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Goering Center news

Personal insights are key to professional growth

By Deni Tato

The Enneagram can unlock motivations, but beware social media ‘pop quizzes’

If you’re on Instagram today, perhaps you’ve seen it — not the ads for the next big DTC brand or photos of that influencer vacationing in Bali — but the proliferation of Enneagram-centered content. It’s popular right now to distill our personalities into superficial snippets that fit neatly in a three-by-three grid. But the Enneagram is so much more than this.  

The Enneagram is a self-discovery tool that helps us more profoundly understand and appreciate our strengths, limitations and core motivations. When used properly, it is transformative, deep and potentially life changing.

I owned a business for years in Cincinnati, and due to our success, I received many requests from other women seeking advice. In an effort to provide a consistent type of guidance and information to them, and because of the personal and professional development I gained through using the Enneagram, I became a certified Enneagram teacher and coach. The Enneagram spoke to me like nothing else ever had, and after I sold my business in 2009, I committed myself to teaching others about its power.

At the time, the Enneagram felt like a well-kept secret weapon. In the years since, particularly the last one to two years, I’ve seen so many quick online quizzes that claim to tell you your Enneagram type in just a few questions. But to truly tap into the meaningful insight the Enneagram can offer, it’s important to take a test that offers accuracy and reliability. The Integrative Enneagram Questionnaire (iEQ9) is the gold standard.

Taking the iEQ9

The iEQ9 was created by Dirk Cloete, the founder of Integrative Enneagram Solutions. The iEQ9 is “a dynamically adaptive intelligent assessment” that adjusts the questions asked based on a person’s previous responses. With 95-plus percent accuracy, it provides users with a truthful assessment of what lies beneath the surface level of their personality.

Getting to this stage of accuracy wasn’t easy. Other assessments of personality type (like StrengthsFinder, DiSC, Myers-Briggs, etc.) have a predominant psychological orientation, meaning that they measure your behavior. But measuring motivation is much more challenging. I appreciate that Dirk spent more than 15 years refining the iEQ9 to ensure the credibility and integrity of the assessment. In my nearly 20 years working with the Enneagram, it’s the most accurate assessment I’ve found, providing deep insight and guidance as a person works to understand the underlying motivations behind their observable behaviors.

Throughout the test, users are asked to arrange a set of statements in order of how much or little they apply to themselves. There is also a series of statements that must be rated on a scale of “very true” to “not true” as well as multiple-choice questions. Sliding scale statements allow the user to pinpoint exactly how accepting they are of certain characteristics in themselves, and finally, they must share how honest they were in completing the questionnaire.

Those attending my Goering Center workshop in April will take the iEQ9. Following completion, registrants will receive an emailed report sharing detailed results. Based on responses, the iEQ9 report will share your core Enneagram type — the number you most identify with and the strengths, weaknesses and viewpoints commonly associated with it — as well as details on the Enneagram subtypes, centers of expression, wings, level of self-awareness and integration, strain levels, and lines of tension and release.

This should make you uncomfortable!

If you read your iEQ9 report and immediately think “yes, this is exactly me and I’m totally fine with it” then it’s possible you’ve been mistyped! It’s good to feel uncomfortable with some of your results.

Consider Carl Jung’s shadow work, which comprises “anything that is unacceptable to an individual’s conscious ego and as such remains unexpressed and hidden in the unconscious.” In Western culture, we focus very much on hiding our shadows — but we’re all walking around dragging a huge garbage bag of “shadows” behind us! We can try to distract people so they look away, but we all have them. Eastern approaches better recognize our suffering and humanity; they approach personality with the knowledge and understanding that we all have positive and negative aspects to us.

Here’s what I think — all aspects of our personality are completely neutral. Let me say that again: all aspects of our personality are completely neutral. What makes them positive or negative is how we use them and what intention is behind them. That’s what will determine if an attribute is a strength or a liability.

An example – Enneagram type twos

Let’s look at the key characteristics of Enneagram Type Two: helpful, supportive, seductive and manipulative. Did you see “manipulative” and immediately decide it was negative? It doesn’t have to be! Manipulation is the skillful control of a person or situation. A Two may decide to use manipulation for dishonorable purposes, but that’s their choice. It doesn’t make the characteristic inherently bad.

The Enneagram’s job is to map you — to show not just what is obvious about you, but what lies underneath. This allows you to get to the crux of why you do what you do. It’s foundational to everything; you can’t change what you don’t understand!

What to do if you want to take the iEQ9

The iEQ9 test is available on the Integrative Enneagram Solutions website, and the report provided is quite good — there’s plenty there to work with. But if you can, I suggest taking the assessment through a certified iEQ9 practitioner. I obtained my iEQ9 Level 2 accreditation in 2016 and have administered more than 2700 assessments. Another option is to register for the April 2 workshop, Conscious Communication, at the Goering Center.

By better understanding why you do what you do, and what shapes your judgments and decisions, you’ll be well-equipped on your journey of self-discovery and better able to make the long-term, sustainable changes you desire for your life, both personally and professionally. In doing so, you will become a more effective team member and trailblazer, driving stronger business performance and leadership.

Featured image at top: Deni Tato speaking at the Goering Center's Lift! event in 2019. Photo/Amir Karaman.

Deni Tato is the CEO of Corporate Consciousness. Reach Deni at 513-378-8640 or via email at

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business
Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university-based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programing and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit