My work has always been about three things: spreading the Enneagram’s use in organizations around the world; focusing on using the Enneagram for development (both for those who teach it and those who learn it); and doing what I can to ensure the quality of how it is taught and used around the world. The last item is so very important to me because just about anyone can call themselves an Enneagram “teacher,” but on what basis?
The idea for the EIBN came to me over a few years in the mid 2000s for a few additional reasons. First, I was getting a large number of requests to mentor people, but my time was becoming increasingly limited, the results of my traveling with certification programs around the world, and the increase in number of people I’d trained, and my consulting practice, which I still have. I was also getting requests (sometimes they felt more like demands than requests) that I provide people, even people I didn’t know, with power point slides, free training tools, and more. During this time, people were also asking me this: How can I get you to bring me into your projects?
The EIBN seemed like a viable solution, and it really has been; there are two levels of professional relationships. Senior Members are people who I believed could handle coaching, training or consulting referrals without my need to be directly involved or who I would bring in with me on my projects; Associate Members are people who want to be Senior Members in the near future. All EIBN members have been through at least one of my certification programs (hence, I know them); to become a Senior Member, an Associate has to have been through a Train-the-Trainer (due to the need to make sure everyone could do group-work with the Enneagram, not just 1-1 work).
In our model, I mentor the Senior Members when they request it; Senior Members mentor Associate Members, so that each Associate Member is assigned a Senior Mentor based on the Associate’s stated development requests, plus we (Matt Ahrens, the mentoring coordinator, and I) take into consideration geography and time zones (mentoring pairs are expected to have contact at least once a month for one hour) and language fluency. The Senior Member mentor and Associate Member mentee also decide when the Associate Member might be ready for Senior Member status, and when this is so, there is an application and acceptance process. To keep all of this ethically clean, Senior Members cannot mentor someone they know well, either personally or professionally.
How successful has this been? I’d say very successful! Not perfect, but mentoring is in the realm of human systems, and so they never are!
We started off in 2009 with a total of 50 Senior and Associate Members, and now we are close to 100. EIBN members come from all over the world (as they always have), and I’ve been able to do many referrals in the US, Europe, South America and Asia, and to also bring EIBN members into many of my projects. Other Senior Members are also bringing other Senior Members (and Associates) in on their own projects, feeling secure that other EIBN members are well trained, highly ethical, and very competent.
As for my mentoring, I mentor some Senior Members more than others because they ask for something specific: feedback on project designs; advice on whether to do or how to do something Enneagram related; suggestions and mentoring regarding books they are writing; and more, such as lots of connecting them up with other people. I also sometimes do some mentoring of Associate Members, primarily when their Senior Member mentor does not have a particular content expertise.
Senior to Associate Member mentoring has been outstanding, not perfect, but outstanding. The quality of the mentoring has been top-notch and new relationships have been formed and many will last a lifetime. Where it has not worked has been in the few instances where the Associate Member is not contacting the Senior Mentor or when the Associate Member has new development requests that the Senior Mentor can’t meet (in which case, we switch the mentor). In our mentoring system, we ask that the Associate Member be responsible for contacting the Senior Mentor and that the Senior Member be responsive. It is not a good idea, we reasoned, to have the Senior Member have to keep contacting the Associate.
There have been a few tough moments for me in this process. On a few occasions, I have had to talk with an Associate about needing to do more psychological work on his or her own issues; this is touchy, of course, but I am committed to EIBN Seniors being “well worked” (as Bea Chestnut describes it). In another instance, an Associate really wanted direct contact with me and to not work with a Senior Member, and this was unfortunate. But people can join or leave the EIBN as they prefer (and we have had some attrition among both Senior and Associate Members), and so departures are part of the process. I figure the right people do show up, and I am so pleased with how this is working thus far.
Most mentoring programs face far more challenges than we have, and for our success, I am extremely grateful.