Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"Do I Belong?"

The Instincts Dialogue at this year's Enneagram Global Summit was the most actionable discussion for my coaching practice, exploring the instinctual aspects of the self-preservation, sexual, and social subtypes--"reptilian, biological, unconscious, automatic impulses to survive" (Bea Chestnut), "drives and also sensation, known to the body and important to know what they feel like" (Russ Hudson). My main takeaway was to pay less attention to subtype descriptions and to ask instead, as Hudson suggested, "What's my habitual relationship with this drive?'" 

I've simplified the subtype distinctions as defined by three key questions:
  • Self-Preservation instinct: "Am I safe?"
  • Sexual or One-to-One instinct: "Am I loved?"
  • Social instinct: "Do I belong?"
In my practice, every coaching call in some way addresses one of these questions. We want our clients to find a YES to all three: "I am safe." "I am loved." "I belong." And deeper understanding of a client's instinctual subtype preference will heighten our effectiveness in helping them answer these questions--not with a series of prescriptions but by encouraging them to ask, "What's my habitual relationship with this drive?"

Bea Chestnut offers an inspiring personal example on her web site, with a deep look at her Enneagram Two self-preservation instinct. And we learn from her story that growth arises from staying present, observing ourselves without judgment, becoming conscious of what has been unconscious and automatic:
... I felt something sweep through my entire body--an emotional and energetic recognition that told me he was right. I couldn't argue with him, even though my pride wanted to. If I was really honest with myself, I did feel like I needed protection. I wanted to say I could protect him, but I felt, so clearly, in m body, it wasn't true. So, I went and sat in the group with the other Self-Preservation Twos.
Of special interest to me lately has been the "Do I belong?" question, several of my clients exploring how Enneagram patterns help or hinder connection to the world community--mostly through either political or environmental concerns. As Bea Chestnut said in The Instincts Dialogue, "We've lost touch with the fact that in primitive people, being part of a tribe was essential to survival."

I've been reading about the physiological and neurological aspects of our instinct to be part of a tribe (activating social connectivity via the ventral vagal nerve system in The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy, and the effects of social connectivity on gene expression in "The Social Life of Genes"). So where does this curiosity lead me as a coach and mentor? As did Bea Chestnut in her story above, I typically explore the practical aspects of a concept through self-observation:
  • Historically, my one-to-one instinct had been the strongest influence on my Enneagram style Nine patterns ["At Best, bonds with others, supportive of their ideas, gets buy-in through consensus; At Worst, lives too much through another (parent, spouse, boss, friend, client)"].
  • I'd developed some fairly deep self-awareness and found my own agenda in relationships to a much greater degree than previously. Then my aging mother's need for help gave me an advanced course in staying present. During the 17 years of caring for her, our early life relationship dynamics threatened to define the two of us again. Exploring those triggers helped me further loosen the unconscious hold of my one-to-one instinct. 
  • At the same time, my least-preferred social instinct was being further compromised--by increasing responsibilities for Mom (she lived to be 104!), my natural introversion, and--with the burgeoning of the internet--the opportunity to maintain all my interests (phone coaching, reading/writing, painting) almost exclusively within these four walls. 
  • So, along with many of my clients, I've been feeling the pinch of a lack of social connectivity, wanting to be part of a tribe, wanting to feel in my bones, "Yes, I belong," yet also asking What's my habitual relationship with this drive? Noticing when I've stopped myself, and also noticing circumstances that help me to connect--groups of moderate size, groups where the discussion is centered on something I want to learn, groups where there's no pressure to speak but interaction is facilitated, groups whose members share my most fervent beliefs.
  • One step at a time.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Play Within the Play

(from Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram)

The coaching relationship is a mini-laboratory for breakthroughs. Whatever inner dynamics brought your clients to coaching will most assuredly be acted out with you. And don't forget you have your own habits of attention. Always ask yourself if you're behaving in ways that help or hinder your clients' growth. Be aware that how you interact with them makes a big difference in their progress.

For example:
  • Clients with Enneagram style Three seek approval from outside themselves. They typically list their accomplishments during each coaching meeting. Will you reinforce that in-the-box behavior by approving or will you help them see this habitual behavior as it occurs with you?
  • Clients with Enneagram style Six seek authority and then challenge it. Will you be caught in this pattern? Will you let them turn you into an authority or will you comment if you see the pattern?
  • Clients with Enneagram style Nine rely on others to provide structure. If you ask a probing question and find these clients somewhat confused, will you jump in with a suggestion or will you be patient and encourage them to start anywhere--an arbitrary choice, a set of alternatives, or even a list of what they do not want to do?
Those you coach will approach potential breakthroughs either as frightening ventures into the unknown or as potent explorations. How they move forward rests in the quality of your coaching. Transformational coaching requires you to:
  1. be receptive, provide a safe harbor, listen deeply and with empathy, 
  2. take a stand for your shared vision and challenge their self-limitations [this is especially important when they (or you) are most discouraged].
This quality of coaching requires devotion to your own transformation. As you learn about your Enneagram style, you can use your gifts more consciously and observe how your own patterns limit both of you. Then you can allow whatever occurs in the coaching relationship to be data for discussion.

While coaching Jean (Enneagram style Two), for example, I pointed out her retreat from discussing what she felt as a criticism from me, even though she was clearly upset. Tied to her pattern of focusing on my needs and feelings, she diverted attention away from her own.

After that call Jean wrote me an e-mail saying she felt I'd betrayed her needs (a recurring theme for style Two). She wanted to stop coaching after the next session. My first reaction was defensive. As an Enneagram style Nine I worried I might have been too blunt, not kind enough to Jean. But I managed to stay centered, to not take her attack personally.

In her next coaching session, we were able to discuss the dynamic we'd created and explore how this same pattern showed up in Jean's other relationships. During this discussion I helped her express her needs openly (difficult for style Two). When she tried to move the conversation back to me, I gently pulled her back to her own feelings. Jean subsequently decided to continue with me as her coach.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Using Metaphors in Change Work

For as long as humans have had speech, story-tellers have been respected for how their tales and poems taught and/or entertained. Harvard Business School guru John Kotter says, "Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves."

There's a time-honored tradition in change work to use stories for healing. A healing metaphor can help clients gain the personal resources and enhanced world model they need to handle their problems. Typically, though, as in the general history of storytelling, the coach decides what story or metaphor will have the greatest effect.

I've used a more client-centered approach, for example with a coach who said she always felt "like the new kid on the block" around her colleagues. I entered her metaphor by saying, "OK, I'm here with you. You've just moved in, and you're the new kid. What's that like? What are the other kids doing? How do they treat you? What are some ways you can get them to include you?" After she answered "They want to play with some of my cool toys!" she realized she has "cool toys" in her current repertoire that helped her feel comfortable with more experienced coaches.

I saw even more possibilities for metaphor work, and attended training in Symbolic Modeling with Gina Campbell. Here, instead of the coach determining the direction, open-ended questions preserve the terminology of clients' metaphors with "clean language," questions that follow the client's lead.

The next time one of your clients offers a metaphor, experiment with being completely spontaneous, playful, nonlinear. Forget about structure, forget about tools from your experience that will "help" or "coach" the person. Simply be present, and see where your client's metaphor leads both of you.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Listen to the Birds

In a powerful example of storytelling, psychologist George Burns met with a mother and her six-year-old daughter, Jessica, who'd been labeled by two psychologists as "an elective mute." Jessica spoke freely and age-appropriately at home, but would not utter a sound to anyone outside her family.

While Jessica sat on the floor drawing, Dr. Burns told her mother a story from his own childhood about a boy named Billy who was teased by the other children for his silence:
"That day the door of the cupboard at the back of the classroom was ajar and a feather duster protruded through the gap. As we filed into class, Billy's eye fell on the protruding feathers and, without thinking, he exclaimed, 'Sir, there's a hen in the cupboard!' Everyone laughed, and after that Billy spoke."
At this point Jessica handed Dr. Burns a drawing of a bird and told him it was "Tweetie."

"Who's Tweetie?" he asked.

"My canary."

Both Dr. Burns and Jessica's mother were stunned. He was the first adult Jessica had ever spoken to outside her family. "The empowerment for her to change an established pattern of behavior," he concluded, "had come not just through a story, but through one told so indirectly that it was apparently being communicated to someone else."

Stories aren't just for children. A good teaching tale can reach your clients at both conscious and unconscious levels a right-brain "zing" along with a left-brain "aha."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Change Blindness

I recently tuned in to a discussion among coaches of assessment results for a client whose profile indicated he knew he was charming and likeable, but lacked depth of detail and follow-through. In spite of his self-awareness, I was concerned about his future in that company. His low ratings among peers and senior management suggested he's seen as  a "lightweight," a perception that can be very difficult to change, no matter how effective the coaching or how committed he is to balancing his influence style. I've seen change blindness on more than one occasion:
How many times have you made what felt like significant changes and no one noticed? How often, when working with clients, have co-workers or friends and family failed to observe, appreciate, and reinforce changes? This blindness occurs because others' ability to perceive something new is hampered by what they think they already know. This is often such an unconscious process they might not acknowledge their own change blindness (yep, denial of change blindness is called "change blindness blindness"). 

In a follow-up data-gathering session for a client who'd made significant changes in the previous six months, he and I pondered the fact that others I interviewed were highly focused on some problems from months earlier, even though I specifically asked them how this person is different in the present. 

A way around this phenomenon is to set clients up for success by coaching them to engage others in the process:  
“These are three specific behaviors you'll see that are different for me, and please, when you see me behaving in these new ways, tell me so I'll know I’m on the right track.” 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Three Motivational Styles

According to the theories of David C. McClelland, we all draw to some degree from each of three motives, but one will be predominant and may reinforce our habitual way of operating. We initially respond best to the approach that fits most closely with our dominant motive. However, if you're in a managerial or coaching relationship, you could unwittingly strengthen a motive that's not in the person's best interest. For example, if someone constantly looks to you for approval and you give it, that person will be satisfied but continue to rely on you for approval, and won't develop independent standards. 

AFFILIATION MOTIVE – Being with others, expressing feelings and ideas, and getting others' approval. People primarily motivated by affiliation are often friendly and work best when they feel appreciated and their work environment gives them the opportunity to interact with others. This motivation is reinforced and maintained by providing work where cooperation with co-workers is required, time for personal interaction is encouraged, and team building efforts are valued. Positive feedback that's not specific will satisfy and/or develop peoples' affiliation motive because it lets them know they're liked and accepted, but will not develop their achievement or power motive. 

ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVE – Standards of excellence are clear, with opportunity to set goals and perform successfully against those standards (includes problem-solving about how to overcome obstacles to performance). People primarily motivated by achievement are usually competitive and work well independently. This motivation is reinforced and maintained by providing challenging work that stretches capabilities, along with concrete standards for success and clear, unambiguous feedback. Specific and descriptive feedback will provide people with a tool to satisfy and/or develop their achievement motive because it allows them to set their own goals and give themselves feedback about the degree to which the goals were accomplished. 

POWER MOTIVE – Impact the surrounding environment; persuade and/or influence others.  People primarily motivated by power usually have an interest in moving up in an organization and are often fluent in their communication style. This motivation is reinforced and maintained by allowing personal control over work pace and methods, as well as opportunities to influence – especially if they can deal directly with people higher in the organization. Encouraging peoples' involvement in problem solving and decision making will satisfy and/or develop their power motive because it gives them influence over their work and other people.   

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Enneagram: A Compelling Vision

Susan Olesek's TED talk on behalf of the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), Both Sides of the Bars, is the most compelling Enneagram presentation I've ever seen, for her own transparency, for her clarity and vision, for her compelling examples, for her intelligent presentation, and most of all for the power of her presence. This is the finest example of how life-changing the Enneagram can be in the hands of someone on an authentic spiritual journey.  See also this Forbes article abour Olesek's work.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Donald Duck Cure

Building on Stories that Change People, the following is an example of a paradoxical intervention (encouraging clients to exaggerate a behavior).

Greg had been promoted to management as a reward for his technical know-how. Creative and bright, he was experienced at resolving problems by himself and had no models for how to encourage others. In particular, instead of coaching team members in private Greg criticized them openly in team meetings. They had recently been his peers, and found this humiliating.

When I gave Greg this feedback, he understood why they felt embarrassed, but insisted he had no control over his behavior: "It just comes over me!"

Knowing how much he loved his young daughters, I asked if the same thing happened with them. "No," he replied, "they're really fun to be around and easy to teach. I love playing with them and showing how things work." He said their happiest times were spent watching Saturday morning cartoons together.

I asked Greg to look for a cartoon that depicted aggressive behavior, "putting someone down" and we'd talk about it in our next session. I expected coyote and road-runner, but Greg described Donald Duck's nephews building a snowman at the bottom of a hill, only to have Donald zoom down on his sled and break up the snowman, laughing (quacking) and laughing (quacking). After several attempts, the nephews built a snowman around blocks of cement. This time when Donald ran into the snowman, he was flattened and stars appeared over his head (in that fun way of cartoons).

"So, Greg," I suggested, "since you can't stop criticizing team members at meetings, just keep on doing what you're doing, but take a second as you deliver the message to imagine yourself as Donald Duck quacking to his nephews."

His problem behavior spontaneously disappeared.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Coaching: An Inside Job

Take this to heart as a coach: change always occurs. You can influence and accelerate that process. Give yourself time and appreciation as you try out suggestions below that may be new to you – and remember to have fun. 

My approach to coaching is not always linear. I use examples, stories, symbolic behaviors, and metaphors. The following three principles can inform your work no matter what coaching model you follow:
Acknowledge and Validate the Client's Worldview: Transformational change is more likely to occur in a coaching relationship where there's deep rapport – where clients feel known. Accessing their inner worlds gives you both insight and compassion. Paradoxically, they'll be more open to change when they feel accepted exactly as they are. Once they have that assurance, you can help them recognize and change patterns of behavior based on subconscious, outmoded beliefs.

Help Shift That Worldview: Most people will come to you having tried to avoid or overcome something they don't like about themselves. That approach tends to block positive energy. In contrast, your clients will release energy for change when they learn to observe their patterns of thought and behavior without judgment. Such compassionate self-awareness may be enough to support spontaneous changes. In addition, there are many inventive, even playful ways to help them alter the patterns they observe.

Focus on Solutions, Tapping Their Resources, Experience, and Ideas: Sometimes a solution focus means merely encouraging more of what works. It can also mean framing the problem in the past and the solution in the present or future. Change occurs when a problem is specific enough that it can be solved, when it's seen as a positive vision for the future.
These principles are spelled out with examples in the last chapter of my coaching book. As I've mentored coaches over the years, I've also found it helps to have a concrete, how-to summary. The table below summarizes the components of coaching for transformational change. 

Skill                               Definition                                        Notes

1. Develop rapport          Acknowledge and
                                     validate client's worldview
                                     without judgment or
                                     prescription; share human
                                     to human responses.

2. Hold enlightened        Reflect second-order changes
    vision                        that occur in interaction
                                     with you.

3. Presuppose                Make statements that embed
    positive outcomes      a positive expectation,
                                     assume a desired change. 

4. Teach self-                Show clients how to observe
    observation               patterns without judgment;
                                    reinforce evidence of 
                                    neutrality and change. 

5. Use possibility           Restate problems in the past,
    language                   solutions in the present
                                    and/or future. 

6. Focus on                   Elicit brief problem description;
    solutions                   ask how solution will look
                                    (videospeak); find exceptions
                                    to the problem, ask how they
                                    do it, do more of what works;
                                    if no exceptions, create
                                    achievable steps as fieldwork. 

7. Help shift from          Identify the "X" and "Y" that are
    either/or to              apparently incompatible.
    both/and                  Explore existing parameters.

    thinking                    Ask "How can you do both 
                                    X and Y?"

8. Honor "resistance"     Use everything that happens
    as energy for             as grist for the mill, including
    change; stay in          all blocks, tasks not done,
    in flow                      relapses, etc.

9. Use right-brain          Engage clients through
    tactics                      stories, metaphors, humor,
                                    spontaneity, inventiveness,
                                    playfulness; bypass logic's

10. Invent ground-        Co-create fieldwork that
     breaking field-         breaks old patterns with
     work                        new responses; take them
                                    to their edge (doing
                                    anything different, how-
                                    ever small, can promote
                                    significant change).

11. Make process           Comment on interactions
     observations             with you as source of
                                     learning about patterns.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Creative Edge

In Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram, Clarence Thomson and I suggest for Enneagram style Fours, "You'll establish more rapport when you witness their pain, show your empathy, honor their unique way of seeing things, and focus your questions on how they feel." In a similar vein, we write that style Twos "respond better to feelback than to feedback."

Nonetheless, when coaching someone with heightened emotions, I sometimes wonder if I've been helpful by simply listening and mirroring their feelings.

Aware that my own needs for evidence and results don't necessarily serve the client, I try not to be pushy about moving to solutions. But I have often used Focusing as a way to help them move through emotional pain via kinesthetic sensing and imagery. So I was pleased to connect with Dr. Kathy McGuire, who studied with the creator of Focusing, Dr. Eugene Gendlin. Among the many free articles at McGuire's Creative Edge Focusing site, those on grieving have been especially helpful to me when coaching clients with strong feelings.

In "Active Grieving" Dr. McGuire writes, "Your body knows how to grieve and will direct the process to a healing conclusion, if you can stop suppressing it." In her Five Minute Grieving process, she suggests we:
  1. invite the client to cry ("... let's make room for your tears...")
  2. empathize without trying to "fix" or take away the grief ("It seems bleak right now...")
  3. help the client find words or images for the tears ("It helps to get a handle on the feeling...")
  4. empathize again, often by paraphrasing the client's words ("So it's your fear you'll never be a parent and that's hard...")
  5. continue steps (1) through (4) as long as makes sense, then establish closure and orient the client, if necessary, by doing a "present time" exercise ("You're welcome to sit here for a minute... let's make sure you're back in the world...")
  6. or you may want to continue with other aspects of the session ("Let's see if we can look for solutions to your situation...")
I've written elsewhere about Symbolic Modeling, a right-brain technique where the coach stays within a client's metaphor landscape by using clean language (responses that elicit the client's own resources to generate healing at a symbolic level). McGuire's Focused Listening is similar, combining Gendlin's Focusing with Carl Roger's Reflective Listening:
  1. Pure Reflection of the client's words, gestures, and metaphorical responses ("So there's an image... two triangles intersecting, red and white intertwining..."). 
  2. Asking for More ("Can you say more about 'the pressure'... exactly what is that like?") 
  3. The Focusing Invitation ("Would it be okay to 'sit' at the Edge of that anger for a moment and see what comes?")
  4. The Personal Sharing (for which Dr. McGuire provides the caveat, "It's hard to even mention the possibility of personal sharings, because they can include all the typical responses outlawed when the listener sets aside personal assumptions," but sometimes you may have a strong intuition, to be offered only if the client gives the go-ahead and only to return immediately to pure reflection).
Finally, I am touched by McGuire's discussion of The Focusing Attitude. To capture the essential qualities of empathy, respect, and non-judgmental acceptance, she shares the metaphor used by Fathers Pete Campbell and Ed McMahon, creators of Bio-Spiritual Focusing, to convey a caring, feeling presence:
Imagine you have found an abandoned infant on the steps of your hospital. Imagine how you would, through your bodily attention, convey complete acceptance and love and safety to the infant: "You are totally wanted in this world and safe with me." Now, turn this same kind of loving attention toward your inner experiencing.
I'm convinced that the creative edge of change involves working with metaphors and -- lovingly and with trust in our clients' innate healing capacity -- following the trail through kinesthetic, auditory, and visual imagery to the healing power of those metaphors.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hungry Ghosts

In Buddhism the Hungry Ghosts are depicted as teardrop shaped, with bloated stomachs and necks too thin to pass food—representing our futile attempts to feed ego patterns. We can never find satisfaction. It is like drinking salt water to quench our thirst.

We all learned early in life to avoid pain by developing strategies that served us, to a point. But from those strategies we formed a false identity and buried our true selves. We can begin to release those strategies and free ourselves from programmed responses by observing without judgment how the automatic responses play out. The question of how is elemental. Why can be interesting, especially as you and your clients try to understand the early precursors of their personality patterns. However, to promote transpersonal change (transcending the "personality") be present now to patterned behavior.

This level of observation is similar to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. Your fundamental task is to help clients hold full awareness in the present, notice their flow of thoughts, their emotions, their kinesthetic responses, and accept these experiences without judgment, without attempts to control. Instead of theorizing about or labeling their behavior, coach them to identify, embrace, and learn from their patterns. A typical pattern (with a variety of motivations and manifestations) is to agree to some experiments between coaching sessions, only to admit in the following session they didn't do what they agreed to do.

Unfortunately, some coaching programs consider it part of the coach's role to "promote the client's self-discipline and hold the client accountable for what they say they are going to do, for the results of an intended action, or for a specific plan with related time frames."

There's a place for this approach, of course, but coaches who adhere strictly to that premise may unwittingly reinforce superficial change and miss opportunities for clients to learn about patterns that have blocked them lifelong.

Other coaches may act as enforcers at the client's request. Don't let that be you.
Pay attention to what clients DO, not what they DON'T do. Personality patterns are deeply embedded and very tricky. One of the best ways to ferret them out is to catch them in action. If clients show the same "bad" behavior they've wanted to stop, that behavior is now in the room with you, ready to be explored.

Here's an example, the second session with a client whose Enneagram style had not yet been determined:

I thought about what to talk about today, remembering what I said I'd do. I haven't done as much as I'd like to. And I've been beating myself up about that.

You wanted to do more. How did you beat yourself up? What did that look like?  

Feeling uncomfortable, anxious, telling myself I'm lazy, I should have done more, feeling disappointed in myself. Also some victimizing, asking myself "Why isn't all this networking I'm doing coming to fruition?"

So that's been a pattern--creating an intention, not doing it as much as you'd like, then beating yourself up. Anything else?  

I feel lost in a way, like there's no structure, no clear path for me to follow. I've always felt a little uneasy when I've only had myself to rely on.

Are you beginning to identify the hungry ghosts this client's been trying to feed? And notice the lack of judgment in the coach's responses, implicitly modeling for the client that whatever comes up is a useful source of learning. Exploring what your clients do, not what they don't do, will encourage them to unveil more, bring the past into the present, and release attachments to outmoded, unnecessary patterns.

Tormented by unfulfilled cravings and insatiably demanding of impossible satisfactions, the Hungry Ghosts are searching for gratification for old unfulfilled needs whose time has passed. Mark Epstein, Thoughts Without a Thinker

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram

The following is a snapshot of my work with a senior executive team. Pete (style Five) was the CEO, with a team of three Executive Vice Presidents: Matt (style Six), Sally (style Three), and Joe (style Nine).

Initially, each of the four worked with me to create an individual development plan based on self-assessment, my observations, and feedback from in-depth interviews with their boss (in Pete's case the Board Chair), peers, and subordinates. Our work also included learning about the Enneagram and applying their insights to both individual growth and effectiveness in team interactions. All four met with me several times independently, observing their Enneagram patterns between sessions and engaging in pattern-breaking experiments.

The team members are described briefly below and more thoroughly in the linked posts, in both their own words and a summary of team mates' observations. These are partial descriptions that highlight aspects most impacting team effectiveness.

Matt: "I'd like to be more centered, more at peace with myself," said Matt (style Six), "so my reaction doesn't become a function of what somebody else says every twenty minutes!" He felt close to Joe, but sometimes resented Pete for being "stingy" with praise, and found it difficult to accept Sally's suggestions without thinking she was meddling. Matt's team mates described him as very bright, capable, intense, hard working, and an excellent manager. They agreed, however, that he was "a package of contradictions," cautious yet reckless, confident yet worrying what others thought of him, impulsively decisive or unable to decide. (Read more...)

Pete: Possessed of an outstanding mind, Pete's (style Five) retreat into intellect was apparent: "It's my gift and also my down side that I can be an intellectual dilettante and play with ideas for the sake of playing with them." The other three respected his brilliance, innovative thinking, and love of debate, but said he had a hard time seeing issues from others' points of view. The said Pete expected them to take care of themselves and saw emotional vulnerabilities as weaknesses. (Read more...)

Sally: Her earlier (style Three) reaction to emotional discomfort had been to withdraw without explaining herself. She was convinced she could make a difference and aggressively pursued goals she believed in. Her team mates described Sally as bright and articulate, but they wished she wouldn't hold such a dichotomy between her personal self and work life, and they saw her persistent efforts to intervene as interfering. (Read more...)
Joe: At a polar extreme from Sally, Joe (style Nine) was the most open, loving, and emotional of the four. Sometimes he'd blow his top, then apologize, then forget what had happened. He was highly valued by the others as entrepreneurial, well-informed, and passionate about having an impact on the world, but it was difficult to follow his epic tales, and he needed more focus and clarity when presenting his ideas. (Read more...)

Team Session

Their half-day together began by acknowledging their Enneagram styles to the others, with examples of typical motivations and behaviors of each. From their self- descriptions we created ground rules for the session. Joe (style Nine) asked that he be offered multiple options. Sally (style Three) requested that we stop and create some guidelines for self-disclosure if she began to feel too uncomfortable. Matt (style Six) wanted any feedback he received to be balanced, preferably with the positive feedback first. And Pete (style Five) was accorded time to process his reactions internally. We discussed the value each brought to the team, as well as Enneagram dynamics that might impede their full effectiveness. They found this discussion so useful, we created a group action plan based on their styles, with two commitments from each to the other three.

Most of the session's content reflected the assessments described above and in the linked details. In addition, there was an observable emotional impact of disclosing themselves so fully, and their own dynamics became even more evident to them as they had a reality check from each other and from my real-time observations. Furthermore, several additional dynamics were highlighted through the group interaction:

  • There was a tendency for "we-they" pairings (Pete/Sally and Matt/Joe), explained not only by their Enneagram styles but also by their MBTI preferences, in Joe's (ENFP) and Matt's (ENFJ) greater ease with openness and more people-oriented observations (both had a Feeling preference on the MBTI), as compared to Sally's (ENTJ) and Pete's (INTP) more reserved styles and logical observations (both had a Thinking preference on the MBTI).
  • Joe (style Nine) played the role of facilitator in general (astutely analyzing and explaining some of the dynamics he observed), and mediator between Sally and Matt in particular. In debriefing this behavior, however, it became clear Joe had unwittingly diffused some energy between Sally and Matt by acting as a sounding board to each, instead of helping them find a way to work things out directly, without his intervention
  • Matt (style Six) showed courage in diving in to speak what was in his heart, and also a tendency to defend himself in the face of perceived criticism. He had promised himself he'd quietly take things in and respond in a non-defensive manner instead of reacting immediately blurting out emotionally, all of which went by the wayside as members of the team lost themselves in the drama of their interaction.
  • Pete (style Five) intellectually analyzed others' behaviors in a way that seemed to them somewhat condescending and interpretive. He had difficulty making positive statements. To his credit he hung in and kept trying to be more self-disclosing and to give more balanced feedback. 
  • Sally (style Three) showed physical discomfort but honored her commitment to stay engaged in the process. In addition, she brought value to the group with her clarity about the importance of being heard. She asked others to paraphrase what they'd heard her say, which was good modeling for the group. 
By the end of the session they agreed they'd met their goal of "going deeper" than they had in the past, and there were a number of recommendations for working together more effectively. I later summarized these in a group action plan for mutual development, the introduction summarizing three key points:
  1. Conflict occurs largely because we all interpret things differently from our various worldviews. When you put yourself in someone else's shoes you'll enhance the possibility of learning about yourself and building more constructive ways of working together.
  2. Each of the Enneagram patterns represents only a glimpse of reality. As you wake up to these aspects of your shadow you'll free yourself from habitual behavior, gain tolerance for one another, open communication, and develop trust and compassion. 
  3. It's important to recognize each others' gifts. It's also important to acknowledge that working on yourself in the team is an unparalleled development opportunity. Each has separate work to do, but the work touches and moves in the heart of the relationship (Margaret Frings Keyes, The Enneagram Relationship Workbook). 

CRS Disease: "Can't Remember S---t!"

More information about Joe, Executive VP in a team of four in "Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram."
At a polar extreme from his style Three team mate Sally, Joe  (style Nine) was the most open of four executive team members. "Matt (style Six) and I connect very well and have a lot in common," he said. "Sally and I are so different our relationship is variable -- sometimes good, sometimes strained. Connecting is very important to me, which our CEO Pete (style Five) sees as a weakness, and he's the least likely to give praise or connect with me or anyone else on the team."

Joe's Eight wing was prominent. "Sometimes I'll blow my top. People who know me realize it's never directed personally, and I've also learned -- if I do screw up -- to go apologize. But I'm not the most sensitive person in the world on social nuances. Someone has to hit me on the head, and then I say, 'Oh thanks for waking me up!'" This element of self-forgetting was also evident in Joe's poor memory: "I have CRS disease: Can't remember shit. I think it's an asset in that I don't hold grudges very long, mainly because I've forgotten what happened."

Matt attributed Joe's outbursts of anger to "getting too worn down physically. When that happens things get out of whack. At one meeting he got me out in the lobby and started screaming at me, explaining it by saying, 'This is me, I have to vent.' The next day I told him 'Don't yell at me!'" Sally said "Joe and I have worked out a deal that when he's emotional I go away and come back after he's calmed down." 

Joe didn't remember being discounted as a child; in fact he remembered little of his childhood. But he came into one of our meetings after a visit from his father, and announced, "I saw it! We played golf while he was here and after I teed off he said, 'You call that a drive?' He even made fun of me to some golfers who came up behind us. I realized that kind of remark must have been common when I was growing up." Joe described his mother as "the kind of person for whom the glass is always half-empty. That's also the kind of person I have the most difficulty dealing with: they look for ways to be disappointed because it reinforces their view of the world." 

Style Nine's coping strategy also was revealed in Joe's early, vague focus about his career: "Growing up, I was not an overachiever, and I wasn't very mature going into college. I always knew I was smart, and I knew eventually I'd get my act together, but I didn't have a plan. It kind of fell together. Each year it's more focused. I just wish it had happened a long time ago!"

His distractibility had been somewhat of a problem for Joe in meetings: "Being in a room for two or three hours really stresses my abilities because it's hard to stay focused." He was aware how difficult it was for others to follow his epic tales, but this also had an upside: "Though Joe's lack of focus may sometimes hide it, he is incredibly bright." "Joe's not very structured in his thinking, but he's a free-wheeling idea generator who doesn't have restrictions or boundaries." According to Pete, "Joe has a very long-winded communication style; for example, his voice mail messages are all over the place. He has good ideas, but they're not polished or worked through enough and, if I stop to ask questions, he says I don't appreciate his ideas." 

Joe agreed with Pete. "I need to formulate my thoughts before speaking. I'm seen more as a mad scientist and would like to be seen as a critical thinker. I'd like some help on how to be more controlled, analytical, thoughtful, to be able to sit in a meeting, process information, and speak only to really important issues, with few words. I believe I have a responsibility to stay focused, to make sure the group attains its goals."

He was highly valued by the other team members as "an entrepreneur with good ideas and perceptions, someone with a long-term perspective, extremely well-informed about business and industry issues, an idealist with passionate feelings about making an impact on the world in areas he valued." Joe was seen as open-minded, someone who tried to understand various points of view, but he could also be positioned. "If it's a new idea where nothing already exists, he'll explore things," said Sally, "but if he's thought it through himself he tries to defend his position, sometimes stubbornly."

Joe's loving nature was quite apparent to his team mates, who described him as "fun socially, warm, sincere, charming, and affectionate, more of a feeling person than an analyst." Matt was at ease with these qualities, but Sally said, "We're very different. Joe's a touchy person. Maybe I have too many walls around me, but it makes me nervous." And Pete saw Joe as "someone who needs positive feedback more than most; you can tell when you've said something that's tripped one of his switches, because he gives very strong nonverbal clues that he's shut off." Matt said, "I don't buy Pete's view that Joe needs more feedback than most. He just needs balance instead of only negative feedback."

Finally, others described Joe as having a kind of innocence about his own behavior. "He seems caring," said Sally, "yet sometimes I can't believe how oblivious he is to what's going on around him." Pete had noticed in meetings, "It will be clear to me and others that someone's not listening, and Joe won't see it. For him to hear something you have to come at him pretty directly; otherwise he kind of goes to sleep."

Among other development actions, Joe learned through meditation techniques to focus for prescribed periods of time, and he became much better able to handle long meetings and to present his thoughts more succinctly. In fact, he sailed through an executive MBA program.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Package of Contradictions

More information about Matt, Executive VP in a team of four in "Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram."

"My father was dominant, short-tempered, and controlling," said Matt (style Six) during our first meeting. "My mother was caring, traditional, focused on her kids, her husband, her home. She was also fearful: always afraid of an accident, of something bad happening, always talking about who was sick, who was dying. They were both strict and -- although I was a really good kid -- they wouldn't trust me to take care of myself. Even today, my mother asks unbelievable questions about my health."

Matt had impressive presence. He was often one step ahead of me as we talked about the Enneagram and its application to his interactions with the other three people on the executive team. In response to my example of a style Six client from another organization who'd been described as "wearing his emotions on his sleeve," Matt said, "I think I'm too open. I've heard our CEO Pete (style Five) describing other people by how things go straight from their gut to their mouths, and I think that's how he sees me."

Aware that he'd been looking to others for affirmation, Matt was learning to give himself credit. With reflection, however, he saw how key dynamics of style Six had been playing out with his team mates. He felt close to Joe (style Nine), but sometimes resented Pete for being "stingy" with praise, and found it difficult to accept any suggestions from Sally (style Three) without thinking she was meddling. 

"I'd like to be more centered, more at peace with myself," he said, "so my reaction doesn't become a function of what somebody else says every twenty minutes!"

Matt's team mates described him as a very bright, capable executive, an intense individual with "a lot of emotions pumping." They said he brought a tremendous amount of energy and excitement to the group and put in immeasurable hours to reach his goals. He was also applauded for excellent management skills: "He appreciates what it takes to motivate people, understands the little things that make a difference, and treats his people with respect." Another key contribution to the team was Matt's attention to team work across company lines. "He has an appreciation for the various roles that need to be played in the company," said Joe, "so he promotes cross-functional discussions, copies others on voice mail, and reminds his direct reports to include others."

The other three all agreed, however -- as Joe so eloquently put it -- that Matt was "a package of contradictions." He had a good sense of his inner strengths and capabilities and portrayed an aura of professionalism, but he worried overmuch about what people thought of him. "He has this element of caution about 'danger out there,'" Joe said, "yet he also projects a note of reckless abandon" (Matt referred to this as his kamikaze quality). His team mates saw this paradox in Matt as affecting his decision-making: "He can decide on an impulsive, intuitive basis," said Joe, "yet will sometimes say 'We can't do this because...'"Sally assumed Matt "wants to do well and be right, yet has serious doubts, so sometimes he'll take too long to decide, and sometimes he'll back down too readily, especially when challenged by Pete." And, as Matt suspected, Pete said, "Matt needs the most work on not blurting things out."

As a consequence of our personal work, Matt learned to reach inside when he started to react strongly to someone else's opinion and "let it go." In fact, he passed on to me an article by Carl Hammerschlag about ordinary people who journey past fear and illusion:
The primary task in the pursuit of salvation and healthy living is to choose to respond to the summons of life's journey. The truth is that you don't have to take somebody else's path or identify with an established heroic figure. You are the principal character in your own life's drama.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Intellectual Aikido

More information about Pete, CEO in executive team of four in "Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram."

"I grew up with a mother who's very critical," said Pete (style Five), "but we've had a pretty good relationship, Others have told me I'm her favorite, although I've never perceived it that way. My father was a very driven individual who became the first professional in an immigrant family, and he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. We did things together, but he could become explosively angry and was not likely to give any praise. He had a clear agenda for me, and it wasn't until he died that I felt completely free." 

Possessed of an outstanding mind, Pete's retreat into intellect was apparent: "I found college to be an intellectual lark," he reported. During his professional training, he and one of his mentors created a new discipline that became an accredited course of study and, by the time of our work together, he was a nationally acknowledged leader in his field. "One of my gifts and also my down side," he said, "is that I can be an intellectual dilettante and play with ideas for the sake of playing with them. I'm also very passionate when I value something, and I think I underestimate my ability to influence other people." Although he struggled with disdain for people "driven by their emotional needs," consistent feedback from others helped Pete recognize the value of more positive reinforcement. "I need to better motivate and connect with my executive team so they can work at a higher level and feel good about the organization and about me."

Comments from his three executive vice presidents about Pete conveyed their respect for his brilliance and innovative thinking. "He's a very complex person -- like a wonderful Caesar Salad -- and an unparalleled strategic thinker in his field." "He's one of the smartest people I've ever been around." "He's an extraordinary conceptual thinker, very shrewd." They all agreed Pete was a great generator of innovative ideas and loved to debate, "although he may not even believe in the point he's arguing. Because he has such a passionate state of mind, he couldn't really tell you at the moment whether he loves the idea or not!" 

They also agreed Pete had a hard time seeing issues from the other person's point of view. While a very free-flowing thinker, his persistence could make him seem positioned or even rigid, thus shutting others out. "If you present a compelling argument and speak with conviction, he'll listen," said Joe (style Nine), "but if you get into a debate with him you can't win; he'll rip you apart." Sally (style Three) described Pete as "completely the opposite of Matt (style Six) in that he'll take a totally dispassionate view." Also, Pete was known to change his views from one occasion to the next, neither explaining the change nor giving credit to the person who influenced his thinking. Sally thought this was an unconscious process: "The way he gathers feedback is to make a lot of statements and then process the reactions, not revealing whether or not he's been persuaded in some way; he then re-tools his thinking and comes back with an integrated view, not even aware of the transition himself."

In addition to some frustration with his debating tactics, the other three knew Pete expected them to take care of themselves. "He doesn't appear to think about us developmentally," said Joe. According to Matt, "He just doesn't see the value of positive feedback." Nor did paying attention to individual needs come naturally to Pete. Others were aware he saw emotional vulnerabilities as weaknesses. "If you meet him with humor and intelligence when he's all wound up, that's a form of intimacy for him, kind of an intellectual aikido. But he has great difficulty disclosing himself or giving praise directly."

As part of his development work, Pete asked me to create an assessment form to check his progress, based on input from team members and the board president. We collected this information twice a year for two years, as a basis for follow-up coaching.