I have written several times in the past that there is no leadership without communication. Communication that backs leadership is so much more than learning to smile in front of a TV camera. In my media training and coaching practice I am usually hired to do just that: show people how to avoid basic mistakes when talking to reporters, how to put their message across and get out of a media encounter without too many bruises. It didn’t take long till I realized that no training technique was good enough to turn a human being into an authentic communicator and a genuine leader.
No technique that sticks to the slippery surface of image management was able to help me help my clients bring more of who they truly were into communication. So, I started to search. My quest for more than techniques led me soon toward something that, in time, proved to be the second most important discovery of my professional life after journalism. That something is called the enneagram.
Self-awareness for healthy people
As my teacher, Eva Velechovská, the founder of VEVA CZ and the first to have brought this system to the Czech Republic more than 20 years ago, puts it: the enneagram is psychology for healthy people. A simply looking, yet tremendously complex system combining ancient personal development traditions with modern psychology and emotional intelligence, the enneagram is a tireless source of self-awareness. In short, the system describes nine types of personalities or, better said, nine sets of tactics that we, humans, use in order to get what we want from life.
Sounds oversimplified? Far from that. The enneagram is an intertwined network of causalities that influence one’s personality type. With each layer one unwraps, it becomes almost scary to what extent the system can contain and integrate something as complex and fascinating as human lives. Yet, what is most amazing about the enneagram is that it doesn’t stick to only describing a personality type and its features; it goes beyond and portraits specific strategies of maturing and personal growth for each personality. Thus, the enneagram transforms itself into a guide through crisis, development and personal change.
How does this fit with communication?
Each personality type has its specific strategy to deal with the world in order to get what they want. Backed by most recent academic research, one can state that certain patterns of verbal and nonverbal communication and certain blind spots can be assigned to each personality type.
For example, if your personality type is the Perfectionist, your main motivation to go out and seek communication opportunities is because you want to share your principles and what you believe to be the truth with the world. You might have accumulated lots of physical tension in your body, which is visible in your nonverbal reaction – rejection, criticism and ignorance can easily set you off. You might easily switch off from listening and integrating what your counterpart has to say just to look for more arguments for your already firm opinion. You might overlook what selling your opinion as the generally valid truth does to your environment and to your relationships.
As your quest for perfection and higher standards of excellence prevent you from sharing all your emotions, more tension accumulates in your body and anger erupts from time to time under different forms such as irritability, impatience and destructive criticism. As you spiral down, awareness is needed for you to stop disintegrating, start to relax, express your emotions naturally and go back to standards of efficiency that are healthy for you and your environment.
All this behavior, all these processes that are taking place often in the background, unseen yet felt, do sooner or later pop up into human interactions and communication. And this is exactly the moment when no media training technique becomes sufficient. This is the point where selfawareness and full responsibility for one’s quality of life comes into place.
This is the below-the waterline level, as another inspiring professor of mine John Scherer of The Scherer Leadership International Centrum puts it. This is where genuine change occurs and personal growth takes off.
“Wherever your attention goes, there goes your energy and there is where real change is taking place,” as Eva Velechovská notes.
As I slowly integrate the majestic complexity of this psychological system into my media advisory, training, coaching and mentoring practice, I am deeply humbled and grateful by the change I have personally experienced for the last five years, from business reporter into media trainer and coach, and where the enneagram has been holding me like a firm anchor even in my darkest moments. Being able to share this option of personal growth with other fellow humans is overwhelming to contemplate. As each change brings pain and rewards, and as change is such an inner part of our lives, new paths open constantly in front of each of us. May this autumn bring numerous and rewarding moments of self-awareness, meaning and growth for all of us.
THIS TEXT HAS FIRST BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE COLUMN MEDIAPOWER BY LEADERS MAGAZINE ON AUGUST 6, 2013 http://www.leadersmagazine.cz/2013/11/15/24340/#.UuDq8bRNyM8