Enneagram Type 7 leaders are inspiring. Their sheer optimism often carries the day to positive outcomes. The flip side of their positivity focus is their negativity avoidance . Yet sometimes leaders must address negative situations, and herein lies one of the big challenges for Type 7 leaders.
One approach Type 7s take is the compliment sandwich. They will start the conversation with a positive comment, briefly mention the negative topic, and end on another positive note. The recipient of the compliment sandwich will often come away confused at best and completely oblivious to the negative topic at worst. The message will not have been conveyed.
Acknowledging the need to address negative situations, Type 7s will often form a leadership partnership with someone who is not afraid to address negative topics head on. One common partnership I find is Type 7 with Type 1. I describe this relationship in Chapter 7 of Teamwork 9.0—Successful Workgroup Problem Solving using the Enneagram. Type 7 and Type 1 form a highly complementary pair, each willing to take on tasks that make the other uncomfortable.
Sweeping Problems Under the Rug
In this video, I describe how a Type 7 leader let a problem fester until it impacted the customer experience. To address the problem, the Type 7 leader both acknowledged the problem and the fact that he himself would not be the person to lead the effort. Rather, he assigned another person to take the leadership role, someone willing to address the problem head on. In this case, the person he chose was a Type 2 with a strong Type 1 wing (2w1).
How do Type 7 leaders in your life address problems? Do they address problems themselves, or do they partner with someone to serve in that role? What situations have resulted in the most effective problem-solving team dynamics with your Type 7 teammates?
- Ready, Fire, Aim.
- Running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
- Paralysis by Analysis.
We use these sayings to describe people’s behaviors.
We can also use these to describe team behaviors.
When I received a call from my client Paul, he explained that his team was not addressing product problems causing customer complaints.
Paul said that he, himself was getting calls from cranky customers.
Now, you know how some people are eternal optimists? Well, Paul just such a person. He wants to stay focused on positive things—In fact–bless his soul—he’s constitutionally incapable of dealing with negativity.
For him, getting customer complaints was beyond the pale—which is why he called me.
After I assessed the situation, I advised him that… if problems weren’t brought directly into the light, they would never get fixed. We ended up calling his situation, “Sweeping problems under the rug.” What needed to happen was to fold back that rug, expose the problems, and sweep… them… out.
We also came to grips with the fact that Paul himself was NOT the person to lead this. Being unable to focus on negatives – in this case, the product problems—he had to assign someone else to serve that role.
In my book Teamwork 9.0, I show how there are 9 distinct working styles, each with its own unique set of strengths.
We identified a person in the organization to lead this effort, John! John is a great helper and not afraid to address problems head on.
Paul also put a team around John who were capable of addressing and resolving the problems. Paul put the right people, in the right positions, at the right time.
Soon, products become more reliable, they stopped being returned and, importantly, perfectly positive Paul stopped getting gnawingly, negative calls.
The right person, in the right position at the right time – a key ingredient to highly effective teams.