Here at team S+G, we believe that everyone has superpowers. We all have things we are uniquely good at—things that let our inner best selves shine. On the flip side, we also have holes—in our knowledge, our skillsets, and our experiences. These gaps drive our commitment to lifelong learning (our favorite Basecamp channel is called “We love learning!”), but they also remind us of the importance of a team. It’s not a big deal if we don’t know everything, because we work with teammates who can fill in our weak spots.
The important thing is knowing where your gaps are—and, inversely, where your superpowers lie. There are a million tools to help you figure out your giftedness and unique personality, and we’ve done them all: Strengthsfinder, DiSC, Myers Briggs…we LOVE a good personality test.
And the one that has been most revolutionary for our team has been the Enneagram.
The basics: the Enneagram is a personality typing system, much like any of the others. What makes it unique is that it’s all about motivations—your core drivers, and, importantly, your core weaknesses. Every person falls into one of nine “types”—numbered one through nine—and every single number is full of superpowers.
Using the Enneagram to understand our work personalities has been SO helpful for our team—and for the teams we have coached on this very topic. So we thought we’d give you a little inside look at our team’s Enneagram thoughts…
Allison – The Achiever
When Ian and I first started working together many years ago, he purchased a set of tiny buttons (they had puns about reading on them…they were great). Every time I did an especially good job on an assignment, he would give me a button. It was our own tiny Pavlovian reward system, and dang if it didn’t work.
You see, I’m a textbook Enneagram 3—the achiever—which means I have a deep need for affirmation, recognition, and praise. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s something that’s true, which means it’s something to which I must pay attention.
My achievement-oriented self comes with an awesome set of superpowers: I get stuff done. I’m high energy. I can knock out a task list like nobody’s business. These are skills that serve me every single day as an entrepreneur, copywriter, strategist, and parent.
I also love motivating others to live into their full potential, which comes in handy when leading a team (and writing this newsletter!). I believe that I can do big things—and I believe you can do big things, too!
On the flip side, I can get swept up into hustle culture. I have spent over a decade learning to rest (and I’m not there yet). I get frustrated when work moves slowly or when we need to return to a task that’s already been completed. I have trouble recognizing my value outside of what I accomplish.
It’s why I write so frequently about rest and boundaries and pursuing joy (not just work success); I’m writing to myself.
Thankfully, my team knows my weak spots, and they remind me that I am more than the work I produce. They also make sure I’m not cutting corners or cutting people out in an effort to move more quickly through my to-do list. In short, they make me better—and give me space to let my superpowers shine.
Amanda – The Helper
I am an Enneagram 2, often referred to as “The Helper” or “The Giver.” As an Enneagram 2, I possess several strengths that are highly conducive to teamwork. I am empathetic which allows me to have strong connections with my colleagues. I enjoy assisting others and supporting my coworkers, so I enjoy work environments where collaboration and cooperation are valued. In addition, I am sympathetic to the needs and goals of the team members and therefore try to ensure they have what they need to get the job done, which ultimately fosters a positive work environment.
However, as a 2, there is also a set of weaknesses that can affect my work performance and therefore affect the team. After reading The Road Back To You, I learned that I tend to prioritize the needs of others over my own, I have trouble saying no, and I have a hard time processing feedback/criticism.
Having worked with Allison and Ian in the past has been extremely helpful in my current role since they are both familiar with my strengths and weaknesses. They have both taken an active role in making sure I take time off, completely disconnect from work, and set boundaries for myself so I can also tend to my personal life (with a toddler). Additionally, Ian has continued to mentor me by encouraging me to discuss/reflect on past work and future work via his Monthly Action Plan meetings which have ultimately been helpful in finding areas of improvement for myself (processes, organizational tools, etc.) but also to talk through feedback in a positive manner. We have these meetings every month, and while it’s nerve-wracking to know we will be discussing my work performance, it is fundamentally helpful for my own development.
Lindsey – The Achiever
I’ve taken the Enneagram test multiple times over the years. Multiple times because I can never remember what I am. It just didn’t feel that relevant to me. Then, I joined Swell + Good full-time and realized there was no way to be Enneagram-free anymore; I had to step into my Enneagram 3.
That was when I understood the team is obsessed with the Enneagram for good reason. I’m still learning, but it’s already helping me better understand myself and my teammates. For example, it’s made me more aware of my tendency to seek validation through my work. And the culture of Swell + Good has helped me push back against that tendency by treating me as a human, not a copywriting automaton.
Knowing the types of my teammates helps me understand the things that drive them crazy and the places where I can tap their strengths to create better work for our clients. It makes our teamwork stronger.
If this is how I feel about the Enneagram now, I can’t wait to see where I am in six months! Check back then—I might have something more insightful to say 🙂
Ian – The Perfectionist
You might be surprised to learn that the Enneagram and I weren’t always best friends. For a long time, I dismissed it and thought it was just another personality test. You will not be surprised to learn that it crushed my “always need to feel right and argue” soul when I finally saw the light. I mean, who am I kidding—my need to improve isn’t just limited to my work, I’m always trying to hack my own life and myself.
You see, as an Enneagram 1, control is my middle name. I thrive on order, perfection, and ensuring every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed. I can’t stand a lack of process or clarity.
For a leader, that is rarely something that you can truly control. We can pretend we control things, but the fact is we are nothing without the team we work with and for. So here’s where the Enneagram swoops in like a superhero cape. Understanding the Enneagram types of my team has been nothing short of eye-opening. It’s like having a secret weapon to navigate the quirks of our personalities.
Take Allison. She lives for praise and recognition, and trust me, that’s something I could always be better at doling out. Knowing that makes me a better partner. Also, understanding where her infectious drive and energy come from means I can count on her to be the cheerleader and driving force our team needs when times get busy. She gets stuff done like a boss, her knack for motivating others is the tick to my tock. I can let go of these things (mostly) and trust that she’s got this aspect of our partnership.
Letting go and trusting the process can be a Herculean task for a One (honestly, it physically hurts sometimes), but having this Enneagram-powered team is a game-changer. It’s like assembling the Avengers of the personality world, and together, we’re conquering our work challenges, one project at a time. The Enneagram isn’t just a tool; it’s my secret ally in this rollercoaster of self-improvement.
One of the marks of the most successful people I know is a willingness to say, “I’m wrong.” Owning up to mistakes—without excuse or fanfare—is not easy, but it’s essential.
As Adam Grant famously outlined in his book, Think Again, “When we’re in scientist mode, we refuse to let our ideas become ideologies. We don’t start with answers or solutions; we lead with questions and puzzles. We don’t preach from intuition; we teach from evidence. We don’t just have healthy skepticism about other people’s arguments; we dare to disagree with our own arguments. Thinking like a scientist involves more than just reacting with an open mind. It means being actively open-minded. It requires searching for reasons why we might be wrong—not for reasons why we must be right—and revising our views based on what we learn.”
Here at Swell+Good, we’re always trying to be in scientist mode.
In our client work, it means asking questions, listening to as many voices as possible, and thinking outside the box (or destroying the box completely). We’ve been known to (sometimes begrudgingly) kill projects, ditch platforms, and scrap near-final drafts.
We think we’re pretty good at what we do, but we know that what makes us even better is that we’re willing to be wrong.
Last week, for example, we started working on a newsletter about the people who influenced us, highlighting the leaders we follow to level up our marketing and communications game.
But as we approached our scheduled send on Thursday, we realized that what was meant to be an inspirational (and hopefully helpful) guide to great follows had become a navel-gazing, platform-pushing essay on a pretty homogenous group of thinkers. It wasn’t right.
So instead of publishing a piece of work that was fine, but left us all feeling a little uneasy, we pulled the plug.
We made the call to send nothing instead of sending the wrong thing—and that was the right decision.
Later in the book, Grant writes, “When you’re wrong, it’s not something to be depressed about. [Instead] say, ‘Hey, I discovered something!’”
So here we are, saying, “Hey, we discovered something!” Our good idea…wasn’t. We learned, we grew, and we moved on. But we aren’t done yet. Now, we want to learn from you. Our group of influencers left something to be desired, so we’re flipping the script and coming to you for advice instead of giving it. Who should we be following? Whose voices inspire and motivate you? Would you leave a comment their names or handles so that we can diversify and expand our own feeds?
More broadly, here are a few more questions for you to consider: What’s a habit or program you want to rethink? What isn’t really working for you anymore? Or what is giving you that uneasy feeling that this isn’t exactly right?
This week, we challenge you to listen to that voice—and be willing to quit the things that aren’t serving you. It won’t be fun, but it will be worth it.
It’s been 106 degrees here in Austin for weeks, but at S+G headquarters, we’re dreaming of a snowy winter wonderland. Yes, that’s right, we’re all about Christmas in July.
And sure, part of that is to counter the truly excessive heat (did you know that Mel Tormé wrote “The Christmas Song”—you know the one…”Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”—to cool himself off during a sweltering July?), but another part is that now is when we start prepping for Q4 fundraising. Yes, really.
As we work with clients to set them up for a successful year-end, we’re sharing a few of our best “Christmas in July” tips with all of you!
- Get your lists in order. Want to talk to more people in Q4? Better start finding them now! (For inspiration, check out this great acquisition experiment from Next After and Save the Children!)
- Communication calendars are your best friend. If you’re anything like us (or many of our clients), September through December is a crazy season. Events, reports, holidays, thankathons, vacations, and, oh yeah, probably a big campaign (with direct mail and everything)! How do you fit in all those competing priorities (and their many associated messages)? One word: smart calendaring. We’d love to help you build your strategy and create a comms calendar that works for you!
- Do your content audit now. What stories and stats do you have in your arsenal? And, just as importantly, what are you missing? How will you fill in the gaps—and how can you squeeze the most life out of what you already have?
- Remember the attitude of gratitude. As you prepare to make big asks at the end of the year, think about how you can celebrate and thank donors now. Deepening your relationship with some good, old-fashioned cultivation will help your campaign shine when it’s time to launch.
- Turn up those holiday tunes—and dream of cooler weather. Listen, we know it’s July. December seems miles away. But thinking ahead will set you up for success—and lessen the pressures of an inevitably stressful season. So join us as we crank some Mannheim Steamroller, pull out our calendars, and make plans to absolutely rock our Q4 fundraising.
Want help with your own Q4 planning, strategy, or implementation (yes, we’ll happily write all of your communications for you!)? Get in touch! Or if you know a nonprofit that could use support in the back half of the year, let us know! We’d love to connect and help you bring your vision to life!
Last week, our entire team joined Threads on day one. In technology models, you could consider us “early adopters”—the people who jump on a tool or application right away, kinks, errors, and all. We figure it out as we go, watch as more people catch on (or don’t), and hope that most frustrating elements are fixed fast.
As we played around on Threads, we got to thinking about the other times we’ve been early adopters—and how those tools have remained integral in our lives (or, you know, not). When is jumping on a trend a great idea? And when is it a waste of time? Hard to know, honestly. But here are a few of our team’s experiences…
Lindsey rented clothes (and doesn’t any more).
I think the cat is out of the bag now, but Nuuly is, or at least was, awesome. For $88 a month, you could choose six pieces, wear them, and send them back. When I first started my subscription a few years ago, I rented everything: wedding guest dresses, everyday sweaters, fun outfits to wear to the office, Citizens of Humanity jeans, and more. For a while, those six pieces were integral to my closet.
The beauty was in the selection. They had tons of inventory, and not that many people trying to rent it. But, slowly, the secret got out, and for a few too many months in a row, none of the good stuff was available when it came time to choose my pieces. The more people that signed up, the worse it seemed to get—and I paused my subscription.
I still do it, on and off, for special occasions or trips, but it’s no longer the wardrobe workhorse it used to be.
Allison’s test turned into an addiction.
I don’t know how strong your mid-2010s memory is, but in August 2016, Instagram launched a new little tool called Stories. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
At the time, I was living out of backpack, traveling around the world full-time (yes, it was awesome), and preparing to hit the road for a leg of the trip on behalf of Opportunity International, an incredible nonprofit organization. I already had Instagram (and I was rocking those filters), but my team and I were excited about the “raw, behind-the-scenes” potential of Stories. So we made a deal. I would “story” every day about my travel escapades from the Opportunity account. It was part travelog, part client story, part we-have-no-idea-what-we’re-doing-but-we’re-trying-anyway. And it was so fun.
Fast forward seven years and I’m putting increasingly strict screen restrictions on my phone because I cannot stop scrolling Stories before bed. That “little tool” that I started using the very first week it came out has become ubiquitous to the point of addiction. Who would have thought?
When it comes to tech, you never know what might happen—some apps hit, some apps flop, and some apps rule our lives—so sometimes it’s fun to just jump in and play. Those early days are the best, anyway—no rules, no strategy, and no big deal if you fail.
Amanda tried to up her cooking game (and it didn’t work).
It was November 2019, and all I wanted for Christmas was an Our Place pan. I was intrigued by its sleek design, bright color options, and ability to be “nonstick.” Every time I opened Instagram, there it was, showcasing itself and convincing me it was an absolute essential. In addition, it came with a steamer basket, a wooden spatula that could perfectly lay on top of its handle, and a specialized sponge for washing it. I was SOLD—but with an $145 price tag, it left many skeptics wondering if it was really worth it.
Fast forward to late January 2020, when I finally received my pan. It was everything I ever expected and more. Its smoothness and ceramic finish was beautiful—and way sleeker than my old All Clad, TFAL, and Cuisanart pans. It was also oven safe (up to 450℉). I loved it.
However, the sizzle quickly came to an end when, after a few months, everything was sticking to the pan’s coating. Its sleek exterior was stained and there was no product I could find that could revert it to its base ”spice” color.
The Our Place pan is still all over Instagram, with collaborations with Selena Gomez and new versions of an improved product. But I’m back to using my older pans since they have kept their integrity through and through.
Ian wanted to see your face.
So there I was, a super early adopter of Marco Polo. No, not the game we love playing in the pool (though that game and I do go way back…). I’m talking about the video messaging app that nobody paid attention to when it was released back in 2014. Yeah, that one. But then the pandemic hit, and suddenly everyone was desperate for connection. And guess what? Marco Polo seemed like the perfect solution. Conversational video to the rescue!
I dove right into the app like a champ and invited all my friends. Some chats were livelier than others, but I was the loyal soldier, always there. I mean, I was invested. I started my day with Marco Polo, continued throughout the day, and even sent my final messages as I drifted off to sleep. Talk about dedication.
It worked. I could see my friends, no need for boring Zoom calls, and I actually felt connected. It was like magic, or maybe just really good software development. But then, things changed. I can’t pinpoint the exact day, but at some point, I realized I hadn’t opened the app in days. It happened so subtly, but I was done, now switching my attention back to good old text messages. I had given it too much, too quickly.
Sometimes, you’re an early adopter and your enthusiasm burns hot but fizzles out quickly. Poor Marco Polo, still lurking on my phone, untouched for at least two years now. I guess we had our moment, but like a summer fling, it faded away. So, thanks, Marco Polo, for the memories, we had something special. Maybe one day I’ll remember to uninstall you or check that unwatched message you’ve been emailing me about for the last year.
For a creative agency that spends lots of time thinking about social media (hey, that’s us!), today has already been a BIG day. As Twitter sputters out (and yet, still lives?), the all-powerful Meta saw an opportunity—and, last night, launched Threads, Instagram’s text-based updates platform. Within 7 hours, they passed 10 million users.
So, yeah. This is big.
We are all about early adoption and experimentation, so we jumped right on to experience the excitement. Here’s what we’re loving about Threads so far…
- It’s all about the text. We love a well-designed graphic or beautiful photo as much as the next person (helloooo, Instagram addiction). And you know we can waste hours watching memes and videos (TikTok sucks you in for a reason). But sometimes, you just want to say something—and words are the way to do it. In real life, we use words to connect, converse, debate, and engage. We’re excited to have a new place to do the same digitally.
- You don’t need special skills (or tons of time). Since it’s all about the words, anyone can participate. You don’t need to tap in your designer or photographer. You don’t need to create a sweet flat lay or figure out how to animate static text into a Reel. You can just write what you want to say. And that’s exactly what people are doing. It feels a little bit unhinged right now (in the absolute best way—like kids on the playground without any rules), and people and brands alike are just going for it—with a level of kindness and civility that has long been absent on Twitter.
- It’s connected to tools we already use. Threads is created by Instagram, so your existing username carries over to your Threads account. When your Instagram followers set up their own Threads accounts, they’ll be prompted to follow you there, too. Built in audience, check.
- It’s designed for conversation. Social media at its best is a place where we can, ya know, be social. Yet much of my own social media behavior has become incredibly consumer-driven (I watch, read, absorb creators’ content—but the conversation is often lost). I’m hoping that Threads will create new opportunities for engagement, especially for nonprofits like yours!
- It’s a cool new place to share your story. Some social media platforms are sizzles in the pan—becoming the hottest thing for a week or two before cooling off and eventually falling into oblivion (remember Clubhouse? I’m pretty sure it still exists…). Other platforms reshape our daily lives (looking at you, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube…). We don’t know what Threads will be, but we do know that it has BIG power behind it—and we know that regardless, the best time to take advantage of a new platform is when everyone is talking about it. So why not jump on Threads today and see what it’s all about? You already have words about what you do. You’ll take advantage of a super curious and excited audience. You’ll show your followers that you are tech savvy and on top of trends. And if your organization has an Instagram, you should be able to carry over your info and jump right in!
Our invitation for you today is simple: Join the S+G team on Threads! We can’t wait to have a conversation with you!
If you need help getting started on Threads—or on any social media platform—get in touch! We’d love to help you build a strategy, then execute on it with excellence, creativity, and fun.