Understanding What Makes People Tick

Sep 28, 2011 3 Comments by

This is Wendy Appel. She’s one of the world’s foremost experts on a tool called the Enneagram which sheds light on people’s underlying core beliefs and motivations. Even more importantly, it can help people use this understanding to be more effective in nearly any setting that requires humans to interact.

So What’s an Enneagram? The Enneagram lists nine personality styles that each bear certain hallmark strengths that can be leveraged. Each type also has built-in gaps that can create risks when we operate in a team environment.

I’ve provided a link at the end of this post to Wendy’s page that gives a some very detailed explanation of each style. Without going into the weeds, here are the nine styles:

  1. The Perfectionist: Principled, disciplined, responsible and organized – but they can lose track of the big picture when focused on following rules and they need to make continual improvements.
  2. The People Pleaser: Relational and engaging, but often-times not as focused on bottom-line results.
  3. The Achiever: Action-oriented & goal-focused with efficiency as their hallmark, but they sometimes cut corners along their way.
  4. The Individualist: Authentic expression with a unique approach to their work, but  struggle with certain work that they see as mundane.
  5. The Detached Observer: Intellectuals who lead with their expertise, but are not seen as being particularly relational or empathetic.
  6. The Loyal Skeptic: Astute analysts who excel at highlighting risks but can be indecisive and overly skeptical.
  7. The Enthusiast: Inspirational and visionary people with a gap in the area of follow-through on executing strategy and plans.
  8. The Boss: Leaders who are not afraid to take charge and make decisions, but are often seen as needing to be more considerate and inclusive.
  9. The Peacemaker: As the name implies they keep the peace, but you don’t often know where they stand and they can be quite immovable.

As you can see, each type has positive qualities that can be leveraged and each style has built-in pitfalls that can cause trouble.

Most of us can imagine having worked with someone of each style at some point and seen these strengths and gaps play out. Wendy and I have had some great discussions about whether a person’s core type can change to fit the needs of a given situation… but that’s a topic for another post. Read more about these archetypes by following the links to Wendy’s stuff below.

Application: The Enneagram appears to be a solid tool for Change Agents in that it can help them understand the human context in which they are working. Two contextual applications that I see are:

  • For Ourselves: Understanding our own personalities and what inherent strengths and weaknesses we have can be critical to being effective as a leader and as a change agent. I would encourage all Change Agents to apply tools like the Enneagram to their own work to gain insights and make improvements.
  • Within Our Organizations: How the mix of personalities blend together to get work done (or not get work done) is of paramount importance when it comes to executing change. While you may not have the opportunity to apply a tool like the Enneagram to all of your stakeholders, it can really help to at least be aware of the differences in personalities and underlying motivations behind some of the resistance your changes face.

Useful Links for the Enneagram:

Info About the Enneagram: You can learn more about the Enneagram itself by visiting the Enneagram information page.  There is quite a bit to learn and the more I’ve read about it, the more it becomes clear that dynamic human personalities are hard to classify in a 2×2 grid. This tool has a lot more texture and detail than that – and it’s also much more useful.

Wendy has a book coming out before the end of 2011 called InsideOut Leadership that is sure to be a practical guide you can use to understand your own Enneagram style as well as the styles of others you interact with.

Wendy’s WebSite: Learn more about Wendy’s work by visiting her company’s website at Confluence Consulting. They specialize in helping leaders and teams understand the model and apply it to their business context. She’s especially good at facilitating the discussions and exercises that lead to real understanding and insight.

A Learning Opportunity: Finally, I’d encourage you to check out Wendy’s upcoming Enneagram online workshop by visiting the information page for these events. This workshop series is open to anyone globally, but the time zone scheduling is particularly well-suited to attendees from Europe, Africa, the Americas and Mexico.  Since these are virtual events, they are very cost-effective and flexible.

Check it out and let me know what you think!


Questions for Chatter:

  1. What potential risks may occur when team is overloaded with one personality type?
  2. How can Change Agents encourage team members to better understand how the mix of personalities can influence team effectiveness?

Incoming search terms:

  • person peeking around corner

Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Team Dynamics, Uncategorized & Other Fun Stuff

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

3 Responses to “Understanding What Makes People Tick”

  1. chihos (@chihos) (@chihos) says:

    Read about ‘What Makes People Tick” http://t.co/1RL68DPQ #business #project #teams and #leadership

  2. Wendy Appel (@WendyAppel) says:

    The Big Rocks of Change Consulting–Rocks! http://t.co/xZJsOgYm

  3. chihos (@chihos) says:

    For #ChangeAgents: "What Makes People Tick": http://t.co/1RL68DPQ #leadchange

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