Nov 15 2008

Victories of the Heart: May 2005 Evidence of One Leadership Development Task Force Prior to the Bifurcation and Damage to 2004 Strategic Plan’s Organizational Development Agreement

I am writing this to express my own opinions and assessments regarding my involvement with Victories during the period 2004-2008. This writing is not meant to harm anyone and certainly not the Victories organization. I loved the process of going away with guys for the weekend to do heart work. It was amazing and it didn’t matter to me if it was Victories (Earlier Men’s Room) or MKP’s Warrior weekend.

My personal opinions expressed herein represent the thoughts of someone who sincerely cared about the men and organization. I only became back involved in 2004 because I was promised Victories was moving away from the private practice model to a structured non-profit. Unfortunately, my opinion was that the transition was hampered by the original leaders desire to expand the Wisdom years nationally. Their model was the rapid expansion of MKP’s Warrior weekend started in Milwaukee, now spread around the globe.

Essentially, I began to raise concerns about the drift away from the 2004 Strategic plan about 2006. I raised these concerns directly through phone calls and meetings. I didn’t raise my concerns at the level of the Board, as I had my own vulnerabilities and really didn’t understand what was really going on. I trusted others and wrongfully placed my faith in the process.
Among the main complaints I brought against the original and second leader teams was their disregard for the clear mandate that the original leader team of 8 would remain intact and be responsible for the creation (none existed) of policies and procedures governing leadership development.

The original leader team unilaterally made the move to never come back to this leadership group and essentially abandoning our fledgling development efforts.

I don’t think this was an accident. They just felt like they could do this and I am guessing they even met with their “strong man” at the time, convinced him (probably made him think it was his idea) to allow them to wandering off making sure they were the ones to remain in power to select anyone they wanted to be a leader.

These two men were present for that July meeting where we discussed the proposed changes, importantly the idea that we would create a merit selection process where a committee of both leaders and Board members would be responsible for new leader selection.

As a result of this sneaky and failed move, the leadership development process floundered and the leadership structure and program efforts became bifurcated (divided in two).

It was so bad, the guys who were either selected already (I never knew what their status was) or were trying, declined to meet with the other 6 of us…but why should they?

The original leaders made sure those guys didn’t like us and saw us as adversaries who didn’t want to do the  Wisdom years.

These May 2005 telephone meeting notes below prove that there was only one leadership development task force which grew out of the 2004 strategic plan.

If you scan to the end of the notes (written by me), you will find the discussion about different leader models and the SINGLE group facilitator’s training.

What happened? The original leaders manipulated the strong man into allowing them to go off and do whatever they wanted to do…which resulted in several years of meandering around in the anointment of Wisdom years leaders and sadly, the bifurcation of a fragile, but developing organization. Any unity possible at that time was destroyed.

I was told by the strong man at the time, in passing, that he and I were to take charge of the Breakthrough weekend. I am guessing that was the way the manipulation went….the original leaders may have told him, “hey, you and Bill need to take charge of the Breakthrough program, we (original leaders) will take care of the Wisdom years…”

He would have to speak for himself here, but I believe he was buffaloed by the original leaders into allowing them to “streak ahead” and do an “end run” over the fragile, but unified VOH leadership development process recommended by the 2004 Strategic Plan.

Now, no one who knew these original leaders would ever doubt they would do this, especially as it allowed them to remain at the circle of the chaos. Their move guaranteed there would be no central, unified leadership development and selection process.

They, as original leaders would be at the center of any and all significant decisions and the strong man would guarantee they would get whatever they wanted.

It was a mistake to allow the Boston Wisdom years development to proceed. The men in Boston were not really able to take over. I was there and had a really good experience, but could see the men identified to run the Wisdom years in Boston were not up to it. It takes two really charismatic and brilliant men to start and lead a weekend program. For the rest of us, it requires a village and there was no village in Boston. My assessment was the original leaders didn’t really know how to develop this program in another city. Their power and influence rarely went further than their therapy clients who they could and did try to mold into replicas of themselves, leaders in a committed partnership.

It was a top down, rather than a bottom up development process, one that stuttered in Chicago for decades, except for the second leader team which benefited from an abundance of therapy referrals from the original leaders.

If you have an abundance of therapy referrals from the original leaders, you have a good foundation for developing a weekend. I was also an excellent source of 2-3 participants per weekend for this leader team as well.

I am very saddened as I read these notes myself. There was so much potential back in 2004-2005.

The men involved were not up to the task to stop the replication of the original leader team’s long term pattern of staying on top.

In the betrayal of the 2004 Strategic Plan and the sincere efforts of myself and the other 5 members of the weekend leader team at the time, the original leaders guaranteed their own failure. However, it was a failure they could live with because they remained in charge of a program with a local reputation, small enough, with a strong man strong enough they could just continue to plod along and revise history when necessary, like this bifurcation process that weakened the organization immeasurably and the false notion the organization was made of volunteer leaders prior to 2003.

The notes:

VOH Leadership Development Team

May ’05 telephone meeting notes: Present: Kurt, Joe, Bill.

Due to difficulty scheduling an in-person meeting, a telephone meeting was held.

Initial discussion focused on how we should organize ourselves and make decisions about the creation of a leadership development program for VOH.

We agreed this smaller team should explore and develop several models for a leadership program, provide written information to the larger leader group prior to the next leader meeting in July, reach consensus about the leadership program, and begin implementation by the Fall ’05.

Realistically, we are looking at one additional meeting later in May, one meeting in June and then presenting our ideas for the leader meeting in July. There was discussion about creating a way to get input from the Board/community before making a final decision.

We acknowledged that up to now there has not been any organized effort to create leadership development teams. Staffing weekends and leading the follow-up groups has been an excellent leadership development experience, but it is not part of any larger training program.

So, what we are starting here is an effort that has the potential to create major organizational change. This brings risk and opportunity.

The opportunities include:

1.      board of directors, leaders, and community become re-energized

2.      the community values our programs and refer men to participate

3.      weekend enrollment increases

4.      programs expand in the Chicago area and elsewhere

5.      fundraising continues to be successful

Several risks/problems were discussed and include:

  1. After      a brief increase in participation during 2004, registrations have been      down for 2 consecutive Initial weekends.
  1. With      fewer men during the weekend, the Thursday celebration and support group      lacks the “critical mass”, the larger number of men to be successful.      Evaluations and feedback show that men are disappointed in the low turnout      for the celebration and support group. For example, the most recent April      ’05 weekend had 13 men, 3 of who were from out of state. There have been      only 4 men at each of the first 2 meetings. This is not a good turnout and      threatens the possibility of any energetic group development. “Critical      mass” for an initial weekend is probably around 18 men.
  1. There      is no formal training for support group leaders.
  1. Men do      not seem ready or willing to volunteer the time to lead the support      groups. Leaders go into the weekend preparation process unsure who will      volunteer to lead the groups. Also, the leaders are the only source of      support for the men who eventually volunteer to do the groups.
  1. There      has been mixed success in developing leadership teams. Several leader      teams selected have not been successful, meaning they have not gone on to      lead weekends.
  1. Failure      of leader teams leads to lower morale, less interest in the overall      organization and the eventual loss of talented men who can make valuable      contributions.
  1. Dyadic      leader teams are wonderful for the two leaders, but have negative effects      on the larger organization. This includes:

·         increased competition among leader teams

·         lack of referrals from one leader team to another (if I have to fill my weekend first…)

·         reduced potential for program creativity and innovation

·         competition for talented staff

  1. Leader      teams have been selected, rather than developed through training programs      in which they have been mentored and supported.
  1. “If we      continue to do what we have always done, we will get what we have…” which      may result in more disappointment, frustration and loss of talented men.      Men get angry and then leave.


Given the risks, several leadership development models were discussed.  The important variables in different leader models include:

Structure of Leader Teams:

2 man teams

2man teams with an assistant leader

2 man teams where 1 leader is a therapist

3-4 man leadership teams made up of some configuration of current leaders

3-4     man teams where 2 men are a current leader team and the other 2 men represent either non-partnered leaders (not yet selected) and/or a leader in training

Some configuration not yet identified

Requirements for training:

Personal qualities

Participation in other related trainings

Facilittation of follow-up groups

Staffing weekends

Volunteering for VOH (board/fundraising/recruitment/other)

Completion of Spirit of Generosity

Completion of other approved VOH training

Completion of some certification process (ability to lead psychodrama/facilitate groups)

These include:

Model 1. Two man teams, selected by leaders.

This is the current model of two man teams, selected by the other leaders.

Model  2. Two man teams (with one therapist) selected by leaders after completion of requirements.

Two men would be selected after completing a series of requirements, including leadership trainings, facilitating a number of follow-up groups, volunteering (board/sub-committees, recruiting men to attend programs).

Model  3. Dyadic teams (with one therapist) selected by leader/board committee after completion of training requirements.

This is the same as Model 2., except the selection is done by a committee, rather than the leaders alone.

Model  4.  3 or 4 Person Leader Teams. Selection process could include leaders alone or a committee of men.

This represents a shift from the current model. Current leaders could share leadership of a weekend together or add 1-2 men to the leadership team for specific weekends. There are many options with this model, including having individual men as leaders to join current leader teams permanently, temporarily, or as part of their training experience. This would give the “leader in training” real life leadership experience, without the demands or anxiety of full weekend leader responsibility.

The working concepts regarding training discussed at prior meetings include:

  1. Basic Staff Training. This is      evolved from the spirit of generosity training and includes an orientation      to each of the components of the Initial Weekend and an introduction to      heartwork/psychodrama training. This is the model developed by Steve,      Kurt, Bob Webber, and Bill and used successfully at the January ’05      training.

  1. Group Leadership/Facilitation Training.      Options include using the VOH group workbook to develop training. The      extent of the training may be determined by the importance that the      leaders/board/community place on the functioning of the ongoing groups.
  1. Psychodrama.  Options include building on the BST,      which introduces theory and basic process of two psychodrama models:      body-centered anger work and grieving. Other discussions have included the      idea of each leader identifying different psychodrama models they have      used and creating a “library” of methods, which could be used as a      resource for trainings and ongoing groups.
  1. Wisdom      Years. Bob and Buddy will need to identify training needs for staff      for this program

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