Popular research estimates that, on average, we spend one-third of our lives at work. That’s…a lot. And, if that’s the case, shouldn’t we all be striving to better understand how we work, our strengths and our weaknesses—if not just for the sake of doing better, but for kicking self-doubt to the curb once and for all?
That’s why Molly Owens, the CEO of innovative online self-assessment platform Truity, argues that one of the keys to excelling at work and, crucially, as a good manager, may be the Enneagram Test. The Enneagram is a personality system that helps us self-identify our patterns, traits, skills, motivations and more. The TL;DR version? It can help you make sense of why you are the way you are. “The Enneagram exposes what drives your behavior, and that includes in the workplace,” Owens says. “The idea isn’t to change who you are, but to understand the root cause of communication or work issues so you can be more effective as a manager and prevent issues before they occur.”
How Does The Enneagram Work?The Enneagram is divided into nine types—Type 1, the Perfectionist; Type 2, the Giver; Type 3, the Achiever; Type 4, the Individualist; Type 5, the Investigator; Type 6, the Loyalist; Type 7, the Enthusiast; Type 8, the Challenger; and Type 9, the Peacemaker—each of which has its own set of motivations, fears and blind spots. You’ll only ever “belong” to one type, but don’t think of the self-assessment as sticking you in a singular box; it’s meant to help you embrace your strengths, while boosting your emotional intelligence and self-awareness.
Once you’ve identified your Enneagram type (which can be done by filling out a brief questionnaire on Truity), then you have the information you need to truly thrive. “Start by looking at the strengths based on your work type—we can easily fall into looking at the issues we need to fix, so it’s important to see how each Enneagram type has its own unique strengths,” Owens says. Type 1s, for example, have a really keen eye for detail and always uphold bar-raising standards, while Type 3s are impressively fast-paced and high-performing and Type 6s have a knack for guiding teams through tough projects and moments.
How to Use Your Enneagram Type at WorkNow that you know what you're best at, you can move on to work-related difficulties, something your Enneagram type can also help pinpoint. “Look at the issues that you’ve been struggling with at work and consider what role you play, based on your type, and what you can do about them,” Owens says. Take Type 2s, for instance; typically, they’re warm and friendly, and make the workplace feel sincere and inviting. But Type 2s are also most likely to struggle with saying no and voicing their opinion, so learning how to stand their ground and not prioritize likability could be a goal they want to work on. Type 5s, on the other hand, are almost the opposite. They’re known for being a research-driven, chill hands-off manager, but that can sometimes make them appear too aloof, unavailable or disengaged from their team. In this case, they’ll want to hone their communication skills.
How Managers Can Use the EnneagramBut the usefulness of the Enneagram doesn’t stop there. Managers can (and should) use it to understand how their individual team members work, too. When you’re able to identify which Enneagram types your co-workers fall under, you can better put their strengths to work, improve overall team effectiveness and help you show a greater appreciation for the people you see every day. “Ultimately, the Enneagram ensures that each person is positioned in a way that allows them to thrive at work,” Owens says. “Effective managers understand that and ensure that they succeed when they set their team members up for success.” The Enneagram can also reveal gaps in your team: If most of your team falls under the same three types, you could unknowingly fall into groupthink and close yourselves off to a diversity of ideas.
And, Owens points out, that while the Enneagram is invaluable, it shouldn’t be the only tool you use to improve as a manager. She suggests trying out career coaching, asking your team for feedback directly and other personality assessments, like Truity’s TypeFinder ®, that uses Myers Briggs theory to help you better understand approaches to your own unique personality style at work. “Input from people of different personalities is usually a good way to learn and grow,” she says. “And to continue growing as a person and a manager, self-discovery is key.”