The Enneagram: Connecting Ancient Wisdom to Global Transformation

Recently I completed my certification as an Integrative Enneagram Accredited Practitioner, joining a community of more than 4,000 global coaches and organizational development professionals committed to supporting individuals in understanding their deepest levels of intrinsic motivation, conflicts, and self-limiting beliefs. Beyond individual coaching, it adds value to team development, organizational culture and our collective journey toward global transformation.

Although I just became certified in the iEQ9 tool, I have been familiar with the Enneagram for more than 30 years. 

What is the Enneagram?

A map for understanding human behavior. The Enneagram is a powerful, scientifically validated tool with ancient roots. It speaks to the age-old questions of “Who am I?” “What motivates me?” “How can I move from the unconscious, automatic behaviors, thoughts and feelings to leading a life that is more purposeful, effective and fulfilling?”

The Enneagram is a universal framework that offers insights into the heart of human nature, supporting anyone who wants to increase self-awareness and personal effectiveness.

The word Enneagram comes from the Greek Ennea, which means ‘nine’ and Gram which means ‘drawn’. It is represented in the geometric figure of a nine-pointed star inscribed in a circle that provides a framework for a personality type system of twenty-seven distinct character “archetypes”, different ways of thinking, feeling and acting in relation to others.

In ancient Greece, philosophical teachings recognized that the key to knowledge of the natural world and human possibilities within it, began with the studying of our individual “selves” as well as our physical environment. Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, is structured in terms of the nine different lands Odysseus visits (Books 9-13) during his quest to get home after the Trojan war. The characteristics of the nine lands and the characters that populate them, parallel the issues and traits of the nine main personalities of the Enneagram. There are other examples of the nine types in Sufism, Judaism and Medieval Christianity.

The Modern Rediscovery of the Ancient Wisdom

The modern rediscovery of the Enneagram came through the work of three individuals: G.I. Grudjieff, Oscar Ichazo and Claudo Naranjo. Each of them presented Enneagram-related ideas to small groups of students in the context of psychological and spiritual development.

Grudjieff, born in Armenia, taught that personality consists of different ways we buffer ourselves against the reality of our lives, helping us maintain a kind of illusion about what we can actually “do” in the world. Through active “work on self” and intentional “self-remembering”, he said we can evolve beyond the unconscious mechanical state of our personality to become fully awake. This process he called, “The Fourth Way”.

Ichazo, born in Bolivia, is known as the modern day “Father of the Enneagram”. He connected the Enneagram symbol to personality types. His teachings provided a framework through which individuals could gain insight into the limiting beliefs caused by ego fixations and thereby work toward self-realization.

Naranjo, a Chilean-born, American-trained psychiatrist, learned the Enneagram model from Ichazo when he traveled to Chile. He synthesized the teachings of Gurdjieff and Ichazo with applied modern psychological terms, bringing it to a wider audience. Naranjo communicates the Enneagram as an overarching theory integrating Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practices.

Where We Are and Where We Want To Be

The Enneagram represents a model of wholeness: each of the points on the Enneagram not only describes individual personalities but also characterizes certain archetypal elements that are universal. By embarking on the individual journey toward wholeness, we move toward greater connectivity with the rest of the living universe. The problems the world is facing today on the social and environmental level require a higher level of consciousness to solve. What got us here won’t get us there.This framework allows us to see and understand the patterns that have us stuck and identifies a pathway forward to a greater sense of unity and connection to the natural world.

If you are drawn to start this journey, contact me for a complimentary assessment and debrief session. I have two available. The world needs all of us to move toward our best selves. 

Blog Series

Creating a Championship Team with the Enneagram

The Enneagram: Nine Points of View and Core Motivation

The Enneagram: Connecting Ancient Wisdom to Global Transformation

The Enneagram and Neuroscience: Growing New Neural Pathways

The Fruits of Mini-Sabbaticals

Since 2015, I have been taking intentional breaks away from work to experience the 4 Rs (rest, reflection, rejuvenation, resetting).  As I prepared this year, I was chatting with someone and they said, “Oh you are taking a vacation?” I said, no, this isn’t what I consider a vacation.”

When I take a vacation, I maximize the experience of that particular location, getting out and doing something every day, on the go.

The concept of my mini-sabbatical is “slow down” time. It is deep thinking time, design time and release time.

When I began these trips in 2015, it was to put myself in a different place to tap into my creativity and innovation to work on the design of a new program, Vista Leadership Academy. That process continued annually as the program evolved to the Vista Leadership Institute in 2019. Creating the “white space” to allow my brain to slow down and tap into the emerging vision and translating that to an offering to leaders was deeply meaningful.

This year, I used one of the tools that we used in the Vista Leadership Institute, Otto Scharmer’s Theory U process of letting go to presencing to letting come.  “Who is the Self? What is my Work?”

With that exploration, I decided to “let go” of the Vista Leadership Institute. Over the 8 year journey of this program, close to 100 people have been engaged and impacted. It fostered transformation in leaders across the Americas, including myself. Now, I am sensing a new idea, it started to percolate as I prepared for this year’s mini-sabbatical. I have begun the cycle of the U again, it is emerging and you will likely see it presencing in 2023.

I encourage you to pause, create the space for what is presencing, the emerging future, your best future Self.

Happy B Corp Month!

It’s B Corp Month, a time to celebrate the companies that are using business as a force for good! Certified B Corporations are dedicated to creating positive social and environmental impact, and they are certified by the nonprofit organization B Lab based on their social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. 

Vista Global is proud to be part of the B Local Wisconsin community and is happy to be celebrating our 11th year as a certified B Corp. We recently completed our 4th recertification with our highest score yet

In order to become a B Corp, companies must meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, and undergo a rigorous assessment. With every recertification the bar has risen for verification of practices in five different categories: governance, workers, community, the environment, and customers. 

One of the key ways that certified B Corporations can improve their social performance is by creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. In February, B Local Wisconsin was proud to partner with Cream City Conservation & Consulting, the first Black woman-owned certified B Corporation in Wisconsin, to offer JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) training. In the first workshop of this 2-part series, August M. Ball led an incredible discussion about racial equity and environmentalism. The second part of this series will take place on March 21, 2023 and will highlight recruitment and retention for the 21st century. Please join us by registering here. 

Whether you’re a business owner looking to connect with like-minded peers, or a consumer interested in supporting companies that prioritize social and environmental responsibility, B Local Wisconsin is a great resource. To learn more about how you can get involved in building a more sustainable and equitable Wisconsin, visit

The Leadership in Leaving….

In the month of January, I hosted a 3-part webinar series on succession planning and leadership transition for nonprofit organizations.

This quote from the Building Movement Project puts in perspective why being intentional about leadership transition is critical for the greater community.

“The decision to leave a long-term job is not simply a personal or private choice. For social sector leaders, it also is an act of leadership…How and when a leader exits reverberates throughout the organization and often reaches deep into the community and the field.”

In the first 20 years of my career, I held five different executive director positions and none of the organizations had a formal succession plan.  One organization hired a new executive director before my departure, so I was able to train my successor for two weeks. Another organization hired an interim executive director that was familiar with the organization. The other organizations leaned on current staff and board members to keep the organization going during the transition process.

None of these scenarios set the organizations on a course for a smooth transition. 

As I continued in my career, I served as a board member for two different organizations that transitioned long-term leaders. As a consultant, I facilitated the search and transition process for an organization led by a founder.  In addition, Vista Global partnered with another national consulting firm to write an eBook, Proactively Plan for the Inevitable: A Guide to Leadership Transition and Succession.

Through all these experiences, I learned a lot about what contributes to successful leadership transitions.

Six tips to build a strong organization that can thrive through leadership transition:

      1. Assess the organization’s readiness: Do you have a current strategic plan? Are you doing annual evaluations of the executive director and staff? Are you investing in staff development? Are your financial systems up to date and are there financial reserves? Do you have an emergency succession plan? Creating stability in the organization’s infrastructure is essential to navigate transitions successfully.

      2. Assess your personal readiness to leave: What level of excitement do you have for your work? Are you more interested in initiatives other than running the organization? Are tensions increasing with the board? Can you conceive a career move?  These all may be signs it is time to depart.

      3. Determine what type of transition you are preparing for: Is this transition following a founder, or maintaining sustained success, or an underperforming organization or a turnaround? All require different focuses by the board.

      4. Build the leadership capacity within the organization: Organizations that have staff with professional development plans, strengthening their skills and competencies have greater success in navigating transition. How much are you investing in staff development financially and through mentorship and development planning?

      5. Provide ample time for the process and a roadmap: Transitions always take more time than you think. In addition, the board (as volunteers) has to manage many different aspects of the transition.  The more time you can allow, the smoother the process will be for the incoming leader, outgoing leader, staff and board.

      6. Develop a strong board chair-incoming leader relationship: A strong board is a critical component to a successful transition. An incoming leader will rely on the board to understand their role and expectations in the first 90 days of tenure. Establishing a strong relationship between the board chair and incoming leader accelerates the incoming leader’s ability to come up to speed quickly to move the organization forward.

Transitions of long-term leaders can include additional aspects of disruption related to the organizational identity and practices associated with the outgoing leader.  Coaching for the outgoing leader, incoming leader and or board chair can offer important support to navigate the transition between what was and what will be.

As an executive director, it can be a lonely place, particularly if you are contemplating departure.  I know, I have been there. If you need a compassionate ear or a few tools to get going, I am here from you. The greatest gift you can give yourself, your organization and your mission is to strengthen your organization before leaving.

The Revolution is Live…

This is the closing lyric of the song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron written in 1971. The song/poem speaks to the transformation of America, through dismantling racism, capitalism and mainstream media by Blacks getting off the couch and taking to the streets to reclaim their humanity. 

Over the last 50 years, we have experienced a variety of social revolutions in the United States and perhaps the most recent revolution is in the workplace.

As Ariana Huffington recently stated, “Welcome to the Human Revolution” She continues by acknowledging the truth that “life should be centered around our full humanity, which includes work but also includes nurturing our health and well-being, our relationships, our capacity for joy and wonder and for giving back.”

The Pandemic has been the global disruptor for our generation in all aspects of our lives: personal, work and community. We have been experiencing dramatic shifts in the workforce over the last three years. The Great Resignation continues, the priorities of the current workforce are changing and employees are demanding changes that support their overall well-being.

The Human Revolution is Live.

In the article, What the Pandemic has taught us about prioritizing well-being, Julia Hobsbawm suggests that the old strategies used to address well-being considerations no longer serve the needs of employees. 

Covid-19 has forced organisations to dial back on pingpong tables, massages at your desk, to focus instead on strategy and specifically how you create an organisation where people feel valued, trusted, and you identify the problem areas, and how you correct them.

The Human Revolution is Live.

In a recent HBR article, Designing Work That People Love, Marcus Buckingham reinforces this strategy of downplaying the “trendy perks” and focusing on redesigning jobs around a simple and powerful concept: love for the work you do. What does love got to do with it? Actually, quite a lot. 

As we know from neuroscience research, when we engage in activities in which we experience love, hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine are activated to promote access to the prefrontal cortex of the brain where the executive functions of creativity, innovation, empathy and strategy reside. Research done regarding employee engagement shows that people who find love, strength, joy and excitement in what they do each day are far more likely to be productive, stay at companies longer and sustain themselves in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.

Work hasn’t been working for us for awhile, the Pandemic just turned up the stress and cast a bright spotlight on what was broken, people hate their work.

There are two aspects of fixing this problem. First, individuals need to have clarity about what they love and second, organizations need to see people as full human beings not workers. When those two elements are aligned we have thriving human beings and a prosperous economy.

Designing the Life and Work You Want
Over the last 12 years, I have coached people who were not happy in their jobs and didn’t know what they wanted to do next. I created an individual coaching program called the Personal Odyssey Tour that helps clarify your life purpose and uses design-thinking principles to identify the path toward the job or career that aligns with what you love. Stanford professors, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans published a fantastic resource, “Designing Your Life” back in 2016 and are soon to release a new book called, “Designing Your NEW Work Life” in response to the disruption that has been caused by the Pandemic. First you need clarity about what you love, what gives you energy, brings you joy and then you can go after it!

As Buckingham suggests,

a true Love + Work organization is built on a recognition of and commitment to the fundamental importance of each person who comes to work. 

Buckingham tosses out Milton Friendman’s model of shareholder capitalism, which focuses on maximizing shareholder value which has definitely been losing favor over the last 15 years. However, he takes it a step further and challenges the concept of stakeholder capitalism which is a pillar of the certified B Corp movement. Stakeholder capitalism introduces the construct that organizations should also maximize value to employees, customers, the broader community and the environment. Buckingham contends that employees are the integration point for all stakeholders rather than one of many. They are where the work actually happens.

Organizations Investing in Human Sustainability Thrive
What has also become clear throughout the Pandemic is that globally we are in a mental health crisis. Research conducted by Gallup in 2021 states that seven in 10 people are struggling with mental health issues. It has been known for decades that organizational productivity is tied to employee well-being. Yet, very little has changed. 

The Human Revolution is Live.

Organizations that focus on the well-being of employees will lead us to the future of a prosperous, inclusive and regenerative economy. How do they do it?

A few strategies proposed in Time to Invest in Human Sustainability and Designing Work That People Love include:

      • Give employees control over when, where, and how work gets done. 
      • Create an environment that builds trust, creating a safe environment for open discourse on topics that matter whether it is DEI, mental health, climate change or organizational policies that impact overall well-being. 
      • Foster a culture that supports and encourages life-long learning, focuses on teams and the use of wellness resources (time off, tuition reimbursement, leave)
      • Set goals for achieving workplace well-being—then aim to surpass them. 

It’s time for all of us to get off the couch, the human revolution is live.

Community Impact: How B Corps Measure It

My whole life I have volunteered, it is just who I am. In elementary school I volunteered at a local nursing home.

In high school I served as an aide in classes for students with developmental disabilities and beginning in college I was volunteering for months in Latin America.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I founded Vista Global, certifying as a B Corp in 2012.  One of the categories for B Corp certification is Community. This category evaluates a company’s engagement with and impact on the communities in which it operates. Topics include diversity, equity & inclusion, economic impact, civic engagement, charitable giving and supply chain management.  

In addition, the Community category recognizes business models that are designed to address specific community-oriented problems, such as poverty alleviation.

Vista Global has worked with community-based organizations from the first day we hung out our shingle and will continue to do so until the last day we operate. It is in our DNA.  Another way that we work to improve the community is to offer pro bono services to community-based organizations.

Recently, I joined the Pro-Bono Business Advising program of Pacific Community Ventures. This incredible program facilitates mentorships between Small Business Owners and advisors who have unique and hard-earned skills to support small business owners to elevate their ideas to thriving businesses. It is exciting to be part of expanding businesses fighting for economic, racial and gender justice that propel thriving communities with equitable jobs.

To learn more about how other B Corps collaborate to amplify social and environmental good in their communities, check out the weekly B The Change article on “How Collaboration Empowers the B Corp Community”