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Smarter change

Know your client’s buttons

Once you have a working hypothesis for who your boss is, go across the hierarchy and type your clients.

The way to Linda’s heart is to let her be helpful. She (and her team) were born to serve. They work in a Cancer Charity on the helpline. When Grant came in to help them be more effective and told Linda that she had to stop helping people so much, she actually cried. Linda is an enneagram 2.

Grant polished up his Enneagram skills and returned the next day to try again. This time he talked about his concerns that they may have to stop helping people altogether if they didn’t make the help line work well. He talked about his own father’s struggle with cancer and his desire to make sure that everyone got the help they needed, starting with the people who couldn’t get through on the helpline.

Linda of course wanted to help him get his outcome, and to help all of the failed calls which she knew about but hadn’t wanted to deal with. They worked together to help the line become more efficient AND more helpful.

It’s not about asking people to stop doing what they love, but about making it clear how what you want is what they want: push the buttons you need to push to get things done.

The table below outlines one “button” for each type. This is an immensely complex model, and I feel somewhat of a charlatan for reducing it to less than 30 words. Google the Enneagram and you will find plentiful resources online or try these books: Enneagram Made Easy. The Enneagram has been applied to a lot of different contexts, many of which are quite esoteric.

Link to video on each type

For clearly corporate application, I like The Nine Ways Of Working: How To Use The Enneagram To Discover Your Natural Strengths And Work More Effectively. Michael Goldberg, who wrote that book also has a useful site (

Enneagram Number To get me on side tell me:To get under my skin tell me
1I’m rightI’m wrong
2I’m helpfulI’m making it hard for people
3I’m successfulI’m a fake
4I’m unique and specialI’m just like everybody else
5I’m wise and informedI don’t know my stuff
6I belongI’m an outlier
7I’m funI’m boring
8I’m strongI’m weak
9I’m fairI’m biased

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