How to Unleash the Potential of your Team by Enneagram Type

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on July 04, 2022

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.

Releasing the potential within each of your staff is a balance between working with their strengths and their weaknesses.  Sometimes we can become too fixated on the strengths of a person’s personality type and overlook the corresponding weaknesses. Every strength can also be a liability.  That happens when we overuse our strengths or we rely only on that single strategy to navigate situations. 

As a manager, your role is to work with an individual’s strengths and weaknesses to help them become more well-rounded, balanced people who are able to access different tools based on the needs of the situation. It is about developing flexibility, not singularity. 

To assist, we’ll look at the strengths of each Enneagram type and show how those strengths can also be weaknesses if they are not used properly. We’ll also look at how you can coach or support your employee to grow beyond these limitations.

Enneagram Type Nine

The Nine’s strengths are often described as being calm, steady and understanding, seeking to ensure everyone is included and feels heard and supported.

However, when the Nine wants to be adaptable and go with the flow, they might struggle to say ‘no’ and often say ‘yes’ when they mean ‘no.’ And when they are not onboard with a project, or haven't been asked for their opinion, they can be quietly stubborn or passive aggressive in a way that slowly frustrates the rest of the team. But since they are always smiling, it’s difficult to know they feel overlooked or excluded. 

To help release the Nine’s potential, encourage and support them to:

  • Take the time to figure out what they want and not distract themselves from it
  • Become more aware of when they are passively resisting a situation because they are feeling frustrated, irritated or angry in some way
  • See conflict as a positive thing, and that trying to keep the peace can actually lead to conflict; support them to speak up and communicate more clearly

Enneagram Type Eight

The Eight’s strengths are described as being straightforward, strong, in charge, decisive, assertive, courageous and someone who makes things happen. 

However, when someone needs to feel strong or in control all the time, they can rebel against necessary rules, take on big challenges too confidently, and be too certain about things when slowing down to ask questions is needed. They can also be too direct, offending others with their words or their physical presence.  

To help release the potential of an Eight, enable and support them to:

  • Understand the impact they have on others and ways to mitigate this
  • Understand the value in opening up and sharing personal stories and struggles 
  • Take time to listen to others’ opinions, and be open to not always being right

Enneagram Type Seven

The Seven’s strengths are often described as being optimistic, positive, charming, flexible, creative, and dynamic multi-tasking.

However, when someone needs to be optimistic all the time, they also struggle to look at negative information or discuss what’s not working. They can be involved in too many projects simultaneously, leaping from one activity to the next but never quite finishing anything. 

To help release the potential of a Seven, enable and support them to:

  • Consider what isn’t working and negative data
  • Slow down to prioritize one or two projects, and see how focusing only on those projects will benefit them
  • Hold themselves accountable for things not working out 

Enneagram Type Six

Sixes are often described as being cautious and vigilant troubleshooters. They are prepared, dedicated, loyal, alert to threats and good at making contingency plans.

However, when someone is always scanning for danger and expecting the worst, they can struggle to see what is working. They doubt their own abilities, question themselves and others, and play devil’s advocate beyond what’s needed. And they can spend so long preparing for risks that they never get around to taking action. 

To help release the potential of a Six, encourage and support them to:

  • Learn to manage their fear and anxiety, instead of being ruled by it
  • Be more confident in their own authority and abilities 
  • Spend time reflecting on what is working and what is likely to go well in the future 

Enneagram Type Five

Fives are described as being calm, detached, and analytical observers. They are knowledgeable specialists who don’t intrude on others. 

However, when someone wants to remain detached, they struggle to share personal information, build relationships and find collaboration difficult. They can resist sharing relevant information, only wanting to talk about shared intellectual interests.  

To help release the potential of a Five, empower and support them to:

  • Communicate more with others, about work projects and their personal life
  • Get in touch with their emotions and express their feelings
  • Create more opportunities for supporting and working with others

Enneagram Type Four

The Four’s strengths are described as being empathetic, emotionally expressive and authentic. They can be creative visionaries with high standards. 

However, someone who is never satisfied with their work can be inflexible about the final product. They can struggle to see what is positive, in themselves and their work. And, they can over identify with their feelings, which can lead to a lot of complaining and drama or being stoic and masochistic. 

To help release the potential of a Four, empower and support them to:

  • See what’s positive in the situation and themselves
  • Appreciate that emotions are transient information, instead of states of being
  • Appreciate the value and meaning in “mundane” or routine work 

Enneagram Type Three

Threes are often described as hard-working. They are focused and adaptable achievers who do not take ‘no’ for an answer. 

However, when someone cannot let go of a goal for fear of failure, they can be impatient, dismissive and frustrated with processes or people who slow them down. They can become so competitive that they can embellish, manipulate or mislead.  They can refuse to slow down or take a break, leading to illness or burnout. 

To help release the potential of a Three, enable and support them to:

  • See the value in failure and learning from it
  • Moderate their workaholic tendencies and not work while on holiday
  • Acknowledge that winning comes with a cost and explore what that is and whether it's worth paying it 

Enneagram Type Two

Twos are said to be helpful, likable and caring. They empower others, lift the mood and create positive experiences for people. They empathize with others and find ways to support them where they can. 

However, when someone needs to be indispensable, they want to make sure a person or a process can’t function without them. They believe they know what others need but are offended when someone rejects their help. And they can struggle to know what they need or to ask for help. 

To help release the potential of a Two, empower and support them to:

  • Set clear boundaries and learn its okay to say ‘no’
  • Release the need to manage others needs and feelings, and to take more responsibility for their own
  • Appreciate they don’t need to be needed to be valuable 

Enneagram Type One

Ones are often described as being ethical, hardworking, methodical and reliable. They have high standards, and monitor quality to ensure the standards are met or improved upon.

However, when someone needs to do something the right way, they can be inflexible to other approaches and struggle to deviate from the method they have adopted. They can struggle with producing work that is only good enough to avoid any blame or criticism for things not going well. And they can get frustrated with others not meeting those standards.

To help release the potential of a One, enable and support them to:

  • Learn to accept imperfection and “good enough”
  • Be open to there being more than one way to do something
  • Take a break, relax and lighten up

What next

As you think about the best way to release the potential within each of your team members, do so with their strengths and challenges in mind. We become more well-rounded when we open up to other ways of approaching situations. Work is often a way to prove our worth and value in some way, which can only come when we are able to look at the parts of ourselves that aren’t so shiny.  

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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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

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