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.