Engagement and the Enneagram

When are you most engaged? A sporting event? Dinner with a friend? What if you could bring that same level of focus and enjoyment to your job? What if your customers felt that same draw and connection to your organization? If ever there were a time when optimum engagement was crucial, it's now and the Enneagram is a valuable tool.

There are two secrets to effectively increasing employee and customer engagement: knowing what they have in common and knowing what is different. The Enneagram is the magic decoder ring for both. Understanding the range of motivations and worldviews provides the insight needed to create openings for engagement with employees and customers. What is different? Maximum benefit is derived when employees are engaged in the right work and when the organization invests in engaging the right customers.

The Enneagram unlocks the specifics on how to create the environment that uniquely engages each type of employee. It also provides clues on the buying preferences of specific customers as well as how to best partner and collaborate with them.
Employee Engagement

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that in an environment where there is a shared
vision, where they know what is expected of them, understand that reward is
linked to performance, and BELIEVE they will make a difference because
they will be heard,they WILL make a difference. They will go beyond
our expectations and great things will start to happen.
-- Frederick W. Smith, FedEx

Employees, consciously or unconsciously, look at what the company stands for, how the leaders lead, and the opportunity offered to determine if this is "the place for me." When the values and leadership style match and there is a strong possibility for contribution, employees are more likely to contribute their discretionary effort. This is where the Enneagram is particularly helpful. Each Enneagram style will assess this differently. An Eight will look for decisive decision making while a Nine will be more focused on inclusiveness, and a Three will want to be able to shine and achieve.

There is nothing worse than doing the wrong thing well.
-- Peter Drucker, Author, Professor, and Management Consultant

eng1 The essential question then becomes "Engaged in what?" Is leadership clearly communicating the direction and purpose of the organization? Do the employees understand and pursue the strategic priorities? Too often, leaders proudly describe their employees' level of engagement without ever looking to see if they are chasing the right goal. Having a salesperson effectively and consistently selling the old, low-margin, less-effective model serves no one, including the customer.

What does it take to increase engagement? An environment where employees feel the following: sense of contribution, sense of pride, and the ability to grow and advance.

Again, the Enneagram informs. A Two, for example, will seek to contribute through connection and a Four may be proudest of a company that is unique in the market. A sense of contribution includes a deep understanding of vision and mission, an unobstructed line of sight from the employee's actions to organizational results, an opportunity to apply strengths and preferred capabilities, and a voice that is heard. The sense of pride must be in the company and what it stands for, their team, and their willingness to share enthusiasm with others (especially customers). They believe they have the chance to grow and advance when they are not asked to do mindless, unnecessary tasks or projects but instead are asked about their dreams and given a chance to learn and apply new skills and talents.

> back to top

Customer Engagement

It never ceases to amaze me that companies spend millions of dollars to attract new
customers (people they don't know) and spend next to nothing to keep the ones they've got.
-- Jeffrey Gitomer, Speaker and Author of "The Sales Bible"

In order to build a sustainable and profitable business, you should strive to create loyalty from all customers, right? Wrong! In today's world of "do more with less," you cannot possibly expect to provide superior service and support to all, nor should you. Building the kind of partnership that results in customer engagement and loyalty takes time and resources and should only be directed at those customers that are keepers. Decidedly less investment is to be made in your transactional, discount-seeking customers. You certainly can't ignore them but to be clear on fit is as important with customers as it is employees.

Addressing engagement increases the likelihood of establishing customer loyalty, which affords more consistent business and better profit margin. All true as long as you are pursuing those customers that are likely to become core or true friends. These are the customers who either come to you exclusively or at least give you the first shot and last look on any opportunity. They refer you to their network and serve as reference.

Your most loyal customers are your competitor's most sought after prospects.
-- Anonymous

eng2 Once you have determined who these customers are, the real work begins. Loyalty is built through a thousand actions that culminate in your being able to understand the customer buying process, meet customer needs, and develop a customer partnership.

The nine Enneagram styles will suggest very different approaches. For example, Ones may have a defined, linear process and expect you to "earn" the business; a Six may need to have gone through a number of buying cycles before trusting the partnership; a Five will typically expect in-depth product knowledge; and a Seven may be most interested in how the offering is new and exciting. The entire organization must be in concert around making the customer experience one that is memorable and tailored to their Enneagram style.

> back to top

Valerie Atkin has 35 years of experience providing consulting, coaching, facilitation, and customized learning solutions. She has partnered with clients to solve issues dealing with organizational change, employee and customer engagement, teams, leadership, conflict, trust, and communication. Her objective is to assist in the development of balanced, fully functioning individuals who in turn create successful organizations. The Enneagram informs all she does, and she has designed "corporate friendly" Enneagram exercises and materials.

Prior to founding Wells Street Consulting in 1991, Valerie's held positions with DuPont and Stauffer Chemical, was the leading salesperson and National Accounts Manager at Zenger Miller, and was Regional Vice President at MOHR Development.

She has worked at all levels with organizations in industries ranging from heavy equipment to advertising and from furniture to pharmaceuticals. She builds deep, long-term relationships with her clients who have included Caterpillar, Herman Miller, University of Michigan, Premier, and Pfizer. She served on the International Enneagram Association Board of Directors and has presented at its annual conference. She graduated in behavioral psychology from the University of Michigan and has a great sense of humor about everything except Michigan football.