Dear coach,

What do you do when you advise your clients on what to do and they, after paying handsomely for your advice, ignore it? It's not an uncommon experience. In the medical field, it is commonly understood that only 1 in 20 will follow advice if it means changing their lifestyle. Often even if they don't have to make much of a change, they don't follow their doctor's instructions.

And you're not a doctor. Few coaching credentials rival MD, and “Doctor's orders” is supposed to be non-negotiable. Yet, if it involves personal change - your speciality - people are apt to purchase what they refuse to use. Why?

One common reason is their Enneagram style. When you become familiar with the Enneagram you learn how powerful our Enneagram focus is. Your expert advice will be filtered through their Enneagram filter and their response to the filtered information will usually proceed along grooves of habit that may or may not allow them to accomplish what you both agreed was a sound strategy and a legitimate goal.

Sometimes it will, of course, and then you will feel you really helped. may also feel like the thrill of pushing a car down hill. You take some credit, but gravity was on your side.

Let's get specific for a moment

Let's say you are coaching a client and you have been impressed by Keith Ferrazzi book, "Never Eat Alone". He is a brilliant networker and your client's goal includes improving networking. Do you recommend the book? Or do you borrow the techniques from the book and recommend them? Maybe. Maybe not. If your client is a style Two, go for it. Ferrazzi is a flaming Two and he really gets off on helping people and helping people help other people. So he does what a Two does intuitively, smoothly, gracefully.

But if your client is a Five, he certainly may need some help with networking, but the way Ferrazzi goes about it would be as awkward and ineffective as a pig learning to high-jump. It's not going to happen. If your client is a Nine or a Four, they will quietly consider your advice for several minutes before rejecting it. A Seven might do it for a week and then drop it, a Three would make it work a little if there's enough money in it.

Our Enneagram style is so habitual and so pervasive that your assistance must deal with it. You need to integrate, manipulate, expose, take advantage of or exploit that focus of attention and energy. You ignore it at your peril.

Take time management, for example. Practically every book written on time management is written by a Three and tries to make everyone do things like a healthy Three. There are actually nine different ways to manage time, of course. There are also nine ways to procrastinate, delegate or abrogate.

I can help

Here's how I can help. I'll send you twelve symbolic value-free questions. I'll attach them so you can see what they are. Have your client answer them and give them to you. Send them to me. I can tell their style from them. Then set up a conference call and I'll explain the strengths and weaknesses of their Enneagram style (with you listening, of course) and I'll tell both of you some things you can do to increase the likelihood of a successful relationship. Then you can integrate their enneagram strengths and avoid the alligators that dwell in their weakness.

I've been doing this for four years now since we published "Out of the Box: Coaching with the Enneagram." The reason so many coaches have asked for this help is that unless you know the Enneagram really well, it is difficult to know, for sure, their Enneagram style. A Seven looks and acts quite a lot like a Three, but if you coach her like a Three and she is a seven, you will miss the motivation and reward differences. Style Three will work diligently for external rewards; a Seven will be reluctant to do that unless they enjoy the work. Their reward system is much more internal or self-referential. Your goals and strategies had better know those different motivations and working habits. No matter how serious a Seven takes your admonitions, she has an internal agreement that she will do them only while making it somehow pleasurable. You both better build that focus in.

You don't have to change the way you coach much. You have lots of tools at your disposal; what the Enneagram offers is which one to use on this specific client. It's like having an X-ray. The Enneagram is a superb diagnostic tool. All your knowledge now has Nine subdivisions. Your client procrastinates for one of Nine reasons. It is helpful to know which one. His office is cluttered, she is feeling overwhelmed, they don't know how to delegate...each for one of Nine different reasons.

If you're interested, contact me for references and prices. Or don't--for any one of Nine reasons.

Clarence Thomson, meta-coach

I have published 3 books and one newsletter (the first one) on the Enneagram. I'm on the editorial board of the IEA Journal and have been using the Enneagram to coach for 12 years. I think I can help you.