As Mary Jo Ruccio completes the transition from her position as ESNT’s first executive director to begin her “second” retirement, I find myself reflecting on how profoundly this organization has been shaped by her leadership and vision. Mary Jo’s incremental approach to change, her commitment and belief in the work, and her steady hand on all matters organizational have guided us through a period of great growth and evolution. She has said more than once that this job used every skill she had developed in her extensive career, and indeed it did.
It started with a car ride almost eight years ago. Mary Jo was driving Kate Dacy and me to Cincinnati after a training session in which I had announced my desire to create a nonprofit to hold the Enneagram Narrative work. Kate suggested, innocently enough, that Mary Jo might be able to help me with this endeavor. Mary Jo shared her work experience, and I said I’d reflect on my next step. When we arrived in Cincinnati, we went our separate ways. About an hour later, as Kate and I were previewing a training facility I was teaching in with David Daniels later that week, Mary Jo called to say she had been thinking about our conversation and asked if I would like to meet at Graeter’s, a fabulous local ice cream shop. And so we did.
As we talked about the existing structure, I remember being struck by Mary Jo’s astuteness and ability to outline the current situation and the relationship between the teachers and the organization. A few months later, I invited her to assist me in my own strategic planning at our farm in western Massachusetts. We brainstormed, wrote notes on easel paper, made lists and generally reviewed what it would take to move the organization into this new nonprofit structure. It was, frankly, more than just a little daunting when I saw all the “To Do’s” on the list. And then the pivotal moment arrived. She looked at me and said, “When you lead a panel, you create a container for the panelists. Right?” I nodded. “Your intention now is to create a container for the Enneagram Narrative to continue into the future. Right?” All remaining resistance in me melted.
That was November 2008. From that moment, Mary Jo managed setting up the organizational structure and taking the steps necessary to file for our nonprofit status, which we received in September 2011. In August 2012, she officially became ESNT’s first Executive Director, responsible for all day-to-day operations as well as managing our major projects. She has planned, guided, directed and implemented all of the significant changes in ESNT, including redesigning our website and expanding our curriculum to include two certification tracks and Enneagram Narrative Learning Communities.
While it may sound like this was a linear process and we had planned every step, it was more an incredible unfolding filled with grace. Mary Jo had the skills and talents we needed every step of the way. Her competence, integrity and loving support in good times and bad were invaluable. She was willing and more than able to take the reins as I increasingly stepped out of management of the organization and into the role of Board President.
On a personal note, it is very clear to me, that without the partner Mary Jo became for me, my dream would have had a much more difficult time becoming reality. I am profoundly grateful to her.