How the Enneagram Can Help you Be a Better Coach

The Enneagram personality system is like a multi-functional Swiss army knife, able to help you solve a number of self-development challenges wherever you are at in your journey. I often equate learning the Enneagram to being like Alice in Wonderland. But instead of falling down one hole, I’m falling down many different holes simultaneously.  And despite intense study over these last 2 years, I am yet to reach the bottom of any of them. 

But the Enneagram’s potential isn’t what fascinates me the most. It’s the practical application to support people right now. The trick is knowing which elements to make use of in every moment, for yourself and your client. 

With that in mind, here are three ways to use the Enneagram to help you be a better coach and help your clients get more effective results. 

1. Knowing your strengths and blindspots 

Like everyone else, coaches are still a work in progress. Whether we mean to or not, we subconsciously bring our issues into the client space, often attracting people that will bring out our specific challenges. 

You can use your Enneagram type to help you identify your triggers and challenges and work on them with your coach, or supervising mentor, to avoid them becoming an issue in your client space.

For example, Enneagram Type Twos are great at building rapport and expressing empathy. But they may overlook the need for setting limits and boundaries with the client, or spend too much time focusing on the relationship as opposed to the work. 

Enneagram Type Sixes are great at reading between the lines and following rigorous processes in coaching. But they may not notice themselves asking too many questions or struggling to support the client to be decisive or take action. 

Enneagram Type Eights are great at leading the process, challenging the client and keeping a close eye on the results. But they might become too attached to a single path and not recognize the value of flexibility and mixing things up.  

Knowing your Enneagram type will help you know your strengths and blindspots as a coach, helping you become a better coach.  

2. Adapt your coaching style

Each Enneagram type responds better to different styles of coaching. Being able to adapt your approach based on their type, while still being authentic to your natural style, will quickly build and maintain trust and rapport. 

For example, when working with Heart types, Twos, Threes and Fours, it's essential to dedicate time at the start and end of each session to the coaching relationship. Make sure you are very emotionally expressive, speaking from the heart and not worrying about being overly logical. Make sure you offer positive feedback and genuine appreciation every session. 

When working with Body types, Eights, Nines and Ones, speak more directly, plainly and bluntly. Sit up straight, with your feet grounded into the floor and listen with your whole body. Ask about the sensations in their body or their gut reaction to a question or situation. And make sure to focus on the action that needs to be taken, as opposed to analyzing or feeling into it.

For Head types, Fives, Sixes and Sevens, focus on being logical and analyzing the information, without falling into excessive rationalization or analysis-paralysis. Avoid facing them directly, and allow them to sit at an angle or choose a distance that feels right for them. Don’t worry if they don’t maintain eye contact. And at the start and end of every session let them know where you are in the coaching process.

These changes might only be small tweaks to your coaching process, but they will help clients of all types feel they are heard, seen and understood by you. 

3. Leverage the development of your clients 

When a client comes to you wanting to work on a specific problem, it tends to relate to a single part of their multi-faceted personality. The trick is figuring out which part and, therefore, which part of the Enneagram to use to help them address it. 

The Enneagram speaks to many different elements of our ego’s defenses. Here is a short (and incomplete) list of possibilities to consider.

Does the current challenge relate to:

  • General issues associated with their primary type?
  • An expression of their subtype? 
  • An over or under use of an arrow?
  • An issue with their dominant or repressed instinct?
  • Not being aware of their type’s passion? 
  • Not being aware of their type’s fixation?
  • An overuse of their primary center of intelligence? 

Often you’ll observe more than one factor at play, so learning to prioritize is key. Diagnosing the right factor requires listening closely to the story they are telling you, hearing what isn’t being said, and then assessing which factor would be of the greatest benefit based on a range of factors.

While all work with the Enneagram can be helpful, focusing on the right area will have a much more substantial impact for your client, helping them shift faster. For example, working with the arrows will always provide support and balance to our primary type, but if the underlying issue relates to the client’s subtype, the activities you assign them won’t land as powerfully. 

Next steps

The Enneagram is a powerful tool to use in coaching. If you are new to the Enneagram, focus on finding your type and using it for your personal development plan with your coach or supervising mentor.

When you are ready to use it with clients, the easiest way to start is to get them to take a Enneagram test and debrief the results with them. Truity’s Platform for Coaches can help with that.

When you are ready to take it to the next level, invest in a program that teaches you how to layer the Enneagram into your existing coaching practice. 

Samantha Mackay

Samantha is the Lead Trainer at Truity and will shortly be a certified Enneagram Coach. She believes knowing your personality is the key to navigating life's strangest hurdles. Samantha is an ENTP and Enneagram 7, who is always surrounded by a pile of books, a steaming cup of tea and a block of her favourite chocolate. Find her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samanthamackay/. Check out her course "Unlocking the Power of Your Personality" at www.truity.com/training

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