We teach the Enneagram in Ireland to individuals, groups, teams and organisations. The Enneagram is a personality system which seems at first glance to be in a similar vein to profiling tools such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or the Belbin system. It is, however, more complex and has roots in teachings reaching back to the Plotinus and the Ancient Greeks. It has recently been grasped by the modern business community and is taught in companies all over the globe, has been taught on the MBA curriculum at the Stanford Business School and the Law Curriculum in Harvard.
The Enneagram is a system describing the 9 main mental models we adopt due to our main focus of attention and the impact they have on our thinking and communication. They are grouped in 3s around the centres of Feeling (Heart) types, Thinking (Head) types and Instinct (Gut) types.
We have been working with this tool for over 20 years in Ireland and abroad. Experience of the Enneagram and thesis level research shows that is does improve Emotional Intelligence and the more work done, the more it improves the key Emotional Intelligence competences. It is doing this through teaching an understanding of self (such as ones behaviours under stress) or an understanding of others. Development centres on ones focus of attention, breaking reactive habits and promoting an understanding of those who do not think and feel as you do.
“When I got introduced to the Enneagram, I assumed it was another Myers -Briggs. But when I heard the description of my type – it was as if someone had been following me around my entire life, recording my life. Not just recording my actions, but being able to really understand the ‘why’ behind what I was doing. For me it was it was a profound experience.”
While both the Belbin Model and the MBTI are used to understand the individual and particularly their role in the team, the Enneagram is more involved as it approaches understanding oneself and others through ones core motivation, ones values, thinking styles and ways of problem solving. The Enneagram maps out the individual differences via each of nine different personality orientations – derived from nine different focuses of attention developed during childhood.
The focus of attention is that which a child focuses on most to ensure it survival and development and that selection is in theory a combination of nature and nurture based on the impact of the environment of the child and the capabilities of the child given by its genetic make-up. This selection is deemed to happen at an early age. The 9 categories fall into 3 groups or “triads” Head, Heart and Gut also known as the Thinking type, The Feeling Type and the Instinctual Type.
The Enneagram system we teach in Ireland is the same as taught by the Enneagram community globally. It describes nine distinct and fundamentally different patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. Each of the nine patterns is based on an explicit perceptual filter. This filter determines what you pay attention to and how you direct your energy. Underneath each of the nine patterns is a basic proposition or belief about what you need in life for survival and satisfaction (Daniels and Price 2000).
The focus of attention is described by Maitri (2005) as the ordinary experience filtered through the veils of personality. It is however possible to perceive reality objectively without this subjective obscuration. Palmer (1995) calls this “The Veil of Illusion” and clarifies that when we are very young attention turned to meet the needs of survival. We adopted appropriate behaviours as a result. Over time we identified so strongly with the behaviours and came to rely so heavily on conditioned perceptions that covered our original nature. Each character type becomes its own composite of qualities, defenses and attitudes that belie a single unconscious motivation (Kamineni 2005). The Enneagram is a method of self-inquiry for one to see ones core motivation and ones “false identification” Eli Jaxon-Bear (2000).
The 9 types therefore are the survival strategies adopted in childhood which allowed the child to get what it needed to survive. The nature v nurture issue is an area of discussion (not however for this study) but Palmer for example suggests that it is a combination of both. Wagelle (2001) suggests that our brains are wired for a particular temperament and style when we enter the world and this includes potential gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. Perhaps this is genetics playing a hand in what is needed from life most and also which survival strategy is most suitable based on ones abilities.
The gap between perceptions and reality is a strong theme of the Enneagram and an understanding of the main drivers is key to understanding self and others – and at an emotional level – what emotions arise and why they trigger. This leads to benefits for those who engage with the Enneagram in personal and work life and we have seen that it can have a hugely positive impact on Leadership.
Aidan Higgins of Adeo Consulting Ltd has over 20 years experience using the Enneagram in Ireland. As well as completing fully certified teacher training he has worked with many of the worlds best teachers including Helen Palmer, David Daniels, Peter O’Hanrahan, Riso and Hudson, Ginger Lapid Bogda and Mario Sikora. Adeo Consulting offer group or individual Enneagram workshops in Ireland and can include it in mentoring sessions as part of our Leadership and Teamwork programs. We are specialists in applying it to and within the Organisational or Business environment to improve leadership competencies, team performance, engagement and communication. Aidan is also Professional Member of the International Enneagram Association , a member of The Narrative Enneagram Community and is a conference presenter to international audiences. To discuss your options please contact us now on +353 (0)1 287 5636 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Interesting article on the value of emotional intelligence for leaders here.
Here is a rare video of Helen Palmer discussing the benefits of the Enneagram released in June 2020. She a globally reknowned Enneagram Teacher, teaching it to groups, organisations and universities for over 40 years. She has been to Ireland many times.