Friday, August 22, 2014

A Perfect Match

One of the ways I mentor coaches is showing how to listen for Enneagram style in people's language and how to match them for greater rapport. This is especially important early in the relationship, when you want to meet clients and potential clients where they are, not where they will be when not boxed in by their personality style.

My apocryphal story is about a client who said on our first phone call he wanted me to teach people how to stand up to him. I thought Eight but didn't pour it in concrete until he met me at the airport for a day of interviews with his staff. We’d been in his truck for about three minutes when he said, "After you talk to my people, just lay it on me. I don't want you giving me any bullshit." 

So at the end of the day, as he was driving me back to the airport and asked how bad it was, I said, "People shrivel up like raisins in your presence." 

I would NEVER have spoken to another Enneagram personality that way, not style One, for example, with whom a coach needs to be thoughtful and descriptive in giving feedback. But my client with style Eight loved it. He knew from that one comment that I had a sense of humor, could stand up to him without attack, would be blunt and straight and not wishy-washy.

The Enneagram is a splendid tool for making good guesses that provide quick access to someone’s worldview (and – not incidentally – provide the level of rapport that encourages them to hire you). I address developing rapport in the last chapter of Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram. The highlights that follow draw from what you can hear, and should be helpful whether you coach in person or by phone:
  1. From Enneagram style Ones you’ll hear evidence of hard work, black and white language (right/wrong, good/bad), self-criticism. They may sound over-controlled and, as you develop trust, will often describe how their comments have hurt others. Heard from Ones: I know I'm right, why should I have to compromise? I’m my own worst critic. My whole career, I've been brought in to fix things. You’ll match Ones when you’re prompt and considerate, follow the rules, use humor, give very descriptive feedback and avoid labels, latch onto and encourage their ideals. 

  2. Enneagram style Twos will use “helpful” words and relationship language with fairly high decibels of emotion and vivid descriptions, and an excellent understanding of people, especially if healthy. They’ll show a focus on others’ needs, including yours. Heard from Twos: I think it's important to always focus on what we need to do to serve others. Was that helpful? Of all the people the CEO could have called, he called me! You’ll match Twos when you’re personal and emotionally present, genuinely appreciative, and avoid intellectualizing, especially early in the relationship. 

  3. You’ll hear style Threes talk about what they’ve accomplished in results-oriented language: checking off to-do lists, talking about “success.” They may also use sports metaphors, “game” words, competitive language, self-promotion, with less attention to team work unless very healthy. Their speech will be fast-paced and they may show impatience with pauses. Heard from Threes: I like seeing success breed upon success. I have to be the lead dog in the pack. I have a shelf full of trophies. You’ll match Threes when you’re prepared, stress action and results, move the meeting along fairly briskly, and show approval. 
  4. Style Fours will emphasize their difference from others, either feeling out of it or frustrated that others are so stuck in the status quo. You’ll hear innovative ideas, emotionality, and some holding on to old history. Heard from Fours: People call me because they know I’ll come at things from a different angle. I seem to feel things more deeply than others. I’ve always felt like an outsider. You’ll match Fours when you pay attention to process, ask how they feel, use symbols and metaphors, honor their unique way of seeing things. 

  5. With people of style Five there will be a desire to understand, admiration for insights, intellectual jousting, a somewhat formal style, less emotional content, a quiet pace with pauses, words like “curious,” “interesting,” “thought-provoking.” They may expound at length on a topic of expertise and/or engage in debate. Heard from Fives: I have a really deep knowledge of this industry. I think meetings are a waste of time. I’d like to read every book that was ever written. You’ll match Fives when you prepare them in advance with relevant data, bolster their knowledge, ask what they think, give them time to mull things over. 

  6. Those with style Six will use group-oriented language, search for hidden agendas, focus on what could go wrong, and criticize higher ups. With trust, they’ll admit to self-doubt and/or fear. Heard from Sixes: I’ve been loyal to this organization for 25 years. I don’t think we have very competent management. I wish we could work better as a team. You’ll match Sixes when you’re open and concrete, justify their concerns instead of reassuring them, and emphasize your role as partner, not authority. 

  7. Enneagram style Sevens will be charming, funny, and upbeat, tell stories and anecdotes, keep an energetic pace, and show a lack of attention to and/or interest in details. Heard from Sevens: I always see the bright side of things. If you understand a few basic principles, you can run just about anything. I’m always the one to figure out what we’ll do for fun. You’ll match Sevens when you’re playful, inventive, animated, ask questions to get them to talk, and sign onto their vision. 

  8. The language and manner of style Eight will be blunt, direct (what you see is what you get), and often loud, with evidence of taking charge and emphasis on imperatives. Heard from Eights: I’ve always been responsible. I have a hard time asking for help – I’ll just charge ahead and do it myself. I can’t think of a time when I was afraid. You’ll match Eights when you’re succinct, say what you mean, show respect but hold boundaries, help them feel they’re in charge. 
  9. Their quiet voices and laid-back style identify Enneagram style Nines, who will hold a variety of viewpoints, wander in conversation, and rarely offer strongly stated positions. Heard from Nines: I’m pretty easy-going. My career just kind of fell together. I try to pick the right moment to speak up in meetings. You’ll match Nines when you collaborate, confirm their value, help them focus, offer alternatives, clarify possibilities, find the no behind the yes, summarize and follow up.