Can you remember the worst boss you ever had? What was it that made them hard to work for? Maybe she was unnecessarily rude as they gave you feedback and subtly belittling in every interaction. Or perhaps he was moody, and you never knew which version of him you’d get. Or maybe he was two-faced, telling you what you wanted to hear, but not following through on what he’d said.
Here’s my theory—behind any “bad boss” is a lack of self-awareness. They’re completely blind to the ways their personalities and quirks affect the way they run their business. They assume they can separate out the growth of their business and organization from their own personal growth. And while they might try to check their own personal junk at the door, it ends up leading the show.
In my last post, I talked about how self-awareness is the foundation for good marketing. I believe marketing is everything you do to draw people to your business or organization, so it starts with how you lead yourself and others.
Several years ago, Cornell University conducted an in-depth study of 72 high-performing CEOs. Their goal was to find the common thread or trait these leaders shared that contributed to their success. What they found out surprised them. The overall key predictor of success wasn’t Focus or Strategic Planning, or even a strong Work Ethic. It was high levels of self-awareness.
Research shows that increased self-awareness translates to better professional and personal happiness. In the workplace, it not only improves communication both internally and externally, but also helps people make better decisions, improves employee engagement and retention, and eliminates inefficiencies.*
One of the most powerful tools to grow in self-awareness is called the Enneagram. An ancient personality typing system, the Enneagram reveals the different ways each of us sees the world and the underlying motivations that drive our patterns of thought, feelings, and behavior.
It teaches that there are nine dominant personality types. While everyone has some traits from all the numbers, everyone gravitates towards one dominant type or distinct way of seeing the world and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences the way we think, feel, and behave.
Unlike other personality typing systems that give you one static definition for who you are, the Enneagram allows for the fluid nature of our personality and recognizes the different ways each of us acts in different circumstances, in stress or in rest. There is also room for nuance and difference within each type. Just as there are many shades of blue, there are many different ways to be a “Three”.
I’ll delve into how the Enneagram can help you draw in and serve your clients better in a future post, but I wanted to highlight three ways the Enneagram has helped me and so many other leaders.
The Enneagram helps you self-regulate.
The power of the Enneagram is its uncanny way of revealing your underlying motivations. It doesn’t give you a caricature view of your personality or simply point out your behavior patterns. It reveals why you think, act, and feel the way you do.
The framework of understanding the lens in which you see the world allows you to notice and catch your patterns of behavior that aren’t serving you. Greater self-awareness helps you hone the strengths of your leadership and also helps you confront your quirks, weaknesses, and negative tendencies blocking you from growth.
The Enneagram paves the way for a more cohesive team.
According to Ian Morgan Cron, “The biggest mistake you can make as a leader is to presume that your way of seeing the world is the way that others view the world.” The Enneagram shifts your perspective from assuming that everyone else is an idiot to choosing curiosity about other people’s perspectives.
The Enneagram allows you to articulate the context of your point of view, and it also puts other people’s actions into a helpful context. Oh—she might be a 6, which means she’s driven by a desire for security. This new project has her totally wigging out because she just wants to feel secure.
The Enneagram fosters empathy for your clients.
Focusing on self-awareness might sound egocentric. But growing in understanding yourself is fertile ground for compassion—for yourself and others. The Enneagram actually allows you to better help and understand other people. As you become more familiar with each of the nine types on the Enneagram, you can pick up on the signals of how people are wired, and how you can best support them.
Your clients come to you because they have a problem they need to solve. They are likely responding to that problem according to their underlying motivations and personalities. Understanding the language of the Enneagram provides a lens in which to see their perspective, to have compassion for their reactions and responses, and an ability to respond in a way they will see as helpful and empathic.
*I owe so much to Dr. Ian Morgan Cron, who not only wrote the (best) book on the Enneagram, but he also recently launched a video series on the Enneagram, where I got this research summary and more. I highly recommend it!
If you aren’t familiar with the Enneagram, you can start by taking this free test. Personality tests aren’t necessarily 100% accurate—so follow up that test with learning about those types to see if they resonate.
Check out this podcast, if you’re looking for interesting interviews and discussions around the Enneagram!
Self-awareness doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Consider getting a mentor, a friend group, or a group of colleagues to work through a self-awareness program or an Enneagram course together!