Home » Team Building through the Enneagram
Promote team health by aligning your members’ strengths and work styles with their schedules, responsibilities, and even work spaces.
In my last two articles, I suggested that when you know your motivations, strengths, and weaknesses, you can get the right things done in the right way for the right reasons at the right time.
The Enneagram personality profile has been our guide to understanding our core motivations and the strengths and weaknesses that are likely to follow from our desires. Once you are growing in self-awareness, though, what’s the next step for a leader?
The self-aware leader will surround herself with a team that brings new strengths to the table, offsets or minimizes her own weaknesses, and creates a group greater than the sum of its parts. The Enneagram is one of the great resources for team building.
Pursuing a Well-Balanced Team
It is, of course, inappropriate to hire employees based on personality profiles, but when you’re assembling teams among your people, it can be wise to consider motivation and temperament. Consider these two teams:
A nonprofit is led by a Challenger (Type Eight) in the executive director role. He prizes productivity, action, and results. For an operations director, he has hired an Achiever (Type Three), who is outgoing, energetic, and efficient. The rest of their small staff is composed of a Reformer (Type One), who is reliable, hard-working, and driven for perfection, as well as other Challengers and Achievers.
What are the strengths of this team? They will be competent, productive, and action-oriented. Simply put, they will get things done. They will come in early and work late. They will push each other to a higher level, and no one who works with them will doubt their abilities. However, what does this team lack? None of these personalities (in general) lean toward patient, easy-going, gentle, or reflective leadership. In the case of a nonprofit, the team’s volunteers may feel overworked and underappreciated. They might feel they need to perform at a high level to get noticed. They may likely be concerned that the staff is headed for burnout.
In this small business, the CEO is an Enthusiast (Type Seven) that loves to have fun and take his employees out to eat. He is visionary and optimistic, but admits that he’s quick to move away from conflict or withdraw from long-running tasks. His team, though, is diverse. There’s a Giver (Type Two), who is genuinely unselfish, supportive, and provides relational warmth to the office. A Creative (Type Four) listens well and helps customers see the beauty of their product. The office Sage (Type Five) is thoughtful and objective, and helps the CEO move with patience and attention to detail. There are several Loyalists (Type Six) around who have spent years building a healthy, stable culture, and they even remember employees’ birthdays.
Working among this second team sounds delightful. Where someone has a particular strength, there’s another team member whose strengths round out or complete the group. Where there are weaknesses or proclivities to unhealthy behavior, others’ strengths provide stability to the whole.
When a team is well-rounded and each member is growing in self-awareness, employee satisfaction and retention will rise. Transitions will be less painful. Clients, customers, and volunteers will connect deeply and stay engaged.
Promoting Team Health
The final step in team building is recognizing how your team members work most effectively. Leaders can promote team health by aligning their members’ strengths and work styles with their responsibilities, schedules, and even work spaces.
What Is Your Next Step?
While it may sound idealistic to work within a perfectly balanced team, there’s always a simple place to begin: Where you are.
What do you lack? Where are your weaknesses creating a tough environment or hindering growth? Do your teammates have strengths that are not being maximized? Take a moment to consider the strengths and weaknesses of your team members, and if you know them well, think about which Enneagram styles you might identify for each of them. What would you consider to be the collective strengths of your group? What are the collective weaknesses?
In other words — what’s missing? Who among your team could use encouragement or empowering? Who might need a change in role or emphasis? If you’re not the leader of your team or organization, how might you gently bring about positive changes to the culture?
When you consider your own work habits and notice how different your co-workers are from you, you can pursue a well-balanced team and promote your team’s health. The Enneagram enables deeper reflection, increased self-awareness, and more effective team-building. What is your next step?
The Nine Types
The Reformer (Type One) operates well in black-and-white, right-and-wrong decisions. They lead with their morals and convictions and do well communicating vision and strategy. They might struggle with flexible or undisciplined work environments, feel frustrated when not consulted on decisions, and may often feel underappreciated or neglected.
The Giver (Type Two) works well in busy, active environments, and they’re quick to serve and meet others’ needs. They prefer working closely with a few people and value honest feedback. Twos may feel offended if they’re left out of a project and often need time to grow into leadership roles.
The Achiever (Type Three) loves to work. Threes naturally gravitate toward team building, leadership roles, and opportunities for upward mobility. They thrive in highly visible roles and projects, enjoy managing complexity, and rise under pressure and deadlines. Threes, however, can struggle to work alone, tend to be generalists and not experts in any one field, and are the most likely to become workaholics and experience burnout.
The Creative (Type Four) enjoys quiet, reflective personal space — the open office trend is their nightmare come true. Fours thrive on freedom for creativity and innovation and need the ability to express their thoughts and emotions with others. Fours struggle with rigid schedules, corporate structures, demanding bosses, and repetitive assignments.
The Sage (Type Five) is an expert and scholar who values concrete, measurable progress. They analyze data, apply abstract concepts and principles, manage finances and projects, and maintain connections between the details and the big picture. Fives even like meetings. But the Sage struggles with a lack of direction or focus, unclear expectations, shared workspaces, and any overlap between their professional and private lives.
The Loyalist (Type Six) thrives on a consistent work environment in a stable, fair company. Sixes do well as managers and enjoy ongoing feedback and collaboration. But Sixes may struggle with primary leadership positions, not receiving recognition for their loyalty, and a lack of stability in their position.
The Enthusiast (Type Seven) enjoys open work environments and laid-back schedules. They thrive on spontaneity and easily blend their work and personal lives. They’re optimistic and future-oriented and can tolerate, and even prefer, a high level of organizational change. Sevens do not appreciate tight, rigid environments, “boring” work, long meetings, and may struggle to stay focused on long-term tasks, projects, and relationships.
The Competitor (Type Eight) works to win: They are productive, self-motivated, and easily step into leadership positions. They work well under hard deadlines and in right-and-wrong situations. Eights struggle with a lack of clarity, especially when they’re not allowed to fix something, and they don’t do well in long, slow projects or meetings.
The Peacemaker (Type Nine) enjoys calm environments and close relationships. They value listening to others, responding to questions, and working together toward progress. Nines may struggle in high-drama teams and conflicted relationships. They don’t move naturally toward leadership positions, often struggle under deadlines, and typically resist organizational change.
Jeremy Linneman is teaching pastor of Trinity Community Church in Columbia, Missouri. He is the author of a few short books and has been an instructor in the Enneagram since 2014 (before it was cool). He and his wife, Jessie, have three sons and spend most of their free time outdoors.