The Enneagram is a powerful personality dynamics tool, but did you know that it’s also a change management system? Please enjoy this presentation that we delivered to the Project Management Institute’s Los Angeles chapter in which we share how the Enneagram can be used as a change management problem-solving process.
Many thanks to Alexandra Zhernova and PMI-LA: https://www.pmi-la.org/
Thanks also to my fabulous co-presenters:
Yvonne Burton: https://www.burtonconsulting.biz/
Belle Walker: https://belleviewconsulting.com/
Matt Schlegel: I’m grateful to the Project Management Institute’s LA chapter for the opportunity to deliver a webinar with my fabulous co-presenters, Yvonne Burton and Bell Walker. In this webinar, we show how the enneagram can be used as a change management process. And we tie each enneagram dynamic to a specific step in change management. So let’s jump right into step one.
The question that I asked is, why are they numbers? Why don’t you use letters like DISC or Myers-Briggs or colors or animals, or … And when I asked that question and I studied it more, I found out that, “Oh, it’s a process. It’s the order of a process. That’s why it’s number.” And it’s the order in which humans solve problems. So it is the human problem solving process.
And when you look at it in terms of a problem solving process, you can see the enneagram as a clock and as you move through problem solving, there’s an element of time to that. And so that circle represents the motion around the diagram like a clock moving through the hours. It can also represent people moving through the steps of problem solving.
And now we have this fascinating relationship between a step in problem solving and a personality style. So there is a personality style that’s specifically tuned or that step in problem solving. So let’s take a look at what that looks like. So let’s start with step one. What is step one in problem solving? There’s a problem. It’s identifying that there’s a problem, right? And so once you’ve identified the problem, one of the words that I associate with this is should. Hey, it shouldn’t be like this. And then you have this understanding if it shouldn’t be like that, you already know instinctually and one is in that instinctive group, that it should be something else. And so you have this intuition of the way it should be. So that is one of the things associated with step one in problem solving.
And so now, let’s just take a look at the personality style that is associated with type one in enneagram. And the word that I would use some call it the perfectionist, but in problem solving, it’s kind of the judge, right? It’s like judging what’s right and what’s wrong. And the enneagram type one is highly motivated to put things right. So their instincts are informing them of the way it should be. And they’re the first to identify that, “Hey, that’s not right. It shouldn’t be like that. It should be like this.”
So that’s step one. And I’m going to just go through these quickly and we can come back during Q&A and answer any questions that you have, but I want to get through these first few steps. So what is the second step in problem solving? This is something … this step here, when I look at other formal problem solving processes, I often see this step neglected. But the enneagram says that the second step in problem solving is asking the question, who cares? Who cares that there’s … about that problem? If nobody cares, then it’s really not a problem. So it’s only for the people who care. And so step two is actually building that team of people who care enough to want to solve the problem. So it’s essentially building your committed team of stakeholders.
So now, what does that look like in terms of the enneagram personality style? So that in the enneagram associated with type two, I call it the caregiver. It’s also often called the helper, because they realize that, “Oh, you have a problem and I want to help you solve your problem.” And they want to do that. And that their underlying motivation from the personality point of view is to receive appreciation. So they’re motivated by that appreciation for their help to chip in and help solve the problem.
All right. So then what is the third step in problem solving? It’s ideation. This is the step where you start to come up with all the different possible ideas to solve the problem. And I heard a number of people talk about when they were talking about their problem solving styles, the different techniques that they use for generating the different ideas. And there are a number of ways to do this. When I do this in practice, I will just have an ideation session. But one of the important things I do in this is I say, “There’s no bad ideas. We’re not going to be putting any critical thought or negative thought on any of the ideas. We’ll just allow all the ideas to come out. And then we can apply that filter later.” So this is the ideation stuff.
And in the enneagram style that most closely relates to this is enneagram type three. And they are motivated to achieve. So they’re often called the achievers, and they want to be recognized for their achievement. So they’re always coming up with ideas for how to succeed, and they’re always striving and working hard to succeed. So there’s another aspect to this, because we’re now in the feeling group. And the interesting thing about the threes is they suppress feelings. And you’ll know that whenever you have an idea, you run it through an emotional filter.
But what happens if you don’t have an emotional filter? You’ve suppressed emotions so you’ve taken that off. And so now your brain is just free to … maybe some people call it out of the box thinking, but it’s thinking without having emotional filters. And that allows you to … You know that expression throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks? So that’s what it’s like for a three, when they’re coming up with ideas. They are just throwing ideas out. They don’t know what people like and don’t like. They’re just throwing the ideas out and they’ll see what sticks.
You remember step three was ideation. And I mentioned that when I do these ideation sessions, brainstorming sessions, I ask people to check their negativity. Now, why do I do that? It’s because we can’t help ourselves. As soon as we hear an idea, we think, “Oh my god, that’s a great idea.” Or, “Oh, that idea sucks.” We can’t help ourselves. It’s instantaneous. So that’s step four. Step four is that emotional reaction to any idea. And as you are working through ideas in your team, you’re going to eventually run all these ideas through the emotional filter of your team. And what you’re trying to do is you want the ideas and there might be more than one that you want to explore, but you want the ideas with the most positive energy. You don’t want to be taking the ideas with the negative energy. You want to take the ideas with the positive energy, because to get to the goal from the idea is going to take a lot of work and commitment. So you want to start with the positive ideas.
Now, we naturally do that. But that is the step in problem solving. And this is another step, right? So step two and step four are very soft skill steps that are often not acknowledged in more technical or formal problem solving processes. But if you skip them, then I think somebody mentioned earlier, it’s like the team runs off on some idea that somebody had, but didn’t bring everybody else along. And people aren’t interested in that idea and don’t have a positive feeling about it. And so you’ve essentially skipped this step. That’s what you’ve done when you’ve spun off and done that.
And the way I can practice do step four is after I have that whole set of ideas, I’ll wait usually until the next day. And then I’ll publish all the ideas and then I’ll have people vote. And then I choose the ideas democratically. And that’s the way I can determine which ideas have the most positive energy overall with the team. And that seems to work pretty well. So now let’s look at that style as an enneagram type four. Type four is often called the artist or the romantic, I call it the empath, right? Because you’re empathizing with that idea. And type fours live in their feelings.
They feel everything. They’re reacting to everything in the environment. They’re reacting to the light on the wall. They’re reacting to the faces in Zoom. They’re reacting to the energy of chat. They’re reacting to everything. So that’s … and they are able to take that deep understanding of their feelings and then communicate that in an emotionally impactful way. So it’s not always with words, it can be with music or film or art or photography, because they’re communicating … they’re not necessarily communicating ideas, they’re communicating feelings and emotions. So that’s the type four.
So now, so the type two, three and four were all in that feeling space. And now, we’re moving over to the left side of the enneagram, which is more of the analytical and logical side. You think of left brain, right brain and there’s an analogy there. And I just point that out because the enneagram looks exactly the same way.
So the step five is you now have your set of positive ideas to explore, and now, you want to analyze them. You want to do the cost benefit analysis. You want to do the pro con analysis. You want to do … maybe do some quick prototyping and validation. This is the step where you’re validating the ideas that you want to pursue and making sure that they will actually stand a good chance of getting you to the goal.
Now, what does this look like in terms of the personality enneagram type five? This is the type that is quiet and analytical. They tend to want to observe so they’re often called the observer and they’re taking in information. They’re constantly taking in information and analyzing it, analyzing it, chewing on it. And through that analysis, they start to feel like that they’re in a safer place. So they’re looking for safety in that analysis. And so that’s what’s going on with the five. And so they tend to have very cerebral occupations like engineer, scientist, or professor, or accountant, finance. As project managers, when we have type fives on our team, sometimes it’s hard to get information out of them. They’re keeping things very close to the vest and so that’s the type five.
So let’s do one more and then we’ll take a break for questions. So this is type six. Now, you’ve analyzed all of that information and you have the pro con analysis, and to the five, five see everything is in shades of gray and all the nuance. And they have a hard time making a decision because of that, because they see all the possibilities, and there’s not strong waiting on the possibilities. And that’s where the six comes in. Because sixes are the most tuned to danger and risk. So they can look at all of that analysis and they can find the least risky path through that to the goal. And so they tend to be thinking about the future and they tend to be planning things out, which is why this step, I call the planning step, because this is where you take all that information and you connect the dots and everything you need and all the resources you need to get you from point A to point B.
And so what does that look like on the enneagram type six style? So these are … they’re looking to avoid risk and they’re always thinking what’s going to happen, what’s going to happen, what’s going to happen. So I’m a type six. So I know this one really well. So like I’m constantly thinking, “Oh, what’s going to happen? What’s going to happen?” And then you prepare for all these eventualities. And so they often make good project managers. I find a lot of sixes going into that, but they like going into roles where they can create systems and create predictability. So the controller at a company, what do they do? They put a system in place to manage predictably cash flow. And that’s their job, perfect job for a six.
Now, we have a plan, right? The sixes put together the plan, got a plan. Now, what do we need to do? We need to sell the plan. We need to take the plan back to all of the key stakeholders and get permission and resources to actually move forward. So you probably, as project managers, you have these gates. So the gate, this would be a point in a common problem solving process where you go back to the stakeholders and you show them where you are and where you’re going, and then you get the necessary resources to keep going forward. And so this is an advocacy step.
So what does this look like in terms of enneagram style? The type seven is the type that is often very connected with everybody else. They’re like the consummate networker. They tend to be very fun and charming and affable and joking and what their underlying motivation is that they want to be liked by other people. And their main strategy for doing that is if everybody’s having fun. So they’re great at whipping up enthusiasm for doing new things and moving forward. So it’s the perfect style in problem solving to get everybody on board with, “We’ve got a plan, we’re going to get to the goal. Let’s go, come on.” So that’s the energy that gets you through that step.
And by the way, I’ll just mention, so I’m a type six. And usually for every type, you have access to your core type and then you have pretty easy access to the types along your pads of integration or disintegration. And then you have more or less access to all the other types. But in general, the hardest type for anyone to access is the next type in the clockwise direction. So for the six, I love to plan, but then how do I switch over and become this cheerleader champion of the plan? And that is harder for me. And each one of us faces that, and this is why each one of us, we want to play to our strength and sometimes it’s hard for us to move on. Once we hit our particular type, we can do really well there, but then the project needs to move on. And it’s hard for people sometimes to let go of that and move to the next step, which is why it’s important to have a diverse team to pick up the slack when you move on from a particular step.
So then we go to step eight. Now, what have we done in steps one through seven? Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. When are we going to get to action? That’s the eight. They’re the ones that are very impatient. They want … And we are now back into the instinctual group. So the five, the six and the seven we’re all in the head group, the eight is back in the instinctual group. And their instincts told them what to do a long time ago. So working through this process for an eight can be a little bit aggravating, because they already think that they know what to do.
Now, when you use that style, then it’s kind of like the ready, fire, aim. You start without aiming and then you maybe misfire, and then you go over here and you try that, and you want to try this and try that. That style. That’s very much an eight style. And so that’s one of the things that eights need to learn. And eight leaders do learn is that it’s important, even though their instincts are already telling them what to do to bring everybody along and go into the head space and explain things in a way that makes sense to us head people or us feeling people.
And so what does this look like from a enneagram type point of view? So this is the engram type eight. And what they want to do, their underlying motivation is to secure control of their environment. And one of the tools that they use is anger. Anger is a very strong tool for getting people to do what you want them to do. And eights are very good at using that tool, and it’s kind of their go-to tool. So if you are ever in a meeting and somebody starts raising their voice or starts pounding the table or starts talking while pointing like this, those are all expressions of anger. And that person is … whether they’re innate or not, they’re using that eight dynamic to … because they feel like they don’t have control of the situation and they’re trying to get control of the situation back. So that is the eight.
So now, we have gone through and implemented the solution. And then, I think somebody said that they do a project debrief. Well, this is step nine. This is where you measure how well you did at solving the problem. You do your debrief, you do your lessons learned, you try to learn from what you did. You listen to people. You make sure the solution whatever’s implemented is harmonized with everyone. These are all step nine activities. And so what does this look like from the enneagram type nine point of view, the personality point of view? The type nine, I think I mentioned earlier that they’re great listeners and they’re great at putting themselves in other people’s shoes. So they can really understand everybody’s perspective. And the reason why they’re doing this is because they’re very motivated to minimize conflict.
You remember the eight goes to anger and uses anger as a tool? Well, nine is also using anger, but they’re trying to minimize anger. So it’s kind of like that’s that step that I was telling you about going from eight to nine. It is a big step, because of that use of anger. It’s so different between these two types. It’s hard for eights to imagine just sitting back and listening and not doing anything and just making sure everybody’s perspective is taken into account. That’s hard for them. They can do it, but it’s hard for them. But that’s what’s going on with the nine. And the nines are natural at it.
I often see nines in customer service departments. They’re great at customer service, because they can take calls even from angry people and they just listen and they know how to calm them down and then help them solve their problem. And speaking of problems, the reason why the enneagram is a circle is because inevitably when you’re listening to people in step nine, you’ll hear new problems, and then you are back to step one. And that’s why you’ve heard of problem solving processes like continuous improvement. So the enneagram is a continuous improvement process. That’s the circle of going around with continuous improvement, like Kaizen.
So that’s the nine steps of the process mapped to the nine enneagram type styles. I know we wanted to wrap up around now. So I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to share this with you. Feel free, if you have any questions that come to mind later and you want to reach out, do not hesitate at all to do that. I’m happy to answer any questions. I want to thank Belle and Yvonne. I really can’t do this without them, because I can concentrate on what I’m saying and not have to worry about all the technology and they’re keeping me on track. So thank you so much for doing that. And then, thanks to Alexandra for helping us get here and having us present and to all of PMI. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Alexandra Zhernova: Thank you, Matt. It was really interesting presentation to us the first time and insightful context and then engaging. So great takeaways. We learned a lot. Thank you for teaching us and sharing your expertise. Yeah, it’s really appreciate it.
Matt Schlegel: Thanks for watching. Thanks again to Project Management Institute and special thanks to Alexandra Zhernova for inviting us to speak. If you want to learn more details about how the enneagram can be used as a change management system, then please check out my book, Teamwork 9.0. and if you found this video helpful, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to the channel and get notifications of future episodes. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll get to them as soon as possible. Thanks again.