Enneagram: Berghoef & Bell Innovations

Leadership. Communication. Teamwork.


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Understanding the Levels of Development

levels of developmentWe all have times when we’re at our best – attentive, resilient, and able to handle whatever comes our way. We also have times when every little thing bugs us, and we find ourselves caught up in conflict at the drop of a hat.

Most Enneagram teachers, including us, believe that we each have a personality type that is probably set from an early age. Our Enneagram type gives us a core motivation and a way we desire to exist in the world. Sometimes, those of us who share an Enneagram type will also share similar ways of behaving in our environments. However, we also see a great deal of variation in how people with the same type behave, and in how we ourselves behave at different points in our life.

One of our Enneagram teachers, Don Riso (joined later by Russ Hudson), described much of this variation through the Levels of Development. Riso identified that each of the Enneagram types has nine different Levels of Health at which they can exist. All of us have days where we’re “on our game,” with an awareness and ability to respond to circumstances in a way that’s empowering. On the other hand, sometimes we have days that are more difficult, and say or do things we later regret. These Levels represent a range of attitudes and behaviors that exist in all of us, over the course of years or even in the same day! Understanding the Levels of Development helps us stay aware of how we’re doing, and catch ourselves when we dip lower than we’d like to.

Below is a brief summary of how The Enneagram Institute summarizes Healthy, Average, and Unhealthy Levels:

The Healthy Levels (Levels One, Two, and Three) – At the Healthy Levels of Development, we’re able to approach situations with awareness and compassion for ourselves and others. We have the ability to make decisions that are effective and beneficial. We embody our Enneagram type’s most positive qualities. When operating healthfully, we find ourselves acting and behaving in ways that contribute positively to our own lives and our communities around us. Most of us hope to attain the strong awareness and psychological health of Levels One-Three, and through our personal growth work and practices we can establish a baseline of functioning at these Levels.

The Average Levels (Levels Four, Five, and Six) – Average Levels of Development tend to encompass much of our everyday functioning. At these Levels, we’re often feeling good and managing our lives, but we don’t have the same degree of awareness as we do in the Healthy Levels. Riso and Hudson describe us as starting to operate on autopilot at these Levels, and our decisions are based on what we feel like we need to get our type’s motivations met. When we face challenges at Average Levels, we make decisions less mindfully, often saying and doing things to try to gain control over situations. These decisions may not be the best in the long term, and can cause strain on our relationships. The good news is, at Average Levels we still maintain some level of self-awareness, and respond to personal growth practices that help us regain healthy psychological functioning.

The Unhealthy Levels (Levels Seven, Eight, and Nine) – When we function at Unhealthy Levels, we lack self-awareness and make decisions completely on autopilot. At this point, our decisions have the potential to be destructive to ourselves and others. The good news is, most of us don’t operate here long-term. When someone stays in the Unhealthy Levels, it’s usually a reaction to severe crisis or trauma. At these Levels, we benefit from receiving support from a therapist or other trained professional.

It’s possible for all of us to learn to operate in a place that is psychologically healthy and aware! Through a combination of developing regular practices that challenge and inspire us, and finding a team of supporters in our goals, we can develop the attentiveness, functionality, and flexibility that characterize a shift up the Levels.

To learn more about how the Levels of Development work in all nine types, we recommend reading Personality Types, by Don Riso with Russ Hudson, or attending our Journey of Growth (Levels) Enneagram Institute Authorized Workshop.


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Book Review: The Awakened Company

Awakened Company cover
Our colleague Catherine Bell (no relation to Melanie Bell) recently released a book that we’re excited about. Written in collaboration with Enneagram expert Russ Hudson and Christopher Papadopoulos, The Awakened Company is a passionate and pragmatic call for a new way of doing business. While traditional business models focus primarily on profit and efficiency, Bell calls for a big-picture approach that also takes sustainability, community, and mindfulness into account.

The Awakened Company comes at a time, post-financial crash, when “the historic notions of doing business are rapidly unraveling on nearly all levels” (p. 4). Bell describes the problems of meaningless work, a growth-based (and thus ultimately unsustainable) financial model, and the “business is business” philosophy, which “assumes that the purpose of business is to make money, and whatever it takes to do so is okay” (p. 1). She recalls the history of early businesses, rooted in family, community, and service, and calls for a way of doing business that returns to these roots and innovates beyond them. The result is the “awakened” company of the book’s title, which is attentive to global context.

Bell argues that the smallest business decisions have consequences, and that companies benefit from making sure that these decisions – from the sourcing of products to the creation of company culture – are made ethically and with deliberation. “Business is far from just ‘business’,” she concludes; “It’s deeply interwoven with the whole of life” (p. 57). In order to thrive in the modern world, corporations need to adopt a deep-rooted sense of civic responsibility and connectedness.

Much of the book discusses the importance of building greater awareness in the business sphere. Bell introduces the qualities of “presence,” a state of being grounded, attentive, and open, and their positive effects on the workplace. Cultivating presence in leaders and teams fosters adaptability, harmony, and work relationships that feel meaningful. The book argues that the functioning of any company is improved when a leader or small team cultivates a climate of mindful awareness that spreads throughout the organization. Bell also makes a convincing case for the importance of growing aspects of company culture that are often overlooked, such as reflection and aesthetics (and the Enneagram is in there, subtly).

The Awakened Company takes a macro approach, and covers a lot of ground. The book is peppered with brief case examples, allowing readers to better understand how the book’s organizational principles are implemented on the ground. Hopefully a future publication will cover such examples in more detail. The book often uses spiritual language, but The Awakened Company’s suggestions are well researched and eminently practical. This book is ideal for leaders seeking a thorough and well-thought-out guide to principles of sustainable company-building. Happily, the approaches laid out by The Awakened Company are increasingly common in today’s business landscape. With Bell’s book reaching a broader audience, their reach may continue to grow.


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Bringing the Enneagram to Teens

Having learned the Enneagram at a young age, bringing the Enneagram to more young people remains a topic close to our hearts. For teenagers, the Enneagram opens a door to improving relationships with parents and friends, and feeling seen for who you are–a person with thoughts, feelings, and needs independent from those around you. It gives a language to describe your viewpoint to the people who matter to you, and helps in making decisions about the direction you want your life to take.

When we were teenagers discovering the Enneagram, wonderful books existed about this system–Melanie has fond memories of holing up in the college library, browsing the “Enneagram corner”–but none of them focused on people our age. The vast majority of our peers were not familiar with the Enneagram, leaving us largely to teach it to them.

Elizabeth Wagele’s latest book, The Enneagram for Teens, has the potential to change this. Wagele previously wrote an Enneagram book aimed at children, but as far as we know, this is the first book exclusively oriented to a teenaged audience. In this fun and clearly-written read, Wagele writes in an engaging manner that teens are sure to enjoy. Wagele’s cartoons, both illustrative of the types and entertaining, grace most of the pages of her book. Wagele dedicates a chapter to each of the nine types, and a final chapter depicts each type’s leadership style. Wagele describes each type in a way that is easy to grasp, with examples most relatable to high school and college-aged readers.

Wagele excels at creating material that connects with the target audience. Each type chapter offers a quiz made of statements that come directly from teenagers–a refreshingly clear and direct approach. (You might be a Six if you “want to be safe and to be told the truth.”) Wagele also offers practical goals for self-development tailored to teens of each type.

The heart and soul of Wagele’s book comes from the primary source material. In each chapter, she interviews several people from each Enneagram type, both teens and young adults looking back on their experience. The subjects Wagele interviews provide a diverse cross-section of perspectives. Some, such as a type One rebel, do a welcome job of defying personality stereotypes, while others give a well-rounded sense of each Enneagram type’s strengths and challenges. Especially affecting is one Three exemplar’s memory of telling the principal her team had lost a tournament as she received her diploma–“That’s all I ever think about when I think about high school graduation.” It should be easy for readers to hear their own experiences mirrored in the young voices in the book.

We believe The Enneagram for Teens is a wonderful resource for teenagers and college students first learning about the Enneagram, as well as parents hoping to get into the shoes of their teens. Our own experiences of encountering the Enneagram young were pivotal: for example, Kacie finally understood her parents’ perspectives and why they were different from her own, and Melanie learned strategies to manage her emotions. Wagele’s book has great potential to more widely engage young people in learning the Enneagram. We hope this book will help young Enneagram enthusiasts connect with each other!