This is Part I of a two-part feature. To read the second piece, focused on using the Enneagram to help cultivate cognitive diversity, head here.
Valerie Jacobs: Deni, you’ve worked in the Enneagram for years and years through your company, Corporate Consciousness—with companies of all sizes, all over the world. Before we dive in, can you give a quick 101 on how It works?
Deni Tato: Of course. The Enneagram is a psychological, relational and—I often avoid this word in the corporate world—spiritual tool, mapping out nine distinct yet interconnected patterns of thinking, feeling and motivations.
Everyone is one of nine types, which are divided into three centers of intelligence: head-centered (logical tendencies), heart-centered (emotional) and gut-centered (instinctual). Each type has a growth strategy too, meant to help you become more self-aware and to improve your emotional intelligence, or EQ.
“What we know now is that cognitive diversity is imperative to creativity.”
VJ: It would be easy to assume that “creative types” are more heart-centered, emotional, deep-feeling types. But they really fall across the board, right?
DT: Definitely. What we know now is that cognitive diversity is imperative to creativity. When you have that healthy, transparent conflict between people who approach challenges differently, that’s where the magic happens. The Enneagram is a powerful tool for cultivating that creative culture.
VJ: Deni, something I’ve observed is that when you do this work—both with individuals and with teams—it’s very empathy-building. Not only are you doing self-discovery, but you’re doing others-discovery, which builds a lot of trust. You can be more curious, more open, more available to let the dynamic unfold… versus shutting down anything that doesn’t align with your preconceived idea.
“You are the expert on you. It’s your job to reveal yourself to help others in the room.”
DT: Right. You end up seeing people differently, and therefore, you approach the work differently. For instance, a 7 type has what I call an “exuberant mind.” It’s about optimism and thinking big and dialing up the energy in the room to explore what’s possible.
VJ: Yes! I’m a 7 myself. I love that way of working, because it enlivens the team to new avenues: What haven’t we thought of yet? What’s a better way to come at this problem?
DT: And you know that some might find that style a little off-the-wall, or like it’s taking things off course. But when your teammates come to understand a 7—someone who thrives on options and possibilities—you become a stronger, higher-performing team.
VJ: That’s exactly it.
DT: Valerie, what I think you’re demonstrating is the essence of the Enneagram method: you are the expert on you. It’s your job to reveal yourself to help others in the room—to tell your stories so they can better understand you. And you end up seeing people differently.
“Brand-building has always been about meaning-making. If you don’t have people who want to make meaning of their own lives, it’s impossible to do this well.”
VJ: This work feels especially important in creative industries, like ours. I don’t think you can have great insights to fuel your work if you aren’t an insightful person. Brand-building has always been about meaning-making. If you don’t have people who want to make meaning of their own lives, it’s impossible to do this well—it’s deeply emotional and the goal is connection. Connection between person and business. Brand is the interface.
DT: And through the pandemic, you’ve had to foster that with new levels of flexibility. People are longing for more autonomy, and for tools that create connection and personal growth faster.
“It’s the simplest work you’ll ever do.
And the hardest.”
VJ: In a lot of companies, when they talk to you about growth, they’re talking functional mastery. There’s not a ton of focus on helping employees work on their personal growth path.
DT: I’ve seen that all too often.
VJ: One of the things we hear often from people at LPK is that the work we do with Enneagram is very differentiating. It’s less about your traditional “career ladder,” and more about your own self-discovery—and that’s a very different framework for growth.
DT: Yes. It’s the simplest work you’ll ever do. And the hardest.
Deni Tato is a certified Enneagram teacher, trainer and executive/life coach who is committed to lifelong learning. She continually deepens her knowledge and gifts through her accreditations and continuing education. She’s certified in Spiral Dynamics® and by The Enneagram in Business. Additionally, she serves as a senior member of The Enneagram in Business Network and is an accredited member of the International Enneagram Association. Deni applies her passion, boundless energy and business savvy to help fuel each client’s personal and professional growth.
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