The Scout Motto: Be Prepared

by Mary Bast

In coaching any client, you start where their style requires, keeping in mind the eventual destination. With Sixes, for example, it's especially important to build trust by giving lots of details and by holding nothing back - so they don't assume a hidden agenda. Remember, though, that your overarching goal is to help your clients break out of the box of their patterns, to access their strength and potential instead of automatically acting from their fixed worldviews.

    You can help them:

  1. Understand their Enneagram style; observe themselves without judgment - how this style's dynamics play out specifically for them.
  2. Interrupt the pattern: stop doing what they've been doing; do something different.

This doesn't mean that you label them or even approach them directly with your knowledge. It probably won't help a Six, for example, to be told, "You're driven by fear." It's important with all clients that the coaching interaction is a partnership in which they begin to find solutions to their own dilemmas. This is especially vital when you work with Sixes - so you don't get caught in the role of "authority" and unwittingly reinforce their ambivalence in relationship with you. If your usual practice in sharing feedback with a client is to emphasize strengths first, you might want to reconsider that with a Six. When they first start working with you, they're not likely to trust the good news until they've heard the bad! At the same time you can make sure that their worst-case scenario gets balanced by the positive details they've probably missed.

Sixes can lead by worry. The Scout motto of "Be Prepared" fits them well. They are often brilliantly analytical, even if their analysis is colored by looking for what can go wrong. They anticipate every problem and will be reluctant to make a decision until all the negatives are explored. If you have a client who's been told she's too negative and needs to improve her strategic thinking, you have many options to assist in behavioral change. You can also invite more fundamental, second-order change by helping her see how this problem has its taproot in the habits and motives of being a Six. By observing how she habitually focuses only on the down side, she will begin to see how she's swallowed whole the notion that it's a dangerous world in which she always has to have her antennae fully extended - how her pattern of thinking leaves out "what could go right."

As she learns to balance her negative expectations with positive ones, she will find that she spontaneously begins to notice both sides of the equation and that this, in turn, shows up naturally in her language and problem-solving capabilities. In this one respect she will no longer be the same person that she was. She now experiences herself and her environment differently - she is transformed.

We Have Met The Enemy And It Is Us

by Clarence Thomson

When coaching a style Six, the weapon of choice with which they shoot themselves in the foot is self-opposition. It is generically true that we all can be our own worst enemy, but Sixes actually attack themselves. They do it by second-guessing every decision they make or ought to make. But even before they second-guess the decision, they second-guess the information on which to base a decision. It matters little if the information is "hard" or soft." "He says I have to lose 30 pounds. I wonder how he arrived at that figure? (I wonder where my figure went?)" Or "Should I promote Susan who only has three year's experience?"

The self-opposition highlights what an alert Enneagram coach will watch for: the habit of controlling situations (and you?) through doubt. When you give advice (and that will come in small doses later in the process if at all), expect it to be challenged. Sixes are often socially polished, so the challenge may be subtle, but it will be there, nonetheless. Sometimes the doubt will take the form of asking for more information. And more information. And more.... The request for more information is different from the Style Five's lust for data, the request is for information that possibly could corroborate or invalidate the earlier information. If the Six is unhealthy this can feel like the Third Degree. I had one Six client ask me the same question three times within a space of an hour. She didn't forget, she wasn't confused, she was double, nay, triple checking to see if I would stick to my story.

This habit of doubting has a grammatical flag. "What if." Sixes tell me they can take the simplest decision and start repeating, with nuance and shade, of course, "what if." If the Six you're coaching doesn't say "What if" out loud, he is saying it to himself and you will be able to trace it by the related search Sixes go through to find out the real (hidden) truth.

The "what if" process is telltale. One cannot give an answer that yields certitude to a "what if" question. You are forced to guess, to improvise, to project because no "what if" can ever happen exactly as it is presented. "What if the competition goes digital?" Well, if they do, will they raise their prices, move to California, specialize --the list is endless. Do not answer "what if" questions!

The trick is to keep them empirical. Make them stick to what they and you both know. And when they begin to springboard into their fears using "what if," you should get factual. "This is what we know. This we don't. This we can't." Make those distinctions clear. An executive I coached was worried about public opinion. After making a list of all the groups or individuals who would be upset, he was busted. He couldn't name even one!

Sixes are not afraid of reality. They are afraid of what might become real. So the way you help them is to move their fears from their heads (don't forget they are at the center of the thinking triad) and help them face real issues. They're awfully good at that, and they will shine.