The State of MDI – From The President

The Legacy Magazine Interview

Ian Kennard came into the position of MDI President in November of 2021. An MDI member since June 2002, he has held the positions of Team Captain, Division Coordinator and Regional Coordinator in the Canada Region, located in the Toronto area. The Legacy Magazine took the opportunity to interview Kennard about the State of MDI given his obvious vantage point on our theme.

Basically how is MDI doing right now? What is the STATE OF MDI at present? 

MDI is OK. We’re OK. And that is because we are at a pivotal point. I can explain by starting with my vision: With trust and collaboration, we build the foundation and infrastructure of MDI so that all future generations of men have a men’s circle to stand in.”

What that means to me is we are putting the structure and foundations in place so that there will be men’s teams for our grandsons when they are ready for them.

We’ve been on a growth trajectory. Previously to me stepping in, we’ve had to navigate COVID, get through that. And now what I’m looking to do is create a foundation for a scalable and growing organization. We are at the beginning of that journey. We’re maybe a quarter way into that journey.  So that’s what I mean by being at a pivotal point. 

We are starting to put programs in place and mapping the future of the organization so that we can grow to 10,000 men and have men’s teams for our grandsons. We’re doing a lot of good work to make sure the future is secure and scalable, and so we can grow the way we can. 

Coming into your position, what did you want to accomplish as the President?

That was it basically.

My vision is what I want to accomplish, but in that, what I want to do is bring consistency and intention to a lot of the things that we do. That means create processes and structure that are repeatable and scalable, so we can go from 500 men to 750 men, from 750 men to 1,500 men, with everything in place to support that kind of growth. 

Every program has a written plan, every vice president has a written plan, and they all have timelines we can use to map out our progress. My idea was to bring some project management practices to the programs and to make sure they have a plan, a timeline, and milestones so we can gain intentional progress towards the ultimate vision of MDI as a whole.

“With trust and collaboration, we build the foundation and infrastructure of MDI so that all future generations of men have a men’s circle to stand in.”

President Kennard’s Vision for MDI

When you first came in, recent activity included losing part of the Southwest Region and the Northeast Region. What was needing to change or improve? 

Yes, we lost some of those regions. What needed to stay the same was our focus on the men’s team experience, and supporting team leaders. 

What needed to change was how we were in relationship with each other. From my experience, VPs and programs operated independently of each other. They did their own things, they worked on their own programs, but there was very little communication and collaboration between programs. 

What I realized is that if we were to get where I wanted us to go, we needed to work together. We needed to embrace the whole trust and collaboration piece. Every program is intimately connected to every other program. You can’t have a training program without the MTP program without a Growth program without a Team Leader program without necessary technology.

They are all interconnected.

What I wanted to change was breaking down the silos and having men recognize that collaboration was the key to our success in moving forward. All those program leaders are working together and helping make them all be stronger. 

What programs are being implemented?

At the first international meeting after I came in, we considered the top three things we needed to focus on to bring about the most significant amount of transformation and get to 750 and then 1,500 men. The three are Training, Legacy Discovery and the Expansion Initiative. In order for all of it to succeed, we also have to look at our technology platform and our overall technology picture. 

“To build the foundation and infrastructure of MDI so that all future generations of men have a men’s circle to stand in.”

President Kennard’s Purpose for MDI

Around the various programs, how is Training going? 

Training is in the state of transition. We have a new leader Rich O’Keeffe starting October 2, taking over from Matt Lyons who will be focusing on the creation of training content. My vision for training is that we have production standards, and planned intentionally – meaning they are scheduled regularly and well in advance – so our Division Coordinators can promote them with lead times. 

We are looking at building a library of smaller bite-sized trainings where a man can be self-directed, log onto the website, click on a link and attend a video training on things like team meetings, CPR, or mentoring. Throughout the year there could be 2-hour trainings on something of value to the men, such as a life skills in financial planning or how to be in a long-term relationship. The plan is to build a training inventory that is consistent and accessible to the men. Into the future, the trainings can be held in a training location, and marketed outside the organization, as a revenue stream. 

What is the state of the Legacy Discovery?  

It’s in a pretty good place. Obviously COVID put a huge dent in it. But since then we’ve had at least four LDs. There are three LDs scheduled this fall and they are looking at fairly significant registrations, from 30 to 40 men. It’s coming back strong. 

We’re bringing consistency to the Legacy Discovery syllabus. Leader Ed Harrigan is reviewing all the different LD syllabuses, seeing what works and what doesn’t work, so we can create a unified syllabus. The idea is to have the LDs delivered in a consistent way across the board. We are looking at what it would take and mean to have a 100-man Legacy Discovery. We are imagining what that would do to help make the LD become a signature marketable event. 

“Always leading, always learning.”

President Kennard’s Context for MDI

How is the Expansion Initiative? 

That program is in transition. We are tweaking it and making it more cost effective. We’ve hired copywriters to write more effective Facebook ads, and we’re improving some of the website maintenance. We want to make sure our public-facing messages get more men to click and then click through. In terms of being cost-effective, the original intent was for it to be “revenue neutral,” meaning the cost of acquiring one man would be balanced out by the dues that he would pay. That is still the intention. 

What can bring MDI the most success?

The other part of our success comes from the fact we are a volunteer organization. In order to be scalable, at some point we need to get our business in place and have paid employees. We need paid support systems in place in order for the volunteers to get paid for the work they do. They need to focus on the leadership, training and development work they are capable of. We want someone else to manage the technology and the administrative tasky work. We don’t want to take men’s energy away from our mission and what we’re actually here to do … which is to change men’s lives. Our future is in paid support staff. When we have 1,200 men, we’ll have enough money in the budget so we can seriously look at hiring and bringing on paid support staff. 

Is there any official stance on the Sterling Men’s Weekend? 

We are not in relationship with the Sterling Institute now, but if the Sterling Men’s Weekend is what a man needs in his life to transform, then absolutely we are quite OK to send that man there. It serves a different purpose than our trainings, so if it serves his purpose, he should go.

What are the challenges at present in realizing your vision?

The challenges include the scarcity of resources. We are wanting to find money in the budget to outsource and hire support so men can focus on our important work. Also there is a scarcity of leadership, as we need to do a better job at creating a context big enough for men so they are wanting to step into leadership. 

What do you see in your position that the common member of MDI does not see that would be of value?

This is the hardest question. I don’t want to sound pretentious. But I think what I see comes back to the vision that our future is based on collaboration. In order for us to achieve success as an organization, it’s about working together. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I see the possibility and opportunities available to us if we work together and trust each other. I see the importance of the foundational work that we do. I see the importance of team reports, membership integrity and how it impacts leaders across the organization and their ability to move forward.

What do members need to do or hear from you that would help them in their role as a teammate on a men’s team?

A couple things come to mind: 

  1. Look at how our vision has a place on their team, and in the relationship with the man besides them.
  2. Look at how the opportunity to lead can bring value to not only you but your team, your division and your organization. Look at what’s available to you when you step into leadership. Look for opportunities to train to be a leader. And ask for opportunities to lead. This will assist your life and those you influence in your life.

How is the international team and other leaders helping our teams and individual men to win?

By working really hard to create resources and to offer support to be successful at the team level. To find ways to offer the best tools and experiences so they can be the best leaders. 

So part of your vision is growth and solid teams, but what is the ultimate “so that?” If we are to grow and realize your vision of a men’s team for our grandsons, what will that give us? 

Wow. The biggest picture? So that humanity could live without fear. Is that too big? A world that is a safe place for everybody.

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