By Marc Schwartz, Executive Coach
Several times a year I have the opportunity to be a part of a team of men who come together with the intention of helping other men learn about things like accountability, commitment and leadership. After 8 years of doing these weekend retreats I realize how necessary these training sessions are because most men (and women) have a very limited knowledge and “healthy” experience of these values and concepts.
The structure of the weekend is hierarchical with one man being designated as the weekend leader. There are between four and six co-leaders who oversee all of the specific processes and exercises. There is thirty-six additional staff who help in carrying out varying roles, processes and functions throughout the two days. The leader and co-leaders have been highly trained and have the most actual experience in creating what we call the “container” or the environment where the participants can feel safe to engage in a series of highly evolved exercises that can create a truly transformative experience. The participants number around 40 and are men from wide and diverse backgrounds ranging from business leaders to high school kids.
On a typical weekend the co-leaders and a select few of the more experienced staff run the exercises and pick lesser experienced staff men to act in support roles. The good news is the participants are in highly competent hands that allow them to make some really transformative connections. The not so good news is that sometimes the seduction of helping people make these kind of breakthroughs can bring out an over zealous ego. When that happens, it’s been my observation that the leader gets his needs met, the participant may get a breakthrough but staff finishes third and after a while may feel dis-empowered and non-essential.
On a most recent outing, I watch a shift take place when one of the leaders declared himself to be more of a mentor and that his intention was to teach and empower the staff to carry out the facilitated processes under his watchful eye. The change in the energy and outcomes of all involved was noticeable. The participants gained by the increased diversity of insights that came from the engaged staff. The staff was in a flow that was not only personally empowering but it ignited a level of mastery that even surprised some. The leader in this case gained an incredible amount of self satisfaction by watching so many get their needs met…to include his own.
Set the intention and then let people dance. Yes, keep a watchful eye, but let it not be a stage for a solo act of ego building. As Daniel Goleman states in his book, Primal Leadership, “when leaders drive emotions positively they bring out eveyone’s best. When they drive emotions negatively, they spawn dissonance, undermining the emotional foundations that let people shine”.
In this day and time, true and evolved leaders must set the intention, get the best people and create the “container” so each person can do what they do best.