Have you ever had an experience that really defined who you are?

For me, this happened when my friend Tony introduced me to the Enneagram, a personality typing system designed to support self-awareness and personal and professional development.

Tony brought the a book called “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” on a group trip to Lake Tahoe and asked if anyone would like to get “typed.” My hand shot up! Typing involved hearing six different paragraphs and deciding which felt the most true to my own character.

We quickly assessed that I was an 8 on the Enneagram.

The Challenger. Powerful. Self-Confident. Decisive. Willful. Confrontational.

Tony chuckled a little: “Ok, Kate. Let me read you a few more statements to see if this is really your type.”

Here’s a sample of what he read.

The good:

  1. When I care about people, I often begin to think about them as “my people” and feel like I need to watch out for their interests.
  2. I know how to get results: I know how to reward people and put pressure on them to get things done.
  3. I see myself as a challenger, as someone who pushes people beyond their comfort zone to achieve their best.
  4. I feel most alive when I do what others think is impossible: I like to go to the edge and see if I can beat the odds.
  5. I am never prouder than when I see someone who I’ve taken under my wing make it on their own.
  6. I have a tender, somewhat sentimental side, that I show to very few people.

The bad:

  1. I’m extremely independent and don’t like having to rely on others for what I really need.
  2. do not have much sympathy for those who are weak and vacillating —weakness invites trouble.
  3. My sense of humor is earthy and sometimes crude, although I think most people are too prissy and thin-skinned.

And the ugly:

  1. I feel that “you have to break some eggs to make an omelet.”
  2. Somebody usually has to come up on the short end of the stick and I don’t want it to be me.

He read 15 sentences and I agreed with ALL of them.

There it was in black and white. I was a pushy, proud, independent, competitive, bull-in-a-China shop, secretly tender-hearted, COACH.

I scanned the room, which included Tony and a grouping of my closest friends, feeling just a little exposed.

Was I really that intense? All of them were nodding their heads with recognition, laughing and wiping their eyes as they said things like “short end of the stick!” and “break some eggs!” And suddenly I was laughing right along…

It was the Kate-est thing that ever happened to me.

Over the years I’ve softened the edge of my 8 nature by accepting help and advice from the numbers around me. My husband, who is a Peacekeeper 9, has helped me to suspend judgment and regulate my temper. My musician friend, a Romantic & Artistic 4, taught me the art of a sincerely delivered apology. My co-founder at Sea Change, who is a Loyalist 6, taught me ways to develop and encourage our staff using a rational and collaborative approach.

I have also harnessed the gifts of my type to build a thriving a great coaching practice.

If you want to learn more about how I use the Enneagram in my career design and leadership coaching. Click here!

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About the Author: Kate Cockrill

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A little about me... I am a social scientist, facilitator, and professional coach. Through my business: Kate Cockrill Coaching, I support mission driven managers and directors with 1:1 career coaching, leadership coaching, team workshops, and retreat design. My clients include leaders in healthcare, education, research and social innovation.

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