Guiding you from Enneagram Enthusiast to Enneagram Coach.
A comprehensive guide to the barriers and steps to become a professional Enneagram Coach without needing unreliable tests.
Love the Enneagram? Love it enough to want to learn to be an Enneagram Coach?
This guide is here to help.
The Enneagram can be complex and confusing or enlightening and empowering.
I train Enneagram Coaches and trainers. So what you get from me is an uncluttered narrative coaching approach, where we go beyond the surface levels of the 9 types to unblock the inner obstacles and use the enneagram as a powerful map for growth.
Every type has a programmed default set of inner obstacles. Once we know this, we can use the knowledge to map our emotional and spiritual growth—claiming our wholeness.
This is the true gift that Enneagram coaching has to offer when it’s not confusing or surface.
In this guide, you’ll learn the following:
- Why I didn’t like the enneagram
- My disclaimer – you are not your type
- Who becomes an Enneagram Coach?
- Steps to become an Enneagram Coach
- Why I prefer coaching to Enneagram tests
- Start with the 3 Personality Pearls
- Layer on the 9 Polarities
- Go beyond Enneagram typing
Why I didn’t like the Enneagram
I sometimes joke with my Enneagram coach students that a warning label should be attached to studying the Enneagram. ‘Warning! The Enneagram is addictive.’ I remember rolling my eyes with irritation when my friend and colleague, Dr. Pam Roux, used to endlessly refer to people as their Enneagram types.
“Oh, James is an eight,” and “she’s a type six; that explains it.”
That was nearly two decades ago when I didn’t want anything to do with the Enneagram.
I was personality typed out, having spent much of my life seeking understanding about the nature of what it means to be a human, finding my life purpose and learning to build a Wisdom Well to nourish my noisy doubt-filled mind.
I wasn’t interested in which of the nine types I was.
That is until I had a dream that Pam told me I was a type nine on the Enneagram. I called her the next day to tell her, “Pam, I dreamed you told me I was a nine on the Enneagram.”
She replied, “that’s a very ‘nine’ way to find out you’re a nine.”
And so I surrendered.
The next time I was in a bookstore, I picked up Helen Palmer’s ‘The Enneagram’, skipping to the chapter on type nine.
Do you know that face-plant moment where you hear your ego defending itself vehemently?
I read about characteristics of type nine that had me squirming – my ego defending itself, “I’m not like that. Am I?”. Learning the Enneagram can feel like standing in a clothing store changing room. You know the kind where the fluorescent lights are way too bright. Do we really need a 360-degree view of too much of everything?
That’s how I felt when I encountered the accuracy of the Enneagram.
Of course, I bought Helen Palmer’s book, took it home, and the addiction began.
Fast forward through many years of study, giving the most credits to my first teacher, Dr. Pam Roux, the Enneagram soon became more than a critical coaching tool, a helpful way to parent my then teenage daughters and a way to serve my clients.
It became a part of my language of living.
My poor daughters’ boyfriends have always been subjected to the ‘what is your Enneagram type’ debates and discussions.
Enneagram Coach Skills can serve our ego or wisdom
We can use the Enneagram coaching skills and knowledge to serve our egos, or we can use the Enneagram to serve wisdom. There are 10 common mistakes that I see new Enneagram Coaches make; read more here.
Whether for your personal growth or as a career boosting path, here is my guide for your path from enthusiast to enneagram coach.
We can courageously break through and transform the rocks of our inner obstacles, our fears, our shame, our angers and claim our wholeness. We can find the waters of our inner wealth, our wisdom.
Then we might even earn the privilege of sharing our wisdom and helping others to find theirs.
Be a voice for wisdom wherever you are.
You are not your type
I’ve taught the Enneagram in many countries (I have an ICF-accredited Enneagram 101 and Enneagram Coaching online program ). So you may be surprised to hear me say the following, I would not teach the Enneagram if I believed that who we ultimately are is a personality type.
Before I share a step-by-step guide to transforming your enthusiasm for the Enneagram into professional Enneagram coaching skills, here’s my disclaimer.
The true self is not the Enneagram. You are always more than your personality type.
The Enneagram is in you – you are not in it.
Forgive me for using common language. When we refer to types as ‘I am a nine’ or ‘he is a three,’ et cetera, it’s difficult to break the habit, but the truth is, ‘my personality type is a nine.’
You have a personality type; you aren’t an Enneagram type.
In saying that, I will likely slip into the habit of referring to us as our types.
The true self – in my understanding – is pure nondual awareness. In which the Enneagram personality types rise and fall like the waves of the ocean, and like every wave is truly unique, the expressions of our personalities are also unique. And like the ocean’s waves, we can study the patterns of personalities.
I want to share how you can turn your enthusiasm for the Enneagram into a valuable – potentially life-changing – toolbox.
My approach to this path from Enneagram enthusiast to professional Enneagram coach is not necessarily for everyone. I’m mostly interested in the growth path that the Enneagram gives us—turning the prison of personality into a path of growth.
The greatest gift the Enneagram can offer us is to go beyond typing.
To use the Enneagram to coach deeper than the surface, understanding that the Enneagram is not an excuse for behavior but challenges and inspires us to heal and rise to the fullness of our expression.
Like everything in nature, with the right nutrients and sunlight, a plant can grow to give. With the insight that the Enneagram gives, we can grow to give and coach others to do the same.
Is there a demand for enneagram coaching?
With 1 million people searching for the term Enneagram test in the USA alone per month, we know there’s a demand for Enneagram coaching.
Becoming an Enneagram coach today means joining other pioneers who are revealing and uncovering deeper and deeper understandings of this fascinating personality system.
I believe the Enneagram isn’t something created or invented but discovered.
Just like the atom wasn’t created but was revealed, our knowledge of it has changed drastically over the decades.
You’ll see many contradictions when you search for the Enneagram online and consider certification in Enneagram. We can use this discovery to help or hurt by looking at the surface level or depth.
The Enneagram can also be confusing and cluttered or made elegantly simple. It’s taken me nearly two decades to simplify and condense the Enneagram into clear teachings.
Who becomes an Enneagram Coach?
Enneagram enthusiasts come in many forms, from life coaches to CEOs, managers, athletes, spiritual leaders, executive coaches, parents, consultants, HR practitioners, organizational development managers, counselors and therapists, school teachers, mentors, et cetera.
Anyone who cares about guiding, leading and coaching can benefit from adding Enneagram coaching to their toolbox.
Here are a few surprising ways to use the Enneagram:
- Authors use the knowledge of the Enneagram to develop deep and rich characters in their fiction writing.
- Leaders and HR managers use the Enneagram to look for gaps in strengths and weaknesses when building and completing working teams.
- Marketing advisors use the Enneagram to look for gaps in their messaging, making sure that they’re not leaning heavily into only one or two types, ensuring that their marketing message reaches as many types as possible. ***Or, oppositely, a brand might want to target a specific type in its marketing.
- And the Enneagram can be used to support one’s spiritual path, even nondual enlightenment because amazingly, there’s nothing quite like studying the personality to realize that you are that which is beyond the personality.
When first studying the Enneagram, my ego was often bruised by the realization that who I thought I was in terms of my characteristics and inclinations was actually my Enneagram type nine.
One day in meditation, I pictured a box and started to imagine placing everything I thought that I was – that actually could be assigned to my type nine Enneagram personality – in the box. By the time I was finished, there was nothing left to put in the box. Everything I thought was me turned out to be my type nine personality.
Although shocking and, for some, an instant catalyst for an existential crisis, I found it to be liberating. Here was clear evidence that we truly are beyond our Enneagram type.
I invite you to be compassionate towards your and others’ personality types.
Steps to become an Enneagram Coach
Here are my most valuable steps to becoming an Enneagram coach – to transform your love and enthusiasm for the Enneagram into a potentially professional service that you can offer as a standalone service or plug and play into other ways to guide, lead and coach.
First, learn how to introduce the Enneagram.
To coach the Enneagram, you will need to explain what it is and isn’t. I prefer to spend only a little bit of time here because there’s so much information available these days that most people want one or two sound bites.
You can use this as a short checklist and practice getting comfortable explaining these few points.
- The word ‘Enneagram’ comes from Greek ‘ennea’ nine, plus ‘gram’, meaning drawing or figure.
- The diagram, illustration, or drawing shows the sacred geometry of the Enneagram. Get people to quickly take out their calculator apps to see how the Enneagram pattern reveals itself as a recurring decimal when one is divided by seven. It creates instant intrigue.
- The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you are already in and, if used wisely, gives you a path out of the prison of personality.
- If you want to mention some of the Enneagram’s history, please do so briefly because the Enneagram was discovered, not created. You’ll find the Enneagram in all sorts of places. It shows up in Pythagorian mathematics as well as the Sufi tradition.
- It may serve you to mention that the Enneagram is discovered, not created, which may help your clients overcome some initial resistance to the Enneagram while introducing the Enneagram.
Handle common objections
Make space for the elephant in the room, the common concerns about the Enneagram, like:
- “Is it scientific enough?”
- “Does it challenge my faith or religion?”
- “Isn’t it wrong to put people in a box?”
- “Surely there are not nine types of people in the world?”
- “Isn’t the Enneagram just an excuse for bad behavior?”
Have compassionate, helpful answers to these objections, and if you don’t know an answer, of course, it’s wise to say, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’ll do some research and get back to you,” or “I’ll give it some thought.”
You can handle these objections or concerns in these ways:
- Showing someone the Enneagram’s sacred geometry helps give it some logical scientific left-brain credibility.
- Mentioning how the Enneagram is being used worldwide in organizations as a coaching tool by psychologists and learned people could also help. But the truth is in the realm of archetypes and personality systems, there’s nothing tangible to study. We’re always looking for patterns, and the Enneagram will always have a subjective element because, as I’ve said, the Enneagram is not created but discovered.
- Think of it as a tool that can enhance and support spiritual and personal growth, regardless of your culture, creed, or chosen path.
- As mentioned, the Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box; it shows you the one you’re already in. Admitting this helps build trust with the client, and then explain that the Enneagram can also provide us with a way out of that box when used well.
- When we study our personality, we immediately create distance by observing our personality. And in some way, already begun the process of freeing ourselves from it.
- As mentioned, the Enneagram can be used as an excuse for behavior, but we encourage it to be used as a path for growth. We’re not saying there are nine kinds of people in the world, just that you can find nine patterns of personality that are helpful when understanding the archetypal nature of what it means to be a human being.
Share some of the benefits of the Enneagram.
It’s also helpful to talk about the benefits of the Enneagram, not at length, but just enough to show people the many applications of the Enneagram.
I encourage my Enneagram coach graduates to share something personal about how the Enneagram has impacted their lives.
People want to hear why you care about the Enneagram.
Why I prefer coaching to Enneagram Tests
“Let’s get ‘tests’ out the way. Our narrative approach”
Before we get into the juicy parts of Enneagram coaching, I need to talk about Enneagram tests versus a narrative approach.
Enneagram tests are popular and have a place, but there can also be like the drive-through junk food version of food versus a well-cooked organic meal. If someone’s going to spend 60 to 90 minutes doing a test that’s likely 50 to 60% accurate, they might as well have spent that time with you learning about all nine types so that they’re participating in the discovery of their Enneagram type.
Can you tell that I prefer the narrative coached approach to discovering Enneagram types?
When clients insist on using an Enneagram test, I refer them to the Enneagram Institute because I feel it’s the most accurate and carries the integrity of admitting only a 60 to 70% accuracy. It’s also one of the more affordable tests on the market.
Riso and Hudson are regarded as pioneers in the field, so if pushed to include a test, their test is the one I recommend.
However, it is possible to guide somebody to discover their type through the narrative journey. In Enneagram coaching, the emphasis is on the word journey. I recommend that you offer two or three sessions as a bundle where the first 90 minutes takes your clients close to discovering their type, but allows another two sessions to confirm and explore.
Because the Enneagram is about self-awareness, many of us need some reflective time to let the information settle to make the most of the Enneagram typing process.
Start with the Enneagram Personality Pearls
The next steps in the Enneagram coaching process help you avoid common mistakes.
Learn to coach the three Enneagram triads – the three personality pearls. You could give people a quick overview of all nine types. But as soon as possible, try to give people a firm foundational understanding of the Enneagram by educating and coaching them in the three triads, the three personality pearls. There’s a very important reason to do this.
I must drive my Enneagram coach students crazy because I repeat this statement dozens of times during their Enneagram coach certification. The Enneagram is not based on behavior, it is based on an underlying hidden reason for behavior. It’s not based on what we do, it’s based on why we do what we do.
Let that sink in for a moment.
You see, all nine types can do the same things.
When people get lost and confused between the nine types, they’re often stuck on the behavior – a description of something we do.
I joke that type ones don’t have the patent on obsessively labeling things, and type twos aren’t the only ones who help.
All nine types can help – all can participate in the behavior called helping. But why do all nine types help?
All nine types might label their Tupperware, but why would they?
The reason for behavior sits in the grain of sand in the personality pearl.
Like an oyster that’s irritated by a grain of sand and then begins to coat that grain of sand with layers and layers of mother of pearl until the pearl is formed – the personality is formed around a hidden original wound. There’s a deep spiritual understanding of this original wound that has a lot to do with how the personality pearl separates from its nondual source and how this causes pain. Through the pain, the three pearls are formed.
If you spend even 20 minutes coaching and educating your clients to understand the hidden personality through the origin of each type, you go a long way to avoiding mistyping.
Your client is trying to decide whether they are a type two or a type nine. Both can display the same behaviors. But look deeper than the behavior. Look at the pearl to understand the difference between why nine, a red pearl, compared to type two – a green pearl – would do what they do.
Briefly, here are the four keywords that I use for each of the pearls.
Red Pearls: 8 9 1
Types eight, nine, and one share these elements in their grain of sand, gut, impact, resistance and anger. Please don’t separate any of these words. See them as a unit – in the context of all four. We all experience anger (not just red pearls) but the red pearls experience anger in the gut, especially when resisting impact.
Green pearls: 2 3 4
Two, three, and four. Heart/emotional need, masking, being seen and shame. All four of these rise together. Our green pearls share an emotional need to be seen in a way that protects their self-esteem and avoids the triggering of shame. Therefore, they mask the personality and their image in a way to fulfill this strong emotional need as a driver.
Blue pearls: 5 6 7
Five, six, and seven. The four keywords are head, separation, secure and fear. See all four rising together to understand why blue pearls do what they do. For example, when a type seven is manically and enthusiastically chasing happiness by staying busy – the reason can sit in the mind. They project images of future happiness. They chase it to avoid the discomfort of current pain, feeling separate from happiness and creating a sense of security by being a moving target.
Make sure that you understand the three personality pearls. Don’t get lost in separating one word from its context in the pearl. Use this as a firm foundation for your Enneagram coaching.
“Layer with Polarities”
Next, we add the layer of what I call the nine polarity pairs. Within each personality type is a default setting for push versus pull. Understanding these primary polarities is helpful for typing and becomes the cornerstone of the personal growth and spiritual growth path the enneagram can facilitate.
Why? Because the key to growth, the key to the personality type, rising to its highest expression is the collapsing of the polarity.
Here are some primary polarities.
- Eight – strong verse weak,
- Nine – peaceful verse disruptor,
- One – right versus wrong,
- Two – kind versus unkind,
- Three – winner versus loser,
- Four – special versus ordinary,
- Five – competent versus incompetent,
- Six – safe versus unsafe,
- Seven – free versus trapped.
When you combine the nine polarities with the personality poles, you have a deep and rich understanding of why each type displays the characteristics they do.
You won’t get, get lost in extra detail.
You’ll stick to the most important non-negotiables of the nine types.
For example, type five displays the behavior of social distancing.
Even before the pandemic, there have been many jokes that type fives have been practicing social distancing their whole lives. But look at the grain of sand – their mind is creating a sense of security through separateness and isolation, which is exaggerated in the presence of fear.
Each of the three pearls in each triad personality pearl, red, green, and blue, has a different strategy to cope with their grain of sand and a different way of expressing that same grain of sand.
The polarity is the clue to how the pearl is expressed.
With this solid foundation of the three pearls and the nine polarities, you would be narrowing down the types in your Enneagram coaching services. At this stage, you would be left with two or three types, and then I suggest you strongly lean on the polarities and the personality pearls to distinguish one type from the other.
Remember, of course, to avoid getting lost in the behaviors of the types.
Here’s an example of telling type 1 apart from type 5.
Go beyond Enneagram typing
“Tying a bow around the typing session.”
Finally, what do you do once you’ve discovered a type?
That’s where the real work begins.
The real gift of your Enneagram coaching is now:
- Help your clients to collapse the polarities,
- Guide them to claim the wholeness of each type,
- Go beyond Enneagram typing to turn the prison of the personality into a path.
Those are the critical steps you need to take to offer the kind of Enneagram coaching that will separate you from other Enneagram practitioners who tend to stay on the surface – who rely so heavily on tests that they deliver a lot of mistyping.
Make sure you avoid the common mistakes of Enneagram coaching (which you can read more about here). And then it’s about marketing and promoting your coaching services if you build a coaching business.
The Enneagram is so popular, and people are so interested in understanding their personalities – it’s an easy sell. Please speak to us if my team and I can help you turn your enthusiasm for the Enneagram into professional Enneagram coaching services.
We offer two Enneagram coaching programs per year, which are internationally ICF certified and accredited, and I mentor a group of 15 coaches per year to become master coaches.
Join Colleen-Joy’s Enneagram Typing Thursdays
From typing mistakes to the wisdom to coach the 9 growth paths, every Thursday. With love.