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Performance Management and the Enneagram in the New World of Work

By Anna-Rosa le Roux | 21 June 2019 |
enneagram performance management


As leaders of people and practitioners we have all been part of conversations that reflect the current state of the nation of performance management. We have heard statements, such as: “It is subjective and perceived to be unfair”, “The process is long, cumbersome and complex”, “The conversation is not developmental in nature”, and “It is backward looking and we cannot keep up with the pace of change”.

These are very real conversations in the hallways of organisations that require leaders and people practitioners alike to embrace the future world of work and ask brave questions around this traditional practice that is deeply embedded in our HR management systems.

Traditional performance management systems are built for a simple, predictable world of work that no longer exists. Organisations today are functioning in a networked environment that is globally integrated, instantaneous and changing fast. As a result, we have seen efforts to make performance management more immediate, agile, and continuous.

In 2015, Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends research reported that 82% of companies felt that performance evaluations were not worth their time. A separate study reported that 41% of companies found widespread manager bias, and 45% believed performance evaluations did not motivate employees. But as the ‘traditional’ ways of managing employee performance are fading away, what do we have to replace this HR practice with?

Updated performance management approaches and systems need leaders and practitioners who show up differently.

The role of the leader becomes one where he/she is required to provide frequent feedback, embrace agility, be transparent and to coach at all levels.

This article will explore how the Enneagram supports line managers to facilitate these performance conversations in our new world of work.

Below, we cite some examples of how famous organisations have approached performance management that paint a picture of what is being asked of the leader in a disruptive, agile and ever-changing business world.


Measuring team performance

  • Organisations such as Cisco, Google and General Electric have all embraced this model of performance management. The key idea is to enhance team performance. Enhanced team performance will boost individual performance and with goals closely linked to business outcomes, organisational performance will benefit as a result (2017 Deloitte, Global Human Capital Trends).

Engaging in transparent goal setting

  • Many technology vendors enable performance management processes that allow colleagues to set, share and collaborate on their goals online. Goals are becoming more social, transparent, mobile, and digital (2017 Deloitte, Global Human Capital Trends). Google has always led the pack with a performance management philosophy that is non-traditional and where formal rankings have never been part of the company’s formal people processes; however, goal setting, using objectives and key results have proven to be valuable to them, and have been part of their DNA (Duggan, 2015).

Focusing on partnership and building trust

  • Eli Lilly, a global pharmaceutical company, well known for implementing progressive HR practices, embedded the theme of ‘trust’ when they redesigned their performance management system (Duggan, 2015). They wanted to empower their employees to take more initiative and voice their ideas, and build stronger partnerships between managers and employees.

Creating frequent check-ins

  • Accenture has abandoned their annual review process and shifted their focus to immediate performance development, which replaced the annual forced ranking system that was really only providing feedback on the previous year’s old metrics. They embraced technology and are using an internal App to help those within the organisation relay feedback (Duggan, 2015).
  • Adobe has benefited from regular and frequent check-ins between managers and employees. Integrative Enneagram Solutions Morris, Senior Vice President for People and Place said: “The new Performance Management system requires that executives and managers have regular tough discussions with employees who are struggling with performance issues rather than putting them off until the next performance review cycle comes around” (Morris, 2016).

Giving feedback in a coaching relationship

  • At General Electric, managers are still required to meet with their employees annually; however, the emphasis has changed from a ‘yank-and-rank’ component and getting rid of the bottom 10% that don’t perform to one where managers will be guiding employees to meet their goals in a much less rigid way. General Electric has also implemented an App to enable managers to provide more frequent feedback (Baldassarre & Finken, 2015).
  • Minneapolis food producer and distributor Cargill Inc. introduced the ‘Everyday Performance Management System’ in 2012. It not only encourages employees daily but also provides them with feedback (Duggan, 2015). This forward-looking approach has proved valuable to the organisation.
  • Goldman Sachs acted on their employees’ need for more frequent and constructive feedback before they decided to abandon the old rating and ranking system. They realised that giving employees a number or ranking meant that employees were stuck with that number for a whole year, potentially hampering the opportunity to focus on improving performance using a positive and constructive approach (Shen, 2016).

These innovative examples are providing us with some real-life, practical evidence that supports the key trends emerging in the performance management arena.
Deloitte Human Capital confirms the value of a new approach to performance management:

“90 percent of companies that have redesigned Performance Management see direct improvements in engagement, 96 percent say the processes are simpler, and 83 percent say they see the quality of conversations between employees and managers going up."
~ Performance Management: Playing a Winning Hand, 2017 Global Human Capital Trends

We are thus asking our leaders to:

  • inspire and empower their teams
  • facilitate goal setting conversations that are real-time and informed by customer priority and input
  • provide feedback that is ongoing
  • coach for development and growth

We hope that we will see those shifts in employee engagement, response time to market and the adoption of innovative practices to explore and open up new markets.
Embracing your Enneagram Type in the Performance Process
The world of work is diverse and we have seen that there is a trend to move away from the ‘ideal’ leader type in business to one where many different types of leaders are each contributing their gifts to the organisation:

  • How do we use the different gifts that each Enneagram Type brings to the performance conversation?
  • How do we ensure that we are ‘maximising’ our natural style to add value in the modern-day practice of performance management ?

Here, in brief, are descriptions of how each of the nine Enneagram Types tend to approach the performance management process with their team members:

Enneagram Ones’ conscientious and principled approach enables them to excel at creating timelines and deliverables that drive work to completion. Holding people accountable for delivery comes naturally to them. In the new world of work, Enneagram One leaders will enrich their approach if they spend time to incorporate people aspects into their processes, balancing their critical approach where they may focus too much on failures and gaps, rather than appreciative or strengths-based feedback. A more positive approach will facilitate ongoing employee development and growth.

Enneagram Twos’ people-centered approach enables them to be inclusive in goal setting and planning processes which serves them well in the new world of work. Driven by their need to support others, performance discussions are like coaching or mentoring conversations; however, Enneagram Two leaders need to guard against being overly relationship focused, not glossing over problems or failures or rationalising the behaviour and performance of others on their behalf during performance discussions.

Enneagram Threes’ leadership style is naturally very goal-directed and focused. With clear goals in place, evaluating whether people have met expectations may be quite easy for them and they are likely to be comfortable being fairly tough in the performance discussion. This one-way approach may not leave room for employees to raise or discuss important issues with the Type Three leader. Enneagram Threes could enrich their approach if they focus on the subtler people-centric elements such as building a partnership that allows room for debating and discussing deeper issues.

Enneagram Fours naturally strive towards setting meaningful goals that create a sense of purpose through work, connecting deeply with what matters to each person that they lead. Fours find it easy to be supportive of the team’s well-being and will take the time to reflect and prepare rich, personal feedback for each individual. They dislike numerical ratings or quantitative assessments of performance and if forced to use these, might prefer to agree on final performance ratings through discussion with the staff member.

Enneagram Fives brings an objective, in depth and insightful approach to the performance conversation that is naturally curious and focused on building knowledge and learning. They may, however, be uncomfortable with discussing performance and giving feedback to people. Fives want to avoid the emotional aspects of performance management and would prefer a system that limits the amount of face-to-face feedback and discussion. Enneagram Fives will benefit from an approach that is less detached and indifferent – one that allows for discussion and unpacking performance goals. They need to stay engaged with their staff to make ongoing coaching and feedback possible.

Enneagram Sixes bring a natural quality that allows them to be comfortable and collaborative in a team-orientated environment. Collaborative planning and decision-making processes help build alignment within the team as the plans are created. Their anxiety may lead to an overly cautious and risk-averse approach that makes planning slow. Although Sixes might procrastinate when performance reviews are approaching, they are likely to follow the processes with care.

Enneagram Sevens’ prefer an informal performance management process that feels more like a conversation than an assessment, and dislike very detailed performance systems. They are likely to turn up the positivity during performance discussions. Although helpful, Sevens need to guard against taking an excessively positive and developmental approach to performance discussions as employees may feel that they do not receive sufficiently clear feedback or direction. Enneagram Sevens will benefit from tuning into critical feedback from staff more to enable them to use these as practical development steps.

For Enneagram Eights, performance management is a natural extension of their leadership style. If people have not met their expectations and standards, they will probably already have told them this before the formal performance review meeting. Their feedback style tends to be very direct and confrontational, resulting in staff experiencing Eights as very demanding and insensitive. Yet Enneagram Eights are big-hearted and protective of the people they care about and will benefit from leveraging this approach to be more sensitive and encouraging and empowering their staff.

Enneagram Nines’ participatory approach enables them to create a constructive environment for performance feedback and address difficult issues with diplomacy. Enneagram Nine leaders may, however, find that they downplay performance problems and struggle to be direct and forthright when giving feedback to staff members. They need to stand their ground in performance discussions and provide the gift of feedback, whether the message is celebrating the positive or leaning in to the areas of development.

The Enneagram provides us with a lens that helps us use our strengths and natural ability to participate fully in the context of performance management. Knowing how our Type might be hampering our ability to partake in performance processes in the new world of work, gives us our own development journey to become the best version of leaders that we can be.


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