Sep 15 2008

Victories of the Heart: Donations Not Recommended at This Time

VOH appears to be embarking on another fundraising drive. Until there is some type of significant change in the organizational structure and decision-making process, I do not recommend anyone make any donation.

From 2004-2008, while a leader and member of the Board of Directors, many of us donated $1,000 per year. I also know several others donated much more. We probably donated much more than $20,000 per year for several years.

Only a few people know how many leaders donated $1,000 per year. I am pretty confident not all the leaders made their $1,000 donation, imagining in their self-opinion, their involvement in the organization was worth much more than that over the years.

If all the leaders didn’t make their $1,000 per year contribution, I wonder who they were?

I bet there was some anger too at the reduced compensation to $500 per year from their splitting the profits from prior weekends.

Don’t let any of them tell you they lost money on leading weekends. They did not and the self-promotion opportunity had great value to the building of their private practices where they charged some of the highest fees ($175-$200+) in the entire north shore.

These men did not go hungry.

Let’s face it, these were white men who belonged to an upper and upper middle-class economic strata mostly from the north shore serving a similar male population.

These men also wondered why men of color or greater diversity were not attracted to their programs. Really?

The high degree of self-focus, materialism, and competition to be the best leader, led to a crisis where one man was blamed for all the dysfunction in the organization and pushed out around 2003.

I was lured back in 2003-2004 to be a leader with the promise “things were going to be much different.”

Well they started to be different at the 2004 Strategic Plan, then reverted quickly.

About 8 months after the Board adopted the 2004 Strategic Plan Action plan, the unified leadership group of 8 began to discuss the proposed reform of leader selection and the creation of unified leadership development trainings.

The brief, less than 20 minute discussion was the first and last discussion this group of 8 had about these vital issues dealing with the policies and procedures we were mandated to determine by the Board.

Without full disclosure,  the original leader team abruptly left the original leader group of 8 and proceeded to create a new and highly competitive group of Wisdom years leaders.

It’s safe to assume given the dysfunctional patterns in VOH already, this new group had its own unique brand of dysfunction too, including serious plans to secede from VOH and become its own organization. Wow, this was brilliant.

And it was all secretive. I only learned about the secession movement much later and still do not know all the details.

The written mandate of the Strategic plan clearly stated that all leader and program development was to be the responsibility of this leader group of 8.

I was in this group, along with Kurt, Steve, Joe, Kevin, Paul, Bob and Buddy.

When the original leaders abruptly left and created a new kingdom for themselves, I and my other 5 leader colleagues were unceremoniously castrated. We now had no power and the original leaders went on to trample the Strategic plan and demand everyone blindly accept their plans, each and every one of which resulted in failure.

At the last meeting of this group, several important issues were discussed, including the proposed change in the leader structure from a dyad (two) to several more flexible possibilities. Four training programs were discussed, along with some of the problems with the VOH annual volunteer day (there were never many volunteers).

The betrayal was not confronted, but rather enabled and the original leaders lapsed back into their control of the decision-making by keeping the other leaders confused, then making back-room deals with the support of the strong man at the time.

Imagine them eating breakfast, talking about their great ideas which was like the trojan horse within which was the strategy to bypass and avoid the mandated, and assumed unified leader development and selection.

By the time the breakfast was over, the strong man probably thought it was his own idea that the original leaders should go out and unilaterally laugh at and demolish any possible unity among leaders and programs.

But what was really important to the original leaders that day in what was unknown, at least to me, was the last day of this leader group of 8? We spent most of the time that day talking about how they wanted to create a play.

I can only shake my head in disbelief right now. A Broadway play?

They had decided to pay a playwright to write a play about Victories…they said “men’s work”, but I knew they meant a play that would be a dramatic recreation of the stories all of us wrote for them.

Why did they bring this up to our leader group of 8? Not to seek our approval. The decision had already been made and discussions with the playwright concluded.

The playwright wanted a fee and guess who was supposed to pay the fee? If you guessed we leaders of 8, you were correct.

We were asked to “invest”, not donate, $150 to pay the playwright. I remember the “deal” being we leaders of 8 would own the play which possibly could make us (and VOH) a lot of money.

I remember understanding we leaders of 8 would be the sole owners of the play, but later when I was in the filing written complaints about this, was informed that we and Board members were asked to support this effort financially.

I would be willing to bet other men were asked to “invest”…why not?

I objected for many reasons, but mainly because I felt the plan exploited the playwright and me/us and as a result would not be successful.

I guess I was right. I later demanded my $150 back, but am still waiting.

I believe the way the VOH book was written was also exploitive.

Along with everyone else, I was asked to write a story and complied. However, my story didn’t disclose enough of my trauma history, so I was asked to “go deeper.”

My second draft was sent back with the same directive, “go deeper.”

My third draft was accepted, but when I read it in the book, it was revised to suggest my wife was ashamed of me. I have a great wife, we have a strong marriage and she has never, ever been ashamed of me.

My story was not disguised in any way. Anyone who knows my story would easily identify me in the book. To have them rewrite my third draft in a way that made me look bad was inappropriate.

In their convoluted thinking, I was supposed to be honored to have bared my soul for their book and have them do an inaccurate rewrite of my third draft.

We contributed money annually and then this one-time payment of $150 for our “ownership” share of the possible Broadway hit play, under confusing circumstances.

We thought we were moving in a unified, collaborative way to “save VOH” (as some people stated) and create a stable, self-sufficient organization to grow into the future.

Instead, it was a fast track back to the past, enabled by a weak leader group, uninformed Board of Directors, and a strong man too quick to please his masters.

It was all an example of organizational “homeostasis”…the process of an organization trying to change, but returning to its original level of functioning.

In VOH’s case, it was a return to its dysfunction.

Despite the revisionist history on the website, prior to 2003, VOH was essentially a family business where the original leaders hand-selected new leaders, gave them a franchise, and each leader team operated independently, including having their own bank account, selecting their staff, and competing with the other leader teams for participants.

Aside from the second leader team selected, the other leader teams struggled, then eventually disbanded.

One outcome of the other leader teams instability was the power and authority of the original leader team remained intact.

I imagine the original leader team analyzing the disbanded or failed leader team and being critical of their ability to “market and recruit”, never considering the possibility the dyadic leader team model was inherently unstable.

The volunteer hours donated by the Board and other 6 leaders (there were only 8 leaders at that time) at the 2004 Strategic Plan was truly wasted on the organizational development process.

Nothing substantial changed at all…the original leaders abandoned the Board led Strategic planning process by unilaterally going off and awkwardly selecting men, who many of us never knew, to be the “new” Wisdom years leaders.

It was a terrible process causing tension and strain on the vulnerable change process and setting up those new guys (the ones I knew were great) to be competitors to the other 6 leaders and apparently among themselves.

I know there was at least a year and a half time period where the Wisdom years leader group refused to meet with the other 6 leaders.

Paul Kachoris and Leighton Clark were selected or volunteered at a Board meeting to facilitate the meeting between our groups, but it never was scheduled. I understand it happened after I resigned in 2008.

I have heard some of the stories about what was going on with the Wisdom years group, including a report they wanted to secede from the VOH organization.

I know Leighton and the other men in the Wisdom years group understand what happened. Maybe Paul too. Why don’t they clear the record and write about it? I would like to know? I invested time and money and would like to better understand how it was wasted.
I believe the current strong man at the time told them they could, but couldn’t use the name Wisdom years or VOH, or something like that.

It was ok for them to leave? I really don’t know the story, but those men should have been told to leave their leadership positions if they couldn’t support a unified leader group and organization.

The many volunteer hours and donations, probably over $20,000, of the well-intentioned Board members and some leaders, was almost completely wasted.

And now there is some special fundraising effort?

I do not recommend any donations until the organization fully reform themselves based on the 2004 Strategic Plan action report.

The core effort of that plan was to transition VOH from a “ma and pa” organization to a more professional organization.

It didn’t happen.

The years following the 2004 Strategic plan featured Wisdom years leaders pouring tequila on the genitals of participants, extensive nudity and silence at the Shadow weekend, the exploitive play process, and the failure of the Wisdom years expansion efforts and current struggle of all VOH programs to “recruit” participants.

At this point, I believe the Shadow weekend should be terminated.

Also, VOH is sponsoring a “workshop” on spirituality by an original leader where he will sell his book.

Does anyone know what is in the book?

Since when is “spirituality” supported by scientific research? It’s not. It’s a matter of faith, like religion, suggestions of a “higher power or god” and is sure to turn off someone, usually with half a brain.

The Strategic plan was designed to help the organization look and function differently than a platform to honor the original leaders.

The plan was to shift to a strong Board where leaders were selected by merit with a unified training and sense of loyalty.

We even mentioned ideas like the Wisdom years and Breakthrough leaders being cross-trained.

So donate now? Why? Each leader dyad essentially owns their weekend, so why don’t they pay for the advertising and organizational expenses?

To ask others to pay for the greater glory of certain leaders is part of the chutzpah which has been one of the organization’s fatal flaws.

It was cute when it was clearly a private practice based program, but after the principals began calling it a non-profit in the mid-1990’s, the chutzpah became a turn-off, at least to anyone with any self-respect.

Please, donate to a real non-profit that will use your money responsibly.

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