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Enneagram for devs: Uncover core motivation, boost growth

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Developers who are in tune with their core motivations go the furthest in their careers.

It’s easy to know what you don’t want, but creating a new future is only possible when you do know what you want — and ask for it.

TL;DR:

  • You must know what you want in order to make it happen
  • Knowing what you want requires you to know your values (which the Enneagram framework can reveal)
  • Asking for what you want must be done with clarity, directness, and include specific details

Our critical mind is very powerful — it’s designed to protect us which means it naturally scans for our preferences and our fears. That’s why it’s so easy to complain and criticize.

It can take hours to write code, and only seconds to delete it. The only problem is, saying no doesn’t create a new future.

Saying no, and removing things, can make room for a new future, but it does not create a new future.

Creation is “yes” energy

Creation is “I want.” Creation is desire, innovation, and building.

Creating a future requires us to sit in the emptiness of “no”, and find the treasure of “yes.”

This is why asking for what you want is the first step in conversations that drive action. Unless you have a clear ask and can directly communicate it in your conversations, you won’t go far.

Your Enneagram type unveils what drives you

Start with your values — what drives you?

The Enneagram is one tool we use to help identify what motivates us (and others). For more on this framework, we recommend The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richar Riso.

Here are nine main drivers of humans:

Once you identify what you value, it becomes easier to know what kind of future you want to create and how you want to create it.

Watch how this plays out in the simple act of deciding where to go to dinner.

Person 1: Where do you want to eat?

Person 2: I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?

Person 3: Well, I crave excellence. Let’s go to that Italian restaurant with the award-winning chef.

-or-

I crave connection. Let’s go to the nice and quiet Thai place to have a deep conversation.

-or-

I crave excitement and innovation. Let’s go to that new Peruvian and Indian fusion restaurant we’ve been hearing so much about.

When we know what we value, we will have an easier time knowing what we want.

Related: How successful developers practice a growth mindset

How can developers figure out their Enneagram type?

Go back to the list of values, and pick one or two that resonate with you. Or take one of the many Enneagram tests found on the Internet. This might take some time, but until you know what you value, your choices in life will feel out of alignment.

What do you want to create?

Where in your life is there a “no” or a “this isn’t working” situation? Sit with that “no,” and see if what you truly want begins to emerge.

Rather than focusing on what you don’t want or what isn’t working, ask yourself “What would I like to experience instead?”

One of my favorite questions is: If I had a magic wand and could make anything happen…what would I do?

Obviously we don’t have magic wands, but this practice reveals what our core needs are, and can be the first step to strategizing ways to move closer to it.

Ask for what you want… directly

The most powerful person in the room is the one who knows what they want and isn’t afraid to ask for it. (It also helps if they know how to listen well and gain consensus).

It takes time to sit in the creative process, and it can be vulnerable to share your desires and vision with others, but when we do — it gives us the opportunity to turn words into action and design a future that accomplishes great things.

Making the ask

Once you know what you want, use concise language, and use verbs as often as possible.

For example, a clear ask can look like, “I need you to look at my pull request today, is that possible for you?” Whereas a less direct approach might look like, “Are you busy today? I’m wondering if you have time to take a look at my pull request at some point?”

In the first example, we get right to the point, state the request, and even include the “by when” component. This approach brings clarity around what and when. This gives the other person a chance to agree, decline, or renegotiate.

An invitation to action

Making a request is a lot like sending an invitation. Consider the 5 W’s: Who, what, where, when, why.

Unless we include all the components, others don’t know what they are actually agreeing to.

Why does the Enneagram matter for developers?

When we get stuck and feel like we aren’t moving forward or making progress, typically it’s because we are too focused on what we don’t like or don’t want.

In order to move into action and accomplish what is most important to you, you must consciously move into that creation energy. Knowing your Enneagram type can reveal what tends to drive you, and offers a framework for how you can asking for what you need directly and clearly.

The Enneagram framework can help entire teams of developers with this understanding and energy have conversations that unlock opportunities for not only personal satisfaction, but also career growth.

Make the shift

What needs to shift for you to say “yes” and start creating the future you want?

Identify one thing today that you can start cultivating so that your actions move into proactivity rather than reactivity.

Read next: 5 ways to build trust with engineering managers