The 9 Types of People in Your Organization

Today’s blog post is written by Rebekah Pearson, Digital Learning Specialist, PatronManager.

When my family gets together, it never fails that we find ourselves sitting in the living room around 5:00 PM asking the age-old question: What should we have for dinner?

I don’t know how your family solves this dilemma, but in my family, it’s not just a simple question. Putting aside the personal food preferences and restrictions of individuals in the group; under the stress of this seemingly trivial task, the distinct personalities of each person in the room comes out.

I’ve also seen this mirrored in the workplace. Perhaps you’ve had the same experience when working with colleagues on a project — like brainstorming fundraising ideas for a new season, changing your group sales strategy, deciding on a lineup of shows, or improving the process for thanking your major donors.

Having different personalities on a team can be extremely beneficial. It contributes to better decision-making, a more balanced workplace, and increased efficiency. Everyone tends to view the world through the lens of their own experience, which means others can see what you can’t, and vice versa. But this can also come with challenges when people with various perspectives try to communicate effectively. Especially when you likely have a number of different personality types in your organization.

Over the years, many different personality tests and psychological questionnaires have been put out into the world to help people discover their “personality type.” Once identified, a person’s results can be used to help improve relationships and communication with others. Some familiar approaches include Myers-Briggs or DISC. While these assessments, and many others, hold a lot of value, your team may benefit from diving into a centuries-old personality strategy that has recently taken popular hold: The Enneagram.

The nine Enneagram Personality Types are a unique way of looking at what moves people to action, how people make decisions, and their defense mechanisms when under stress. The philosophy of the Enneagram differs from other personality type theories in that it is based less on personality traits and focuses more on the reasons why people behave the way they do — their motivation. Each of the nine types of the Enneagram has a distinct motivator, which is then displayed through behaviors:

  • TYPE ONEs are motivated by the desire to improve everything.
  • TYPE TWOs are motivated by the desire to express their feelings for others.
  • TYPE THREEs are motivated by the desire to be successful.
  • TYPE FOURs are motivated by the desire to express themselves.
  • TYPE FIVEs are motivated by the desire to understand everything.
  • TYPE SIXes are motivated by the desire for security.
  • TYPE SEVENs are motivated by the desire for freedom.
  • TYPE EIGHTs are motivated by the desire to be self-reliant.
  • TYPE NINEs are motivated by the desire to create harmony.

While everyone connects to each of the nine types in some way, you’ll find that you identify most with one of these types — this is your dominant type.* Knowing your dominant type is the first step toward discovering more about your own motivations and how they affect your behavior and communication style. Don’t be fooled by these nine types though; it’s not as simple as putting yourself (or others) in a “personality box.” The Enneagram is complex and dynamic — just as we humans are incredibly complex and dynamic.

I have found the Enneagram to be especially helpful when handling stressful situations. Faced with any daunting task, dilemma, conflict, or problem, it’s easy to fall into negative patterns, and that’s when collaboration within a team begins to break down.

Taking your organization through this kind of discovery process may seem trivial, but it can have a huge impact. When individuals have a better understanding of their own motivators, and why they tend to react to stress in a certain way, they can better contribute to the group as a whole. And when you understand the personalities and motivations of your colleagues it can help improve communication leading to a more highly functioning team.

The folks over at The Enneagram at Work say:

The Enneagram supports not only individual learning but also organizational learning by assessing the human resources in any group. Every personality type has a particular contribution to make. Which styles are present, and which are missing? What additional point of views are necessary for the best decisions and successful outcomes?

The Enneagram helps us to appreciate diversity – each type has something important and unique to bring to work. Understanding the nine styles at work helps to engage each person’s motivation to bring their full enthusiasm, their most brilliant thinking and creativity to achieving goals. Additionally, it supports people to commit themselves to a process of constant challenge and development.

Utilizing the Enneagram can contribute to the success of any group, like when you need to make big decisions in your organization, pull together a big project, or even figure out where to go for dinner. When I know that my husband is a Five, my sister is a Seven, my mom is a One, and so on, then I (a Nine) can better communicate with the personalities in the room to come to a dinner decision… before anyone gets too hungry.

*Interested in finding your dominant type? The best way to get started is to learn more about the structure of the Enneagram and read about all nine types and see which ones you identify with the most to narrow it down. There are online tests that are both paid (here, here, or here) and free (here and here), but it’s best not to rely only on a test. Results aren’t always 100% accurate and are often only clues to finding your type. Only you can determine your Enneagram type. Take your exploration slowly!

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