Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Transcending Personality

In Masterful Coaching Robert Hargrove distinguishes between incremental learning (embodying new skills and capabilities), reframing (reshaping patterns of thinking), and transformational learning (shifting frame of reference):

While change at the incremental and reframing levels is quite common among my clients, I've found transformational change to be more of a challenge. Among the many reasons,
  • it's difficult to see implicit patterns that underlie our human systems,
  • seeing these patterns "unmasks" us, shows how what we've been doing isn't working, and
  • we resist facing up to anything at odds with our self-image.
The Enneagram is a powerful tool to help us see and transcend those personality patterns. The following three levels of learning illustrate each stage of potential change (new skills, shift in attitudes/behavior, shift in point of view) as exemplified by a client with Enneagram style Six:
  1. Incremental (Single-Loop) Learning refers to learning new skills and capabilities through incremental improvement, doing something better without examining or challenging underlying beliefs and assumptions. Let's say "Joe" is concerned because his boss sees him as negative, and he agrees to practice a creative problem solving technique. Instead of saying, "That won't work because it will take too long," Joe learns to incorporate his concerns into a solution statement ("I think that could solve our problem. Let's talk about how we can shorten the production time.") His boss compliments him on being more positive and Joe's happy to no longer be criticized. He may still tend to focus on the negative side of things, but he knows how to mask that behavior and keep himself off the hook in his job.
  2. Reframing (Double-Loop Learning) occurs by fundamentally reshaping the underlying patterns of our thinking and behavior so we’re capable of doing different things. This level of learning often enfolds single-loop or incremental learning, but goes beyond it. This is the level of process analysis where people become observers of themselves, asking, What's going on here? What are the patterns? It's still largely an act/react cycle, but it can get the underlying psychological superstructure to start wobbling. This is where most individual and/or organizational change takes place. This is also where the Enneagram provides a powerful road map for what to observe.
Joe, for example, might become aware of his general tendency to focus on what could go wrong, to look for hidden agendas. So, in addition to learning how to approach problems with solutions, he begins to see how his pattern of thinking tends to leave out what could go right. Now he's able to step outside himself a bit and notice how he filters out the positive. He's no longer defending himself from his boss's criticism – he "gets it" that in this way, he is negative.
When he finds himself focusing only on the negative, Joe might take out a piece of paper, write down all the negative possibilities in the left-hand column and counter these with positive possibilities in the right-hand column (a single-loop skill applied in a double-loop context).
As Joe observes this pattern consistently over time, he may spontaneously notice both sides of the equation and show this change in his language and in problem-solving capabilities. If so, the experience of reshaping his thinking and behavior has automatically taken him to the transformational or triple-loop level. In this one respect he is no longer the same person he was. Joe now experiences himself and his environment differently.
  1. Transformational (Triple-Loop) Learning is a shift in our context or point of view about ourselves. Something we thought and felt (and had manifested in our behavior) has come into question. We may feel exhilarated, stunned, shocked, humiliated, disoriented, and/or depressed at points during this process; the change may happen gradually or all of a sudden; but in this particular context, we will never be the same (there are other contexts by which we operate and which are still open areas for exploring assumptions, etc.).
Joe, for example, may have felt embarrassed to own up to his negative focus because he's always seen himself as optimistic. When he continues to observe this habitual pattern as it occurs, he'll find he begins to notice it without judgment, and eventually will see things differently, as indicated above. Or, he might worry about it for days, putting himself in a tailspin because his self-image is suffering. If Joe stays stuck in this place, he won't make the shift from reframing (double-loop) to transformational (triple-loop) learning. He might conceivably even deny the validity of the feedback he's been given and shift back to the level of single-loop learning, still able to use the new techniques he's learned, but accusing his boss of being unfair, or defending himself from the possibility that he isn't who he thought he was.
Some clients have the tenacity and guts to hang in and incorporate these unfamiliar and often unwanted aspects of themselves. For those who might otherwise be stuck, it helps to reassure them that what they're feeling is natural because they're letting go, in part, of an idealized self-image that has helped them cope since childhood. This difficult part of the passage can be reframed in a positive light. You might say, for example, "This is great. This means you've really shaken up a part of yourself that served you well in the past, but has been keeping you from using your full potential. Your whole view of yourself is changing, and this is exactly where you should be. You’ll find your perception of the world and feelings about yourself shifting in a very positive way."

I always hold it as my goal to encourage transformational learning. Rather than marketing "the Enneagram," I consider it a tool to aid in the process, emphasizing its practicality, describing my own experience, and sharing anonymous examples of how others have benefited. 

Clients are eager to learn more about themselves and what makes other people tick, in the hope of reducing frustration and making their lives more fulfilling. So it's fairly easy to achieve double-loop learning. 

Transformational learning may take a while. For one example, read "Take Time to Celebrate," where I applaud a client of more than six years, recognizing the time and effort involved in truly freeing herself, how she can breathe a little deeper each time she expands the confines of her personality's box. For other examples, read the eighteen stories in Somebody? Nobody? that show how observing and releasing habitual patterns is a complex and continuing journey.

(More about the three levels of learning in Chapter Two of Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Laying Down the Armor

Each Enneagram worldview has some consistent patterns when in the box. For example, unexamined style Eights tend to view the world as a war zone and seek power to avoid feeling vulnerable. There's typically some toggle-switch thinking (“Whose side are you on?”), a fair amount of confrontation (it’s actually a search for truth), and a tendency to believe they’re seeking justice when in fact they want revenge.

All Enneagram styles operate from either/or polarities that maintain their worldviews. Here, it's "Either I'm strong or I'm weak." One coach described a female with these patterns who didn't know why everyone thought she was so tough and asked, "Do I have to bleed all over everyone to be vulnerable?" This sounds like a challenge, but it also reveals the weakness/strength polarity. Notice how she went to an extreme. If she isn’t strong, she’ll “bleed all over everyone.” Clients with this style respond well to humor: “Maybe just a cup of blood!”

One of my clients tried to engage her style Eight husband in a conversation about being less aggressive with friends and business associates. He replied, “What do you want me to do, jump off a cliff?” A natural tendency, in the face of such a response, is to presume the person is ridiculing the issue, or simply being ridiculous. Not so. Underneath their tough exterior, these are the most vulnerable of all the nine Enneagram styles. Hence the need to bluster. They’re reluctant to show vulnerability because they think it really might require jumping off a cliff. 

They like it when you're direct. You could reflect back their either/or assumption and suggest, “Let’s talk about how showing vulnerability can be a strength.” 

Another client I’ll call Mike said, “I’m working with a therapist who believes I have MUCH anger suppressed in me. As I was mulling this over, I remembered reading we're an anger-based type. I don’t really feel angry. Nor do my close friends see anger in me or from me. How do I access and/or release my anger?” Style Eights who lack awareness of their inner workings don’t understand how anger motivates their behavior. For example, they might criticize someone harshly without being aware of any inner rancor, yet the recipient experiences them as fierce and hostile. They may be surprised and apologize if people who feel attacked reveal their pain, because usually they don’t intend to hurt.

Mike said his friends didn’t see him as angry. A key pattern of this style is to be protective, even compassionate with a few trusted others, so he probably shows his vulnerability and not his anger to his closest friends. I recommended he seek specific feedback from people who aren’t close to him and who therefore may not typically experience his softer side: “You can pay close attention to others’ nonverbal reactions to you and probe for specifics; e.g., ‘I can tell by the look on your face, you’re struggling with what I just said. Is it the content that’s troubling, or how I said it, or something else?’" 

Asking for descriptive feedback is a good idea for all of us. We can’t know for sure how we come across until we can see ourselves through others’ eyes. This is especially important for style Eight. These clients typically feel innocent inside, as Mike did, yet their intimidating demeanor may keep others from giving them the feedback they need. 

I affirmed this with Mike, and suggested he could help people be honest with him by saying something like, "I have somewhat of a weakness in understanding what makes people tick, and I need your help." I also told him: "LISTEN to their feedback without a rebuttal. Ask for specific examples and don’t argue with them." 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Coaching in Action

Below are some behavioral strategies I've found useful with each Enneagram style. Remember to enfold these and other pattern-breaking experiments within each client's overarching transpersonal vision: 
  1. Style One clients move from seeing primarily what's wrong to developing nuance and options. You could suggest they make a list of their rules, then choose one to throw away or modify. Get them to laugh about this; make it playful.

  2. Instead of losing themselves by taking care of others, clients with style Two become loving and learn to give without strings. To clients with this style, I've suggested a reality check on their tendency to read minds: Write down what you assume about someone's needs, then check it out with the other person. Listen humbly to any differences.

  3. Style Threes shift from succeeding at any price to being inner-directed and communal. Help them discover what they're feeling. You might start with a physical sensation because style Threes often don't know how to label their feelings: Is it more a good feeling or a bad feeling? If it's good is it really, really good, or just kind of good? Do you think it could be mild pleasure, or even joy? 

  4. Style Four clients, who tend to be moody/blocked by melancholy when in their box, become effective in the external world. Metaphors work with all Enneagram styles, but especially well with this one; journaling about and discussing their dreams can also lead to fascinating discoveries. 

  5. Style Fives move from a reserved/reserving style to integrating action with thinking and becoming generous. These clients will benefit from observing how their comfort level changes when (1) sitting or standing at varying distances from people, (2) looking people in the eye for shorter or longer periods of time. By staying present during these experiments, they can develop more comfort with emotional contact. 
  6. The suspiciousness and self-doubt of style Six is transformed into trust of self and others, as well as self-assured action. These clients tend to focus on what can go wrong. They can be coached to incorporate their concerns into a solution statement. For example, instead of, "That won't work because it will take too long," they might learn to say, "I think that could solve our problem; let's talk about how we can shorten the production time."

  7. Style Sevens can be scattered and unreliable; they break through as visionaries who are realistically enthusiastic. One of the best ways for these clients to learn to stay with something painful is to coach them to solicit feedback about themselves and to respond without defensiveness: by finding some part to agree with, then probing for examples (encourage them to give no explanation in response; just to understand what the other person is saying). 

  8. From being driven by a war mentality and power seeking, style Eights become compassionate and just. When I catch these clients being soft I give them lots of encouragement. If they're business leaders an article from the Center for Creative Leadership on Forceful and Enabling Leadership is useful. They see how to develop an integrated style instead of "either I'm strong or I'm weak."

  9. Immobile and indecisive style Nines become focused and initiating, remaining inclusive while remembering their own agenda. Clients with style Nine patterns are often unaware of their anger, so I sometimes recommend a daily log to raise their consciousness by asking "If I were to have been at all angry today, what might have caused it?"

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Paradoxical Approach to Problem Solving

In a recent blog post "Alter the Interaction, Not the Other Person," I describe a couple caught up in a self-fulfilling negative cycle, and how to interrupt that particular dynamic with paradoxical problem solving. 

Below are key components of this approach, drawn from work at Stanford's Mental Research Institute (The Tactics of Change, Fisch, Weakland, and Segal).

The Importance of Reframing
  • Sometimes "more of the same" increases resistance to change; e.g., a colleague who resents you telling her what she should do will not be easily influenced by your telling her she should not resent your comments. Your attempted solution is part of the problem, creating more of the same dynamic.
  • Far more effective is to lift yourself out of the situation and examine all behaviors, including the usual attempted solution, as problems to be solved.
  • Reality is only what a sufficient number of people agree is real. Paradoxical problem-solving redefines or "reframes" reality in a way that's compatible with the worldview of each person involved.
  • Paradoxical problem solving depends on the element of the unexpected. In the example above, asking your colleague what she thinks should be done is far more likely to be a source of influence than telling her what she should do.
  • Reframing a situation actually changes your perception of it. You're finding ways to influence the other person more effectively; at the same time you're being influenced as you come to see the world from the other's perspective.

Underlying Assumptions
  • It isn't necessary to find fault.
  • Nobody has to win; nobody has to lose. (People who come from win/lose positions are polarized ("Either I do what I want, or I'll have to do what you want"), which blocks the possibility of an unanticipated, creative option.
  • If what you're doing isn't working, do something else.

Some Paradoxical Change Strategies

  • Less of the Same: When a pattern maintains the status quo instead of bringing about change, systematically discontinue it, interrupt it, do something different.
  • Making the Covert Overt: Covert behavior has enormous power to maintain and reinforce an adversary relationship, and people are reluctant to talk about conflict openly, even when the problem is apparent. Often this is because we're not aware of how our own behavior contributes to the situation. Use this tactic only if you're willing to hear about and examine your own behavior.  :-) 
  • The Tai Chi Method (also called Prescribing the Symptom): Instead of fighting a particular behavior, consciously engage in it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Whistling in the Dark

A coach I mentored described a client I’ll name Mike whose behavior threatened to compromise his law partnership. He’d cancel lucrative cases to work on high-risk, low-pay cases.  

When his partners tried to talk him out of these risky cases, he'd insist he could win. Instead of seeing their concern for the partnership's viability, he thought they were trying to get rid of him. 

His coach thought Mike was probably Enneagram style Six and I agreed. His insisting he could win cases no one else would risk seemed to me a combination of fighting for the underdog and whistling in the dark. ("I can win this case! I can do it!")

With style Six patterns it's often helpful to be very specific, leaving no room for interpretation. I suggested this coach be crystal clear if Mike started defending his focus on low-pay, high risk cases: "Well, you can't do that and stay here." She also decided to elicit his understanding of the problem and get him to be specific: "What are your options? What are you going to do about it?" 

You can sometimes use a pattern to break a pattern; in this case, using worry to break through the tendency to worry by asking "What's the worst thing that can happen?" Mike’s coach rehearsed what she might say in response to his belief the partners were trying to get rid of him: "You’re probably right. I suspect they will find a way to get rid of you unless you change." 

Once faced with stark reality, such clients may talk themselves into changing ("Now that I know the worst, I can do something about it") or they may decide they’ll be better off somewhere else. It’s important to leave the choice up to them. Keep their focus on finding their inner power (but don't tell them that; they'll hear it as advice and unconsciously rebel against it). Get them to oppose themselves, not others they perceive to be in authority, including you.

Early in my career I coached a similar client, who worked in Labor Relations and whose boss had told him repeatedly he had to change his outdated, aggressive negotiating stance with the unions. I tried everything I could think of to help my client hear the feedback and figure out why he was rebelling against the change. Yes, he disagreed with the new, more collaborative approach, but logically he understood it was now a requirement of his job, and he knew how to do it, so his resistance was not due to lack of skill. He simply didn't want to do it. 

I met with the two of them to see if some dynamic in their interaction was the problem. The boss was clear but my client was being so defensive he couldn't hear what was being said. I did get him to repeat back exactly what was being asked of him, but he was too busy explaining himself to integrate the message that this was not negotiable.

A few weeks later I gave up and told him, "I can't think of any way to help. You know exactly what’s expected and you choose not to do it. If you don't respond to your boss’s requests, you're going to be fired in 30 days. It's up to you. You can change or not change. Nobody else can do it for you. I wish I could help, but I'm out of ideas."

He changed immediately, kept his job, and credits me with saving his career! What did I do? Nothing. And in doing nothing I gave his power back to him. He had no advice to rebel against, no expectations to counter. He had to rely on himself.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Bite the Bullet

I’ll have to bite the bullet,” said Sandy, an entrepreneur who hated day-to-day paperwork. He transformed that negative, energy-draining metaphor to one he, who loves Jeeps, could use to greater advantage: "I'll jump in the Jeep!" How did he do that? By going on a creative excursion, a symbolic side trip into an arena seemingly unrelated to his stated problem. 

There are three key steps in this technique: 
First, identify the elements of a problem you haven’t been able to solve. Sandy was impassioned about a new project but bored with the mundane details of his business plan. “I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet,” he repeatedly groused. He knew the phrase refers to how soldiers took their minds off surgical pain before anesthetics were available. In parallel, he found it agonizingly painful to take those necessary steps to achieve his goal and had to “bite down” to help himself bear it. He wanted to break through his pattern of avoiding those details.
Second, go on a mental excursion for several minutes, letting your imagination explore a seemingly unrelated arena. If you need to stimulate ideas, you can brainstorm a list of anything imaginable – such as archaeology, biology, cooking, espionage, oceanography, parenting, space travel, transportation – then pick one arena that feels intuitively interesting. Sandy picked "transportation," and settled on cars. As he played with aspects of driving a car – velocity, heading toward a destination, traveling in an enjoyable way – he exclaimed, “I love Jeeps!”

Third, do a force fit; bring the novel ideas gained in the symbolic excursion to apply to the original problem. Sandy explored the similarities and differences of a bullet and a Jeep. Drawing on the image of enjoying a Jeep ride across bumpy ground, he created the metaphor "jump in the Jeep" to replace "bite the bullet." Same benefit a reminder to get busy exploring some difficult terrain but with an image that attracted him. This seemingly small shift released new energy in Sandy to approach the nitty-gritty details with more pleasurable anticipation.
Now look for the above three steps in this additional example:
New coach Alicia had completed her coach certification, was clear about her business vision, had defined her target market, and was working on her web site. “I’m on overload,” she sighed. “I see a lot of coaches farther along than I am in marketing to my target audience – they have their web sites, their newsletters; they’ve been there for so long. What does little start-up me have to offer that hasn’t already been said?” Alicia identified her key issue as "exhaustion with the process." She took a symbolic side trip into areas of experience where exhaustion occurs in pursuit of a goal.
A picture came to her mind of a mountain and a peak. "I think I was brought here," she said, "because I enjoy hiking and backpacking. There's always this mind game of 'Oh, it's so far' but once I get up there, the feeling I'm going to have!" Alicia let this picture work in her mind. "There's no short-cut," she concluded. "You can take a helicopter or drive your car up, but when you make the climb on your own, you're so much more proud of yourself."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Lick and a Promise

From Marge Piercy’s poem, “For Strong Women,” I’d guessed she might be Enneagram style Eight. But her autobiography Sleeping with Cats suggests she's more likely to be style Two

Piercy describes herself as having taken care of people surrounding her much of her life – including earning a living for herself and the rest of the people in a ménage à quatre in her second marriage. This level of responsibility could also be true of style Eight, but the group marriage arrangement might be a better fit for style Two’s murky sexual boundaries (as would her attraction to the writer Colette). 

Also, Piercy bemoans – in a way that conveys a sense of betrayal – the fact that people have abandoned her when she needed them, which is less likely to be style Eights' complaint. Here's a fascinating passage about adopting two cats after her Siamese died:

“Woody [her third husband, Ira Wood] and I pursued an ad in the Boston Globe. There we found heaps of Burmese... in piles of rich dark brown fur cuddling one another, except for two exiles: two big sable cats she said were three months old, but I could tell they were six or eight at least... A male at stud had escaped from his cage and impregnated his daughter... Woody had fallen in love with them at once... Woody named the male Jim Beam, and I named the female Colette. I have always loved Colette’s writing. Jim Beam was immediately interested and friendly, but Colette hid under a chair... I captured her, held her and licked her like a mother cat. She was astonished and began to purr. From then on, except when she was angry with me, she was my cat. She fell in love that night. It was hardly sanitary, but it conveyed affection and trust in a language she understood.”

Licking a kitten, the way a mother cat would, captures much we need to know about style Two, and is the kind of metaphorical behavior that helps identify core Enneagram patterns. 

But I don't know Marge Piercy, and don't intend this to be a definition of her personality, only to provide examples of how we begin to make good guesses about someone's Enneagram motivations.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Fine Art of Inference

Prior to my scheduled phone call with Tammy, who was going to be a panelist in one of my workshops, I sent her a handout summarizing all nine Enneagram styles and asked her to come to the call with her best guess about her own. She said, “I think I’m a Seven because I’m definitely the cheerleader for this organization.”

Even though the instructions I sent with the handout emphasized the importance of looking for core motivations instead of external characteristics, Tammy did what many people do – she looked at the descriptions of each Enneagram style’s observable behaviors instead of isolating the central tendency that distinguishes one from another.

For style Sevens the driving force is gluttony, seeking pleasure to avoid pain, a tendency to focus only on the good news. As Tammy talked I listened for clues that reflect underlying motivation level and quality of energy, symbolic language and behaviors, reactions under stress, communication style, and focus of attention – observing whether or not her behavior with me matched her self-description.

She did have a lively, aggressive energy that could be true to style Seven, but there’s a similar energy in styles Three and Eight. I didn’t hear the louder voice typical of style Eights, or any bluntness. I didn’t hear much evidence for style Seven’s charm, storytelling, or focus on the positive.

Tammy said, for example, she gets bored with details and likes to have people around her to do the follow-through, which she’d read about style Seven. But she had major decision-making responsibilities as head of a large agency, so it was to be expected she’d delegate as much as she could. Most important, she volunteered lots of details as we talked.

I observed clues that led me to think she might be style Three, whose driving force is vanity, with a tendency toward self-promotion. I'd asked her to tell me about her youth so I could listen for her patterns of speech and what she tended to highlight. Her speech was fast-paced, which could have been true of style Seven, but she focused on measures of success instead of on long-term perspective and possibilities.

She described her family’s stature in the community based on their achievements, which suggested the importance of image found in the 2-3-4 triad. Some of her comments that are characteristic of style Three: “You always have to work harder to be an honor student.” “I have a strong work ethic.” “When you’re a leader your life is on stage for everybody to see.” “People have told me I was a model for them.”

After Tammy had reviewed the reasons why she thought she might be style Seven, I said, “I’m surprised. From reading your biography, I thought you might be style Three because you’ve accomplished so much at a relatively young age and you’ve won a number of awards.”

Her response: “I was hoping you’d tell me what you think my type is.” This answer alone was another clue she was more likely to be style Three than Seven. Enneagram Sevens tend to be self-referential, whereas style Threes – sometimes unconsciously – tend to seek approval from others. In the course of thirty minutes, both Tammy and I became clear her Enneagram style was Three, not Seven.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Nature of Change

The Sanskrit word Maya is often interpreted to mean "life is an illusion." More accurately Maya is the illusion that we and the world around us are stable and unchanging. In fact, everything is always changing. A good coach looks behind the illusion of immutability to discover the openings and opportunities for change.
Academics argue passionately about which comes first, a change in attitude or a change in behavior. Translated to coaching, do we help clients challenge their beliefs and thus bring about behavioral change; or do we encourage them to experiment with new behavior, hoping different results will reframe their thinking? The answer: both!!!  It's true that new behavior can create results that make old beliefs obsolete. And sometimes a "new view" leads clients to make behavioral changes consistent with that new perspective.

Moreover, change can occur even when clients don't believe it will work. They may be uncomfortable or even afraid to behave differently, but as long as they'll experiment with something and stay open to the possibility it will work, they're on the road to change. 

This is so because the act of doing something in a different way has already begun to act on their beliefs. In addition, responses from others will reinforce their new behavior. Over the years I've noticed about 40% of my clients have changed based only upon insights gained from clear and specific feedback. This surprisingly high percentage is based on three factors: 
  1. Coaches are generally hired by reasonably self-aware people who are ready to change, who've experienced some degree of success in their lives, who are relatively optimistic, resourceful, and self-initiating.
  2. Many clients haven't experienced truly effective feedback. It's hard to know what to change, for example, when a friend says "You're too bossy" or your boss says "We didn't promote you because we need someone with a broader perspective." The behavioral specificity of good coaching is usually a breath of fresh air
  3. Presenting observations in the context of an Enneagram style often lowers peoples' defenses. The collective experience of Enneagram enthusiasts and teachers offers support for the "down-sides" and hopefulness about the potentialities of a particular style. And coaching specifically to an Enneagram style accelerates the process of change considerably.
Another 40% need to try out new behaviors and learn from them. For example, an Enneagram Eight was told she needed to be less positioned and more flexible in looking for collaborative resolutions to problems. She hadn't been aware of her toggle-switch (dualistic) way of thinking – only perceiving two alternatives: hers or "theirs." From that perspective there could only be one "winner" and she'd been determined to win. She also acknowledged how reluctant she'd been to show any vulnerability. It took time and practice for her to make this important shift.

The remaining 20% of coaching clients require a deeper level of intervention. No matter how motivated someone is to change, or how clear the feedback, or how well-rehearsed the skills, deeply embedded patterns affect the nature and degree of change for all Enneagram styles. My clients, like the rest of the population, come from a wide variety of family backgrounds. I've worked with people who were physically and/or emotionally abused as children, or who are recovering addicts and alcoholics, for example. But the negative impacts of previous experiences need not be so dramatic for people to have difficulty with change. Sometimes this means a longer course of coaching, with more support as well as more challenge, more experimentation, and much more patience.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

All That Jazz

If you haven’t yet read Judith Searle’s The Literary Enneagram or Tom Condon’s The Enneagram Movie & Video Guide, you’re missing a world of pleasure. 

Those who’ve had the good fortune to be in workshops with panels of exemplars know the value of seeing and hearing from a wide variety of individuals. The evidence for Enneagram style is in the stories people create out of their lives: their language, their pace, how they view the world. And – when the stories are well told – you can distinguish among Enneagram styles in film and books as well as from a live panel. This is a pleasurable way to improve your observation skills.

I’ve been drawn to jazz from the first note I ever heard and was happy to discover Nat Hentoff's Listen to the Stories, a collection of his essays about jazz and country musicians. Because I’d read in Condon’s Enneagram Movie & Video Guide that Thelonious Monk is style Five, I looked for evidence in Hentoff’s essay, “Memories of Thelonious Monk:”

"…That day Monk, for a while, was more talkative than usual. At other times his silences could last an hour or two or longer. A brilliant young musician, Gigi Gryce, came rushing in during one of the silences and said to Monk with great delight, 'I got in! I got in! I’m going to Julliard!' After about ten minutes, Monk looked at the still radiant Gigi and said, 'Well, I hope you don’t lose it there.' 

"Although there's plenty of room for improvisation by Monk and his colleagues, each piece is precisely structured. Monk not only knew what he wanted from his musicians, he refused to accept anything less. Gigi Gryce once told me: 'I had a part Monk wrote for me that was impossible. I had to play melody while simultaneously playing harmony with him. In addition, the intervals were very wide. I told him I couldn’t do it. ‘You have an instrument, don’t you?’ he said. ‘Either play it or throw it away.’ And he walked away. Finally I was able to play it'…

"For a long time, Monk… was treated by many jazz critics as a semi-comic eccentric rather than as an original. And that diminished his chances to work… Eventually, he made many recordings and played a growing number of festivals and clubs. But Monk began to stay more and more within his own mind. The silences grew much longer… 

"Monk knew his own stature. At a recording session, when Coleman Hawkins asked Monk to explain some of his music to him and to John Coltrane, who was also on the date, Monk looked at the magisterial Hawkins: 'You’re the great Coleman Hawkins, right? You’re the guy who invented the tenor saxophone, right?' Monk turned to Coltrane: 'You’re the great John Coltrane, right? Well, the music is on the horn. Between the two of you, you should be able to find it.'"

In the above excerpt, note a Five-ish tendency to withdraw into silence, Monk's long pauses, his disdain for emotions, his minimalism, his certainty about his own carefully thought-out views and expertise, and his tendency to expect others to learn the way he did – to figure it out for themselves.  


Saturday, February 7, 2015

How to Write a Personal Vision

Stanford Business School's Michael Ray believes the key to accessing deeper sources of creativity can be found in two questions: Who is my Self? (your higher self, your divinity, your highest future potential) and What is my Work? (the purpose of your existence, what you're meant to be) (From page 101 of Presence, by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers.)
Who is your Self?     What is your Work?
Write your answer to each question as if it's already happening:
  • VISION: What is your Work? What happens when you're giving your greatest gift to the world? How are people different as a consequence of having been in your presence? See this as an image. Use present tense. 

    Answer these questions from Bill O'Hanlon:
    • What gives you a sense of aliveness, that feels "just right"?
    • What do you dream about; what holds you spellbound?
    • What are blessings you could give back to the world?
    • Whose work or life inspires you?
    • What would you talk about if given an hour of prime time TV to influence the nation or the world?
    • What makes you angry enough to correct in the world?
    • What contribution of yours will be more profound than others doing something similar?

  • MISSION: Who is your Self? What about you (attributes, experience, skills, knowledge, passion) makes your vision possible?  This will also inform your logo/image, marketing/funding, etc.

  • STRATEGIES/GOALS/PARAMETERS: How do you carry out your mission and vision? 
    • What strategies will accomplish your vision? Identify 4-5 goals within each strategy.
    • What internal and external forces surround each goal--those that encourage and those that may discourage your vision?
    • What first steps can you take to accomplish your vision?
      • How can you increase encouraging forces, both internal and external?
      • How can you overcome internal/external discouraging forces?
    • When you're uncertain about priorities among strategies, hold them against your mission and vision, and you'll know which ones are most likely to ensure your contribution in the world.
As you ponder these questions and your intention becomes clear, your vision may appear to you spontaneously, possibly as a metaphor. When thinking about my true work, I suddenly saw my clients stepping out of a box. And I knew the box was each person's unique programming or conditioning.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Conflict Resolution – A Win/Win Example

When coaching your clients to open up their perspective about conflict, this classic example can be helpful.

In a meeting to discuss possible prison reforms in Wisconsin, nine of the state's top prison officials met to design an ideal correctional institution. In the course of the discussion, one group member proposed eliminating uniforms traditionally worn by prison guards. There was a lengthy argument about whether or not uniforms should be worn.

One official suggested the issue be resolved democratically by vote. As a result, six voted against uniforms and three voted in favor of them. The winning members looked pleased while the losing members either became angry or withdrew from further discussion.

A third-party observer suggested they take another look at the situation, asking those in favor of uniforms what they hoped to accomplish. They said part of the rehabilitative process in correctional institutions is teaching people to deal constructively with authority, and they saw uniforms as a means for achieving that goal. Those against uniforms said there was such a stigma, guards had additional difficulty laying to rest the stereotypes held by inmates before they could deal with them on a one-to-one basis.

The observer then asked the group what ways they might meet the combined goals – teaching people to deal with authority while avoiding the difficulty of stereotypes held about traditional uniforms. The group generated ten possible solutions, including identifying prison personnel by name tags, by color-coded casual dress, or by uniforms for guard supervisors but not for guards in constant contact with prisoners. After discussing the various alternatives, all agreed on the third solution.

In their first discussion, the group engaged in clear-cut conflict, only partially resolved by vote. In the later discussion, the group turned to problem solving, eventually developing a win-win method acceptable to all parties.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Do More of What Works

A coach I mentored said a style Nine asked her for some coaching because he was stuck in indecision about a career move. He'd specifically asked her to "tell him what to do so he could get on with his life and live happily ever after." 

She'd suggested this was an opportunity for him to take initiative in discerning and acting on what he chose, to muster the courage to believe he was important enough to figure it out. She encouraged him to remember earlier times in his life when that clarity came for him and he did indeed act. She asked him to visualize getting in touch with his own knowing that came from valuing himself, to spend time considering exactly what his priorities were, and to list them. Then she asked for my comments on her approach, adding that she would be glad to learn from this.

I agreed her suggestions were logically on target, and asked if the client was able to respond to them. She said he seemed a bit confused.

There's a deep-seated belief in Enneagram Nines that they're not important, not visible. This becomes a life stance of not wanting to be visible — when they make a key decision, then they have to be responsible for it. This is scary.   

So realizing her client wasn't ready to respond to her logical suggestions, she and I discussed ways for him to observe other, easier opportunities in his life to choose (e.g., which of two Sunday services to attend) – choices that weren't as loaded as a career decision. After he was able to see where and how this showed up in his life in small ways, he then practiced choosing without any particular criteria, just to break the pattern of saying, “Whatever."

When style Nines practice making less monumental choices and getting a little more comfortable with it, they can then begin to look at their true priorities. It was a helpful suggestion that her client review a time when he'd made a choice. If he couldn’t quite bring back that personal power, the coach could give him a little more structure. 

We don't want to make decisions for our style Nine clients, but we can lead them through the process of how they've made previous choices by asking questions. For example,
“What was going on before that moment of clarity?”
“What were the pros and cons of the choice you eventually made?”
“What did you do to contribute to that moment of clarity?”
“How did you get yourself to act on it?”
The premise? Do more of what works

Friday, January 2, 2015

Meditation and The Trap of the Intellect

One of my clients had left two companies before we started coaching and was about to take a third job. All three positions were internal consulting roles for which she was well suited. Bright and innovative, she’d been hired in start-ups because she was comfortable with a new and/or ambiguous role if she was able to influence its parameters. But in the two organizations she'd left, she wasn't given the authority to define her role as she saw fit. She'd received positive feedback about her talents, but slipped pretty regularly into despair about her capability to make any real difference.

The job she was moving into appeared to be a better fit in terms of her potential influence, so she was more likely to stay there in spite of her historically predictable dissatisfaction. In addition, she began to shift her perspective with a mindfulness practice of gratitude. 

All of us, no matter what our personality style or key emotions, can benefit from being mindful of gratitude. How do we do that? Phillip Moffitt suggests, "When you are contracted due to self-pity, fear, or anger, more than likely gratitude isn't present, so notice those things for which you are grateful."
When you are contracted due to self-pity, fear, or anger, more than likely gratitude isn’t present, so notice those things for which you are grateful. Respond to a difficult situation by acknowledging it as such, and then say to yourself, "Yes, this is terrible, and I am grateful for…” An example would be, "I am angry at this moment, and I am grateful I have a mind which knows this is so and can deal with it." - See more at:
When you are contracted due to self-pity, fear, or anger, more than likely gratitude isn’t present, so notice those things for which you are grateful. Respond to a difficult situation by acknowledging it as such, and then say to yourself, "Yes, this is terrible, and I am grateful for…” An example would be, "I am angry at this moment, and I am grateful I have a mind which knows this is so and can deal with it." - See more at:
When you are contracted due to self-pity, fear, or anger, more than likely gratitude isn’t present, so notice those things for which you are grateful. Respond to a difficult situation by acknowledging it as such, and then say to yourself, "Yes, this is terrible, and I am grateful for…” An example would be, "I am angry at this moment, and I am grateful I have a mind which knows this is so and can deal with it." - See more at:
When you are contracted due to self-pity, fear, or anger, more than likely gratitude isn’t present, so notice those things for which you are grateful. Respond to a difficult situation by acknowledging it as such, and then say to yourself, "Yes, this is terrible, and I am grateful for…” An example would be, "I am angry at this moment, and I am grateful I have a mind which knows this is so and can deal with it." - See more at:

This is not the same as positive thinking. Instead of denying the difficulties of life, the practice of gratitude is rather a way to turn the mind. Instead of moving too quickly to erase the reality of the moment, stay with the emotions you're experiencing: I'm despairing at this moment and grateful I can observe this and know I am not my emotions.

In “Meditation, Happiness, and The Trap of the Intellect,” Eric Armstrong described the transient quality of grateful feelings:
“As powerful as the feelings were, however, on each occasion they dissipated. It was rather disheartening. I mean, there I was—enlightened! And now it was gone.”
The trap of the intellect is a focus on what’s missing, so the ego can kick in by criticizing our inability to maintain a meditative focus as yet another sign of incompetence and yet another reason to despair of ever finding happiness. 

We can learn to observe this pattern and move through it, to continue the practice of gratitude even though its effects come and go. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hitchhiking to the Grand Ole Opry

I don’t think change efforts have to be work. In particular, using metaphors to stimulate change can be a very playful process.

In a coaching session with a manager who was a bit of a perfectionist, he and I talked about problems his team described when his teaching mode slipped into preaching. While exploring together how to loosen that pattern playfully, I asked him to think of situations where he didn’t take the teacher role. 

"I used to hitchhike in the Sixties," he recalled, "and I learned a lot from conversations with people who gave me a ride." 

When he began to imagine himself in meetings as “hitching a ride,” conversing with people who work for him as if they’re traveling companions, it made a world of difference. 

*     *     *

Asked to consider who her inner critic resembled, another client I'll call Elsa said, "She looks like me, but sounds like my mother."

When I asked “How is she dressed?” Elsa burst out laughing: “She’s dressed like Minnie Pearl from the Grand Ole Opry.” 

You know Elsa will never again respond to her inner judge in the same way. How could she? She’ll be picturing the words coming from a sassy comedian wearing a big straw hat with a $1.98 price tag hanging from the side!