This blog post is part of our Truity at Work series for those who are new to people management. In these posts, we’re creating useful content for managers and teams alike, helping you to understand personality, improve communication, and navigate conflict and change with ease. For an overview of the series, start with our introductory post here.
No matter your position, we all answer to someone. Sometimes that’s more than one person. Being able to manage up, whether that’s your boss or your stakeholders, is just as important as managing your team. That’s where influencing comes in.
The skill of influencing is a combination of effective communication, emotional intelligence and the ability to give constructive feedback. It is also the ability to understand what motivates people, and how to help them get it.
Knowing a person’s Enneagram type can give you a quick shortcut to adopting a communication style they will resonate with, as well as having insight into what their deeper motivation might be. But be aware there are a lot of lookalike types on the Enneagram. Just because your boss looks like a Three, Eight or Two, doesn't mean they are. Be careful about jumping to conclusions.
Here are some strategies to keep in mind when seeking to influence your boss.
Enneagram Nines - listen and give them time to process
Take your time when influencing a Type Nine. Don’t rush, but really slow down and spend the first few minutes getting into harmony with them. Ask how they are doing or about their weekend. And then listen, really listen, without interrupting. This really sets the stage for getting them onboard.
As you focus on your pitch, don't be too direct – make some suggestions, ask for their opinion, but don’t push them for an answer straight away. Focus on the practical side of the project: plans, deadlines, and commitments. Then end the conversation on a positive note, asking them to think about it and that you’ll come back for their thoughts in a couple of days.
For Nines, it’s essential they feel included, aren’t rushed, and that the discussion is positive. You can do that by really listening to them, asking for their input and giving them time to process.
Enneagram Eights – get straight to the point
To influence a Type Eight, get to the point quickly. Decide on your key point or question in advance and say it in the first 10 seconds or the first line of the email. Be transparent, direct, and focus on speaking in bullet points rather than an essay.
Don’t be afraid to be bold and assertive. If you don’t agree, say so. If you are expecting pushback, have the meeting in private. That way, the Eight can discuss the issue without exposing their vulnerabilities to the wider world.
Be ready to stand your ground. Eights don’t realize how much energy they put out and how that impacts others. What feels like anger to you, may simply be passion and interest to them. Eights appreciate people who don’t back down from a discussion, but who aren't rude or attacking. Eights are very sensitive to bullying, so remain respectful.
Finally, if you really want to get an Eight into action, mention the unfairness or injustice associated with the issue you’re talking about. That will get their attention very quickly.
Enneagram Sevens – allow time for brainstorming
When approaching a Type Seven, be upbeat and engaging. Feel free to laugh and share your enthusiasm. Don’t be too direct. Discuss the positives first, before talking about the issue at hand.
Allow time for them to brainstorm and play with different ideas. When it seems right, ask them if they are ready to choose an option. Don’t shut down the brainstorming portion of the conversation too soon, but help them make the transition to prioritizing.
And if you do need to give them feedback, make sure you sandwich it between some very specific positives. They will know what you are doing, but it will ease the anxiety of the criticism. And if it’s really bad news, plan on taking them for a walk outside the office to share it.
Enneagram Sixes – be prepared to discuss the risks
When approaching a Type Six, think about how you want them to respond. They are natural contrarians, and the first response will always be the opposite of whatever you have said. So if you want them to look at the positive, start with a negative and visa versa. But also remember to take their first response at face value; pay more attention to what they say after that.
When conveying the facts, be transparent, don’t leave anything out. When they talk about the risks and possible problems, let them know how much you appreciate their desire to strengthen the plan before going into action. Then discuss their fears with them, and where they can get evidence to determine which risks are more likely and which aren't.
Finally, if you need the Six to do something within a certain timeframe, don't be afraid to give them a shorter deadline. Sixes can get stuck in their mind when trying to consider all the possible risks and issues. Shorter deadlines can provide the focus they need.
Enneagram Fives – show the data and be objective
When seeking to influence a Type Five, don’t surprise them by dropping by their office or by asking for an immediate answer. Book a meeting and provide an agenda with clear expectations.
In the meeting, share the data and research you have gathered, and discuss the key question with them. Listen to their analysis and expertise. Aim to be more objective than emotional in the meeting. Ask them how much time they will need to process, then set a time to discuss the issue again and get their decision.
And if you want to build a more personal relationship with the Five, aim to do so outside of work hours. But make sure you are discreet and don’t share any of the Fives personal information without their permission.
Enneagram Fours - take your time
When seeking to influence a Type Four, make sure you have taken the time to get to know them first. This can take time, so book a few coffee meetings and really listen to their journey and experiences. Don’t interrupt them as they share their story, and then reflect back the key points and ask if they feel you understand them.
When focusing on specific issues, take the time to listen to their feelings, again without interruption. Once they really feel heard and understood by you, they will quickly identify what needs to be done and will be able to make it happen.
Aim to share your own feelings too, being authentic and personal. Never try to tell a Four their feelings are unwarranted or too much. Acknowledge and respect their feelings, even if you feel uncomfortable doing so.
Enneagram Three – focus on results and rewards
For influencing a Type Three, think about making a 30-second elevator pitch. Be clear on the goal and how you are aligned to it. Be practical and clear, focusing on the results, rewards and what you need from them. Threes respect people who know how to be efficient.
Speak quickly. Be dynamic and energetic, and make sure you are clear about how you will "guarantee success" and deal with any obstacles that will get in the way of that. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, but don’t try to take the limelight away from them either.
Enneagram Twos – be positive and personal
With a Type Two, make things a little more personal. It helps if you have taken time to know the Two on a personal level before making any pitch. Get to know who they are, the people who are important to them and what they do outside of work. Aim to take any advice they give and report back on how it went.
Two’s also appreciate positive interactions. So talk about what has been working and how you appreciate the contribution they have made. And don’t be afraid to share how you are feeling, and discuss how the issue is affecting you personally.
Finally, take time to observe the Two’s needs in the office, then help out without being asked. And also offer to help them; they may struggle to ask for help but really appreciate someone who offers.
Enneagram Ones – align on standards and responsibilities
When influencing a Type One, make sure you are on time, and are clear on who is responsible for what. Ones respect people who are punctual, responsible and consistent.
For the project or issue at hand, discuss the level of quality or standard required and what that looks like. You may need to negotiate what standard is appropriate, but do so in the frame of acting with integrity.
Finally, leave the meeting with a clear agreement on the specific details of the project, the deadlines and expectations. Keep them informed as you make progress on that plan. That creates goodwill for any future requests.
As you can see, influencing others is a mix of relationship building, emotional intelligence, authenticity and adaptation. It requires time and patience to build the kind of professional relationships that really work.
If you want to be more influential at work, observe your current approach and how your managers and stakeholders react to that. Then consider what their style might be and how you could adapt yours to help you achieve your goals.
Look for an overview you can share with your team? Watch my video here.