I was fortunate to work with one of the best, Contributing Expert Kaley Klemp, when working with the Enneagram. Kaley helps explain the Enneagram and shares how understanding your personality type can help you in your life.
CD: Although I had heard peers reference their Enneagram Type over the years, I didn’t know much about it until taking the test and working with you. Can you give us a basic description of the Enneagram and how it works?
KK: The Enneagram is a personality model that helps you understand the fears and desires that cause actions – and how to get out of unproductive patterns. It looks at nine distinct personality types, and focuses on why each type behaves in certain ways. Because it starts with motivation, it explains how you behave at your best versus at your worst- and why those can be so different.
CD: Is it true that everyone emerges from childhood with one of the nine types dominating their personality? At what age is this developed?
KK: You are born with your personality type. Ask any parent with more than one child (and you would especially know with twins!), and they will say that their kids were different from the start. That said, how your personality type shows up - and how limiting it is - is dramatically impacted by your environment growing up. A person with a healthy, supportive family will likely have more flexibility and access to different styles; a person growing up in a dysfunctional environment will have more work to do to overcome the rigidity of their personality coping system.
I think it’s risky to type a child before they are in their teens. Although the personality is visible looking back, the stages of development override personality type.
CD: How can understanding our Personality Type help us in our lives? Growth? Work? Relationships?
KK: Big question! The Enneagram provides individuals with profound self-awareness and the ability to make choices rather than just “do what they've always done.” Leaders can identify behavioral patterns with an understanding of why people do what they do. This awareness provides a unique ability for leaders to make better choices, teams to interact more effectively, and the organization to perform at a higher level. In personal relationships, the empathy for the challenges and struggles for the different types increases compassion and connection.
CD: I know from working with you that you like to use the Enneagram as a guide rather than a rule book. For example, I am a 7 and you would often say “pay attention to the 7”. Can you speak a little about this?
KK: I think every person is unique. Just because you have a Type 7 personality type, there is a lot more to you: family situation, professional experience, mentors and other influences. In the Enneagram we also know that regardless of your primary type, you have qualities of every type within you - the strength of the 8, the depth of the 4, the wisdom of the 5, etc. Using the Enneagram as a guide to help catch patterns and notice behavior helps you be your best whole self, not just a type.
CD: If someone wanted to learn more about the Enneagram, what would you recommend?
KK: If you want an introduction, go to vimeo and watch the video on the Enneagram and any types that resonate with you.
I also love the Riso-Hudson books, especially “The Wisdom of the Enneagram.”