Nov 17 2008

Victories of the Heart: 2004 Strategic Planning Retreat Action Plan Mandate For a Unified Weekend Leadership Development and Selection Process Ignored

These selected excerpts from the 2004 Strategic Plan written by the retreat’s facilitators clearly show the plan was to have one leadership group remaining in control of all development and selection authority for new leaders and programs, with an evolution to a joint Board-Leader group.

For reasons I can only guess, the original leaders decided to set out on their own to develop the Wisdom years leaders. At least one of them didn’t think the other 6 of us had done anything, but the end result was a failure to implement the most important element of the 2004 Strategic Plan: the development of policies and procedures governing new leader development and selection.

Personally, I never understood the original leaders had actually left the original leader team, never to come back. As I have said before, I was like the child in the family waiting for his  parents to return. I was confused, but I also knew how much leverage they had in the organization and nothing would really change without them.

It took about a year and a half into 2007 when I realized the  2004 Strategic Plan’s Action Plan on leadership development  had been derailed and was not going to happen.

The original leaders went off and created their Wisdom years leader group in a separate and a competitive way. I realize looking back that the internal competition between the leader teams was very much in play. The original weekend had brought the founding leaders justifiable acclaim, but these leaders were still looking for the type of national and international success found by the New Warrior Weekend.

My written notes and memos from our original group of 8 leaders working on leadership development support my belief that we were working diligently on this important task.

For some reason, the one original leader who dialogued with me about this issue didn’t see, feel or something the work we were doing, all of which is documented in writing.

What happened? The original leaders mistaken view of us 6 (Kurt, Paul, Kevin, Steve, Bill and Joe) of doing nothing seemed to become a sort of rationale for them leaving the once unified leadership development process as mandated by the Board of Directors and the Strategic Plan’s Action plan detailed below.

Did they really think we other leaders of doing nothing? I think they did.
Consider this quote from one of the original leaders:

” Before we turned to adding potential leaders to the WY we spoke with Breakthrough leaders about bringing up new men into leadership – about succession – on several occasions.  We certainly needed them to do it as we had been so out of the loop on Breakthrough participants that we couldn’t know who was appropriate.  Nothing was forthcoming – no shame, no blame, just a statement of fact.  We knew that we were older and getting older and needed to begin our own succession plan.”

Emphasis on the statement that they had asked the Breakthrough weekend leaders on several occasions about developing leaders and “Nothing was forthcoming-no shame, no blame, just a statement of fact.”

It was not a statement of fact. As the weekend leader group of 8, we had accepted the mandate of the Board and Strategic Plan to develop leadership development policies, procedures and programs.

I was only one of the 6, but I believe I can speak for each of the men on the smaller working group (Kurt, Steve, Joe, Bill and the convener of the group Paul) that we were very serious and went about the work of exploring, debating, and formulating recommendations very carefully.
My minutes of meetings and memo about the areas of agreement and areas where more discussion was necessary should be proof enough that we 6 were working, and working in a sincere and loyal way to create a path to leadership, where none existed before.

Why would this original leader distort the truth? What is someone really saying when they say, “no shame, no blame…?”

It means they hold that judgment, but in a manipulative way want to pretend they aren’t hurling it at you.

It’s like someone surprising you by saying, ‘hey, we were in a race, and you lost.”
I experienced this as a breach of professional etiquette.

At this point in the process, the original leaders had already begun developing Wisdom years leaders in their own way…

Did it lead to anything else? No. Why? It was haphazard and self-centeredly developed. I am guessing here, but think it possible the original leaders thought of themselves “winning some competition” with the rest of us 6 men.

Anyway, the relevant excerpts from the formal record of the 2004 Strategic Plan makes it clear enough. The men who devoted many hours developing the 2004 Strategic Plan, the volunteer Board of Directors, and 6 of the leadership team of 8 wasted their time and their many thousands of dollars of personal donations.

No policies or procedures were established at that time, although that was the mandate all 8 of us accepted.

Have they been written now? If so, they should be provided to the Board for their review. I don’t believe there are any.
Maybe the others didn’t even read the Strategic Plan’s Action Plan report?

The organization could have had a successful group training by now, nearly 6 years later.

Maybe, even the Wisdom years would be able to live up a little more closely to its hype and not struggle for participants in Chicago. The Boston failure would not have happened, or would have been successfully done later.

Really, whey did the Wisdom years even struggle to find participants at those early stages?

One reason is the bifurcation and damage to weekend leader unity essentially turned off the Breakthrough leaders and I doubt if they referred many men to the program. I may have been one of the other leaders who supported the program, even spending a few thousand dollars to attend the Boston weekend, which I enjoyed.

Also, the program itself, isolated and protected from any negative evaluations or central authority probably had it’s own unresolved conflicts in their own leader group about decision-making and programming.

They are most likely continuing the original leader strategy of giving a free hand to weekend leader teams, so they just about do whatever they want, is my guess?

Is there any real central authority governing the selection of staff? Are staff still selected by the weekend leaders, who favor some guys who donate a lot of time, especially leading the support groups.

This is not bad in itself, but these issues were supposed to be debated, resolved and codified in policies and procedures back in 2004-05.

They were not and therein lies a failure linked to the ongoing stuttering of organizational development.

Maybe the Shadow weekend would be a very different program, maybe have its own DVD, mentioned on another leaders PsychologyToday site, instead of ignored, and I would be supporting it, not encouraging it to be eliminated.

Certainly, there would not have been the embarassing tequila on the genitals, nudity and silence and other bad program ideas.

VOH principals used the saying “if you always do what you’ve done…” so much it really became very irritating.

However, what it means is it’s extremely important to learn from history and not make the same mistakes.

This is the systemic problem in VOH…making the same mistakes over and over. I heard there is another “task force” to study the small group facilitation problem…a problem nearly 30 years old…with plenty of written history..such as right below and the entire Strategic Planning report and related documents.

If an organization has a problem 30 years old, there is a systemic problem in the organization a toothless task force can not solve.
I have warned these task force members in my writing about this…beware of wasting your time..if the original leader doesn’t like what you do, which is likely, it will go nowhere.

In VOH, compliance, blind loyalty have always been rewarded. Critics get deep-sixed, so be sure you can sleep in deep water.

Here are the excerpts:

November 6, 2004



A. Program Development Process:

1. Ideas to develop new programs would be presented to the Weekend Leadership Group, which will offer input and make a decision.
2. This decision will be presented to the Board for input.
3. The Weekend Leadership Group will have veto power over decisions on Program Development.

ACTION PLAN: As discussed and agreed to on Retreat.

C. Stabilizing Weekend Leadership Meetings

Weekend Leadership meetings have been too few and irregular. Because VOH has a bimodal power structure with the Board and Weekend Leaders responsible for separate functions in the organization, it is important for Weekend Leadership Meetings to take on a more regular schedule. Monthly meetings were recommended. Board members said it is important to them to know that the Weekend Leaders are meeting.

ACTION PLAN: Kurt Schultz will take responsibility for following up with the Weekend Leadership Group.


Up to now, the selection of weekend leaders has been a top-down process in which current leaders have selected weekend participants in whom they see potential. This was criticized as a process that did not provide for men wishing to step up and participate in training on their own initiative. Beginning a more formal training program would require a model for teaching the skills necessary to facilitate Heartwork. Other problems discussed included the Spirit of Generosity program, and the lack of training for Keep-it-Up leaders. The goal of a new Leadership Training initiative would be to ensure the continuity and quality of the VOH weekend experience, while allowing for innovation.


A. Develop policy and procedure that specifies a path for leadership training
B. Specify skills necessary for Heartwork facilitation, and initiate a forum for teaching those skills
C. Rethink the Spirit of Generosity program
D. Increase training for Keep-it-Up leaders
E. Ensure that the new model of leadership training allows for men to volunteer rather than just being chosen for that role
F. Evaluate the practice of maintaining fixed leadership teams versus mixing up the teams

Paul Kachoris volunteered to pursue this program with the Weekend Leadership Group.

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