Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the Enneagram personality test.

Enneagram tests are online tests that can help you to determine which personality type you are and those of your team members. Like any personality test, Enneagram tests are not a science, but it can be a useful tool to help you understand yours and your team members’ tendencies in order to anticipate and prevent conflicts, and create a great working environment.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about what an Enneagram test is, why it’s one of Hiten’s favorite tests, how they are different from other personality tests and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:31 Why this topic was chosen.

00:50 Where to take an Enneagram test.

01:21 Steli’s thoughts on personality tests in general.

04:04 What an Enneagram test is.

04:17 Why it’s one of Hiten’s favorite tests.

06:49 How Enneagram tests are different from other tests.

07:00 About Hiten’s Enneagram score.

09:17 How to use Enneagram tests at your company.

3 Key Points:

  • There’s a lot of online material about it.
  • I think Enneagram tests are more practical.
  • It can help with diversified thinking at your company.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: and this is Hiten Shah, and today we’re going to talk about something that’s been popping off in startup land a little bit on Twitter and in other places. It’s actually something I’ve been familiar with for the last I want to say like 15 years or something. It’s called any Enneagram, and it’s E-N-N-E-A-G-R-A-M. You can look it up online, and there’s a great site called where they actually have a lot of details about a lot of personality tests, because that’s what Enneagram, is and they let you take it and then they tell you about yourself. And they have a lot … They are sort of a startup that has kind of this, it tells you about people’s personalities and how to interact with them. So it makes sense that they have this, they have a bunch of other tests for other personality tests. But for today we’re going to talk about Enneagram because there’s been a lot of tweets about it, and even friends of mine at many different types of organizations have started talking about it more, and it’s something that I’ve been familiar with for awhile and has been really valuable to me.


Steli Efti: Yeah, that’s how I actually picked up on it. There was a Twitter thread where I think somebody at Clearbit was writing about them using this internally now, and that they’ve seen a lot of value, and then there was a very kind of engaged thread going on with all kinds of either very positive things about it or some critical things about it. And as often times when I go down the rabbit hole of an interesting Twitter thread, somewhere in the middle of there is Hiten Shah saying something insightful. So I saw that you had responded to it or retweeted it or something and, and mentioned that this is one of your favorite personality tests, and that kind of led me down the rabbit hole of playing around with it a little bit and reading a bit more up on it. And here’s my background and then I don’t know this that well, so I want to ask you a bunch of questions about it. But when it comes to personality tests in general, there was a time 15 years ago that I got super into these, and I did a couple of them and I read a bunch of books and I was like super fascinated I think by the topic. And then I did the inevitable mistake of walking around and abusing the knowledge, thinking that I can now just put people into boxes super quickly.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: Like, you are a this, that and that color. You’re a this, that and that number. And then I annoyed others and myself, and then others started knowing me about this stuff. So I was super enthusiastic, and then I think I became kind of cynical thinking, yeah, there’s some value in it, but you really have to know people. You really have to take your time, you really have to observe. It’s just one ingredient out of many to truly try to understand yourself and others better. So I kind of started I think habitually rejecting this and not really paying that much attention to it. And, and now when I saw this, I was thinking about funny enough personality tests have come up and popped up in different discussions in different situations and I was like, huh, maybe I should revisit this topic again and kind of become a bit more open minded around and more playful. And then when I saw you around this topic, I was like, Oh, if Hiten says this is one of his favorites, let me read up on it and try to understand it a little bit better. So, okay. So we can talk about the benefits of doing personality tests. Should that be something that you do within your team and companies? Is this something you do? And then this specific, I still don’t know how to say it, Enneagram, did I say it right?


Hiten Shah: Enneagram.


Steli Efti: Enneagram.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, that’s fine.


Steli Efti: Enneagram.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: Okay.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, there you go.


Steli Efti: I need to practice this. So, the Enneagram, this is one of your favorites. Why so? How did you do it and what do you think is a practical or tactical application that founders could get out of it within their startups?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, there’s nine different types. So they type you into that. And then there’s some things called a wing, which is whether you’re like an adjacent number and what wing you are. So it gets a little, you know, it starts simple, it gets a little complex. The number one reason I like it is there’s a lot of online material about it. There’s a lot of online material that tells you how if you’re a certain type and someone else is a certain type, how you interact with each other, or how you could interact with each other. And it talks about healthy states of yourself, if you’re that type and all kinds of things like that. So to me it’s different than disc or Myers Briggs or any of that type of stuff. So I like it and I think it’s something that’s more practical.


Steli Efti: Hmm.


Hiten Shah: And I know Myers Briggs and other things that people are into, they feel it practical. But for me this a personality test that is focused on basically helping you a see and understand how to work with others very directly based on knowing yourself, not just … So it’s like a lot of these other ones are great, they’re a little different because they focus a lot on what I would call work, and work related things, especially the ones that are work related. Well this one is just helping you understand yourself as a human being, and literally everyone that’s done it that I know of really finds a lot of value from knowing themselves from a sort of Enneagram standpoint. And so the best thing I can do is tell you mine and talk through it a little bit, I think. Before I do that, I haven’t done it with my teams recently, I don’t think we ever did it at KISSmetrics either. It wasn’t something that was accepted like that until recently. And accepted meaning, I just didn’t see people doing it. So something caused, I don’t know what did, caused people to want to do it inside their companies. And then what ends up happening is out of those nine types, you start seeing the pattern of what types are in your company. So it can even help with diversifying thinking inside your company by bringing on folks who might be different, for example, or being able to recognize why you haven’t brought on certain folks because of everyone in your company and who they are from a personality standpoint for as much as we can figure it out. So it’s a really fun one. And I’m going to dig in a little bit. So I an Enneagram type nine according to this personality test. What it says about them is people with the Enneagram type nine personality tend to be accepting, optimistic and adaptive in their behavior. They like peace and tend to avoid conflict. They tend to enjoy time alone or with smaller groups of people. And then their basic fear and their basic desire I’ll share as well, because I think it’s really interesting. So basic fear is nines are somewhat subconsciously afraid of separation and loss. They attempt to prevent this by remaining peaceful and avoiding conflict with others. Often they will unknowingly adapt to others’ preferences rather than state their own. Their basic desire is to have complete internal peace. Nines want to be in harmony with themselves and the world around them. Peacekeepers defend themselves by ignoring pain or numbing their internal conflicts through food, television and other repetitive patterns. They have a tendency to avoid just comfort to the point of apathy, and so that’s it. That’s what they say about it. And then they go into so many different things about strengths, weaknesses, for example, the weaknesses are difficulty facing personal conflict with others. Tendency to minimize problems, avoiding difficult or upsetting situations, being passive aggressive rather than addressing conflict. It gets better, because Crystal Knows, so it’s, that’s what I’m reading from right now. I’ll speak of a few others because I think it’s really convincing when you look at the way they explained this, but they talk about how Enneagram 9 personalities like to work. So communicating with a nine, encourage them to be open about their personal needs and ideas, create an environment in which they feel safe to communicate honestly. Meeting with an Enneagram nine, avoid creating pressure and encourage them to share their opinions or feelings. Emailing an Enneagram nine, communicate the purpose clearly while allowing room for small talk and personal connection. Giving feedback to a nine, avoid being overly negative or critical. Express growth areas of opportunities rather than faults. Resolving conflict, ask them what they need. Remain calm and patient and express yourself gently. SO they literally tell you like, okay, you want to work with me, here’s how you need to think about it. And all these would work with me.


Steli Efti: Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. So in companies that use this, obviously you wouldn’t use this, and I just did the test yesterday by the way. What’s your best guess? What would you think I am?


Hiten Shah: What would I think you are? Yeah, typing people is interesting. From what I know about Enneagram, because there’s certain numbers I know about better than others. I’d say three or seven.


Steli Efti: Yeah. It says I’m a three.


Hiten Shah: Okay, cool.


Steli Efti: Three with a two wing, so the-


Hiten Shah: Okay my … Go ahead.


Steli Efti: No go ahead.


Hiten Shah: My co founder Neil and my brother-in-law on a lot of stuff, or my co founder on a lot of stuff, but my brother-in-law, he’s a three. So that’s why I know a lot about three.


Steli Efti: Mm. So the things I started reading a little bit up on it, on different sites. There’s actually a … I don’t know if I find this again, but so the couple of things that I started reading up on it, I do agree. I did think that intuitively they seem super insightful. So that’s why my interest kind of increased, well one, you speaking highly of it, and then all the people that I’ve seen that have spoken positively about this are people that I respect. So that kind of made me curious, and as I’ve been starting to read a bit more about it, it’s definitely been something that seemed insightful, even the stuff that I just read about the test that I took.


Hiten Shah: Yep.


Steli Efti: But that leads me to the like, how do you use this? Maybe I’m jumping too fast, but I’m sure-


Hiten Shah: No, you’re not.


Steli Efti: Yeah. How do we use this then within a company in in a way that is productive that doesn’t cause these kinds of issues that I see with personality tests. A lot of people are uncomfortable taking them because they don’t want to box and be judged, understandably and they don’t want to be misjudged or miss categorized in some way, which is totally understandable. And then it’s like, okay, once, let’s say we’ve all taken this test, what do we do now with this? Is this now a way to … How do we use this knowledge to really empower people to understand each other better and treat each other better and work with each other better? I know that you said that you aren’t doing this internally, so let me ask, let me right off the bat asked you this. How come that you haven’t made this part of any kind of team that you’ve ever led? That everybody’s taking this test so we can just understand each other better and do work with each other better?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, we did the equivalent to disc test at KISSmetrics. It’s called in color insight, and that was helpful to a great extent. At a Crazy Egg we’ve never done it. And then at FYI, I do know my co founder and her type and she knows mine. I don’t know if she uses it as much as she could, but I definitely do. Especially once I understood it. And I know my wife’s type, and like I said, I know my brother-in-law’s type who I used to work with a lot. So I think it goes back to how do you work together with somebody, and the other people in the company. So one level of it for me is just knowing where the main, what type is the main type in the company, and who are they? And that’s really helpful. So for example, in my friend’s company, he is a six and the people in his company are either, like the majority of them are either threes or sevens, and it’s about a 30 person company. And only one other person has a six like him. And that poses a bunch of interesting questions about the company around like, if there’s a lot of threes and sevens, what does that mean for the organization? How does the organization think? And more importantly, if you’re not a three or seven, how do you interact with somebody that’s not your type? And also how do you interact with each other? And so again, I can’t share this site enough because it’s such a clear and clean kind of site, but the Crystal Knows site will also talk about relationships and how you can work together. So for example, with a three and a nine, the way you would build trust would be threes tend to trust nines who support and encourage their ambitions. Nine should help threes feel validated and appreciated. Nines usually trust threes who who give them room to move at their own pace. Found a typo. Threes should avoid being overly critical of nines. So that’s kind of where it’s at building trust between three and nine, and then they even talked about working together. Threes are usually driven, energetic and charismatic, while nines tend to be more subdued, consistent and patient. Threes tend to bring goal oriented planning and motivation to a work environment. Nines offer open-mindedness and encouragement. Threes can help nines set and accomplish personal goals while nines can help threes feel supported and valued. So it’s really just about understanding these types of things and then knowing how to work with each other. And then they even talk about dealing with change and managing stress. Then all those kinds of things oriented around kind of the two types. And then they even talk about like you could choose like a nine and a nine, so what do you do if you’re a nine and the other person’s a nine too and you are trying to work together, how does that work? So it’s really this information and then how you go figure out how you want to put it into practice in the organization. What I like it is, there’s so much information about this one online that you could just have everyone do it and kind of work with it without a practitioner or anybody like that. I know there’s now a bunch more practitioners that can help you kind of think through this, but this one, there’s so much knowledge about it and so much information, and it’s relatively simple that you could just start working with it, at least yourself to understand yourself and maybe one other person in your company. I would really highly recommend if you’re a founder and you’re on a team that you just have at least all the founders do it to start with and see how you folks like it.


Steli Efti: Beautiful. Well, yeah. The one thing that I really liked about this is that there are free tests out there. There’s I think a link that we’ll share, there’s a site,, sounds a little bit out there, but it allows you to do this test really quickly, and nicely, and simply. It’s for free, you don’t have to sign up, you don’t have to do anything. And there’s so much free information about this that again, some of these personality tests you have to pay for and license and there’s a whole upselling system afterwards, you know, and if you want to do this year to spend a ton of money, but this seems like it has a lot of, there’s a lot of information out there. There’s a lot of quick, simple ways to play around with it and learn more. And actually before I got on my flight here, I downloaded one of the highest rated books on this topic, and I started reading just for like an hour or so, a couple of pages around this, The Road Back to You and Enneagram, did I say it right?


Hiten Shah: Enneagram. Yeah, it’s fine.


Steli Efti: Enneagram journey to Self-Discovery, and I had to laugh. The book is really well written, and it’s well written. There’s a little bit of a spiritual Christian touch on it, which is not for me, but the actual content and the insights seemed super interesting and it was very, very well written. I had to laugh a couple of times while reading it. So it might be a good read. I’m very much in the beginning, but so far I enjoyed it on my flight to Croatia today. So. All right, so this is it. That’s it for today’s episode on personality tests. I’m actually super interested if anybody that’s listening to us has done this personality test or any other within their teams with their co-founders is using this in some interesting way in the way they manage themselves or others. I want to learn more about this. Again, I want to open my mind up to this and see how it could provide value and how could learn. So please get in touch with us. Steli@Close.come, Share your knowledge, your learnings, your failures and mistakes around on personality tests and managing your startup teams with us. And until next time, we’ll see you very soon.


Hiten Shah: See ya.