Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

by Clarence Thomson and Mary Bast

The Enneagram tells you, with more detail and precision than you may find comfortable, just what kind of box you may be in as a coach. Every style is the over-use of a gift. What is your gift and how do you over-use it? Look to other styles as models. Walk a mile in their shoes, become more self-aware, and notice how the Enneagram points to your growing edge.

If you want to learn how to be flexible, watch Nines at work. Notice how they support their clients at every turn. You'll have to be alert, because Nines are smooth - they have no hard edges; they don't alienate. If you are a Nine, you may have trouble bringing the initial call to a close. In ongoing coaching you may find it difficult to call people on the games they are playing.

Notice how Eights don't let their clients get away with flimsy excuses. Nobody confronts like an Eight. Rationalizations, half-efforts, careless follow though - none of those get by an Eight. If you're an Eight, you may forget to listen and instead try to bolt down clients' commitment based on what you think they ought to do. You will have an urge to tell them to stop whining, get to work, and let the chips fall where they may.

When you watch Twos, you're going to notice that clients know the coach is on their side. Listen to Twos' advice on networking, diplomacy, and motivation. If you are a Two, you probably think coaching is such a good idea. You've been helping people all your life and now they're paying you for it! And you know just what they need. If you're really in your box, you will make clients dependent on you and your marvelous suggestions.

It will be fun to learn from Sevens because their gift is turning hard work into play. While clients are having a good time with anecdotes and aphorisms, they are learning and changing. Sevens frequently use humor to stand a situation on its head. They will show you how to start a salvage company out of a car wreck. As a Seven, notice your temptation to make clients happy, not better. Your natural aversion to pain, especially conflict, may prompt you to "accentuate the positive."

Look in on Fives, the master planners. They will have relevant useful information and the session planned out quite thoroughly in their heads. For cool wisdom, you can't beat a Five coach. If you are a Five, you know, in your head of heads, that information is the key to solutions. If that's the way you think about it, you might have some trouble understanding that the process of helping someone work through a block can be primarily emotional.

If you don't like trouble (or troubling emotional interaction), spend some time with a talented Six. Look closely, and you'll see they look closely too - at what could possibly go wrong. Sixes look at every process, every decision, and every person or idea to see what might be dangerous or stupid or expensive. If you're a Six, though, you may have trouble trusting the information your clients give you. Remember that whatever they say, you can use it as a starting point for coaching -grist for the mill.

Now watch some Four coaches. Healthy Fours trust their take on things without losing sight of the client's novel circumstances. Clients' resulting faith that they're in good hands while experimenting with innovative approaches to their problems will make growth easier. If you are a Four, you may try too hard - especially in the first call - to come up with daring and original solutions to impress clients as the most creative coach in the land.

Even if you're supportive, responsible, caring, engaging, confronting, and empathic, you may still need to sharpen your skills in how to set goals and objectives, measure progress, and help your clients get the results they need. If so, go see a style Three in action. If you are an in-the box Three, you probably assume standard motivation: fame and fortune at the top of the heap. You will have to work hard at getting inside the world of your clients, especially in the initial session, when your every molecule is screaming, "Get the sale! Get the sale!"

Ones are great at invoking standards with teeth. If you're watching a One coach, the experience may remind you of your best and strictest teacher. Ones criticize with surgical precision. Watch how helpful exact feedback can be, especially when balanced with the healthy One's infectious idealism. As a One you may find yourself trying to convince clients what they ought to do. Because you are highly motivated to do what's right, you may wrongly assume that the same drive will actuate your clients.

How in the world are you going to find nine coaching styles to observe? Easy. Everyone has a parent, a teacher, a scoutmaster, an older brother or sister, friend or boss, someone who is helping someone - perhaps you. They may not be doing formal coaching, but it is generically close. You can see the same qualities, the same talents, the same energy at work. Become a student of how people motivate, challenge, unite, support, protect, and advise others. As you notice these Enneagram styles, you unearth a whole treasure chest of differing approaches. Each approach will at least partially teach you how you can coach outside of your own box.