Debbie Mytels shares that the most important thing she’s learned in her adult life is the Enneagram. Debbie is an Enneagram Type 2 leader, and she illustrates how she uses the gifts of Type 2 to bring people together and connect them in common cause and purpose. Pay attention to her points on communicating with others, enlisting people to join the team, and instilling purpose in team members through feelings. Thank you, Debbie, for sharing your stories and your wisdom.
Matt Schlegel: Thanks for joining me today in conversations with leaders who are using the Enneagram as a leadership tool with their teams and a tool for personal growth and development. Today, I’m speaking with Debbie Mytels, who serves as a leader for a number of climate-change-related organizations. Debbie is a highly aware type-two leader, and you’ll see how she uses her leadership for connecting people and in service for the greater good. And now for the conversation.
Today, I’m speaking with Debbie Mytels. Debbie is a leader on climate. Amongst many leadership roles, she’s currently the chair of Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action, co-chair of the outreach committee at Fossil Free Buildings for Silicon Valley. And before that, she was associate director of Acterra, an organization based in Palo Alto that does environmental education. Debbie’s superpower is connecting people and bringing them together, and I’m so delighted to be speaking with you today. Thank you so much for joining me, Debbie.
Debbie Mytels: Well, thank you, Matt, for inviting me. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Matt Schlegel: Great, great. I am so eager to hear your Enneagram journey. So how did you… How and when did you first discover the Enneagram?
Debbie Mytels: I think I first heard about it because one of my coworkers at the conservation center had been a participant in an Enneagram class, and it seemed to give her a lot of insights into her own self and everything. And she said, “They’re offering another class.” So I went, and it was David Daniels’ long, I think, 9 or 10-week series of where he has a panel of five people of each type spend a whole evening talking about their selves and their life and what are the hallmarks of their point and everything. It was really one of the most amazing things I’ve learned in my adult life. I mean, you could see the large type-eight people who were dominant, going to be in charge, grabbing the microphones from each other. And the pencil-thin, little people who were type fives were asked, “Well, tell me about your relationship,” and they would say, “I’m married,” and then they wouldn’t say anything else. And then there was a type four who was asked about his relationship, and he started talking about lots of intimate details, and we were kind like, “Ooh.”
Matt Schlegel: Yeah, right. Whoa! Too much information!
Debbie Mytels: And I knew his wife was in the audience. It was so instructive.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. I mean, David Daniels, I mean, what an amazing person. I reference him in my book. I just love the work that he did and how he brought a lot of clarity to some of the different triads other than the main triad. So, wow, what a phenomenal experience to actually have worked with him.
Debbie Mytels: Yeah, it was wonderful. I learned a lot. And I’ve continued to learn more because a friend of mine is a type-five exemplar, who’s been on panels. And we chat about what we’re seeing in people’s behavior a lot too, so it’s always fun.
Matt Schlegel: Oh, that’s great.
Debbie Mytels: And very insightful.
Matt Schlegel: Yes. Yeah. Well, so what did you discover about yourself that you really didn’t know or appreciate before you knew the Enneagram?
Debbie Mytels: Yeah, it was interesting because when I learned about it, one of the things that I recognized was that I did focus a lot on other people’s needs and feelings and thoughts and not myself. And at first, I thought maybe I was a type nine. But I went on a hike one summer, that year that we were learning about this, with my former husband. It was a long 13-mile hike, and neither of us were in that good shape really. We took along some water and a sandwich or two. And it was a long loop hike. And as we started out, he was in front walking along, and I was being the good, little wife and asking him about things at work and how it was going and all that. And he was telling me, and I was listening. And as we went on and we got tireder and tireder and we got to the end point of the loop, we had our lunch and we started walking back. And we were kind of draggy and tired, and we still had like six miles to go.
Matt Schlegel: Right.
Debbie Mytels: So I took the lead. I just sort of did. And then I kept saying, “We’re going to be okay. We’ll get there. Yeah. We almost drank all the water, but here, you have some more. But we’re going to make it. We’re going to make it.” He went back behind me, and he was very quiet. Well, he is a type eight who went to five, and I was a type two who went to eight, and we shifted roles.
Matt Schlegel: Wow!
Debbie Mytels: And that made me realize, by looking at the pattern in the Enneagram of points that you go to when you’re stressed or not, we were both very stressed on the way back, that made me realize I was a two. There are other things, too, that I learned about myself that… At one point when I was very young, I did a job to edit a doctor’s report, and I kept changing his wording a little bit, but I didn’t want to reorganize the whole thing, which it kind of really needed. And I realized I was trying to keep his style of writing and not really putting my own understanding into it. And I realized that that was a pattern in some of my other behaviors, that I wasn’t really putting myself and what I could do into situations.
So the Enneagram really helped me to see the kind of unity of all my behaviors, the shyness that I had, waiting for others to take the lead, even though I had ideas, but not putting out my ideas until later and not giving much direction to what was happening. So it helped me to understand, oh, I see what’s going on here. Okay. And it really gave me a lot more self-awareness of what I was doing.
Matt Schlegel: Right. Well, you bring up such a good point. I love that story about your hike, and I talk about this a little bit in my book, how under… When you put a team… You were a team of two, but you put a team under stress, and then we start to… Different behaviors emerge. And some people who are normally really dominant start to pull back, and while other people who are usually in the background come to the fore. And how if you get the right combination and the two/eight exemplifies a really great team dynamic, it just… You complement each other regardless of the situation. And that is such a great story.
Debbie Mytels: It was a great story.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. So, hey, how have you used the Enneagram in your leadership roles?
Debbie Mytels: I think it’s been very helpful in many ways. I think one of the things is it’s important just to recognize that it’s important to be a relationship builder. I know when I’m in a meeting, I try to recognize the contributions of everyone who’s talking. I’ve been doing a lot of Zoom meetings this past couple of years, and I try to acknowledge the comments that so-and-so made and what you just said relates to what so-and-so said and try to help people see the connections between each other. And I also try to be sure that everybody’s had a chance to be heard, because some people are very shy or just reticent, and I also want to be sure that everybody’s voices are brought into the room. So that’s one way, I think, I use the Enneagram going.
And sometimes you kind of have to remind somebody who might be a type eight or some other type that’s dominant that, “Well, thank you very much, but we haven’t yet heard from others. Let’s let them have a chance to speak.” So that’s a way that… Working with people in a meeting, it’s good to give everybody a chance.
Matt Schlegel: Oh, yeah.
Debbie Mytels: The other way that I’ve used it in my work is trying to find the right person for the job.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. Yeah.
Debbie Mytels: I’ve been blessed in life to have a lot of type friends, friends who are type seven, who are the people who come up with wonderful schemes and great ideas, but you can’t really rely upon them to follow through all the time and actually do the work that needs to be done. So you’ve got to find a helper or some other type to support them, because they’re going to come up with more ideas.
Matt Schlegel: Right, right. Finding a complementary pair.
Debbie Mytels: And similarly… Yeah. If you have a bookkeeper job opening, you want somebody who’s meticulous.
Matt Schlegel: Yes, exactly.
Debbie Mytels: And they may drive you crazy, but you don’t want a sloppy bookkeeper who doesn’t do a really consistent job, because it’s very important. So trying to look out for what are the needs of the job, as opposed to I like this person or I like that person. And one thing I’ve noticed a lot in working with mostly small groups and nonprofits is that people do tend to hire people like themselves, and sometimes you need to bring in that divergent set of skills. That’s really helpful.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. Oh, two excellent ways to use the Enneagram. And just to get back to that communication point and making sure all voices are heard, knowing the Enneagram and knowing that if you have fives on your team, knowing that they probably know more and have studied more than anybody else on the topic.
Debbie Mytels: Exactly.
Matt Schlegel: And yet they’re just sitting there quietly letting everybody else talk, and it’s such a resource available to the team if you allow them the platform, because they’re not going to assert themselves and just inject themselves into the conversation. They need to be drawn out. And it sounds like you’ve done that masterfully, just to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard. So that’s awesome. Yeah, and then-
Debbie Mytels: Yeah. In some ways, I don’t even give myself a lot of credit for that. It’s like, well, of course, that’s what I naturally should do as the leader. But I recognize that it is an attribute of being a point two that is helpful to a group. That’s what I can offer.
Matt Schlegel: Absolutely. Absolutely. And just being Enneagram aware and knowing these different styles and you knowing your own style, because even a type two can go into that dominant mode, especially if you’re stressed.
Debbie Mytels: Yeah.
Matt Schlegel: So just being aware of that and just say, “Okay, I’m going to make sure everybody gets a chance to talk,” that is really great, Debbie. Well, so what advice would you give to another leader of your type, Enneagram type two?
Debbie Mytels: Yeah. I think that’s a really important thing to think about. One is to acknowledge what you were just saying, is really to recognize the value of the divergent points of view and that everybody can contribute, and they need to contribute because you need to hear things. When I was on one board, for example, one member of our group would always say, “This is going to go wrong. It’s got a problem there, blah, blah, blah.” And everybody’s like, “Don’t pour hot water on our beautiful idea,” but he was really telling us what we needed to pay attention to. And that was really an important point that we needed to own, or that could go wrong. So it’s important to know about that and to put that credence, give credence to those points in the room. Put them into the room. Maybe you don’t agree with them, but at least you’ve heard them, and that’s important.
I think another strength that we’ve talked about a little already too is to really recognize the strengths of a point two as a connector. I remember one time I was in a store over in Berkeley. I guess they had a whole bunch of political buttons. And one of them said, “The most radical thing you can do is introduce your friends to each other.” And I thought, “Yeah.” And I’m doing that all the time. I’m trying to connect this person with that person, because they both have similar interests, or this one is looking for a job and that one might help them, or this one has a knowledge about an issue that that one’s concerned about. So that connector thing is really important, and use it. It’s one of, I think, our strengths from this point. Another thing that I’ve learned, and this is advice for a two, I think, is don’t be shy about reaching above your station. You know?
Matt Schlegel: Yeah.
Debbie Mytels: The people who have ideas that are perhaps in charge, they’re speakers at conferences or they’re people who are elected officials, they really want to be connected with. Their job is to give their advice, to be leaders, and they want to hear from you, and they want to know what you have to share too. So sometimes it’s easier to sort of, “Oh, well, I’m not important. I don’t count,” but really you have something to share, as well, as a type two. I had a friend who was not a type two. She was a nine. She knew that. And she’d always go up after a lecture and go talk to the speaker and learn something from that person and bring it back to our group. It was like, “Wow. I didn’t even think about doing that,” but I’m trying to do that.
Matt Schlegel: So fearless! Those nines, they are very fearless.
Debbie Mytels: And the last one is that I think because twos often don’t know their own feelings aren’t acknowledging them. They’re just kind of… Maybe this is a different wing, like a three, who just wants to get the job done. But I think it’s really important to, especially when dealing with something like climate change, which is an emotional problem that we’re dealing with now as humanity, is to really tap into our own feelings and try to acknowledge them. And that’s our motivation for acting, or at least mine when I think about it.
I used to work with a group called Canopy, which is a tree-planting group. And one day we were planting trees and getting started, and we used to just get the stuff out of the car and put out the equipment and set it up and give people name tags and a little introduction on how you work with planting the tree. But I thought, “I understand that today I’ve got a couple of teenage boys whose dad asked them to come as sort of a punishment for some transgression at home.” And I thought, “I’ve really got to work on the motivation here, not just let’s do it.” So I had us all gather together in a circle before we started, and I talked about my motivation for planting trees, which was to help part of nature to grow and develop and to provide for the future health and safety and oxygen for our community. And I really tried to say…
Then I had everybody go around the circle, and there was maybe, I don’t know, 15, 20 people. “Why are you here? Why are you here? Why are you here?” And that really grounded us all in the work we were doing. And I thought, “Wow, that really was a different kind of event than what we’d done before.” And it was unfortunately sort of towards the end of the planting season, but I did try to do something like that for the last couple of ones as well, because it really made a difference. And I think it was a way to use my own feelings that I might have just ignored or thought they weren’t important.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. Oh, that is such a great idea. Just ground everybody in feelings and purpose at the beginning of the task and go from there. Yeah, it’s very inspiring and motivating.
Debbie Mytels: It was. And the two boys that were there, they did a good job too. They didn’t goof off, and I don’t think they felt it was punishment after the end. I think they felt they’d made a contribution, and we all had. Those trees are still growing, which is so exciting.
Matt Schlegel: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, I hope they and you get to experience the growth of the trees and see that and remember that moment. That’s great.
Debbie Mytels: Yeah. Yeah.
Matt Schlegel: Well, thank you so much, Debbie, for joining me today and sharing your stories and your experiences. And I want to thank you very much for all of your leadership in climate and everything that you’re doing, bringing people together. And I would love to have you come back, and maybe we could talk a little bit more about your climate work and maybe dive into how your feelings are motivating you. I think that is such a powerful topic. So-
Debbie Mytels: Okay.
Matt Schlegel: Thank you again for joining me.
Debbie Mytels: Thank you, Matt. It was really great to talk with you too, and I admire so much the work you’re doing. I think it’s a really important thing for people to learn, so I really appreciate it. Thanks.
Matt Schlegel: All right. Thank you. Thanks for watching. Debbie points out that the Enneagram is the most important thing that she’s learned in her adult life, and I couldn’t agree more with that. I appreciate how she used the path of disintegration to distinguish between the two types that she was considering and finally landed on Enneagram type two as her core type. And as a leader, how she uses the Enneagram to ensure that all voices are heard on her team and that all of the different perspectives of her teammates are respected. And finally, she acknowledges the importance of feelings in leadership, especially in motivating your team and giving them a sense of purpose. If you like this, please click on the thumbs-up button and share it with others and subscribe to the channel so you can get notifications of upcoming episodes. And if you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comment section, and I’ll get to them as soon as possible. Thanks again.
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