Where Sixes fear to go

Sixes fear to go to the top. Sixes are usually more comfortable in middle management –they’re naturally the people who make bureaucracies work. They usually don’t want the top slot, they would sonner support the decision than make the hard decisions. There are probably lots of exceptions – I just haven’t seen them.

When Fives flounder

Fives often speak about not wanting sales jobs. If the job includes schmoozing and making small talk, they are right not to want those kind of jobs. Their currency is information, so if they are asked to be in a social setting in which there is no discernible information, they don’t feel they either have much to contribute or gain. Also, having little or no information to exchange, they often feel socially awkward. For further research, see Mitt Romney. Everyone wonders why such a bright person says so many awkward things. My guess is that he is a Five. He should be a consultant, not the upfront man. Fives take note.

Unfriendly to Fours

Fours are most at home in the inner world; many have difficulties with logistics. So they correspondingly have trouble dealing with standardized expectations, rules and criteria. These provide no juice for style Four to express individuality. However, be careful: it is surprising how often a creative Four can make a mundane job into her special take on that job. Style Fours usually eschew jobs that entail boring details. They don’t do well as postal clerks, data entry folk or ticket-takers in a booth.

Where Threes Fail

Threes fail when they fail. Threes are often polarized between success and failure, so if they are in an environment that is high risk with failure a frequent occurrence, they suffer. Threes work terribly hard either to succeed or not to fail and if they do fail, they usually quickly reframe it as a learning experience. Threes often do not understand that for them success if usually defined by someone else – a boss, a competitor, an ideal, or a parent (present or merely remembered). Threes often fail to thrive in an environment in which the markers of success are ill-defined or slippery or worst of all, absent. Threes also fail to thrive when no one is around to acknowledge their success. How much success do you need? Here’s a lovely test one firm used. They had the prospective employee sit (observed) with a pail and some balls. If the applicant dropped all the balls in the pail – no risk, not much reward, that said one thing about him. Others put the container far enough away to toss the balls in some of the time. Still others put the pail way way back so that only a very few balls went into the container. The management used this symbolic game to infer what kind of risk-taker the applicant was. If you are a Three, you might guess how difficult you would make the little game.

A Sunday suggestion

Contemporary psychology is usually not “directive.” Counselors ask a lot of questions but usually are trained to not tell the client what to do. The underlying assumption is that insight and the unearthing of emotions will lead to behavior change.
An older tradition, the spiritual ones, especially Jews, Muslims and Catholics use an opposite approach. A student goes to a Rabbi, Priest or Imam or anyone he or she thinks is holy and asks for help. The “guru” says “If you want to see (believe, know) what I see, then do what I do and you will see. A fair parallel would be a recipe. “If you want cake like I have, follow these directions.” I cant describe the taste, I can’t give you my cake, but here’s how you make your own. Moses gave Ten ingredients, Mohammed gave us Sharia Law and Jesus gave us the Beatitudes. They all work; they all change people and help them. Carl Rogers and Milton Erickson and Virginia Satir all helped people enormously, too.
Both approaches work and work well, depending on the skill of the counselor and the wisdom of the spiritual leaders.
The combination of changing BOTH inner feelings and outer behavior is difficult but can be done.  The Enneagram, because it is a descriptions of energy as well as behaviors includes both inner and outer change; that’s part of the reason it is effective.
I read a book (full disclosure, I taught him the Enneagram) by an experienced counselor, Jim Roberts, who uses both inner and outer behaviors by focusing on the mindful use of attention.  He uses the Enneagram without teaching it to the clients or using the terminology.  He has clients focus on feelings and then gives them exercises to educate an alter those feelings that are problematic.  I use some of the exercises.  They work for me.  I’ve given the book to several psychologists and they say it is really effective. The book is called Deliberate Love by Jim Roberts. You can get it at his website: DeliberateLove.com. (Full disclosure again, I have no financial involvement in this) nor does he know I’m writing this).

Where Twos wilt

Interpersonal communication is oxygen for style Two and if they are confined to a job that deprives them of that, they wilt. They usually find ways to reach out to others but sometimes at the expense of their paid job. A two accountant will talk to salespeople, volunteer for every program, spend way too much time on the phone or find other ways to interact with people. If the Two in your life slips from friendly to invasive, suspect oxygen deprivation.


If you were to be given the assignment to make 50 high school boys work hard for no pay for three hours in the August sun of Kansas, how would do it? No problem: issue football jerseys.
When ostensibly civilized people get exercised about the burning of the flag or Koran, they usually don’t understand that we live symbolically. High school students sweat profusely, incur lifelong injuries and weep over the crossing of a chalk line –grown men fall to their knees in front of millions because they ran faster than the man behind him. We ignore symbolic reality at our peril.
As a coach, if you listen with a third ear (or just pay attention to embedded metaphors), you will find out what metaphor your client is using. Anything you suggest in line with that metaphor will be received gracefully. What falls outside the parameters of that metaphor will be greeted with suspicion unless you explain carefully and fully that this is outside their “comfort zone.” The best way to understand the phrase “comfort zone” is the area and activities proper to some metaphor. Our Enneagram style IS the metaphor we live out. Eights live out of a battleground metaphor (or something similar) and a Five can frequently be understood as a battery charged with information and drained by people.

Where Ones don’t thrive

Ones have a difficult time flourishing in any environment in which the rules are not clear. Ones don’t handle ambiguity well, especially not moral ambiguity. They want the handbook of rules and procedures fleshed out and they would also appreciate knowing any expectations that might apply. Absent these, Ones will be tentative and usually frustrated. Implicit expectations that are not expressed are particularly troublesome. Ones frequently call these “office politics” and speak of them with fear and loathing.

We’re hardwired

The planet is on fire. Most people know that. Things are melting, burning and shifting. But we don’t do much about it. Why not?
Besides political and economic corruption, we are not, as an animal species, much moved by long term prospects. People who know cancer statistics smoke, obesity is quite obvious to see but we don’t do much. Mostly we don’t.
If I’m foreclosed or I bang my knee or my tire goes flat. I do something quickly. So does everyone.
So when we are coaching people, beware of long term goals that conflict with our Enneagram styles. Trying to coach a One not to take personal offense at moral slippage or trying to get a Five to develop charisma in office is futile.
All coaching that goes against the grain for an Enneagram style must begin with acknowledging specific pain and then taking small steps that the client acknowledges will work. The steps must be small but they should be symbolic and interfere with the pattern in questions, For example, I had a style Nine make a “to do” list but titled it “I want to do,” and then evaluate it. He has to learn that he does have a right to an agenda. Telling him won’t help much, but the small act might reach him.

Get specific

How do you coach a Nine or cure a Seven? Wrong question, if there is such a thing. You can’t coach a Nine to stop procrastinating. When people learn the Enneagram, the next question that occurs naturally is “What do I do about it?” If you are a Nine and you procrastinate, for example, you understand that you have a connection to style Three and Six, so you do one of the healthy things they do that interferes ever so slightly with your pattern. For example, a Nine might be asked to do something he usually procrastinates, but style Six is very community oriented and loyal, so when the Nine goes to do this, he enlists someone else’s affiliation. Let’s say it is exercise — some Nines are couch potatoes. Don’t do it alone, get someone else –friend, coach, team — and do it with them. The sense of belonging to the team will help a great deal. Oh, and because Nines have a pervasive sense of hopelessness at time, make the goals small, measurable and of a scale that promises success.