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.
A couple of months ago, Allison and I found ourselves in a rut, letting excuses and distractions keep us from relaunching this very newsletter. I needed inspiration—and I found it in an episode of “How I Met Your Father” (HIMYF for the acronym lovers out there and those who were also fans of HIMYM), where the gang embarks on a 48-hour challenge to achieve a collective “rewardishment.”
Feeling challenged by their adventure, we decided to follow suit and introduced a rewardishment of our own. The deal was simple: if we relaunched the newsletter by the following Thursday, we’d be rewarded with a mouthwatering lunch at local restaurant, Bartlett’s. However, if we failed, our lunch would be banished to the fast-food abyss of Jack in the Box—a punishment our taste buds definitely did not want.
Spoiler alert: the fear of consuming midnight-teenager-only delicacies was all the motivation we needed. We powered through, relaunched the newsletter, and rediscovered the joy of sharing our thoughts with all of you. Since then, we’ve reestablished our workflow, involved the full team, and made this newsletter an integral part of our weekly routine.
So why did this work when our weekly conversations about the newsletter didn’t get the job done?
Well, first, it was fun. Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping the fun in your work.
Second, when used sparingly and unexpectedly, rewards can have a profound impact on motivation levels. When we receive a reward for completing a task or achieving a goal, our brains release dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This rush creates positive reinforcement, making us more likely to repeat the behavior that led to the reward in the first place.
We didn’t set out to reward ourselves for writing the newsletter, and we don’t get lunch every time we send another issue, but in that unexpected instance, it hit perfectly.
Parents and children the world over know this works. Heck, my new puppy even gets this. So, let’s embrace the power of positive reinforcement!
On the other hand, punishments serve as a deterrent, reminding us of the consequences of inaction or procrastination. By linking rewards and punishments to our goal of relaunching the newsletter, we created an accountability system that kept us focused and on track.
You Can’t Spell Teyamou without Me and You
But let’s not forget the real MVP of our rewardishment journey—the team (or teyamou if you’re trying really hard to make a subtitle work). When we talked about our newsletter relaunch rewardishment, it wasn’t just Allison or me working in isolation.
We involved each other, rallying together with a shared sense of accountability. Failure or success depended on our collective effort. It was this spirit of teamwork that kept us going, even when the going got tough and our to-do list was filled with other more important things.
S-U-C-C-E-S-S that’s the Way You Spell Success
When a team achieves a common goal, it reinforces the power of teamwork, showcasing the value of that team’s diverse skills and perspectives. Collaborating on a rewardishment fosters an environment where individuals willingly share their strengths, knowledge, and abilities, amplifying the collective effort.
Teamwork can ignite a spark of creativity and innovation. By bringing different minds together, teams can generate fresh ideas and unconventional solutions to problems that may have stumped individuals in isolation. The collective brainstorming and exchange of perspectives fuel creativity, propelling teams to new heights of ingenuity. (We’ve got some thoughts on how to do this and not spend hours on a phone call. You can brainstorm and still cancel meetings.)
Teamwork may make the dream work, but it also makes the learning and growth work! Succeeding as a team creates invaluable learning opportunities. Each member can observe and learn from the strengths and experiences of their teammates, enhancing their own skills and knowledge. The dynamic environment fosters continuous learning as individuals pick up new skills and refine existing ones through shared triumphs.
Working as a team helps spread the responsibility around. We’ve all got plenty to do, and we can’t do it alone. So don’t sit there quietly stressing when you can ask for help and bring your team closer together in the process.
We All Fall Down Together
On the flip side, failure is not the end of the road; it’s a valuable learning experience. When teams encounter setbacks and failures, it can trigger a reflection process that highlights areas for improvement. Failure serves as a stepping stone to success, providing lessons on what went wrong and how to fix it in the future.
Embracing failure as a team builds resilience and adaptability. It forces team members to think outside the box, fostering a mindset that embraces challenges and seeks alternative solutions. Failure breeds innovation and experimentation, encouraging teams to take calculated risks and explore uncharted territories.
Failure also instills a sense of accountability and responsibility within the team. When faced with the consequences of failure, the shared experience creates a culture of accountability, where individuals reflect on their contributions and collaborate to address shortcomings or rectify mistakes. Failure breeds growth.
The journey to success (and failure) is filled with twists and turns—and can contain a healthy dose of rewardishments. No matter what, you and your team come out on the other side better than you started.
So, let’s motivate, conquer, and celebrate together because eating Bartlett’s (or, heaven forbid, Jack in the Box) alone just wouldn’t have been as fun.
Last week, I listened to a short podcast from Emily P. Freeman and was inspired. In it, she described her “reading rhythms”—the types of books she reads at various times of the day. For her, mornings are for spiritual books, afternoons are for personal and professional development, and evenings are for fiction and memoir.
First, I love this. I love that it sets you up for reading success, I love that it assumes you are reading multiple (different) things at once, and I love that it feels so true. (It totally resonates that reading a professional development book at night feels weird!)
Second, it clicked with another experiment I’ve been playing with over the past few weeks. Inspired by author and podcaster Laura Tremaine, I’ve been testing a 20-minute reading timer to give myself a way to consume more nonfiction.
You see, I am a big-time reader. Our house is (basically) a library, with floor-to-ceiling built-ins filling three rooms. I have a stack of books I want to read that’s a mile high—but I only have so many hours in the day.
Like Emily, I love reading fiction at night, so that tends to be what I prioritize. For whatever reason, I don’t have trouble making time to plow through romance novels or the latest best-seller.
But I also want to read nonfiction. I know that business and psychology and productivity and creativity books have been hugely helpful for me in the past, but I have trouble prioritizing them within the very real limits of my daily schedule.
I also know that I am better at my job when I make time to grow. I have to invest in inputs if I want to continue producing high-quality outputs. If I want to benefit from the riches of being a lifelong learner, I have to prioritize, well, learning!
Enter: Laura’s 20-minute timer experiment.
Every day, I pick up a nonfiction book and set a 20-minute timer on my phone. I put everything else away (my computer, and even the phone itself!) and read. And then my phone buzzes and I go back to work.
I set out to do this first thing in the morning (and that is still my aspiration), but life sometimes gets in the way. No worries. I can use some of my lunch break, or even an afternoon chunk of my timeboxing.
I’m primarily choosing books that fall into Emily’s “personal and professional development” category—books that will spark thoughts on how to be a better marketer, a better manager, or a better human. And after two weeks, I can safely say that I am learning a lot—and loving this practice.
If you want to test your own 20-minute timer, I asked the S+G team for a few recommendations of nonfiction books that have changed the way they think about life or work. A few ideas:
- Atomic Habits by James Clear, the seminal classic on how to get things done (recommended by Lindsey)
- Range by David Epstein, the book that gave me words around why one of my favorite qualities in people (and employees) is curiosity (recommended by me)
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the book that guided us to develop our unique (and uniquely non-crazy) culture at Swell+Good (recommended by Ian)
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, our go-to guide to creativity (recommended by Lindsey and me!)
Next on my list are The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control by Katherine Morgan Schafler and The Creative Act by Rick Rubin—and I can’t wait to let you know what I learn!
As I prepared to get married last year, one of the best things my husband and I did was take time to consider our family values. Some of them are silly (“Snacks are a family value,” as my 13-year-old says) and some of them are serious (curiosity, learning, prioritizing people)—but all of them have one thing in common: they define how we live our day-to-day lives.
We can make quick (and simple) decisions because we’ve already decided.
A friend needs a last-minute babysitter? Easy yes. (Because we have values to “say yes when possible” and “show up for people.”)
Want to buy a book on a random topic? Sure. (Because we believe in “lifelong learning.”)
Someone is frustrated, overwhelmed, or upset? Feed them and let them take a nap. (I told you snacks were a family value!)
Now what does all of this have to do with you and your work?
In the same way my family’s values shape our daily decisions and schedule, your organization’s values shape your work decisions and schedule.
- If your organization values deep work, then start canceling meetings.
- If you value collaboration, schedule quarterly brainstorming offsites.
- If you value autonomy, then get out of the way of your staff!
What’s more, your personal professional values should govern the way you work, each and every day.
- Value uninterrupted time with your kids? Block your calendar in the evenings.
- Value peaceful mornings? Charge your phone somewhere other than your bedroom.
- Value creativity? Schedule time to create, explore, and discover.
You are the boss of your time, and you are the boss of your modus operandi.
But here’s the trick—in order to live by your values, you first have to define what those values are. And this can be way easier said than done.
So here are my challenges for you this week:
- Make a list of things you value personally. (Lifelong learning, exercise, family dinners, uninterrupted reading time…whatever!)
- Look at your calendar or task list. Are those things reflected in your actual time? (Your days make up your life, so make sure you are making space for the things that really matter to you!)
- Now get with the coworkers with whom you work most frequently. What do you collectively value that you want to shape the culture of your team? (Flow state, brainstorming, silence, team lunch…)
- How can you build those values into your systems, structures, and schedules?
Your time is your most valuable asset, so spend it on the things that you actually value—personally, professionally, as a team, or as a family.
We’d love to hear what values are emerging for you. Let us know in the comments!