What’s Your Instinct?
The following is an edited excerpt of an article by Mario Sikora, president of the International Enneagram Association and executive coach. Learn about a little understood area of the Enneagram – The Instincts – powerful forces that drive where we focus our attention and how they shape our resulting behaviors. Mario is my co-host for the upcoming Insight to Action tele-workshop on August 15.
Actionable. Experiential. Interactive. For a workshop description, click here.
Many of you may be familiar with the concept of Subtypes—the three variations of each Ennea-Type rooted in instinctive drives commonly called “Self-Preservation,” “Social” and “Sexual” Instincts.
For example, a person can be:
Self-Preservation Type 1
Social Type 1
Transmitting (sexual) Type 1
for a total of 27 variations of combined Type and Instinct.
Instincts are reactions to complex stimuli that do not involve thinking.
However, people will often try to use reason to explain instinctive behavior.
The following offers insight into the three primary instincts. Perhaps you can identify yours?
“Nesting and nurturing” and conservation of resources seem to be at the head of what is commonly called the “self-preservation Instinct,” but different SPs will focus on different behaviors within this domain.
Some may focus on their home (nesting) more than others, some may focus on stockpiling resources more than others, some may focus on their physical well-being more than others, etc. These topics will be important to all SPs, but they will be variably expressed from person-to-person within the domain.
Their strengths tend to include good organizational skills, attention to detail, a focus on process and procedure, and they tend to be more cautious and conservative (a strength in many jobs). They typically spot a plan’s problems and pitfalls more clearly than others. On the downside, this same cautiousness can hold them back, and SPs often need coaching around how to become more risk-taking without ignoring their need for security.
Transmitting (common names – sexual or 1:1)
At the heart of this Instinct domain is the display of reproductive fitness and an impulse to transmit something of ourselves to others, be it our genes, our ideas, or our creations.
People with this instinctual bias will tend to be outgoing and charming, and combine a flattering and seductive quality with a tendency to tell stories about themselves (i.e., to “transmit”). They like intensity in their relationships, but emphasizing a comfort with one-on-one conversations and engagements often causes self-preservation types (who also have this “one-to-one” focus) to label themselves “one-to-one” and misses the more important elements of the domain.
Transmitting Types are generally good at the sizzle that SPs are not good at. They are often charismatic and extroverted. They can be inspiring and excite people around a common cause. They are often good sales people (formally or informally) and can influence others at the individual or group level. They can focus their attention on a person in short but intense bursts, finding just the right thing to say and making the person feel like he or she is the only person in the room.
On the downside, they can dominate conversations and relationships. After the initial charm and flattery, Transmitting Types can turn the focus on themselves and keep it there. Further, they tend not to be attuned to the subtle interpersonal dynamics that the Socials are so good at, and they often are not aware of how they are truly perceived by others.
They are typically not good listeners, even though they may disagree with that assessment. They often need coaching on making space for others, on not dominating interactions with others, and on “receiving” messages as well as they “transmit” them.
Transmitters may often demonstrate a shadow scarcity mentality, believing that they never have enough of the things that are important to them. They may want more money, more prestige, more attention. This desire for more can start to seem like self-centeredness to others in the organization, and Transmitters often need coaching on how to express their desires without coming across as having an undue sense of entitlement.
Social Types are typically good at the social connection and interpersonal dynamics required for life in organizations. They are not necessarily extraverted, but often like to be around people and want to know more about them. This makes them attuned to organizational politics and they generally build good social networks.
On the downside, they can become too interested in gossip and the political intrigue of the organization. They can be status or hierarchy conscious and fall into the trap of unnecessarily comparing themselves to others. Further, they typically exhibit poor attention to detail, and they tend to be uninterested in process and procedures.
Socials can also be ambivalent about self-promotion. They don’t neglect it in the way that many SPs do, but they are conflicted. They may feel that self-promote awkwardly, and therefore fall into a pattern of mostly avoiding it or conversely, overcompensate and overdo.
They often need guidance to understand that it is okay (in fact, it is necessary) to promote themselves and go with their impulse to be seen. Socials can learn to consciously do this effectively and instead of bouncing back and forth between over-doing it or under-doing it.
Mario Sikora is an executive coach and consultant who advises leaders in large organizations across the globe. He has worked with senior leaders in numerous multinational corporations, including Motorola, TE Connectivity, Dow Chemicals, Panasonic, and Johnson & Johnson.
Mario is 2011-2012 president of the board of directors of the International Enneagram Association, which has affiliates and chapters in 17 countries. Visit his website or find him on twitter @mariosikora
There is much more to say on this topic, of course, but I hope this spurs some thought and reflection.
Combining the instincts and the Ennea-Types creates a far more robust coaching framework than focusing on Ennea-Types alone.
Were you able to identify your dominant instinct? How has that shaped the way you “show up,” in work and in life? Please join the conversation.
To register for this tele-workshop on August 15th, click here.