrand his business, including a new logo and marketing strategy. Exacting and critical, he has many specifications for the project. Having worked with Bob before, Julia believes him to be a Type One.

Kevin, a Type Four, is the designer in charge of visual branding for Bob’s company. He completed a logo and portfolio of visual material for the rebranding project, but Bob is dissatisfied with Kevin’s colorful, free-form designs. He wants the whole portfolio redesigned, and he has many specific changes that he would like Kevin to make. Being a One, he has high expectations and desires a brand identity that gets all the details right. He tells Julia that he wants the new portfolio within a set timeline, and says that if it isn’t up to his standards, he will not work with the company in the future. As a Seven, Julia wants to keep interactions optimistic—and she does not want to lose a valuable client. She assures Bob that Kevin will give him what he wants.

Kevin, however, says the timeline is unrealistic. It’s just too tight for him to redesign all the material required. Julia does not have a background in graphic design, and her knowledge of the field comes from working with designers rather than from firsthand experience. She doesn’t understand why a redesign can’t be done quickly.

Kevin explains that Bob’s expected timeline will not result in the powerful visual brand identity his company desires. At best, it will result in some slapdash materials that don’t reflect the quality the branding firm is known for. As a Four, Kevin takes the creative process seriously and values producing well-developed and eye-catching work. Kevin needs more time to come up with new concepts that will fit Bob’s precise specifications and still stand out in the market.

Lakesha, who heads the marketing department, is also advocating quick turnaround. She needs to have the visual branding finished in order for her department to complete the marketing strategy for Bob’s company and have it ready for an upcoming launch party. As a Three on the Enneagram, she wants the branding firm to put their best foot forward, and she sees satisfying the client as part of that.

Julia feels caught between Kevin’s request for more time, and Bob and Lakesha’s requests for more speed. She expresses her frustration to Lakesha—who has more design knowledge than Julia—and they decide to problem solve together. When she hears about the level of changes that Bob wants Kevin to make to the visual branding portfolio, Lakesha agrees that the timeline is unrealistic. Julia is resistant at first. After all, managing interactions with designers is her job, and she wants to make the customer happy. When Lakesha suggests negotiating a compromise with Bob, Julia realizes that she has some workable ideas (and strategies to deliver them) that will please both Bob and Kevin.

Julia contacts Bob and tells him that she respects the integrity of his vision for his company (a strong value for Bob as a One), and her branding firm is committed to representing this vision in the world. She uses her Type Seven strength of positivity to emphasize the advantages of Kevin’s design, and explains that, in order to get the new portfolio completed in time, Bob will need to compromise on some of the changes he wants. She speaks to the effort Kevin is putting in and the high standards of the firm’s design process. Bob is still grumpy, but Julia’s upbeat manner and understanding of his values assuage him somewhat. He is willing to compromise on certain aspects of the redesign, though not on the timeline.

Julia and Lakesha talk to Kevin together about the compromises Bob is willing to make. Kevin is relieved that, with a less intensive redesign, the timeline is closer to being workable. Lakesha proposes a structured plan for completing the project on time, and Julia expresses full confidence in his work. With Julia motivating him, Kevin is able to complete the redesigned logo and portfolio, and Lakesha’s team moves ahead with the marketing strategy.

Ultimately, Bob feels that his company’s rebrand is in good hands because Julia used honesty and integrity when dealing with him. Kevin feels like his creative process has been respected. Lakesha is happy to have achieved her client’s goal of a successful launch, and kept the firm’s good standing in Bob’s eyes. Julia is relieved that everyone involved with the redesign conflict is satisfied and on good terms. Thanks to the Enneagram, their needs and viewpoints have all been heard. They can move on to the next project harmoniously, without any lingering tension.

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The Modern Enneagram is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com at http://amzn.to/2jIWXtR and from Amazon.ca at https://is.gd/qZt89f.


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The Cross-Cultural Enneagram

From what we’ve seen, Enneagram types exist across culture – that is, cultures throughout the world will have people who display qualities from all the Enneagram types and Instincts. Nonetheless, each country and culture has a dominant cultural overlay, which has a personality type of its own. People absorb the values taught by their culture, which impact how they display their own dominant type. In Melanie’s Canadian culture, for example, people are encouraged to be polite and collaborative – values of type Nine and the Social Instinct. In Kacie’s American culture, citizens learn the values of independence, ambition, and hard work, the “American Dream” rooted in Type Three and the Self-Preservation Instinct.

Despite knowing that we came from different countries, we were still surprised when cultural differences unrelated to our types came up when we started working together. For example, Melanie would say “Sorry” as an instinctive reaction when things didn’t go as planned. After several months, Kacie asked Melanie why. She explained that Canadians say sorry in a multitude of situations as a form of politeness, a cultural subtlety very different from the more assertive American culture.

As we prepare to travel to Canada for the Canadian Enneagram Conference this month, cultural differences are heavily on our minds. We’re busy thinking up ways to adapt our presentation to a less assertive, more community-oriented culture than the American audiences we usually work with. At times Melanie, the Canadian on our team, has found herself acting as “cultural translator” and explaining Canadian communication norms.

When you connect with people from different cultures, whether in work, travel for pleasure, or in your daily life, you can use the Enneagram not only to understand their individual differences but to gain a better sense of the culture you’re interacting with. Listen to what people around you talk about. Notice the values and beliefs they take for granted. Each Enneagram type operates from a set of assumptions projected onto the world at large. Just like we expect others to share our personality-based motivations and way of seeing things, we also expect others to share the cultural viewpoint that we’re accustomed to. These things are so ingrained that we often don’t realize there are other worldviews out there that differ drastically from our own.

When you look at cultural and personal Enneagram types side by side, you’ll find that they don’t always match closely. A Type Eight, for instance, might find their strength and assertiveness valued in one culture, while they might have a harder time in a culture that values quiet and conformity. In what way is your dominant Enneagram type and Instinct similar or different to what your country’s culture values? Understanding how your type and culture work together adds nuance to an action plan to improve your communication with other people, and supports companies in doing international business productively and successfully.

Using the Enneagram also makes it easier to identify human similarities across cultures. Our colleagues in the Enneagram field have taught it to groups of Israelis and Palestinians who worked together, as well as South African teams different races and backgrounds, and found it to build cross-cultural bridges between people of the same Enneagram type. Often, two Sixes or two Ones who start a workshop thinking they have nothing in common discover that they share a set of values and behaviors that goes beyond their culture. Even “us vs. them” dynamics sometimes transform into “Me too!”s, and a new understanding is born.

The Enneagram is a useful tool for improving our communication, relationships, and self-awareness. Developing cultural competence through an Enneagram lens help us grow and develop these skills in an even more powerful way.


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How to Get Along with Your Coworkers

IMG_0083We spend most of our waking hours at work, dealing with a wide variety of people. From co-workers to clients and bosses to customers, we’re bound to run into a diverse array of personality types. Some of the people we work with think similarly to us, but others have such different ways of communicating and getting their job done that we feel like they come from another planet!

Maybe you work with someone like Andre. Whenever you walk through the door, he greets you with a big smile. When you need an extra pencil or stapler, and sometimes when you don’t, there he is with a new one in his hand. He likes to take everyone out to lunch and catch up on how they’re doing. He knows all his officemates’ birthdays, and brings the same personal touch to his customer service.

While Andre is generally liked by his colleagues, for some of them he can be a little much. Gloria, a reserved thinker, is overwhelmed by his gregarious approach. Colleagues call her “the walking encyclopedia,” and rely on her to find resources and explain new systems. She uses long stretches of time in her office to research and strategize.

Andre wonders why Gloria doesn’t like him. Gloria wonders why Andre intrudes on her space.

Andre’s dominant Enneagram type is Two, the Helper, while Gloria’s is Five, the Investigator. On the surface, the two of them have little in common. With the help of the Enneagram, they can bridge their personality differences and come to a new understanding of each other.

Here are some ways that Andre and Gloria (or you and the people in your workplace) can use the Enneagram to understand each other and work together more effectively.

Find common ground.

While Andre and Gloria have different ways of interacting, their personality types share certain values and motives. Twos and Fives both want to make a significant contribution and fulfill a certain indispensable role on their team. Both of these types have a strong need to be valued for the talents and skills they bring to the office. Other commonalities between Enneagram types might include communication styles, conflict resolution styles, or dominant Instincts. With a new understanding of their commonality, Gloria and Andre can connect around their shared values. They can make active efforts to acknowledge and appreciate each other’s  divergent but equally valuable roles they fill in the team.

Understand and respect differences.

Not only do Andrea and Gloria have different ways of interacting; they also have different needs. Andre needs a lot of engagement with other people, while Gloria needs sufficient solitude to generate ideas. When they look at their relationship through the other person’s eyes, they’re able to develop ways to get their own needs met while connecting with each other. Andre realizes that the best way to help and connect with Gloria is to allow her alone time when she needs it, while Gloria understands that she’ll have a smoother relationship with Andre if she makes an effort to reach out and engage.

Two and Five are just two of the nine types you’ll encounter in the workplace. We wrote an e-book to share what we’ve learned about how all the Enneagram types act at work, and how to collaborate effectively with each of them. In Decoding Personality in the Workplace, you’ll read about nine different people who act a lot like people you know, and discover ways to leverage your own work performance. You can download your copy at no cost by filling out the form at this link.

You’ll get a couple e-mails before you can download the book – one to confirm your e-mail address, and then one that gives you the link to the download page. (See instructions below.)

Happy reading!

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Resolving Conflict with the Enneagram

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Think back to the last time you got into a conflict. Did you see the situation one way while the other person had a completely different way of looking at things? Maybe you wanted to work things out logically but the other person kept telling you to look on the bright side, or asking how you felt about the issue. Maybe it was the other way around.

No matter how much we work on ourselves, sometimes unavoidable challenges, breakdowns in communication, and misunderstandings lead to conflict with others. Conflict isn’t always bad; it empowers parties to increase their understanding of each other and move forward in a way that benefits everyone. In order to keep conflict positive and solution-focused, it’s helpful to learn how others react under stress.

Borrowing from ideas in psychology, Don Riso and Russ Hudson identified three Harmonic Groups, clusters of personality types that react in distinctive ways when facing conflict. Here’s a brief introduction to the Harmonic Groups, with ideas for resolving differences with people of every style.

The Positive Outlook Triad (Enneagram types 2, 7, and 9) wants to look on the rosy side of things. When in conflict, their first instinct is to avoid sweating the small stuff and look at the best possible outcome. At the high side of this style, positive outlook types frame challenges into a broader context and assist others in seeing when conflicts do – and don’t – need to be addressed. The challenge is that sometimes people who use this dominant style avoid actively addressing conflicts when necessary, causing them to grow bigger. Positive Outlook types benefit from having teammates frame conflicts in a positive way, including showing how immediately addressing the problem will help in the big picture.

The Competency Triad (Enneagram types 1, 3, and 5) wants to solve problems using their objectivity. When in conflict, their first instinct is to use logic and analysis to discuss and solve the presenting challenge. At its best, this style keeps the focus of the team on the problem and quickly identifies and implements a great solution to the conflict. The challenge is that sometimes people who use this dominant style get bogged down in details, causing overly long discussions and solutions that miss the big picture. Competency types benefit from having teammates bring in the broader picture and emotional weight any decision carries, by describing it in a solution-oriented manner.

The Emotional Realness Triad (Enneagram types 4, 6, and 8) wants to address the underlying emotional dynamics of problems. Their first instinct in a conflict situation is to express their feelings – both positive and negative – and to learn the feelings of others involved. When used well, all the parties quickly learn where the other stands and proceed to a resolution that takes into account everyone’s desires. The challenge is that sometimes people who use this dominant style can get caught in a never-ending loop of expressing emotions, without coming to a solution. Emotional Realness types benefit from having teammates disclose their honest feelings (in a manner appropriate to the situation), while also steering the conversation to finding a resolution.

Each Harmonic Group, at its highest level of expression, brings gifts to conflict resolution. The highest mode of conflict resolution involves using all three styles: drawing on the strengths of your own style while integrating the gifts of the other two. As we learn to use conflict resolution strategies that don’t come as naturally to us, we bring smoother sailing to life’s challenges. How will you bring all three styles into your office and home this week?