Nov 8, 2010

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Dancing With the Devil

I am in the process of recuperating from the MDI Annual Convention in Las Vegas. Year two and it was a huge success. What made it successful was that we built on last year’s inaugural convention. We offered more than 40 seminars this year and had over 280 attendees. The goal is to keep growing and to expand this beyond MDI and hopefully move to venues other than Vegas but that’s a different post.
The thing that made this year a success is that we did this with women.

Now I know that sounds curious, a men’s organization having its annual convention with women?
It was a delicate dance to make this work: in part because there were many men who were vehemently opposed to the notion of women entering our “sanctuary”; then there was the challenge of being committed to allowing men to feel free to be who they are without filters; as well as the challenge of taking on the responsibility for shepparding the women into our thing and setting the parameters around where they were and were not welcome without giving off the vibe that they were second class citizens.
In short it was a great opportunity to take on some real life lessons. The reality is women are a part of the world I need to operate in every day. I can’t sequester myself from them and still be effective in the world. That doesn’t mean I can’t step away now and then and recharge my batteries by being with the men. And make no mistake women can drain you, even if it is in a good way. It is no coincidence that after sex most men want to take a nap. Being with men however, is usually an adrenalin jolt. I don’t know the physiology of this but I definitely feel different physically and emotionally when I step into a circle of men or women. There is also clearly a time when men do need to be sequestered to work some stuff out. Anger is unfortunately imbedded in our DNA and passing through raw anger is usually the gateway to some real transformative emotional work. However, my experience has been women can be terrified to stand in the presence of that emotional venting and their presence can actually stifle the work that needs to be done.
Vegas however, was not that place. It was a celebration and a gathering. A place where we got to honor some men and doing so in the presence of their women makes that moment all the more powerful and I am sure helped these guys when they got back to the privacy of their hotel room.
The thing I got is all the stuff I thought I needed to do to make this work with the women was for the most part unnecessary. They got it and acted accordingly. If you set the right context most people will follow your lead and go with the program. Those who choose not to are quickly corralled by the group vibe.
So the lesson is simple: give some thought to how you want something to play out and signal it before the event. I feel most of the work is in signaling the expectations and concerns. The most dangerous tact is to just show up and see what happens. It is a recipe for disaster.

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