Over the last few years, something has come sharply into focus.
So I’m a feminist. And much of my work in leadership development is with women – coaching on a women’s leadership programme, say, in support of getting more women’s voices heard within organisations and helping women step fully into their power. That really matters to me.
But I also do a lot of work with men, whether in coaching or in working with large groups of senior leaders, because most corporate leaders are men. And, over the last 4 years, I have come to see that men are having a hard time.
Men have been raised, educated and socialised to be a certain way and to play certain roles, and that’s not working so well for them any more. Many men are in pain. Many men are suffering. And many men want to make changes in their own lives as well as help change the way the world is right now – for the women in their lives, for their children and for other men.
And so, I thought I’d share some of the powerful resources from outside of the corporate world I have learned from and have come to depend on in helping me understand and be useful to men, both in corporate life and beyond.
First off, three organisations that I can’t recommend enough whose approach is (leading edge) workshop-based. The first two are for any man who feels they want an experiential way to explore the inner workings of their masculinity. The third is for men who want to offer something back (and, inevitably get a huge amount for themselves too).
All offer an experience of initiating men into full and healthy masculinity – which feels especially important now with the more toxic aspects of masculinity being very much in the news.
• The Mankind Project (MKP) works explicitly with the idea that many men lead lives of quiet desperation and that something feels missing. Or that something isn’t working and needs to change. Their deep-dive workshops are a powerful way to develop a mature masculinity – a way to be a man that’s based on accountability, generosity, compassion, emotional intelligence and integrity. They help men find a personal mission and a clear purpose. I’m a proud to be a Trustee and, in working alongside these men, I am struck time and time again by their commitment to facing head-on their shadow or dark side and to making the world around them safer and more loving.
• In similar territory, but this time with workshops for both men and women – and often together – Celebration of Being has been one the communities that has brought about most change in me over the last few years. Their focus is on healing the damage that men and women do to each other – surely one of the most important things for us? I regularly help to run the men’s workshop, Noble Man, and have seen so much healing take place over the course of a weekend. I am always in awe of the commitment that these men – from all walks of life – bring to work out their stuff so that they can be better parents, partners and friends. I’ve also done most of the women’s workshops as a participant – and those have been life changing for me.
• A Band of Brothers is slightly different in that they create tight knit communities of men based in a particular geography. These communities then provide workshops and mentoring for young men in the criminal justice system. They focus on deep personal development and community building as a way to prevent the self destructive behaviour that is often played out in these men, and on ‘marshalling the energy of male youth’. This is a very progressive organisation and, if you feel you might want to give something back as a man, please do look at being a mentor for them or even bringing the initiative to your area. Not only are you doing good for others but the personal development you’d get from the training and the mentoring personally is huge. You can contact their CEO Nathan Roberts here.
And then for a good read:
• I recommend Grayson Perry’s The Descent of Man all the time. This is one of the most accessible and clear sighted books I know on masculinity today.
• bell hooks is radical feminist writer from the US (the lower case is intentional) and The Will To Change covers similar territory but from a different angle, Powerful, straight talking and clear, it’s one of my favourites. She explores how it is that men have come to not value their inner lives and also the role and responsibility we all – including women – have in changing that.
• And if you currently coach anyone who went to boarding school, especially if they were an early boarder (that’s if they started under 10yrs) then I’d recommend this book. Joy Schaverein’s Boarding School Syndrome (yes, it’s really a thing …) has opened my eyes and helped me understand with deep compassion why some men’s feelings (and it usually is men) are so cauterised and they struggle with relationships. The words trauma, abuse and captivity are not used lightly here but they are used very appropriately. Shocking.
• And then to end. I had this blog in draft on my laptop all week. And then this article, mostly about one man’s experience of an MKP workshop but referencing much of what I’ve said above, came out in The Indy this week. Based on one man’s experience of an MKP workshop. A good read.
Through all of these resources, and more, I have been educated – to the extent that’s ever really possible – about what it is to be man, and how it feels to be a man today. As a result, I have a greater understanding and a deeper compassion. And that has made me a better coach for my clients, partner to my husband and friend to more men.
As ever, please do get in contact here or in person if you want to comment. And you can also find me on Twitter @helenaclayton