I’ll often see facebook ads which say things like, ‘Grow your business fast. I’ll give you the exact formula I used to achieve xxx’.
In a million years I would never want you to make a purchase on the assumption that if it worked for her, it’ll work for you.
You are an individual. And yes, it’s important to learn businesses principles. However, identifying the exact formula that’ll work for your business isn’t as easy as copying and pasting someone else’s and applying it by rote.
Understanding the enneagram helps you to understand why that is.
At the School of Visibility we teach our students how to use the enneagram to determine where to ‘lean in’ when it comes to visibility, and where they need to focus some block clearing attention so they don’t get stuck in what is their habitual place for hiding out. (Our enneagram training happens in March of each year. Find out more about the School of Visibility curriculum here.)
What is the enneagram?
The enneagram is an ancient personality typing system. More than that, it’s a window into your soul’s journey from hidden and suppressed, to full, soulful expression.
According to the enneagram there are nine different personality types. Or nine different motivations we have for the way we show up in the world. On a deeper level, the enneagram is a ‘sacred map that ‘comes to us in nine variations, each a unique rendering of the way we set out on our own inner journey to reconnect with our essential nature.’ 1
In working with, and teaching, the enneagram myself for over a decade, I’ve found it to be both the most illuminating and confronting tool I’ve ever used for seeing myself and other people.
How can knowing about the enneagram help your visibility journey?
First and foremost it’ll stop you from trying on some cookie cutter strategy that you see someone else spruiking without regard for your own personality, goals, and set of circumstances.
The only time that approach might work is if you’re a very similar in personality type to someone else and happen to have similar goals. From an enneagram perspective, that would look like this; let’s say you’re a type three. Type threes are very comfortable and in fact welcome being seen to succeed in life. If that’s you, then selling a high end product worth tens of thousands of dollars and promoting the luxury lifestyle that accompanies that, might well work for you. Many threes have made a lot of money convincing other people that the only way to really make it in business is to sell coaching packages worth tens of thousands of dollars.
If you’re a five on the enneagram though (fives being the type that’s famously quite frugal with their money and appreciates simplicity in life) then no matter how successful the three has been with that strategy, it’s just never going to work for you. In fact, the approach that’s going to work for you is the exact opposite to our luxe loving friend who loves selling high end coaching packages.
Something much quieter, much less flashy, and far more economically priced is what’s going to feel good to a five. And your business is always going to do best when you’re selling your products and services in a way that feels natural to you. Particularly if you’re a solo-entrepreneur and/or building a personal brand.
Understanding how you feel comfortable showing up in the world – aka how you like to be seen – is critical to creating the most effective visibility strategy in your business.
What are the different enneagram types?
There are nine types (and there are subtypes and wings. But for today, we’re keeping it simple). I’ll review each below but before I do, here’s a quick list. Although the enneagram points are too complex to be characterised by just one aspect of their beingness, I find these descriptions by Integrative 9 very helpful in that they reference a quality or way that the characteristic shows up.
The types are:
- strict perfectionist
- considerate helper
- competitive achiever
- intense creative
- quiet specialist
- loyal skeptic
- enthusiastic visionary
- active controller
- adaptive peacemaker.
If you’re having difficulty identifying your type (something I talk more about here), considering those qualities – strict, considerate, competitive etc – can be a useful factor to take into account.
Starting at the top is the one.
Ones are our social justice warriors, perfectionists, and reformers.
Overall: Ones have a moral compass and feel affronted when someone deviates from that compass. Often to the point of outrage.
How they’re seen: Ones have a clear sense of right or wrong and are comfortable being seen to uphold that.
How they hide: Ones can hide behind their perfectionistic tendencies.
When they’re at their best: When they balance their sense of moral duty with self-compassion and an understanding of their inherent worthiness.
In business: A business run by a one is always going to shine when there’s a broader social or moral purpose driving their vision.
Twos are our givers, our helpers, and our nurturers.
Overall: They come from the heart and look for those heart to heart connections.
How they’re seen: Twos are comfortable being seen for their loving and caring nature.
How they hide: They hide in self-sacrifice. They struggle to receive or acknowledge their own needs.
They’re at their best: When they balance self-sacrifice and understand that their self worth is not dependent on always giving to others.
In business: A business run by a two is always going to shine around customer service. It will thrive by being generous and customer-centric without being self-sacrificing.
Threes are our achievers.
Overall: They like to succeed. They are great at setting goals and finding the most efficient way to achieve them.
How they’re seen: Unlike some other points on the enneagram, threes are very comfortable being seen to succeed financially and socially. In fact, they want to be seen to succeed.
How they hide: Threes hide in the hustle.
They’re at their best: Threes really shine when they allow their authenticity to be seen through their successes. Their great life lesson is to learn to allow success rather than assuming they have to hustle for it.
In business: Threes are great at sales and marketing. If you’re in business you will likely have received a lot of advice from threes. But if you’re not a three yourself, remember to extract the principles and apply them in a way that best suits you.
Fours are our creative geniuses.
Overall: Our artists, romantics and individualists. Fours want to be seen to be different. Under no circumstance do they wish to be viewed as ‘like everyone else’.
How they’re seen: From a visibility perspective, being seen for their uniqueness is not an issue for a four. That’s what they want. The most beautiful and original artwork, clothing and even Instagram accounts are usually created by fours. Haunting music and delicate poetic verse have usually been put together by a four.
How they hide: Fours can hide in brokenness. Their tendency toward romantic tragedy or melancholy can see them collapsing into themselves rather than stepping forward to share their work with the world.
They’re at their best: When a four’s emotional world is balanced, they can share their unique work with the world in a consistent manner.
In business: Fours will shine when they’re letting their creative genius speak for them. Unlike the three who is more likely to sell themselves, their personality, and their success; fours can comfortably let the uniqueness and deep feeling in their work speak for them.
Fives are our researchers, observers, and investigators.
Overall: Fives are deep thinkers and like to look into the detail of their topic in a way that no one else on the enneagram does.
How they’re seen: Fives like to be seen as knowledgable. Academia is one of the industries with many fives in it, for example.
How they hide: Fives can get caught up in the detail of their topic. They can become excessively introverted, lost in their own minds, forgetting their connection to their bodies and to the world at large.
They’re at their best: When they’re able to connect to their emotions and balance curiosity with an awareness of the abundant nature of the universe.
In business: Fives do best when they focus their business around research, planning, and careful deliberation. People will call on them for their logical reflection and expertise.
Sixes are our loyalists and our devil’s advocates.
Overall: Sixes are the girl guides of the enneagram (I mean that in a very positive way. What’s not to love about an organisation devoted to developing leadership qualities in young girls?). They’re well prepared, loyal, great team players, competent and organised.
Side note: Sixes also have the best BS detectors of anyone on the enneagram which means that if you’re selling to a six audience, you’d better be authentic in the way you show up because they are going to sniff out inauthenticity a mile off.
How they’re seen: Sixes are comfortable being seen as the loyal friend, employee, etc. They like to be known for their competence and their capacity for organisation and preparedness for any situation.
How they hide: Sixes can hide in their scepticism or their doubt (in themselves, in a system, in others) – using it as a way of keeping themselves safe. Because they crave security they can fall into a trap of choosing their comfort zone rather than putting themselves out there in business.
They’re at their best: Sixes are at their best when they balance their need for security with courage and faith in themselves.
In business: Sixes are great in many roles. They lead in a very collaborative style. A six will shine in any sort of risk management, risk alleviation business (be they lawyers, financial planners, or providing support around business management and organisation. All those lovely calendars and planning tools on Etsy have, in all likelihood, been prepared by sixes).
Sevens are our dreamers, epicurists, and enthusiasts.
Overall: They’re fun and fun-loving. They’re the ‘Jack and Jills of all trades’ and are generally quite optimistic people. They move fast and can naturally juggle more things in a day than most people can handle in a week.
How they’re seen: They like being seen to be living an interesting life. They want a life less ordinary and have difficulty with the mundane or with day to day routine.
How they hide: They hide in the whirlwind of activity and exciting events they’re always participating in.
They’re at their best: When they bring genuine present moment awareness to their imaginative planning.
In business: There are a good number of sevens represented in the travel blogger sphere and it’s not difficult to realise why. It would be hard to think of a business that suits a seven better than some kind of lifestyle blogging. Because they’re also fast thinkers and see connections between disparate concepts, they’re also great consultants and strategists.
Eights are our leaders, challengers, and confronters.
Overall: Unlike the nines that we’ll speak about in a minute, the eights love a bit of argy-bargy. It makes them feel alive. They like to lead and assume that a large part of their role in life is to protect those around them.
How they’re seen: They have presence and command attention. In almost any situation, they’ll assume their role is to lead the group.
How they hide: Eights hide their vulnerability by dominating environments, conversations, organisations in a very physical way.
They’re at their best: When they curtail their need for dominance and control, by allowing their innocence to shine through. Very healthy eights have learned to lead by acknowledging the expertise of everyone in the room and allowing space for everyone to be heard and respected.
In business: Eights work well as CEOs of large corporations. They like to have people working for them and are happy to assume the level of responsibility that comes with overseeing the empire they invariably dream of building.
Nines are our peacemakers and mediators.
Overall: I like to think of nines as the people who stop the rest of the enneagram from exploding in out and out warfare. 🙂 Remember Jasper from Twilight? He can feel into the emotions of the people around him and manipulate them at will. Nines are a bit like that. They intuitively know where points of tension are in any situation and work to diffuse them as quickly as possible.
How they’re seen: Nines are very comfortable being seen as the moderate, reasonable, calm and collected person in the group.
How they hide: They hide in inactivity and in the accommodation of others – losing themselves in the identity of others.
They’re at their best: When they’ve connected to their own needs and are able to combine harmony and peace with self-generated action.
In business: Nines are great mediators (obviously). There are lots of nine meditation and yoga teachers. They’re not here to sell you success, they’re here to sell you emotional equanimity and inner peace.
So that’s the enneagram in a nutshell.
You see, I hope, why blindly following someone’s ‘This is the exact formula I used to build my list to 100,000 subscribers’ may or may not work for you. (And if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll probably also realise at this point, that that’s a very enneagram three marketing strategy.)
So, now you’ve had a quick overview of the enneagram, what’s next from a visibility perspective?
Some might say step one is to find out exactly which type you are. At the School of Visibility we teach things slightly differently. We get you to try on each type first. To understand where they’ve coming from, to feel their pain, and understand their gifts.
One of the great gifts of the enneagram is the compassion it gives you for yourself and for others. Whether they’re members of your family, your team, or your peer group. As a business owner, you’ll understand your ideal customer sooo much better once you understand the enneagram. You’ll understand both who you are and also, what they need from you. Then you can be visible in a way that not only honours your deepest truths, but also really supports those you’re here to serve.
So, if you choose to study with us, we start by taking you around the enneagram and understanding each point’s motivation at the deepest level. This is important because many points on the enneagram can behave in the same way but are actually acting from very different motivations. I, for example, am a seven. For a while – in my very sevenish career of many experiences – I ran logistics for a large seminar company. People thought I was a two for a while in that place because I used to smile a lot at all the participants as they walked into the seminar. Twos are definitely going to do that. Their motivation is going to be to send love and to feel seen as a loveable person. As a seven I don’t care so much about being loveable. I care about creating a good experience for everyone. So sevens will also smile at people, but for a very different reason. In short, we assume our job is to get the party started. Which means we’re always going to smile as you walk into the room. We want you to feel happy and most of all, not kill the party vibe we’re creating. 🙂
So… same behaviour, different motivation.
Which is why it’s important to dive deeply with the enneagram if you want to use it as a tool for authentic, natural and effortless visibility. (Where visibility is all about radiating your soul’s light, rather than pushing yourself and your ideas onto other people.)
The final thing to know about the enneagram is that developing a good understanding of it will save you soo much time when choosing things like your visibility platform. You’ll stop telling yourself ‘They do x posts a day and they focus on these topics so that’s what I need to do’.
Instead, you’ll know that if you’re an enneagram two, for example, your best visibility approach won’t be wrapped up in a formula, but in a feeling. You’ll focus on how you make your community feel. And when you reach the point that they feel loved and seen by you – and you don’t feel drained by over-giving – then you’ll be well on your way to nailing down your very own winning visibility formula.
NB: There are two other parts to our series on the enneagram. You can navigate through the whole series here. Or jump to part 2: What are they coming to you for? here and part 3: Exploring your type here.