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Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Comparison of CliftonStrengths and the Enneagram Theory

By Adam Hickman and Mary Claire Evans

There are a variety of assessment-based development tools in the market today that coaches can use. In this blog, we will compare two tools from the Enneagram Institute and Gallup — weighing out the differences and providing a little history, too.

Enneagram Theory

The Enneagram of Personality Theory derives its teachings from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism and ancient Greek philosophy, but the assessment known today was put together by Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo was a Bolivian teacher who created the Enneagram of Personality Theory in the 1950s as a part of a more substantial body of teaching he termed Protoanalysis. Protoanalysis is a vast interwoven body of teachings on psychology, cosmology, metaphysics and spirituality devised to bring about transformations in the human consciousness. Ichazo identified nine aligning ego fixations, passions, virtues and holy ideas individuals can develop within their psyche at an early age, which created the foundation for the Nine Enneagram Types. 

These nine interconnected personality types are represented by the nine points of a geometric figure called an Enneagram: a triangle and irregular hexagonal form inside of a circle. Each person who takes an Enneagram assessment receives their type number, which describes the chief feature of their ego structure. As listed on the Enneagram Institute’s website, the nine types include: 

Type One: The Reformer is principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic.
Type Two: The Helper is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing and possessive.
Type Three: The Achiever is adaptable, excelling, driven and image-conscious.
Type Four: The Individualist is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed and temperamental.
Type Five: The Investigator is perceptive, innovative, secretive and isolated.
Type Six: The Loyalist is engaging, responsible, anxious and suspicious.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive and scattered.
Type Eight: The Challenger is self-confident, decisive, willful and confrontational.
Type Nine: The Peacemaker is receptive, reassuring, complacent and resigned.

The placement of each of the nine types along the Enneagram shape is not arbitrary. Deeper into Enneagram Theory, each person has a wing to their type. This type number is a mixture of their dominant personality along with one of the two adjacent types on the circumference of the circle of Enneagram. For example type Nine is between Eight and One, so individuals with a dominant type Nine may have a One wing or an Eight wing that also adds essential elements to their personality. Furthermore, each type has an integration/growth direction and a disintegration/stress direction. Based on the interior lines that connect a type to precisely two other types, an individual can grow if they challenge themselves to behave in a way different from their natural personality, or they can disintegrate in the opposite direction.

Enneagram Assessment Design

The Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) is the most popular Enneagram-based test. The 40-minute assessment consists of 144 forced-choice paired statements. Each pair of sentences is structured for the participant to think about their personality and choose the phrase that best describes them. Results show their dominant Enneagram type along with the ranking of the other eight types and their intensities. 

Results explain the different behaviors associated with each personality type with hopes that once an individual knows and understands harmful actions, they can change to reach their potential.

CliftonStrengths Assessment Overview 

The CliftonStrengths assessment measures the presence of talent in 34 areas called themes. After individuals respond to 177 sets of paired statements, they receive a Signature Themes report that presents their five most dominant talent themes as indicated by their responses to the instrument. A person’s Signature Themes are unique to the individual: 278,256 combinations of five themes are possible, and when you consider the specific order of the five themes, that number jumps to more than 33 million different combinations, meaning the likelihood of finding two people with the same top five are one in 33 million. 

The CliftonStrengths assessment offers an opportunity for talent discovery and a language through which individuals can express their unique talents. The precision afforded by the depth and language of the strengths concept moves beyond that of “people person” descriptors, which offer relatively surface insight. Knowing, for instance, that a person naturally recognizes and cultivates the potential in others and derives satisfaction from watching others grow (Developer) can be a substantial asset when considering how an individual might interact with others.

To date, the CliftonStrengths assessment is approaching 21 million individuals who understand their innate talents.

Both Assessments Can Work Together

The goal of any assessment continues to be the pursuit of understanding an individual and not only appreciating their world, but also gaining insights on how to coach them. The Nine Enneagram Types give contrast and further context to what we CliftonStrengths coaches would deem as our talents that help or hinder our abilities. For example, someone with higher RHETI scores in type Eight than type Nine could presuppose that their CliftonStrengths assessment would depict someone with a higher intensity within their talents for strategic thinking and less in relationship building. With this clarity, a coach could fine-tune their questions, ways of communication and, ultimately, the journey of their coaching partnership. Imagine for a minute how using the insights provided by their RHETI assessment could help when coaching this person to attempt to adapt to status quo. 

If coaches used both assessments, the focal point would be the essence of individualizing your approach to the person for the growth and development of abilities. Often, coaches construct the notion of having to have the right assessment for the right person; yet assessments are just tools — what you do and say is the admirable aspect of the coaching conversation. 
Recall the wisdom from Don Clifton that Talent x (Relationship + Expectation + Rewards/Recognition) = Per Person Productivity. This formula can be applied no matter what the assessment may be. 
Bottom Line

While Enneagram assessments provide clues and insights into an individual, the complexity of understanding humans as types and then the stem of the personality type as a word that has deep meaning may confuse reading the results and coaching conversations. The core of CliftonStrengths —studying what is right with people — remains the same as when it was constructed. Enneagram’s assessment results depict what your personality type gets into conflict by being, which changes the conversation to focus on weakness. While understanding what hinders your talents and abilities is valuable, the larger challenge is understanding how your talents can overcome weaknesses every day. As we know, people receive a greater return on life and in their career when as coaches we stick to the core of strengths-based coaching, uncovering their talents and building upon strengths.

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Adam Hickman, M.B.A.., is a Learning Design Consultant for Gallup. Adam has worked as a consultant and adviser in the field of learning and development, organizational development, and how to transform a culture from best-in-class to world class. His insights have supported many organizations to increase performance by maximizing their talent and human capital systems. Adam received his B.A. in Communications from Hiram College, M.B.A. in Management from Walden University, and currently is conducting a qualitative research study for his Ph.D. in Management from Walden University.

Adam's top 5 strengths are: Ideation | Command | Analytical | Competition | Individualization

Mary Claire Evans is a Qualitative Research Specialist for Gallup. She conducts market research and works with the e-Commerce and CliftonStrengths teams. As an expert in market research and how our coaching philosophy compares to other assessments, Mary Claire is able to help coaches prepare for conversations with clients about each assessment. In addition to being a talented associate for Gallup; she graduated with distinction with a double degree in Economics and Spanish Literature from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Mary Claire's top 5 strengths are: Individualization | Achiever | Learner | Responsibility | Connectedness

Register for the 2018 CliftonStrengths Summit here!


Ralph Rickenbach said...

As a Gallup certified Strengths Coach and a long term Enneagram nerd I can say that the two really complement each other.

The enneagram focusses on the motivation of a person, while CliftonStrengths tells you more about the tools one uses to do an activity. In short, the enneagram tells you why you do things, while CliftonStrengths tell you why you do things the way you do them.

I am a five. I live in the headspace, facing my fear countering it with knowledge. My superpower is detachment: I am not emotionally involved and therefore keep calm in most situations.

My dominant strengths are ideation, learner, deliberative, intellection, futuristic, connectedness, strategic, analytical, input.

A perfect match - but that does not have to be.

I know an enneagram 2, the helper, with no relationship building theme in their top 10 and mostly execution themes in the top 5 with strategic.

His motivation is to help, and he does it planning and executing on things.

By the way, both the enneagram and CliftonStrengths are combined well with Spiral Dynamics to fit them into the human evolution value meme a person is functioning in. The three together give a great picture of a person, great development plans, and great insight into where this person might fit and flourish.

Dieter Wunderlich said...

Hi Mary Claire and Adam,

Thanks for your interesting post.

The formula "Talent x (Relationship + Expectation + Rewards/Recognition) = Per Person Productivity" seems new to me. Where can I find more information about it? Thanks.

Kind regards,

Adam Hickman said...

Good morning, Mr. Wunderlich,

Thanks for reaching out! This is a timely question about the per person productivity formula. While this construct has been around Gallup for a very long time (1980's) - perhaps, the timing is perfect for organizations to start to think about this notion when overhauling their performance management practice. To answer your question specifically, in our latest edition of First, Break All The Rules you can find reference to the qualitative research on page 305. You also can see the blog written by Jeannie Ruhlman (6AUG14) that goes further into the application of this formula. I'll post the link below. Good luck!

Thanks - Adam Hickman

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