4 Ways to Optimize The Enneagram & Other Personality Assessments and Fuel Your Mission

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So by now many of you know your Enneagram number…but the bigger question is what do you do with it? Especially what do you do with it as a leader?

A few days ago I outlined 5 surprising truths about the Enneagram and Your Leadership Potential. A surprising number of people read that post and literally thousands of leaders took the self-assessment I linked to in that piece, which is awesome. (Here’s the post if you missed it.)

The mistake in leadership when taking the Enneagram or any other personality type is to say “well, now I know more about myself” and leave it there.

Over the years, I’ve run myself and my team through many personality and strengths assessments. I share the full list at the bottom of this post with all the links (and my types…a lot of you have been asking).

But now the bigger question: what do you do with all this information about you and your team?

And better yet…how do you use this kind of insight to further your mission?

Here are 4 ways to optimize and apply the insights you’re gathering with the Enneagram, Strengthfinders and any other assessment you’re using.

1. Don’t Use Your Fresh Insights as an Excuse for Bad Behaviour

Every time you do an assessment, you discover weird and wonderful things about yourself.

Here’s the bottom line: I’m weird. You’re weird. And we’re both sinful.

Different assessments accurately tell me I get bored easily, that I need multiple offices/work settings to stay engaged at work (something I started setting up intuitively long before I realized that was a thing), that I get frustrated easily by people who process things more slowly than I do, and that I quickly air my opinions and take over control as soon I sense someone is faltering.

Guess what?

Every single one of those things can be more of a liability to my team than an asset.

The bad application is to say “That’s just the way I am.” Or if you want to be spiritually immature, you can also say “That’s just the way God made me.”

Sure, the image of God is somewhere in all that, but it’s distorted. By sin. And a flawed person who’s leading.

You can use your newly discovered weirdness as an excuse for bad behavior, or you can make it a matter of prayerful reflection, change, and progress.

All of those things are still true about my natural instincts, but I’ve had to learn not to show my boredom, to stay engaged, to work in environments I don’t want to be in if it furthers the mission, to be patient with people and to bite my tongue. When I do that…everybody does better.

Don’t use your fresh insights as an excuse for bad behavior. You can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

You can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can't make both.  Click To Tweet

2. Give Up Trying To Make Everyone Just Like You

As a young leader, I was mystified at people’s differences. I just wondered why everyone else wasn’t more like me?

This shows up in multiple ways.

You expect people to see things the way you see then and do things the way you do them.

The longer I’ve led, the more I realize how utterly disastrous that would be.

In fact, I’ve learned that the more I respect my team members’ differences, the faster we accomplish the same mission.

I’m not talking about indulging bad behavior in anyone (see point 1), but I am talking about leveraging the strengths and amazingly diverse styles and perspectives of everyone on your team.

For those of us who follow Jesus, you’ll see your mission come fully alive when you leverage the full gifting of the body of Christ. Everyone’s different for a reason, and it’s a good reason.

The more you respect your team members' differences, the faster you accomplish the same mission.  Click To Tweet

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3. Focus on What and Why, Not How

Whether you’re looking at your team through the lens of the Enneagram, Strengthsfinders, Myer’s Briggs or some of the other assessments outlined below, you’ll discover that people approach things very differently.

As a younger leader, I spent far too much energy trying to show teams how to do things. And for sure, sometimes there’s a better how or a safer how (for example, if some of your team needs security clearance to do its job, it’s a bad idea to freewheel how your police check people).

But here’s what’s true: most of us hate being controlled.  And in an office environment, how feels very controlling.

If you hire smart people (which I’m sure you do), focus on what and why, and let them have control over how.

The what is your mission. The why is your vision and purpose. And those are the great motivators.

The how is simply how we get there. And if you give people the freedom to figure out their particular how, you’ll likely get there faster and better.

Plus, they’ll feel the freedom. And usually, when you give your team freedom, they give you back far more than you expect.

If you want to know more about that management style, I outlined it in this post about what every leader should know in working with Millennials. Hint: most leaders want to be managed the way Millennials want to be managed. Millennials have just been far more vocal about it.

When you give your team freedom, they give you back far more than you expect. Click To Tweet

4. Fully Leverage Your Team’s Differences

The deeper you get into personality assessments on your team, the more you’ll realize that there are some very real differences in the crew you’re working with.

Leverage them. Fully.

For example, I move fast and am okay at people (particularly large groups of people, first meetings or fascinating conversations), but I really stink at counselling and the long journey with people who are struggling. I’m an Enneagram 8 and my top three Strengths are Future, Maximizer and Command. So you get the picture.

My long-time Assistant, Sarah Piercy, is an Enneagram 2…kind of my opposite.

So when we get a deep, personal situation I need to respond to, I immediately turn to her for advice (she gets people so much better than I do) and often will just say “can you please handle it?”

She will meet for coffee with someone (instead of me) and they will leave feeling great and helped. Had I met with them (in some situations), I know they would have left feeling unheard and perhaps crushed.

I love long-term planning meetings and creative meetings that are working on future projects. I can’t stand routine meetings. But every growing organization needs routine meetings.

So, I let other people lead routine meetings…and often now, I don’t even attend them anymore.

Everything you don’t like is probably someone else’s gift and strength. Leverage it.

Everything you don't like is probably someone else's gift and strength. Leverage it.  Click To Tweet

Just because you dislike doing something doesn’t mean it’s unnecessary. No, often, what you despise is necessary for your organization to thrive. You may not love spreadsheets, but your organization doesn’t have a future if you have no spreadsheets. And you may not love details, but vision without execution is hallucination.

Vision without execution is hallucination. Click To Tweet

My Top 5 Assessments For Leaders and Teams

Here are the top 5 assessments I’ve used with my team over the last decade that have proved very helpful.

1.The Enneagram

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile is a fantastic introduction to the Enneagram.

If you haven’t read the book, done the Enneagram test and don’t know your Enneagram number, here’s a link to the free test (we’re so sorry – this link is no longer active!) that will help you discover more about your natural personality type.

I’m an 8 – The Challenger.

2. Leading From Your Strengths

The Leading From Your Strengths Assessment isn’t free, but it’s one of my absolute favourites.

If you love the Enneagram, you’ll love this profile.

It gives you an in-depth assessment of your own style (this is the only report to explain why I love working in different offices, for example) and gives incredible insight into how your style of leadership likes to manage and be managed (My profile advises people who work with me “Don’t forget or lose things, be disorganized or messy, confuse or distract his mind from important tasks.” Utterly accurate.)

My favourite part? They put your entire team on a wheel that helps you see everyone’s unique contribution to the mission. You can see one and learn more here.

I’m a conductor/persuader.

3. Strengthfinders

Strengthfinders has become a classic in business and church world.

You can learn more here.

My top 5 strengths (in order)

  1. Future
  2. Maximizer
  3. Command
  4. Communication
  5. Relator

Strategic sometimes makes its way in too, depending on when I take the test. 🙂

4. Right Path

We have used the Right Path assessment for almost a decade now, and it’s very predictive of how someone will behave in the work place.

I think every senior leader should go through the Right Path 360˚ every few years. It’s a full 360˚review by your peers, board and the people who report to you. Extremely humbling, but few things will help you see yourself as others see you more than a full 360˚ review, and self-awareness is the key to better leadership.

5. Myer’s Briggs

The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator has been around for years. You can learn more here.

For the record, I usually test out as an ENFP. Nobody guesses that. We’re all weird, right?

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.