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).