Working With the Instinctual Biases–Skill and Self-Management »

The Preserving Three: Outstanding Preservation

P3 ATAIThe Strategies

Preferred Strategy: Striving to be Outstanding–Our greatest strength, but also our biggest problem when over-used.

Support Strategy: Striving to be Peaceful–Feels comfortable, but problematic when unconsciously over-used.

Neglected Strategy: Striving to be Secure–We are uncomfortable with it at important times, so we often don’t use it effectively. We will under-use it or use it awkwardly.

The Instinctual Biases

Dominant: Preserving–P3s have a non-conscious bias toward focusing on issues related to this domain.

Secondary or “Adolescent territory”: Navigating–P3s are drawn to “Navigating” but often have mixed feelings toward and shadow issues in this area.

Tertiary or Underdeveloped: Transmitting–P3s usually don’t pay much attention to this domain.


Overview: P3s express the instinctive behaviors related to nesting and nurturing through a strategy of striving to feel outstanding. Like all Preservers, they are instinctively attuned to issues related to resources, well-being, safety, and health. P3s gain their internal sense of value through feeling that they accomplish a lot and do their work very well, so they have a very high-task orientation and focus on staying active.  They begin to feel uncomfortable when they are not being productive so they create long lists of tasks that need to be done (even if the list is only in their head) and they take great pleasure in crossing items off their to-do list. While P3s want to be approved of by others, they are not as visibly image-focused as the N3 or T3. Their appearance is generally neat and appropriate, but rarely causes them to stand out. In this, as in most areas of life, they tend to be utilitarian, focusing on what will help them get the job done in an efficient and effective manner. P3s are the classic workaholics of the Enneagram, never feeling like there is enough time to get everything done, but not really sure what they would do if the work was done.

At work: Predictably, their need to be productive makes them ideal employees in most environments. P3s demonstrate initiative, are willing to work long hours, and they desire to do a good job. On the surface, P3s may seem like perfectionists because they want others to appreciate their work, but they are actually quite pragmatic and will settle for “good-enough” if “perfect” is not absolutely necessary. While they can be shining stars because of their productivity, they can also struggle at being team players. This is not because they need to keep the spotlight, but because they may feel that other people are slowing them down and it is easier to do the work themselves than to wait for people who don’t have the same drive and work ethic as the P3.

Leadership Style: P3s often rise to leadership positions because of their high achievement orientation and the volume of their output. While driven to be successful, they usually have a self-deprecating style and they genuinely want others to be successful. Mature P3s understand that they can only be successful if those around them are successful and spend time developing others. However, some P3s fall victim to the “individual-contributor syndrome” and do all the work themselves to save time, if only in the short term.

Working with P3s: At their best, P3s are easy to work with because they are driven and competitive, but their competition is against themselves, a sales target, or a deadline rather than their coworkers. However, they can become frustrated at the slow pace they perceive in others and isolate themselves in an effort to focus on getting their work done. They can be difficult to reach because they load their agenda so full. Generally, it is best to communicate with P3s in a direct, efficient manner and save the small talk for outside the office. It is tempting of managers of P3s to take advantage of their work ethic and overload them with important tasks, but doing so a the expense of helping them learn to be better at delegating and collaborating can hurt the career of the P3 in the long-term.