Enneagram: Berghoef & Bell Innovations

Leadership. Communication. Teamwork.


Leave a comment

Modernizing the Enneagram

The Enneagram is a practical tool created from combining ancient wisdom teachings and contemporary psychology. Part of its appeal is the way it has stood the test of time. From its roots in the philosophies of the Desert Fathers and the Kabbalah, as well as its integration of newer psychological insights, modern students of the Enneagram have an eminently applicable system for understanding themselves and others, communicating, resolving conflicts, and working on themselves. Human nature has remained consistent over time, so it’s no surprise that a system rooted in long-standing wisdom traditions has a lot to offer us today.

The Enneagram of personality, as it is currently taught, is also old enough to have acquired its own history and tradition. Most teachers and students still consult classic Enneagram resources from a few decades ago, and there’s good reason for that. There’s nothing like the early works of Riso and Hudson, Palmer, Naranjo, and other Enneagram pioneers to give a sense of the system’s depth and intricacies. There are situations, however, where a modern update is called for in teaching and learning the Enneagram. The economy and job market have changed since the first Enneagram books were written. In our globalized world, we use forms of communication on a daily basis that would amaze even yesterday’s science fiction writers. It’s useful to have ways of teaching the Enneagram that reflect these new realities.

In our book The Modern Enneagram, we gave a lot of thought to bridging the gap between the Enneagram’s timeless insights and the interconnected world of today. Here are some principles we came up with for modernizing Enneagram work for contemporary audiences, while maintaining the essence of its teachings.

Adapt to a changing attention span.
People today are busy, with the constant buzz of smartphone alerts adding on to schedules full of work and family commitments. The ease of rapid communication means that we are expected to pay attention to more input, more quickly, for shorter amounts of time. A 2015 research study shows that the human attention span has fallen to about eight seconds. When introducing the Enneagram in a modern context, it’s helpful to offer a concise introduction that gets the point across and piques your audience’s interest. From there, you can ease students into more in-depth learning, but first it’s helpful to communicate why the Enneagram is worth their time.   

Use contemporary examples and case studies.
A lot of our favorite Enneagram books reference celebrities and pop culture from decades ago. If you’re introducing the Enneagram to newcomers, they may not be familiar with these examples, or they might find them hilariously dated. It’s helpful to find type examples from modern pop culture, which audiences can immediately relate to and younger students will recognize. Workplace and social realities have also changed since many Enneagram references came out. If you’re working with a group, address these changes and make a point of incorporating recent case studies to support the ideas you’re conveying. In our book, we included references to social media, dating apps, and modern workplace dynamics to keep the content relevant to readers’ lives.        

Take advantage of new ways of learning.
There are more ways of teaching and learning the Enneagram now than ever before. Some of the most popular Enneagram courses are now offered online, and you don’t have to travel to a workshop, or live in an area where one is convenient, to learn about the nine types in depth. There are Enneagram blogs, apps, and podcasts. While new ways of learning the Enneagram are proliferating, there’s still a lot of room for expansion. Consider ways you could reach a broader audience through the wide array of platforms available, and seek out people who want to learn what you have to teach. Don’t be afraid to incorporate new ways of learning into your in-person Enneagram work, too.        

The Enneagram has been around for a while now, and it continues to grow in popularity each year. With an eye to modern realities, it will continue to be a relevant and useful way of learning about ourselves and the people we interact with every day.


Leave a comment

Book Excerpt: Solving Problems at Work

Our new book, The Modern Enneagram, just got published. It’s an introduction to the system and its practical applications, with a storytelling style and modern updates. We’re pleased to share an excerpt about ways to use the Enneagram for workplace problem solving with you.

* * * * *

The Enneagram is a popular way for businesses to help their teams understand each other and improve their performance and communication. It’s a useful tool for mediating disputes and resolving interpersonal conflicts on the job.

After learning about the nine types, Julia, an Enneagram Type Seven, started applying her new knowledge to her job of managing a team of graphic designers at a branding firm. She had her colleagues take an Enneagram type assessment, and they now have a common language to talk about each other’s personalities and viewpoints.

Let’s take a look at a scenario where the Enneagram helped solve a problem involving a diverse group of people in Julia’s workplace.

Bob is a repeat client of the firm where Julia works. He has contracted with the company to rebrand his business, including a new logo and marketing strategy. Exacting and critical, he has many specifications for the project. Having worked with Bob before, Julia believes him to be a Type One.

Kevin, a Type Four, is the designer in charge of visual branding for Bob’s company. He completed a logo and portfolio of visual material for the rebranding project, but Bob is dissatisfied with Kevin’s colorful, free-form designs. He wants the whole portfolio redesigned, and he has many specific changes that he would like Kevin to make. Being a One, he has high expectations and desires a brand identity that gets all the details right. He tells Julia that he wants the new portfolio within a set timeline, and says that if it isn’t up to his standards, he will not work with the company in the future. As a Seven, Julia wants to keep interactions optimistic—and she does not want to lose a valuable client. She assures Bob that Kevin will give him what he wants.

Kevin, however, says the timeline is unrealistic. It’s just too tight for him to redesign all the material required. Julia does not have a background in graphic design, and her knowledge of the field comes from working with designers rather than from firsthand experience. She doesn’t understand why a redesign can’t be done quickly.

Kevin explains that Bob’s expected timeline will not result in the powerful visual brand identity his company desires. At best, it will result in some slapdash materials that don’t reflect the quality the branding firm is known for. As a Four, Kevin takes the creative process seriously and values producing well-developed and eye-catching work. Kevin needs more time to come up with new concepts that will fit Bob’s precise specifications and still stand out in the market.

Lakesha, who heads the marketing department, is also advocating quick turnaround. She needs to have the visual branding finished in order for her department to complete the marketing strategy for Bob’s company and have it ready for an upcoming launch party. As a Three on the Enneagram, she wants the branding firm to put their best foot forward, and she sees satisfying the client as part of that.

Julia feels caught between Kevin’s request for more time, and Bob and Lakesha’s requests for more speed. She expresses her frustration to Lakesha—who has more design knowledge than Julia—and they decide to problem solve together. When she hears about the level of changes that Bob wants Kevin to make to the visual branding portfolio, Lakesha agrees that the timeline is unrealistic. Julia is resistant at first. After all, managing interactions with designers is her job, and she wants to make the customer happy. When Lakesha suggests negotiating a compromise with Bob, Julia realizes that she has some workable ideas (and strategies to deliver them) that will please both Bob and Kevin.

Julia contacts Bob and tells him that she respects the integrity of his vision for his company (a strong value for Bob as a One), and her branding firm is committed to representing this vision in the world. She uses her Type Seven strength of positivity to emphasize the advantages of Kevin’s design, and explains that, in order to get the new portfolio completed in time, Bob will need to compromise on some of the changes he wants. She speaks to the effort Kevin is putting in and the high standards of the firm’s design process. Bob is still grumpy, but Julia’s upbeat manner and understanding of his values assuage him somewhat. He is willing to compromise on certain aspects of the redesign, though not on the timeline.

Julia and Lakesha talk to Kevin together about the compromises Bob is willing to make. Kevin is relieved that, with a less intensive redesign, the timeline is closer to being workable. Lakesha proposes a structured plan for completing the project on time, and Julia expresses full confidence in his work. With Julia motivating him, Kevin is able to complete the redesigned logo and portfolio, and Lakesha’s team moves ahead with the marketing strategy.

Ultimately, Bob feels that his company’s rebrand is in good hands because Julia used honesty and integrity when dealing with him. Kevin feels like his creative process has been respected. Lakesha is happy to have achieved her client’s goal of a successful launch, and kept the firm’s good standing in Bob’s eyes. Julia is relieved that everyone involved with the redesign conflict is satisfied and on good terms. Thanks to the Enneagram, their needs and viewpoints have all been heard. They can move on to the next project harmoniously, without any lingering tension.

* * * * *

The Modern Enneagram is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com at http://amzn.to/2jIWXtR and from Amazon.ca at https://is.gd/qZt89f.


Leave a comment

Network Well by Using Your Instincts

IMG_0521Most of us know the famous saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Whether you’re employed, looking for work, an entrepreneur, or some combination of the above, there’s no doubt that networking and relationship building are instrumental in professional success. The research shows that strong networking skills not only help us find the right position, but also correlate with higher salary, more promotions, and increased satisfaction in the workplace.

There are many ways to build your network, from keeping in touch with new contacts to connecting with people you’d like to get to know through professional contacts on LinkedIn. One common and useful way of meeting new people is to attend or host networking events focused on common goals or interests.  

The three Instincts, Self-Preservation, Sexual, and Social, all bring unconscious needs and biases to in-person and online networking. We tend to overdo the needs of our dominant Instinct and underdo, or minimize, our blind spot Instinct’s needs. In order to develop strong networking skills, all of us must bring attention to all three Instincts, to meet the needs of others and ourselves. Below are some suggestions on how to plan and successfully navigate networking events in a way that addresses the desires of all three Instincts.

Self-Preservation: The Self-Preservation Instinct is the part of us that cares about our physical environment and space. If you’re planning a networking event, make sure the venue has comfortable spaces for guests to unwind, and food and drink for a wide range of dietary needs. Let people know in advance if the temperature tends to run hot or cold. At the event, make sure you talk to people in locations where they’re physically comfortable – move to a table if your contact is precariously balancing food and drink during the conversation.

If Self-Preservation is your dominant Instinct, it can be easy to get caught up in sensitivity to the environment, at the expense of getting to know others. Make an effort to spend some time moving around the room, introducing yourself to other people, and letting them know how you can be of value to them.

Sexual: The Sexual Instinct is the part of us that cares about the excitement and stimulation the event provides. Include something about the event, whether it’s an edgy venue or exotic food, that pushes the envelope and gets your guests fired up to be there. Make the event open to allowing all guests to express creativity and discuss their passions. At the event, engage participants by getting them to discuss topics that excite them. Don’t be afraid to break from “working the room” and spend more time with a participant with whom you feel a particularly strong mutual connection.

If Sexual is your dominant Instinct, you may have a tendency to focus on people you find exciting, rather than building networking relationships that support your professional growth. Take the time to explore meeting a wide variety of people, focusing on mutual reciprocity over immediate chemistry.

Social: The Social Instinct is the part of us that cares about finding connection and common ground with others. To bring out the Social Instinct in guests, make sure the venue has plenty of open spaces for ample conversation, and plan icebreakers to get attendees to start talking. Engage the Social Instinct of participants at networking events by not just getting “down to business” – spend time getting to know each other first. Pay attention to the needs of contacts and build relationships by making sure you can offer ways to help and support them, too.

If Social is your dominant Instinct, you likely excel at meeting others at networking events, but sometimes you can work the room a little too quickly and smoothly. Spend enough time getting to know other participants and finding shared interests and values, and help others by introducing them to people you think they’d connect with.

Keeping the three Instincts in mind as you navigate networking events will add to your own and others’ enjoyment, and enhance the quality of the connections you make.


Leave a comment

How Enneagram Types Work in Teams

20140926_143809Strong collaborative skills are more crucial in the workplace today than ever before. According to the New York Times, jobs with a strong social component continue to increase, while more solitary occupations have lost positions. Additionally, modern workplaces of all kinds are embracing a collective, consensus-based approach, with over 70 percent of offices using an open floor plan in their company.

Most employees spend a significant amount of time with their coworkers. Our coworkers often become our friends, and sometimes even feel like family, but when misunderstandings ensue, there’s also the potential for conflict and even workplace bullying within teams. In order to work together cohesively, teammates must learn to respect and leverage each other’s strengths, while productively solving any conflicts that arise.

The Enneagram provides a personality map that shows the unique gifts different workers bring to their team and workplace. When employees’ strengths are leveraged, and they’re each given a role in the team that plays to their strengths, they thrive and contribute in group work. The Enneagram also identifies areas of difficulty for each of the nine types, areas where teammates can provide support. All of the nine Enneagram types have the potential to work well in teams. Below, we describe the strengths and social role of each Enneagram type in teams, as well as blind spots they can face.

Type One: Ones bring principle and discipline to teams. Often inspired by great vision, Ones ensure everyone is working toward the team’s goals in a manner that is ethical. Under stress, Ones can challenge other team members by being critical of their teammates not doing things the “right” way. Ones work best in teams when given a role where they can bring structure and pragmatism toward pushing goals forward.

Type Two: Twos bring interpersonal skills and consideration to teams. In groups, Twos are excellent at checking in and making sure everyone on the team is taken care of. Under stress, Twos can challenge other team members by focusing on team relationships at the expense of completing the project. Twos work best in teams when given a role where they can work on the relational or collaborative aspects of the project.

Type Three: Threes bring excellence and adaptability to teams. Often extremely polished, Threes are great at selling and marketing the team’s product and helping out in any way they’re needed. Threes can challenge other team members when they become too focused on doing the work themselves, at the expense of collaboration and delegation. Threes work best in teams when given a role where their impressive results are valued.

Type Four: Fours bring creativity and awareness to teams. Oriented to the personal realm and aesthetics, Fours ensure goals are created and executed in a manner that’s true to the team and company. Team members can be challenged by Fours when they become self-absorbed, making it difficult for them to participate fully. Fours work best in teams when given the opportunity to bring their creative abilities and sensitivity to projects.

Type Five: Fives bring focus and strategic thinking to teams. In teams, Fives often become the designated expert, using their brainpower to solve difficult problems. Team members can be challenged by Fives when they detach into their intellectual worlds, ignoring team relationships. Fives do their best work in teams when given a role that uses their sharp mental focus, such as strategic planning and innovation.

Type Six: Sixes bring dedication and hard work to teams. Sixes make wonderful allies and are willing to put in long hours, building group cohesion and giving their all to any workplaces they support. Sixes can challenge their team members by doubting their commitment to a project, causing the Six to “test” their teammates. Sixes work best when given structured opportunities to provide team support and the opportunity to be an advocate.

Type Seven: Sevens bring lightning-fast productivity and team spirit to teams. Sevens make teamwork fun, ensuring team members enjoy themselves while they work hard. Sevens can be challenging to their teammates when they become overly scattered and busy, making it hard for them to be pinned down or complete work. Sevens work best when given a role where they can wear a variety of hats, taking advantage of their spontaneity.

Type Eight: Eights bring strength and energy to teams. Natural leaders, Eights are great at getting a project started and ensuring that it continues to move forward. Team members can be challenged by Eights when they become overly domineering and don’t let others on the team have an equal voice. Eights do best in active, “doing” roles and situations where they can express their natural confidence and leadership.

Type Nine: Nines bring consensus and harmony to teams. Nines make great natural mediators when there’s conflict on the team and are often excellent at seeing the broader picture of the team’s goals. Other team members can be challenged by Nines when they become overly passive, “checking out” from the group and not expressing opinions. Nines do best in roles of creating group cohesion and mediating conflict.

Ultimately, when teammates learn each other’s teamwork style, they develop a greater understanding of differences and respect for their colleagues’ strengths, creating a happier and more productive workplace.


Leave a comment

Meeting the Instinctual Needs of Different Organizations

IMG_20150619_213544Working with different organizations is a fascinating study in contrasts. Moving from one group to another, we’ve witnessed focuses and needs that required vastly different approaches.

The Enneagram’s Instincts are a useful model for understanding the priorities and needs of organizations as well as individuals. The Instincts represent unconscious drives, or groups of related behaviors, that seek to get our core needs met. They are a more fundamental part of the way we work than personality type, and can be viewed as an independent mini-typology. People of each personality type can be driven by each of the three Instincts. We share all three, but they are present in individuals and groups to varying degrees, with one running the show and shaping core values.

Different dominant Instincts in organizations call for different approaches. Here are three case studies from our teaching to demonstrate what each Instinct looks like as a dominant focus in organizations, and to share ideas about how to meet the needs of these different types of groups.

Social

A group we worked with recently was dominated by the concerns and energy of the Social Instinct, which is focused on navigating community dynamics. A non-profit that exists to serve the needs of a marginalized community, its team members are a good mix of members of that community and external advocates. When we walked through the door, we saw people milling around, checking in with each other. The room buzzed with talk. It was clear from the way people interacted, before and during our workshop, that inclusion was a priority.

Unsurprisingly for this organization, the workshop we’d been invited to teach focused on communication; it became clear that this group had brought us in to meet Social Instinct needs. We took our cues from the group and focused on creating avenues for engagement. We prioritized group activities that facilitated understanding between members, and left the floor open for lots of questions and discussion.

Self-Preservation

After working with that lively group, the next one came as a bit of a surprise. This organization was focused on holistic health and wellness, and the physical space reflected that philosophy. Soft colors abounded, and rooms were spacious. Our point person was ready to attend to any physical needs our presentation involved, from tweaking the air conditioning to making sure we had writing supplies. We’d arrived in a headquarters dominated by the Self-Preservation Instinct, which is focused on preserving stability, well-being, and resources.

The people at our workshop seemed as mellow as the space. They were quiet, composed, and moved with deliberation. It soon became clear that they wanted a workshop that matched the organization’s stabilizing values. They prioritized comfort in their space, so we moderated things like temperature and seating, striving to make sure the group was comfortable. In our activities, we focused on mindfulness, giving participants time to relax and ground themselves.

Transmitting / Sexual

Another organization was interested in a growth-oriented workshop. As with the previous group, the environment was beautiful, but in a more attention-grabbing way. Both the space and the people shone with rich colors and decorations, and the group actively sought a non-traditional approach. This organization’s dominant influence is often called the Sexual Instinct in relationships or personal work, as it’s the drive behind reproduction. Transmitting is a more accurate description of this Instinct’s role in organizations, since it drives them to bring information, services, products, or messages into the world.

The group was enthusiastic and honed in on us as speakers. They wanted a workshop that would push them to see themselves more clearly and make changes. Picking up on this Transmitting group’s driven energy, we worked on making our material and delivery fresh and exciting to keep their attention. We brought in innovative approaches and engaged with the group’s focused follow-up questions as they sought to know more.

Think about the groups or teams that you’re a part of. Which Instinct runs the show for each one? What needs and strengths do these dominant Instincts present in the groups you know best?


Leave a comment

Understanding Your Family

goatsFamilies are some of the most powerful relationships around. They’re the first relationships we’re involved in, and the patterns of interaction that we develop in our families shape the rest of our lives. We think it’s unlikely that parents or upbringing define Enneagram type; take any set of siblings and you’ll find that their view of the same childhood moments differs radically. However, our families have a lasting impact on our well-being. Healthy families increase children’s confidence and capacity for resilience, while unhealthy families make it harder for kids to develop these skills.

We can choose our partners, but for the most part, we don’t choose parents, siblings, children, and other relatives. Sometimes we have a lot in common with family members, and their differing skills and perspectives smoothly complement our own. Other times, we find ourselves diverging from the values of other family members, or being set off by their personality tics. For better or worse, families make great laboratories for learning how to get along with different kinds of people!

If you find yourself wondering why your mother has to go on about her health so much, or what possessed your teenager to get that tattoo, the Enneagram can help. By understanding what motivates our family members, we’re better able to connect with them. Instead of hoping to make them more like us, we can show up with attention, compassion, and hold space for family members to be the best versions of exactly who they are.

Here are some ways you can hold space for your family members of all Enneagram types:

Type One: The family Perfectionists, Ones are upstanding and lead the family by example, but can get critical when you diverge from their rules. Connect with the Ones in your family by encouraging them to have fun, and letting them know that you value them just as they are.

Type Two: Two Helpers seek to meet family members’ unstated needs through acts of service, caring, and sometimes intrusion. Connect with the Twos in your family by acknowledging the importance of their needs and showing them love no matter what they do.

Type Three: Three Achievers inspire their families. They often squelch their own desires by picking up on their family’s dreams and striving to become the family success story. Connect with the Threes in your family by guiding them to follow their own interests and desires.

Type Four: Four Individualists add soul to the family, and also bring shadows into the open – making sure families can’t forget things they don’t want to acknowledge. Connect with the Fours in your family by taking responsibility for the past, and holding emotional steadiness.

Type Five: Five Investigators bring rich expertise to their families, but may be difficult to engage otherwise. Connect with the Fives in your family by allowing them the space they need, while nurturing them in developing emotional connections with others.

Type Six: Six Loyalists show steadfast commitment to family, but may test family members for loyalty, and sometimes rebel. Connect with the Sixes in your family by showing them that you’re trustworthy and devoted, while being steady and clear with your boundaries.

Type Seven: Seven Enthusiasts stir up excitement and make family gatherings fun, but may act out when they get bored and frustrated. Connect with the Sevens in your family by savoring joy together – especially mindful, everyday joy – and supporting them during the hard times.

Type Eight: Eight Challengers are protective of family members but sometimes also push to exert control over the family. Connect with the Eights in your family by showing strength and solidity, but also allowing them to be vulnerable and lean on you when they need to.

Type Nine: Nine Peacemakers create a harmonious, cohesive family environment, which sometimes means they sweep problems under the rug. Connect with the Nines in your family by sharing pleasant times, while encouraging them to speak up and assert their needs.


Leave a comment

The Cross-Cultural Enneagram

From what we’ve seen, Enneagram types exist across culture – that is, cultures throughout the world will have people who display qualities from all the Enneagram types and Instincts. Nonetheless, each country and culture has a dominant cultural overlay, which has a personality type of its own. People absorb the values taught by their culture, which impact how they display their own dominant type. In Melanie’s Canadian culture, for example, people are encouraged to be polite and collaborative – values of type Nine and the Social Instinct. In Kacie’s American culture, citizens learn the values of independence, ambition, and hard work, the “American Dream” rooted in Type Three and the Self-Preservation Instinct.

Despite knowing that we came from different countries, we were still surprised when cultural differences unrelated to our types came up when we started working together. For example, Melanie would say “Sorry” as an instinctive reaction when things didn’t go as planned. After several months, Kacie asked Melanie why. She explained that Canadians say sorry in a multitude of situations as a form of politeness, a cultural subtlety very different from the more assertive American culture.

As we prepare to travel to Canada for the Canadian Enneagram Conference this month, cultural differences are heavily on our minds. We’re busy thinking up ways to adapt our presentation to a less assertive, more community-oriented culture than the American audiences we usually work with. At times Melanie, the Canadian on our team, has found herself acting as “cultural translator” and explaining Canadian communication norms.

When you connect with people from different cultures, whether in work, travel for pleasure, or in your daily life, you can use the Enneagram not only to understand their individual differences but to gain a better sense of the culture you’re interacting with. Listen to what people around you talk about. Notice the values and beliefs they take for granted. Each Enneagram type operates from a set of assumptions projected onto the world at large. Just like we expect others to share our personality-based motivations and way of seeing things, we also expect others to share the cultural viewpoint that we’re accustomed to. These things are so ingrained that we often don’t realize there are other worldviews out there that differ drastically from our own.

When you look at cultural and personal Enneagram types side by side, you’ll find that they don’t always match closely. A Type Eight, for instance, might find their strength and assertiveness valued in one culture, while they might have a harder time in a culture that values quiet and conformity. In what way is your dominant Enneagram type and Instinct similar or different to what your country’s culture values? Understanding how your type and culture work together adds nuance to an action plan to improve your communication with other people, and supports companies in doing international business productively and successfully.

Using the Enneagram also makes it easier to identify human similarities across cultures. Our colleagues in the Enneagram field have taught it to groups of Israelis and Palestinians who worked together, as well as South African teams different races and backgrounds, and found it to build cross-cultural bridges between people of the same Enneagram type. Often, two Sixes or two Ones who start a workshop thinking they have nothing in common discover that they share a set of values and behaviors that goes beyond their culture. Even “us vs. them” dynamics sometimes transform into “Me too!”s, and a new understanding is born.

The Enneagram is a useful tool for improving our communication, relationships, and self-awareness. Developing cultural competence through an Enneagram lens help us grow and develop these skills in an even more powerful way.