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Business-enneagram cases | and more teams

In this 3rd blog about teams, the focus is a consulting organization with which I’ve been working with over the past 3 years as a consultant. Many consulting firms are using the Enneagram and in a variety of ways, a trend that I believe will only increase in the forthcoming years.

Team Cases | Case 3 | a consulting firm team
An administrative team of 6 people, 5 staff in a variety of roles from receptionist and accountant to program development and the CEO, the firm’s founder.

Context | The founder-leader of this organization is a very savvy professional, well-respected in the field, and very committed to both the growth of development of all staff as the continued expansion of the firm’s clientele. I have been a consultant to this organization for several years in a variety of capacities. For example, I’ve met with the staff on three different occasions, using both the Enneagram and my organization development to help them discuss issues and make progress as a team and organization. In addition, I was a keynoter for an annual conference of 200+ consultants in their network, some of whom work for the consulting firm on a regular basis and others who are part of their extended network.

Content and process | In collaboration with the CEO, a plan was created for a one-day session, a targeted agenda that integrated the Enneagram with organizational visioning, optimal interdependence, feedback in real-time to one another, looking at conflict triggers from the point of view of personal development, and personal-professional development. Between talking with the CEO by phone, planning the agenda based on the conversation, then redesigning it based on feedback, I had spent at least 5 hours in preparation.

Fully prepared, I started the session, but then the team wanted me to do a review of the types of the team members. While they remembered their own types, they wanted more detail about the types represented and they wanted to ask questions about each of these. For me, it was obvious that this was the starting point rather than what was planned. My experience has taught me that it is always better to start where the client is rather than where I think they should be!

What happened next was stunning. After reviewing more details on each type represented among the staff, we ended with the CEO who was sure she was a 5. Although I had introduced them to the Enneagram – so what I am about to say next is partly my responsibility – and had never doubted her self-defined type, I also didn’t know her really well. This privacy aspect of her – usually I get to know my clients really well – reinforced her likely Fiveness. In addition, she is also a very aware person, so I took her view of herself as a Five. However when I described type Five in terms of general themes and issues as I had done before, this time, every time I said something, she responded, “I’m not really like that.” Private, yes, but she would never call it “guarding of her privacy.” Overwhelmed by strong emotionality, yes, but only at certain times with specific people and over certain topics. Emotionally disconnect? Not really! She described herself as not highly emotive in public.

At this point, I suggested, if she were willing, that I conduct a typing interview with her in front of her team, which everyone thought was a great idea. During the typing interview with the CEO, she answered each question deeply, demonstrating her high-level of awareness and ability to navigate psychological nuance. It was clear she wasn’t a Five, but what type was she? After many questions and a great deal of self-reflection, the CEO discovered she was a Two, but a social subtype Two, the most intellectual of all the Twos. She’s also highly introverted, which is why initially, she related to the more withdrawn quality associated with Fives. But, as she began to recognize, she isn’t withdrawn at all when she is more relaxed, something she hadn’t experienced in recent years due to the pressures of the job.

What happened after that is described in the section below, Result. In consulting, sometimes the process itself becomes the result, a more important result than any and all of the initial goals set for the consultation.

Result | As soon as the CEO opened up so easily in front of her team, they understood her so much better, partly due to her real type emerging but also because she was so genuinely self-disclosing. This shared experienced created such a huge window of increased trust in the group that they all decided they did not want or need a structured session because to do so would be to “lose the moment of open conversation.” Instead, they asked me to gently facilitate an emergent dialogue about how they felt working at the firm and what was needed from each of them and the organization as a whole to make even greater strides.

As a consultant, I had to be willing to give up my very good plan to go with what was emerging and so that is what we did. We spent the next six hours just talking and going with the flow of the conversation. At the end, they were thrilled, having covered so much territory in an extremely relaxed way.

Post-discussion with client | A week after the program, the client was even more ecstatic about the session than she was at the program’s end. The whole office environment had shifted. Previously it was good. Now it was simply great. The conversations continued, as did the openness and trust.

Main themes | (1) it is essential to have an honest and respectful relationship with your client, whether the client is a new one or an old one; (2) a consultant has to be fully prepared for team sessions because the dynamics can be fluid and the risk high if it doesn’t go well; (3) a consultant has to be willing to give up plans and control for sessions if this is really in the client’s best interest; (4) neither doubt nor accept people’s self-typing because this affirms them but also helps them stay open to other alternatives; (5) unless impossible, always plan a follow-up call after the program, as soon as a few days but no longer than three weeks.

Pricing | Pricing is covered in the prior two blogs, but here is the essence. If you know what the likely price will be, charge clients a project rate that would include the follow-up call. Expenses would be added on top of the rate. It’s simple, transparent, and promotes the project’s effectiveness.

More of teams
If you are interested in case studies, two blogs from February 2015 focus on two other team cases. In addition, there is an abundance of information on my site about the applications of the Enneagram, and there are different case studies as well. If you go to the following link, http://theenneagraminbusiness.com/enneagram-resources/books-research-and-case-studies/, there are two research reports – one a 2011 Benchmark Report on best practices using the Enneagram in organizations across the globe and a research report from Deloitte on Social Intelligence Hiring, a process that uses the Enneagram integrated with other methods that allows organizations to hire employees at all levels better, faster, and at a lower cost.

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