Even though Nines adapt to the agendas of others, some environments suit them better than others. Begin with a concern for physical activity. Nines will sit, go on automatic pilot and accomplish mental tasks, but most nines flourish better in careers that use their bodies: athletes and trainers, carpenters and surgeons. When they don’t have to use their bodies, they use both their intuition and their ability to listen when they work as salesmen or facilitators of some kind. One of my favorite Nines is a commodities researcher. He tells me that no matter how many numbers he crunches, all decisions are made intuitively from the gut.
The environment that suits style Eights is one in which they can be the boss. Within a corporation, the Eight must have some turf over which she can rule. Many Eights are entrepreneurs precisely because they want to be “their own boss.” If she is not the titular boss in a corporation, she will take control with sheer energy or politics. Eights can work in media (many do, they love the reach of media apparently), or construction or social services but in each case, what will be important is the placement within the organization, not the mission or product.
Sevens flourish in environments that give enough structure so they don’t have to create something every day but enough variety so they don’t get bored. Sevens fear boredom and confinement, so they love new areas, either as an entrepreneur or a field that allows adventure, especially intellectual adventure — new ideas more than new activities. Sevens love this new field of coaching: the rules are non-existent, the penalty for mistakes are minimal and you deal with new people all the time. But at the same time, you use the same skills, so there is some structure.
Sixes are usually uncomfortable at the top level of a corporation. They don’t like the risk. So they usually flourish where they are the glue of the community or business. They excel as problem solvers and prefer that role to decision makers. Sixes are the folks who make the system work and are uncommonly good and patient at dealing with bureaucracy and paperwork. They are loyal to the company – the quintessential “company person.” They tend to prefer positions of safety rather then risk or adventure. They do wonders in middle management and are good at community relations.
Style Fives flourish best in an information-rich environment. Peter Senge’s “Learning Corporation” model is instructive. Fives understand that information drives action. Fives love to learn and the way they share their lives with others — and create teams – is by sharing information. Academia is the poster-organization for style Five, but businesses that depend on technology will find Fives right at home. Finance, too, suits Fives because the work is about information, and, let’s say it, you don’t have to deal with people so much. When companies take their best techie and make her manager, they lose their best tech and frequently get their worst manager. It’s all about the information.
Fours find they excel when they discover or create an environment that rewards subjective, rather than objective values. Of course, fashion, theatre, music come to mind, but in business settings, Fours do well when they can employ the softer subjective forms of power. Steve Jobs, everyone’s favorite Four at the moment, made Apple products beautiful. The iPod was not the first MP3 player, it was the prettiest. A whole book has been devoted to describe how Jobs marketed “cool.” Aggressive leaders often overlook the power of beauty because it is so hard to quantify. But it is precisely in those subtle areas that Fours excel. Fours also often do extremely well with symbolism and when they employ this sensitivity, they do well in marketing.
Style Three is most comfortable when she can measure results–success and failure — and others can see them. Threes meet objective criteria very well. They are usually quite competitive so they love an outside measuring stick. Threes are the only number I like a one word description of. They are performers in both senses: they are efficient and accomplished and they do it as a performance others can see.
Because Twos live in a world structured by personal relationships, they flourish where they can relate to people, especially in a service industry or where they can be of service. When Twos choose careers, they can make a mistake of choosing the field because of a teacher, parent or mentor instead of the content of the field. If they really like their chemistry teacher, they can confuse their admiration and affection for the teacher for the study of chemistry. The helping professions are a natural for style Two.
What environments are most friendly to each enneagram style? This would be a way to think about the relationship to your career and your enneagram style. I’ll do one style a day.
Style Ones appreciate an environment that has clear assignments. The assignments may be difficult and creative, but as long as the rules are clear, with rewards and punishments obvious, style Ones can work well. The rules should be as objective as possible — things like “making the boss happy” (often an implicit rule in many situations) bother style Ones a great deal. Many style Ones love law and related industries (taxes, accounting) because of the objective standards, criteria and expectations.
I read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for the cerebral pleasure of his writing style. His description of Emperor Diocletian (285-305) is eloquent, as usual, but it also delineates the low side of style Three. To wit: His abilities were useful rather than splendid: a vigorous mind, improved by the experience and study of mankind; dexterity and application in business; a judicious measure of liberality and economy; profound dissimulation under the guise of military frankness; steadiness to pursue his ends; flexibility to vary his means, and above all, the great art of submitting his passions, as well as those of others, to the interest of his ambition, and of coloring his ambition with the most specious pretenses of justice and public utility.
To the Enneagram sensitive eye, that looks like an ambitious and rather cunning style Three.