Get To Know Your Client’s Personality – Use The Enneagram.

There is a clear advantage in observing human nature and in recognizing personality types as you meet and get to know individuals. It becomes even more important to understand personality types when meeting with clients and potential new clients. Some of us are instinctively good at putting people into defined categories and others need a framework to help them to do this.

Many of you will have already heard about the Enneagram and will have used it in your practice. This week’s article takes an overview of the Enneagram and attempts to explain how it may be used in business.

Although G. I. Gurdjieff is credited with making the original Enneagram figure, he did not develop the nine personality types associated with the modern Enneagram. This honour is attributed to Bolivian born Oscar Ichazo, in the 1950’s. As with all frameworks, it can be a mistake to take them too literally and it is recommended that users of the Enneagram overlay their own knowledge of people and their behaviors, when trying to assign personality types based on the Enneagram.

Enneagram Types

In essence, the Enneagram proposes that there are 9 different pure personality types as described in the figure above. Although pure examples exist, the reality is that most people have a strong affinity to just one of the personality types with lesser tendencies (known as wings) in some of the other ones. If you can observe people and get a good understanding of their predominant personality type and traits, then you are in a better position to respond to their hot buttons.

Let us now take a look at the type 1 personality – the perfectionist. This is represented across 5 different measures in the figure below: description, motivation, stressors, coping strategies and options for movement away from the core traits.

If you look at the Wikipedia trait descriptors commonly used, they are: ego fixation, holy idea, basic fear, basic desire, temptation, vice/passion, virtue, stress and security. Some of the books on this topic have even wider and more expansive type descriptors with more than 20 attributes for each personality type. I have stuck with 5 for the sake of simplicity.

Enneagram Perfectionist

Even using my simplistic version of the model, consider someone that you know whom you always believed to be a perfectionist and see how well this person fits with the typical traits of the type 1 personality. Then consider some of the other personality types below, and try to analyze if the person whom you believed to be a perfectionist, also displays some of the traits of the other personalities. Another 5 personality types are showcased below to help you decide which type you fit into most closely. Unfortunately, we are unable to show summaries of all 9 types due to a restriction on the number of images we can use in an individual post.

Enneagram Helper

Enneagram Achiever

Enneagram Artist

Enneagram Observer

Enneagram Supporter

Knowing typical motivations and responses of a personality type can be particularly useful when working with individuals, or when you are considering working with them. If your assessment of their personality type is correct, you can anticipate what may be important to them, what is likely to irritate them, and how they are likely to react to a range of different situations and circumstances. This can allow you to prescribe responses and suggestions that will more than likely meet with their approval.

This is not to say that we all should try to psychoanalyze our clients. In fact, this would be a terrible mistake because most of us are not equipped to do this effectively or accurately. It is more about sharpening our observational skills and realizing that most people can fit into one of the 9 personality types described by the Enneagram. This can be particularly helpful when engaging in business relationships.

If this topic resonates with you, it might be useful to consider reading more about it. I highly recommend “The 9 Ways of Working”, written by Michael J. Goldberg and published by Marlowe & Company, New York. Also, there are several other tools available for gaining an understanding of personalities such as psychometric testing from Briggs Myers, StrengthsFinder from Gallup, or even the simple excel spreadsheet from Padraig Berry that asks you a series of questions to help you discover your predominant personality type within the Enneagram framework, which is available for free download here. This tool asks about 140 questions and determines your Enneagram personality type based on the answers you enter in the spreadsheet.

I have included links to the various resources below.

Myers Briggs Personality Types
StrengthsFinder From Gallup
16 Personalities Test
Wikipedia on Enneagram
Download free Enneagram Tool and discover your Enneagram number now

Niall Strickland