Jeff Erbskorn, enneagram teacher, leadership coach and pastor

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I enjoy helping organizations, leaders and individuals communicate more effectively utilizing a tool called the enneagram. I can help you listen to the way others speak and tailor your speech to the way they listen. The enneagram has been used by 72 companies  (including Avon, Best Buy, Daimler/ Mitsubishi, Parker Hinneafen and Toyota) from more than 20 countries spanning 5 continents. It suggests that our life is made up of nine "folders" or "portfolios" that we can open at any given time, but that we habitually choose one over the others to expresses ourselves. It is likely that your particular portfolio has opened up many doors to you.  Yet at the same time an over investment in the thoughts, emotions and behaviors contained within your portfolio has likely shut many as well. You want to reach as many people as you can.  You want to reach into their head and their heart.  You want them to sense and understand deep in their gut that what you have to offer is what they need.  Some you will reach easily with the gifts, strengths and competencies within your own portfolio, your own style of speaking and being in the world.  And yet others will miss out for the reason that you were simply not speaking their language.  You missed or miss heard what they were saying.  They will frustrate you or be frustrated by you, and both of you will lose out. I can help.

As you seek to grow and change let me guide you to a deeper understanding of yourself and others through the Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles.  You will learn to "speak to their listening" and "listen to the way they speak.”

I am a trained Healthy Congregations workshop facilitator and a certified leadership coach within the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America through Coachnet Global.  I became certified to teach the enneagram in 2012 and in 2017 completed advanced certification training within the same program (Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles Certification Program).  My teacher, Dr. Jerry Wagner, was among the earliest students of the enneagram in the US, being taught by Robert Ochs, a Jesuit Priest and professor at Loyola University Chicago, who studied with Claudio Naranjo (the first person to teach the system in the US).  Dr. Wagner was recently recognized an honorary founder of the International Enneagram Association (IEA).

I became a professional member of the IEA in  2015, completing another certification program the same year, with enneagram teacher Tom Condon.  Tom has taught over 800 workshops in the US, Europe and Asia and focuses on helping people grow and change. As a Lutheran minister for 21 years, I've seen first hand what it costs an organization when things are taken personally.  Leaders make decisions born from their own anxieties and become reactive rather than responsive.  I have also seen the huge dividends paid when decisions are made by a team of persons whose commitment to their own health ensures the health of the organization.  Decisions are intentional, thoughtful and responsive. Whether it's our professional or personal life, sometimes all we need is the support and encouragement of someone who believes in us and is committed to our success. Let me guide you to a deeper understanding or yourself and others through the Enneagram.  You will learn to "speak to their listening" and "listen to their speaking."

Saturday, December 17, 2016


"As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'  - Matthew 11:7-10

What disciples go out to see is motivated by their focus of attention.  Since energy follows attention each disciple expends his or her energy (thoughts, feelings and behaviors) pursuing one of nine paths representative of a vision of the world they are hoping to see actualized. Their vision IS their focus of attention (i.e. what it is that they see when they view the world, their situation, their circumstances, others or the very calling to discipleship). 

In this passage from Matthew Jesus seems to get that.  He well understands that the human heart is searching for something only he can provide, a wholeness that comes only when it merges with the essence of the divine.

For the Christian holding the mind, body and spirit together is a feat only possible through Christ.  The enneagram provides a useful tool to see how Christ's presence brings nine paths together to move the life of the disciple in the direction of the integration of mind, body & spirit.  As this happens the disciple discovers balance as well as love and compassion for self and others.  Truly as Jesus speaks there is a reunification (i.e. a restoration, completion, reconciliation) of that which had been broken off or separated from the whole.  And that brings joy. "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11)

Each of the nine discipleship stances falls within one of three triads.  Stances 8, 9 & 1 overly utilize instincts of the gut / body.  Stances 5, 6 & 7 overly utilize instincts of the head / mind. And, stances 2, 3 & 4 overly utilize instincts of the heart / spirit.  The following outlines what each disciple might go out to see (the vision each disciple is hoping to see actualized):

THE  BODY TRIAD – Ironically these disciples have difficulty seeing what is happening within their own body.

Discipleship Stance EIGHTSeeking Justice & Strength: This disciple likely went out to see if it was true that John was the kind of leader who would tell it like it is and speak truth to power.  As John blasts the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him for baptism with, "You brood of vipers!" (Matthew 3:7), it is likely that he scored points with this disciple in this regard.  This is the disciple who is quick to draw the sword and slow to show weakness.  Having a quick temper and short fuse, especially in the face of injustice, they expend their efforts to bring strength to a weakened world.  They have difficulty seeing that the strength they express through their bodies can actually weaken their relationships and position in the world.  Yet, even Jesus who says, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." in the 10th chapter of Matthew (vs 34) seems to have had a change of heart by the 26th chapter as he says to one of those with him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." (vs 52).

Discipleship Stance NINE - Seeking Peace & Harmony: This disciple likely heard the Pharisees and Sadducees (who had real differences) were going together to be baptized by John and went out to see if it were possible for John to bring them together.  The whole, "You brood of vipers" thing probably blew that out of the water and they left thinking that either John was not about setting aside differences for the sake of unity or that he was on to the Pharisees and Sadducees and knew they had no interest in living in harmony with anyone.  Uncertain of or out of touch with what they wanted this disciple would have blended in with the crowd and tried not to make a big seen or call attention to themselves.  Their bodies would not show irritation, discontent or anger as such energies would be contained….until they weren't.

Discipleship Stance ONE - Seeking To Perfect: This disciple likely was greatly disturbed by reports that John wore "clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:4) and went out to see if it were true.  If it were true (and it was) it is likely that this disciple immediately noticed something particular about John's disheveled appearance and felt the need to correct it.  Perhaps it was that little piece of locust wing lodged in the honey stuck to the very bottom right corner of John's chin that needed to be wiped off.  Having a bit of a reformers streak and a picture of how the world "should" be, this disciple went out hoping that John was the one who would set what was wrong with the world right.  Unconscious of the prim and proper disposition of their body this disciple would not have realized they were communicating an inability to accept the fact that John was perfectly imperfect as are we all.  They would have been irritated and missed the fact that imperfection IS capable of pointing to the One who IS perfect. The Divine works in, through and in spite of us all.

THE HEAD / MIND TRIAD – Ironically these disciples have difficulty seeing what is happening within their own mind.

Discipleship Stance FIVE - Seeking Knowledge & Information: This disciple had likely studied John extensively yet was plagued by obsessive thoughts that he did not know enough about him or his teachings.  It is likely he went out to gain more information and he probably found a safe place to stand or something to place between he and either the crowd and / or John's energy and forcefulness.  This would have allowed him to observe, to take in energy without having to expend it.  John's energy would either have been admired as something the disciple had within himself but was out of touch with (Enneagram teacher Tom Condon, calls this a "light shadow") or criticized as something draining to the disciple.  The criticism is ironic in light of the fact that others can find their energy drained by this disciple's style.  A person who receives information from or about others but shares in such a limited way can be a draining presence for other to be around.  Again, the disciple is out of touch with this so Condon calls this a "dark shadow".

Discipleship Stance SIX - Seeking Security: This disciple, by nature impelled by or impeded by fear, likely went out a bit skeptical about who John was and what John had to offer.  If there was any fear in John as he confronted the Pharisees and Sadducees with their lack of sincerity this disciple would have understood why it didn't show.  He would have understood that John's attitude towards them was John running into his fear rather than away from it. With a mind constantly scanning for danger this disciple would have been so focused on what could go wrong that he likely missed what was going or could go right.  He would have been focused on the danger John was putting himself in by speaking truth to power and might have even gone out to apply for a position on John's security detail.   It is likely he was scanning intently for a response to John from these "experts" (Pharisees & Sadducees) or others.

Discipleship Stance SEVEN - Seeking Options & Possibilities: This disciple likely went out seeking a fresh new perspective on life and faith, perhaps an experience with someone who offered other possibilities than the same old same old of the establishment.  Hoping for possibilities that would free rather than limit, this disciple likely dashed headlong into the crowd to splash in the bath of a new possibilities.  Yet, as soon as he heard John speak the following words to the Pharisees and Sadducees, "Bear fruit worthy of repentance," he would have moved on.  Even if the words were meant to free, the possibility that there was some sort of "worthiness" scale or requirement would have had this disciple's mind either developing an exit strategy or redefining the way in which worthiness was measured.  This is referred to as reframing and this disciple's mind is unaware that it does this a lot.

THE HEART / SPIRIT TRIAD – Ironically these disciples have difficulty seeing what is happening within their own heart.

Discipleship Stance TWO - Seeking To Connect: This disciple likely went out seeking a connection with John or those in those in the crowd.  The desire of his heart would have been to find love for who he was rather than what he could do for others.  Yet, ironically we'd find this disciple putting others before self as a way of getting his own needs met.  He'd probably be helping people into and out of the water but all the while hoping someone would help him into the water.  Ironically if that help came this disciple would likely refuse.  Connections are built on what this disciple is able to give not receive.  Receiving is hard.  To get love this disciple feels he must give love.  He likely offered to take over the baptisms for John so as to give him a break and walked away sad when John refused.  Concerned with the emotions of others, this disciple is out of touch with their own.   The heart beats for the needs of the external world such that it loses touch with its own.

Discipleship Stance THREE - Seeking Success & Efficiency: This disciple likely went out seeking someone who had a more efficient way of doing baptisms or was making a name for himself.  He would have seen a diet of locusts and wild honey as the most efficient way to eat.  Less time eating means more time for work.  And if the locusts were a certain breed, the kind stylish well accomplished people ate even better.  This disciple would have been looking for something he could model, something he could market, something that he could do that would gain the attention and admiration of others.  John's words (You brood of vipers!) cut to the heart of the inauthenticity of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  It was not that they were all show and no go.  It was that they were all show IN their go.  This disciple would have had difficulty seeing where the same could have been said of him.  Hiding behind his accomplishments, achievements, who he knew, what he had done or was going to do this disciple would have hoped John had a name or reputation he could identify with or model.  Again, enneagram teacher Tom Condo says about heart types that, "in order to be loved for who they are in some way they have to pretend to be who they're not."  This disciple often gets so overly identified with having to do something (their role, status or achievements) that they cannot simply be. They cannot be a person who is simply loved for doing nothing, so they find other "masks" to wear so as to pretend they are not that person.   They cannot rest in the God who knew and loved them fully even before they were known by others.

Discipleship Stance FOUR - Seeking To Be Understood: This disciple likely went out seeking someone who was in touch with the world's pain and suffering.  Prophets comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable and this disciple would have resonated with the full emotional range of what that means.  Appreciating the finer things in life it might have disappointed this disciple that John was not found in a "soft robe and a royal place".  At the same time John was not your average Joe (or John in this case).  He was unique.  He stood out. He did not fit the status quo. These are things this disciple would have appreciated about John.  This disciple would have likely gone out to see John because she was plagued by a sense that something was missing.  She had a deep yearning for someone who could understand, appreciate and be present to the pain painted on the canvas of her life.  Would it be, could it be John?  She would have appreciated John's passion and hoped for an encounter that would have involved a time of sharing in which she felt understood on a deep level.  It is likely that she left still feeling something was missing in the encounter. This disciple would not have seen herself as just an "average" person in the crowd.  She would not have been wearing what others were wearing.  Something about her appearance would have been unique, something to show she was not "ordinary".  And it would have been a way she unconsciously pretended that she was not held in the heart of the divine like everyone else is held….loved just for being ordinary…an ordinary child of God…loved unconditionally. 

When I have facilitated leadership or council retreats I have often noted that many of the communication issues stem from an imbalance of one triad or another and / or a lack of representation / awareness of the other discipleship stances found within the congregation.  If you would like help speaking to the way other disciples listen or listening to the way they speak contact me.  Or to learn more simply visit my website at