How to run A Circle of Men

This is a spin off of Bill Kauth's work he started about 30 years ago, you can buy his book, “A Circle of Men”.

Why would a guy join a circle of men?
It's fun and rewarding to talk with men in a sincere way. The emotional payoff is surprisingly deep.
Most of us simply want a few reliable men we can trust. The level of trust that is earned not given freely.
It is important to be listened to and accepted just the way you are. There are few places to do that these days. These circles are one place to do that.


How do you start a circle?


Every circle is built around an idea.
- learning a skill, changing awareness, making friends
- getting old, stepping into manhood, recovery
- writing, drawing, animation
- job hunting, retiring, what's next
- computers, cars, travel
- humor, anger, joy, saddness
- death, health, sex
- support, growth, changing, letting go
- spiritual stuff, acceptance

When and Where

When are going to meet?
Where you are going to meet?
How often will you meet?
Start time and end time?
How many months will you meet for?
Do you need money for rent?
Who is in and who is out of the circle?
Is this circle open to new men?
Where do you find them?
Who is the leader?
Tip: A useful agreement to make is; 'What is said here stays here.'


It is important to have a leader for the meetings. If you don't say who the leader is out loud he will surface naturally. It's easier to just say who the leader is. In some circles the leadership rotates so everyone gets a chance to do it.

The leader starts and ends the meeting on time. He asks the opening and closing questions and makes sure everyone gets a chance to talk.
If there is a presentation, the leader says when it starts. When the conversation starts to drift, the leader is usually the one who pulls focus.


How to run a circle

~~~~~ Opening: ~~~~~~

The structure of these meetings is simple. By the third meeting everyone will know what the game is and what to expect, at least as far as how the meeting is set up.
The following is directed towards the leader and everyone should be familiar with it.

1. When everyone is together and it's time, you announce that we're starting. When everyone is settled in ask if there are any announcements. These are good to get out of the way before we really roll up our sleeves and get into it.
2. Now take a few minutes to get everyone focused and present. There are a lot of ways to do this.
Some circles simply start with a silent minute. Others might start with a little prayer or some thought provoking words. Some like to start with a short guided meditation. The idea is to get everybody's mind quiet and focused on being right here, right now.
3. Next, go around the circle and ask each man the five check-in questions.

--- 1. Who are you?
--- 2. How was your week? This might be time for a little story, but don't let him go on too long. The answer should focus around the main idea of the group.
--- 3. How did you shine this week? Men rarely talk about the good they do or how they had fun. This is a cool time to talk about some of the gold we bring to the world.
--- 4. Do you want any time? If he says yes, ask him how much time he wants and how important is it? Make a little note for yourself.
--- 5. If you had a question for these guys, what would it be? This is an extra good question for new guys looking for information from the old ones.

4. After every one has checked in, including you, call on the men who wanted time. Some guys will talk on and on without getting anywhere. If he goes overtime it's easy to get him to stop since he told you how much time he wanted. Use your discretion if a guy is on a good roll.
When he's done talking ask him if he wants any suggestions. Sometimes a guy just needs to tell his story and sometimes he's really looking for advice.

~~~~~ Middle, the Presentation and Stretches: ~~~~~~

The Presentation

The presentation can take on many different forms. Every circle figures out what is most enriching and entertaining for them. Usually the presenter is a different man every week. Sometimes you might invite in a guest to present.
It is important that the leader keeps an eye on the time and use his discretion to keep the conversation focused.

Often the presenter has a skill to teach. Examples: how to meditate, how to focus your anger, how to fight fairly, how to wake up spiritually, how to speak powerfully, ect.

Sometimes the presenter might simply ask a question. This works very well when everyone answers the same question. Sometimes the conversations get very deep and sometimes they get downright silly. Questions might be about: your dying parent, divorice, money, job, kids, cars, spiritual advice, recovery, sex, etc.


What is a stretch?
A stretch is a statement a guy makes. He says he'll do something before the next meeting. This sets up simple accountability and makes for some great stories. A stretch can be as important as proposing marriage or as trivial as cleaning out the car.

How does it work?
Have one guy write down the stretches word for word. The exact words in the stretch are important. Usually everyone comes up with two or three stretches. Make sure the paper gets back to the next meeting. Sometimes the stretches are emailed to everyone in the circle.

What makes a good stretch?
1. If it is measurable, that's a big plus.
A poor stretch is; “I'll do some push ups this week.” That's a pretty squishy. He can do two push ups and he's completed his stretch.
A better stretch is; “I'll do 30 push ups every day.” That's easy to count and easy to report on.
2. A stretch has to be an outgoing action. It can NOT depend on someone else to get completed.
A bad stretch is; “I'll take my girlfriend out to dinner.” Nope, she has to agree to it. She could say no and the guy has failed to do his stretch.
A better stretch; “I'll ask my girlfriend out to dinner.” That's a good one. She can say yes or no, but the action is outgoing and he did what he said he would do.
3. The riskier a stretch is, the better the stories will be. You might ask him why he is doing this particular stretch. The answer might surprise you. Someone might challenge him to do more. Sometimes after knocking the idea around for a while, a guy will realize he really shouldn't be committing to that stretch anyhow.

What are stretch reports?
When it's time for stretch reports, go around the circle. Ask each man if he did all his stretches or not. This is when it is important to have the paper from last week. He gets some time to tell his adventures of successes and failures. Some of these stories are really funny and some are very serious.
If a guy does not complete his stretches you can hold him accountable. This does not have to be anything dramatic. But it is important that he knows that the other men are watching him. That is a big deal.

Why bother with stretches?
Stretches are a simple way to spark up lively conversations and to get what you came for. Often stretches are the richest part of the meeting. If a guy is not willing to put effort into what is happening here, you probably do not want him in your circle. The more you put into these conversations, the more you get out. Often that means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something that you perceive as risky.

~~~~~ Ending: ~~~~~~

Ending this meeting can be be done with two simple questions:

-- 1. What is your take-away from this meeting? This forces a little reflection and it is easy to tell if the group is going well. It's kind of like checking the oil in your engine.
-- 2. How are you going to shine this week? This is just an idea, not a stretch. It is surprising how often these things come true. It's sort of like setting up a good luck magnet in your immediate future.


Tips for running an on-line Circle of Men

The Operator

If you are going to be meeting on-line, you will want to have one man be the 'Operator'. He is usually not the leader or presenter, but sometimes he is. He works along with the leader or presenter to keep the meeting running smoothly. Sometimes he becomes the time keeper too.
If someone drops off the call, the Operator is the only one who tries to get him back on.
The Operator will keep the list of men on the call. When a question is asked by the leader, he calls on each man by going down the list.
Here's why: When a question is asked of the whole group, there will be a few seconds of dead air before two or three men will start talking at once. There is always some discussion to sort out who will speak first. This is distracting and interrupts the flow of the conversation. It is much easier to have the little formality of having your name called.
The Operator can pay Skype about $4 a month and he can call any phone in North America. This is a very good way to include guys who only have a phone or don't have a computer working.

Sometimes there will be feedback or an echo from someone. The Operator will be able to figure out who this is by momentarily shutting off mikes. He will butt into the conversation for a second to tell ___ to turn down his speakers. This sometimes happens with laptops using the built in mike.


We have been using Skype with great success over the last several years. The sound quality is excellent when using a regular USB headset. We don't use cameras because it eats up too much band width.

We have also used some of the free conference call services. They work well for guys with phones only. Using Skype, the Operator calls into the conference number and everyone on that call is now included on the Skype call.

If you are calling from a coffee shop or noisy place, figure out how to mute your mike. You can turn it on only when you are talking and that will work fine.


Enjoy your shadows and enjoy your conversations,
John Teisberg