Enneagram: How to Align Your Culture, Appreciate Your Differences, and Maximize Team Collaborations
April 15, 2021
Have you ever been in a staff meeting and noticed how you seem to click with some people while others seem to drive you crazy?
Maybe it’s that visionary boss or team leader who has too many ideas and no idea what it takes to implement them. Maybe it’s the wet blanket on the team who always wants to talk details and takes the fun out of being creative. You might have a worrywart on your team, or a perfectionist who’s always criticizing everyone else’s work.
When we indulge these kinds of thoughts, there is often a seed of division sown, an “us vs them” kind of mentality. There are those of us who get it, and others who should get off the bus.
We are individual parts of a whole
This is not the kind of work or relationship God has called us to. Instead, we are called to recognize that we are all individual parts of one body, put together with one Spirit in a way that makes harmony for all members. We are created differently for different purposes, and it doesn’t make one of us wrong and the other right. We are all simply different.
When we recognize just how differently we see the world, and how others think, feel, and do things from a fundamentally different perspective, we can begin to take steps toward that harmony of body and Spirit. The Enneagram can help us recognize those differences, and give us resources and tools to grow in our understanding, compassion, and grace for one another.
Why vs. What
The Enneagram has exploded in popularity over the last few years. Its ability to capture in simple language our complex thoughts, behaviors, and patterns has given millions of people a new handle on how to identify and express themselves.
While most personality systems talk about your behaviors and what you do, the Enneagram talks about your core motivations, and why you do what you do. It makes it much more insightful, and also a bit scarier to dive into.
Nine ways of feeling, thinking, and doing
So, what is it? The Enneagram is an ancient personality typology system, and it says that there are 9 basic types of people in the world. “Ennea” simply means nine, and “gram” means picture or drawing. So, it’s a geometric drawing or diagram of nine points, laid out on a circle. It offers us a picture of us at our best and at our worst.
The 9 types show us the different reflections of the character of God in the world. It also shows us what happens when we lean too much on our personality and distort that reflection. Ian Cron describes them this way:
“Ones show us God’s perfection and his desire to restore the world to its original goodness, while Twos are a witness to God’s unstoppable, selfless giving. Threes remind us of God’s glory, and Fours about the creativity, beauty, and depth of God. Fives show God’s omniscience, Sixes God’s steadfast love and loyalty, and Sevens God’s childlike joy and delight in creation. Eights mirror God’s power and intensity, and Nines reflect God’s love of peace and His desire for union and unity with his children.”
Problems arise when we exaggerate any of these characteristics, grab hold of a single trait and turn it into an ultimate value or idol. Cron goes on to describe:
“Ones’ passion to improve the world goes bad when they start to believe that in order to be loved they have to be perfect and not make mistakes. Twos’ constant giving and helping devolves into an unhealthy codependency. Threes take their love of glory and turn it into a narcissistic need for constant praise. Fours descend into self-absorption as they give in to their overcharged feelings, while Fives withdraw into their minds and cut themselves off from the unavoidable risks that are part of all human relationships. Sixes are unable to trust in a future where God is already taking care of them, and Sevens run from the pain that deepens the soul in favor of something fun that just distracts it. Eights’ need to be right and to challenge others can deteriorate into intimidating the weak, and Nines’ desire to avoid conflict at all costs means that they are all too willing to accept peace at any price, including themselves.”
Behind each of these distortions is a misguided strategy to grab for happiness and love from each other. We are trying to grab at that which can only be received as a gift from God.
So what does this all mean for you and your teams? Well, the biggest lesson is simple: not everyone sees things the way that you do. We’re all looking through a different lens. That doesn’t make one of you right and the other one wrong. It just means you see things differently, and that’s ok. Learning about the Enneagram can become an incredible tool and resource in helping you and your teams grow in grace, compassion, and love for one another.
When we learn that each type values something different, and that those differences actually make us better together, then we start to see each other as the body of Christ, all fitting together. When your boss, coworker, or team member starts to “do their thing” again, whatever it is, you can start to see things through their lens instead of your own and find value instead of frustration.
For example, Ones value doing things right. Twos value their relationships and helping others. Threes value efficiency above everything else, and Fours value authenticity. Fives value understanding and competency, Sixes value the good of the team, and Sevens value having fun. Eights value being direct, and Nines will value everyone’s opinion.
Learn to see through a different lens
When you can recognize that we all come to the table with a different lens and a different set of values, then we see each of those values as a strength to the team, and recognize that each one has a place. Thoughts like “Why does that 7 always need to crack a joke in the middle of something serious” or “There goes that 8 bulldozing everyone in the room again,” can be examples of doing what scripture describes as the eye saying to the hand, “I don’t need you.”
What if we started to look at each other as different parts of the same body and trust that God composed it so that there might be no division, and that the members would have the same care for each other? What if we started to look at each other as hurting and broken people, just trying to find our ways back to God, instead of as just that annoying personality?
Your team culture is vitally important to your working together. There will always be potential for friction and conflict, and recognizing how others will perceive and deal with it can go a long way in preempting it. Is your culture working for you? Would it help to have a better understanding of how you and others on your team think, feel, and act?
Imagine a culture where every team member knows what makes them tick, and has a working understanding of the core motivations of others. Imagine what happens for your mission and vision when there is an appreciation for each other’s differences and its collective value to the whole.