Article - Intermediate

Team Coaching with the Enneagram

By Dirk Cloete | 11 December 2018 |
team coaching with the enneagram

Many organisations around the world have spent billions of dollars on experiments and team building activities in the hope of increasing the collaboration, effectiveness and return on investment of one of their most critical elements – the team. Yet, many of these interventions and exercises have cost more than they returned.

At the same time, organisations are coming to rely on teams even more, not less, as time goes by. Almost half of the organisations surveyed in Deloitte’s annual global Human Capital Survey are restructuring their business models around making more use of teams and teaming.

As a result of this increased need for ‘team solutions’ and an increased awareness of the complexities and demands of high-performing teams, the team building industry has shifted in the past few decades. Practitioners and organisations have turned to more rigorous, scientific and data-driven approaches to assessing and improving team performance.

Our integrative team solutions combine the depth and reflective power of the Enneagram with cutting-edge assessment and graphing technology, to support teams in a holistic journey of development and integration. Whether the team are already familiar with the Enneagram or new to the framework, these tools offer a springboard for growing interpersonal and team awareness, tapping into team gifts and ultimately enabling teams to express their purpose and potential.

What is Team Coaching?

Team coaching refers to a modern approach to team development where a single coach works with a team collectively, over a series of sessions, to understand and support them in their ongoing team effectiveness journey. The coach facilitates the team’s discussions and offers them tools and prompts but ensures that the team remain in control of their own journey and learning.

Team coaching has emerged as a practical way to apply the principles of coaching to the team as a whole. Because everyone in the team learns and reflects together, teams that embrace team coaching tend to demonstrate more focused, collective energy. As they learn together – and support each other’s learning – they can use real work issues to put the learning into practice, so embedding new skills.

Team coaching might begin with an initial kick-off workshop, but then is characterized by more frequent interactions over a longer time frame. Many team coaches use a blend of integrated interventions, working at both individual and team level simultaneously, coaching the team together as a group but also offering individual coaching to team members as required.

The goal of team coaching is typically for the team to grow their collective awareness and intelligence, practice new skills and behaviours in context, and grow their own ability to coach themselves and each other as they do so.

Traditional Teambuilding vs Team Coaching

Traditional team development theories assumed that teams were stable over time, and so they focused on choosing the right members and then developing the team. These approaches generally planned to build the team in a linear way as they moved through the famous Tuckman’s stages of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. We were told that when a team member is added or taken away, the team might revert all the way back to Forming and have to begin a new. This focused traditional teambuilding on creating the conditions for a stable, closely bonded team.

These assumptions, however, became problematic as the world of work became more complex and organisations increasingly transitioned to flexible, multi-team structures and matrixes. These approaches use “team” as a verb (a skill we can build or action we can do) rather than a noun (a thing we either are or aren’t). A teaming approach challenges employees to quickly and flexibly form new teams, adjust their existing teams as projects evolve, and reform teams. Teambuilding has become more agile and dynamic in response, to stay relevant.

The ‘Traditional’ Team Building Approach Versus The Continuous ‘Team Coaching’ Approach.

Traditional Team Building Team Coaching
Project-based, often a single event or workshop Performance-based, long-term and flexible
Relies on diagnosing the team’s gaps and designing the correct intervention for them Engages the team in the process of self-reflection and gap identification
Linear team development models to guide teams safely from birth to ending or closure Flexible team development models look at agile sensing and responsiveness to change
Creates awareness and insights but the team is left to apply them without support Creates opportunities to experiment, reflect, feedback and adjust with a coach’s support
Change in a day: quick commitments to change behaviour or processes going forward Change over time: changes are seen through implementation and obstacles

Today, team building focuses more on building the team’s level of awareness, their internal dynamics and ability to converse, therefore developing the ability to unpack and resolve their own challenges. Approaches tend to be oriented towards continuous support and improvement (team coaching) rather than one-off meetings or offsites intended to ‘tune up’ or ‘fix’ the teams.

Teams aren’t born great, but form a unique style over time through an iterative process of experimenting, negotiating and developing shared team values, priorities and ways of working.

Each team must develop their own unique contract or norms, agreeing on what behaviours are expected and acceptable. The ideal end state is that the team reaches high performance by developing ways of working together that harness the diversity of their members and the gifts of their unique style.

Team coaching solutions

Each team is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for excellence. While many team products exist in the market, research conclusively reflects that one-size-fits-all team interventions typically have a lower effectiveness and return on investment than a tailored process. Teams need to explore different aspects and elements of themselves at different times. Literally hundreds of processes and ways of intervening exist. In team coaching, the team coach selects those that will best support the team’s learning journey.

Teams need to be constantly sensing, assessing and adjusting how their capabilities and ways of working measure up to the expectations and demands of their environment and team context. By working with the team in a more long-term partnership embedded in their daily working reality, the coach can work with the team in a progressive way, offering fresh inputs and changing their focus as the team identifies new opportunities to grow and increase performance.

In team coaching interventions, our accredited practitioners can draw on a range of team products and solutions, including Team Reports that offer detailed feedback on the team’s style, leadership dynamics, conflict styles and team consensus.

Depending on the team’s current issues and development priorities, different coaching and development paths may be more or less helpful, such as:

  • Working with the gifts and strengths of the team’s Enneagram style, connecting to the unique value they offer to the world, noticing any underrepresented styles and questioning what the team loses by paying less attention to these areas.
  • Reflecting to the team where they might be stuck in fixated patterns and coaching them to experiment with new behaviours that access a more liberated, integrated expression of team purpose and potential.
  • Discussing any points of inefficiency or friction in the team and the patterns that underlie them and identifying ways to improve team process.
  • Understanding collective social and conflict styles and developing the processes and skills required to harness healthy conflict as a driver of performance, and not a barrier. Healthy conflict accelerates team performance; unhealthy conflict destroys it.
  • Valuing and supporting the contribution of each team member. The Enneagram develops compassion for the individuals in a team and offers practical tips on working with different Types.

Our solutions

Integrative Enneagram Solutions offers our Accredited Enneagram Practitioners a set of tools to support them in debriefing and facilitating feedback for teams. Our integrative solutions for teams include a range of options, including more immediately accessible workshops and summary reports, as well as deeper, more complex data that might be explored over a longer period of time.

Our iEQ9 Enneagram Team Reports offer rich insights into the individuals who make up the team, and the team dynamics this is likely to create. The Enneagram’s complexity, subtlety and dynamic qualities enable us to explore team dynamics at a layer of richness that is not possible with other frameworks. These tools offer a sensemaking framework that enables teams to understand their drivers and motivations in a clear way.

The iEQ9 Team Exploration Workshop is a one- to two-day exploration of a team’s iEQ9 profile that guides teams through the Enneagram and creates opportunities for the team to learn about themselves, as individuals and as a collective. The workshop guides the team to discover each member's individual Enneagram Type, explore their Team Enneagram Profile, discover their strengths and challenges, improve team dynamics through the social and conflict styles, and define simple changes the team can make, starting immediately.

The Enneagram not only speaks about the journey of team effectiveness but also brings in elements of maturity, interpersonal awareness and purpose, adding richness and meaning to conversations.

Working with the Enneagram and team coaching offers multiple opportunities to build deeper levels of trust and interpersonal understanding, enabling a higher quality of collaboration, collective learning and ultimately team performance over time.

Enneagram-based team coaching supports teams as they:

  • Develop psychological safety and build deeper levels of trust
  • Enable collective learning and a higher quality of collaboration
  • Create clarity and engagement around the team’s purpose and priorities
  • Understand the processes that underlie how the team works
  • Identify ways to improve team processes and performance
  • Manage conflict positively as a driver of performance, not a barrier
  • Question assumptions, allowing new ways of working to emerge
  • Value the contribution of each member and support each other
  • Increase the level of creativity and innovation in the team

Great team development focuses not only on addressing the current challenges of the team, but also aims to deepen the team’s understanding of themselves and their team dynamics, enabling and empowering them to engage in better problem-solving over time.

Our integrative team solutions encourage teams to go deeper and explore the ‘why’ behind their team’s patterns and challenges, allowing for deep, intentional and sustainable changes with the guidance of an accredited coach.


Want to work with the enneagram and teams? Join our Level 2 Advanced Enneagram Team Dynamics training. Register for Level 2