Personality typing and standardized testing leaves me cold. Humans are incredibly complex, messy, and often wonderful beings. That very complexity makes me resist the idea that neat little labels can define us—more likely, they will confine us, if we let them.
I have been Myers Brigged, Neo’ed , Minnesota Multi-phased, and spent way too much time talking about “Who Moved My Cheese” in the early aughts. I’m tired of having someone tell me who they think I am based on one test given on one particular day.
A few years ago, when my spiritual director brought up the Enneagram as a tool for self-discovery, I had visions of answer grids and number two pencils, or maybe some New Ageish ceremony with fog machines and wind chimes. I’m sorry I wasted one minute doubting her judgment, because the Enneagram has helped me personally and professionally. It could help you too.
The Enneagram helps you understand how you are wired to act and react and what you value as a measure of success. There are no timers, no scorecards, and no good or bad numbers to be found among the nine principal Enneagram types.
I read some books and articles and worked with an assessment tool she provided. The whole point was for me to reflect and take my time to figure out which Enneagram type best described most of my traits and characteristics.
During one of our monthly meetings, I was struggling with a big professional decision, and also was not crazy about what I thought was my Enneagram type. She gently suggested that I had identified with Enneagram 1, which is sometimes referred to as The Reformer or The Perfectionist.
“I can’t be a Perfectionist,” I declared. “Because I can’t do anything right!” (Edited to reflect the sensibilities of this family-friendly blog post.) I realized the core truth of what I had just said and burst out laughing. I am an Enneagram 1, and taking time to truly accept it has made it easier to get things done.
It wasn’t a magic pill, a one-time quick fix. But over the past three years, I’ve worked with my caustic inner-editor and overcome several self-imposed personal and professional obstacles. My tendency to procrastinate is easier to manage now that I realize my automatic response has always been fear of not getting it all right, all the time. This realization helps me move more efficiently through grant narratives, annual appeal letters, case statements, AND blog posts.
Working with the Enneagram continues to enrich my personal and professional life. As it grows in popularity, it has become a powerful team-building tool for the workplace. Like any tool, potential for misuse exists. Here are some key points to keep in mind when starting to work with the Enneagram.
- Type yourself, not someone else! The whole point of the Enneagram is to use it as a tool of personal discovery, not as judgment on someone else. Let them figure it out for themselves, and don’t let anyone try to tell you what type you are.
- It’s a starting point, not a final label. Understanding your Enneagram type means that you acknowledge a default mode of how you behave and how you define success. This self-awareness can help you choose how to be. You don’t have to act/react automatically.
- It doesn’t excuse bad behavior. Discovering your Enneagram type doesn’t give you carte blanche to embody the most negative aspects of that type. For example, it’s not very helpful for me to tell my clients that they need to work around me because I’m a perfectionist. It’s up to me to regulate my work flow and time to keep things moving.
- Recognizing differences builds stronger teams. Having team members/co-workers self-identify their Enneagram types and understanding what motivates them can help grow a happier, more productive workplace.
In the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast, my co-host Amanda Day reveals her Enneagram type as we discuss this fascinating tool of self-discovery. Give it a listen at fundraisinghayday.com and let me know what you think about the Enneagram in the comments.
DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 3 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 & 2 and stay up to date on the new season here.
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