Welcome to part two of the Enneagram series! If you are a Type Two, this post is meant to offer some clarity into your personality and ideas for improving your work life. If you are not a Type Two, chances are you know one. My hope is that this gives you greater compassion and appreciation for the Helpers in your life.
In this series, we will be heavily referencing The Modern Enneagram, which was one of the options for #dropcapbookclub on Instagram. Because the votes were tied, we will be going through Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crushing It in book club, but I will be doing this blog series on the Enneagram for those of you who want to learn more about this wonderful personality tool. You can grab a copy of The Modern Enneagram on Amazon, which will give you additional thoughts and insights into your type and how it plays with others.
We're going to focus on each personality in the context of a work environment. Our lives are incredibly complex, and The Modern Enneagram explores family dynamics, romantic relationships, and personal development, but we won’t be exploring those issues in this series.
In each type's post, you’ll learn:
Your Core Motivation
How To Handle Stress
Creating The Right Work Environment
The Modern Enneagram starts with a story of “Julia” (who is a Type Seven) and I found it extremely helpful in understanding how the Enneagram model might be applied to a real person. So let’s start with our own story of a fictional Type Two named Sarah. Keep in mind that the point of this story is to notice the patterns of motivation, not the specific circumstances or behavior.
"Sarah is a 32-year-old executive assistant living in a small neighborhood just within the parameters of a major city. She loves working in a busy co-working space for tech startups and spends her weekends trying new restaurants in the city with her husband."
We’ll use Sarah as an example of a Type Two as we dive into the deeper personality and core motivations of this type.
Motivation - desires connection through loving relationships. Highly empathetic and able to anticipate the needs of others.
Basic Fear - fear of being unwanted by others (need to be needed)
“Sarah thrives in her role as an assistant to an ambitious executive she admires and respects. As her right-hand woman, she is able to anticipate team needs and support her boss, becoming an invaluable asset to the company. Growing up, Sarah was considered the ‘teacher’s pet.’ She loved wiping the chalkboards, passing out worksheets, and helping to grade papers. She always felt that her contribution was appreciated and kept the classroom running smoothly. As a young twenties-something, she knew that she would excel behind-the-scenes, but wanted to find a company that was doing meaningful work. When she met the woman behind a massive digital startup that was providing opportunities for women in tech, Sarah knew she wanted to be a part of the movement. In her role, Sarah is able to participate in an innovative industry and meet the needs of a growing digital empire.”
Sarah's Unfolding Story
"Sarah's proactive personality makes her an invaluable employee and popular coworker. She contributes to the positive and uplifting culture of the female-driven tech startup, and has a sixth sense about what others need the most.
When Sarah feels appreciated, her boss often comments on her quick assistance and flexibility. She is nurturing and kind to every person on the team, acting as a type of "mother figure," especially to new hires. Those who work with her compliment her optimistic perspective and willingness to help. Sarah wants every person on the team to feel supported.
However, when the team is under stress, Sarah can start to spiral into an average or unhealthy state. Because Sarah is highly empathetic and easily picks up the energy of others, she often reflects the current culture of the company. When others isolate and offer critical feedback, Sarah feels unappreciated and resentful of those she assists - especially when they stop asking for her help. Her primary concern is to feel needed in her relationships, so she may start to provide unsolicited assistance to her coworkers so that they feel indebted to her.
Without accountability, Sarah's need to be needed can drive a wedge in the team's dynamic. Instead of sincerely supporting her coworkers and boss, she'll attach strings and expectations to her generosity. Sarah's pride in being the helper will cause her to be in denial of her own needs. She'll begin to complain about her lack of appreciation and the ingratitude of her boss. This fixation on the negative leaves her feeling incredibly lonely."
In states of stress, Twos take on the characteristics of an unhealthy and aggressive Type Eight. When they are exhausting taking care of other people, they become assertive and demanding of others. Feeling unappreciated, they begin attaching strings when helping others and using guilt as a way to meet their own needs.
When stress progresses, they become manipulative. They feel victimized by others and resent those who have needed their help without reciprocating.
how to counteract stress for a type two
1. Prioritize taking care of yourself.
"When Sarah knows things are starting to get stressful, she makes a point to first take care of herself before taking care of others. She stocks the kitchen, goes on a long walk, and calls a good friend. She has learned that she cannot pour from an empty cup, and that her ability to show up for others requires that she pay attention to her own needs."
2. Take notice of why you are helping others (check your motives!)
"When Sarah is in a team meeting, she now makes it a point to consider why she is saying yes before committing to a new project or task. She understands that it is unhealthy for her to help others with the expectation that they will do something in return. Now, she first considers if she still wants to help even if it is not returned by the person asking."
3. Keep your empathy in check.
"Sarah’s deeply intuitive empathy makes her excellent at anticipating others’ needs. However, she knows that just because someone has a need doesn’t mean they want her to meet it. She has learned to ask others if they want help with something and graciously accepting a ‘no, thank you’ without taking it personally."
4. Don't remind people of how much you've helped them.
"Even when Sarah is proud of her efforts, she realizes that calling attention to her good works only makes others uneasy. She has learned not to remind people of the ways she has helped them, understanding that her generosity should not require acknowledgment and reciprocation."
5. Let others give to you.
"Sarah now gives her team the opportunity to serve her. She realizes that in order to be part of a unified whole, everyone must give and take in order to utilize the strengths and contributions of the entire team."
The most important thing for a Type Two to experience at work is generosity. As a Type Two entrepreneur, it is crucial that you have a clear understanding of who you are serving and why. Here are three other ideas for incorporating your Type Two strengths in your business:
Focus on the experience. Whether you are giving a product to customers or service to a client, you will excel at adding personal touches to the transaction that will showcase your generous spirit.
Consider creating a mentorship opportunity in your business. As a Two, you are naturally nurturing. Consider how you might assist and guide your clients in a mentorship capacity.
Lead with customer service. One of your greatest strengths as a Type Two is empathy and the ability to understand what other people need most. Communicate to your customers and clients that customer service is an important part of your brand's experience.
"When we first met Sarah, she was perfectly tailored for her role as an executive assistant and loved working in an exciting and innovative industry. Because of her naturally empathetic and nurturing tendencies, she was a major contributor to the culture of the company and an invaluable asset to her boss. In a startup company, there were endless opportunities for Sarah to jump in and show just how much she could help. However, the stress of a startup was also a potential weakness for her empathetic nature. When she began to feel her efforts went unrecognized and unappreciated, she would sink into resentment of other's perceived ingratitude.
By gaining a deeper understanding of herself and how she handles stress, Sarah will not only be an anchor of company culture, but an invaluable member of her team. She will be admired and loved by her coworkers, and trusted by her boss. She will make her greatest contribution when she is self-aware enough to know when she also needs help. Her honesty when she needs others' help will also strengthen her relationships and make it easier for others to connect with her.
Although Sarah will struggle with insincere motives throughout her life, she will begin to experience the true joy that comes from building healthy workplace friendships that are mutually beneficial. She is continuously working on keeping her empathy in check and realizing that others' stress is not her personal responsibility. She recognizes that change takes time. Instead of only focusing on what others need, she now takes time to focus on her own needs as well, which makes her an even more effective team member.
It turns out that her greatest contribution was her willingness to show up for others, even when life was messy. By giving and accepting acts of generosity, she has now built a loving community of support and appreciation."
If you enjoy learning more about the Enneagram and are curious about how to lead with your personality in your business, you may enjoy participating in our Enneagram for Entrepreneurs course. Click the link below to find out more!