I recently had the opportunity to facilitate a group of 8-13 year old girls in a Leadership Development Camp – It was a great experience, because I was able to combine a few of my favorite things: Kids, Animals, Teaching, and Leadership!
Over the course of a couple of days, I began to notice a pattern – A few of the older girls started rolling their eyes, whispering to each other, pointing at some of the other girls…just generally not being very “leader-y” (yep – I’m going to use that word).
Coming from a background of leadership development and management, I’m generally not one to shy away from calling people out on their behaviors, and having an open dialogue about what will and won’t be tolerated, so I decided to do just that:
I pulled the 3 older girls aside and told them I wanted to talk a little bit about what I was noticing (names have been changed).
Me: “I want to make some observations – I was watching you over in the corner and saw that you generally seem a little disinterested in what we’re doing today. Specifically I noticed you rolling your eyes, whispering and pointing – Now, I know I don’t know what you were talking about, but my assumption is that you were talking about either the group in general, or people within the group. If that’s the case, I think we should talk about it, because I expect more from you here. What are your thoughts?”
Not to my surprise, no one responded…in fact, they looked a little embarrassed, and pretty uncomfortable.
“I’m not trying to make you feel badly, but this is a leadership camp, and part of being a leader is recognizing and owning our behaviors, and then shifting when necessary to something that’s more productive. If I didn’t think it was worth the conversation, we wouldn’t be having it, so let’s talk – Have you guys ever had someone point at you and whisper?”
Celia: (quietly) “Yes.” The other two nodded.
Me: “How did that make you feel when that happened?”
Elena: “Badly. Like they were talking about me – I felt embarrassed.”
Me: “I’m sorry that happened to you. What do you wish would have happened then, or instead?”
Elena: “I wished they weren’t talking about me, or that I had someone with me right then.”
Me: “Yeah…I know that you girls might not have been saying anything negative about anyone here, but I also think it’s important that you recognize that you have the power to shape your environment – so if you choose to be negative, or if you decide you’re not going to embrace or enjoy something, you’re going to have a negative experience. I just think you deserve more than that, and I think that you probably want other people to feel good around you, too…what do you think about that?”
Charlie: “Yeah…I guess it makes sense…but I never feel like I have any power at all.” The other two girls nodded along with her….
What a sad sentiment, but a lovely segue! My main role in facilitating this leadership experience was to offer Equus Coaching to the girls throughout the camp – So I decided to take the girls into the arena and play with how we “shape our environment” using my equine partners.
Celia went in first, and she practiced interacting with the horse with confidence: “Whether or not this horse likes me, I like me.”
Charlie went in next…She was the one that felt powerless, so I stood behind her and asked her to stand in the round pen and try to get the horse running in a circle with as little effort as possible. She threw the long line behind Rhi (the horse), and she trotted around. Next I asked her to just stand still and slow her breathing down as much as possible, and try to stop the horse from running by getting very quiet and calm. Rhi stopped walking. Charlie burst out laughing, and said “I moved that horse with my mind!!” It was brilliant!
Finally, Elena went in. She asked me to come in with her because she was nervous and didn’t want to go alone – So I went, and supported her as she simply stood and loved on Rhi – Elena’s takeaway? That when she needed help, all she had to do was ask.
The rest of the week, those three girls were some of the most positive and loving role models for the younger girls that I could have asked for. They smiled, they offered help to the younger ones, and they just generally seemed more secure and happy. I suspect they didn’t like me calling them out on their negativity, but the only way through something is through it.
On the last day, I asked each of them what their biggest takeaway was from the week – My favorite response? “I have the power to move horses with my mind, so I guess that means I can do anything.”
That goes for you, too.
My takeaway lessons from a few powerful 13 year-old’s:
- What others think of you is none of your business – Your business is what you think of you, and how you make others feel.
- You are more powerful than you realize: What you think,and how you behave, shapes the world you live in – Be wise with your mind, and with your actions.
- If you don’t know how to do (1) or (2) above, be willing to ask for help – There are people in the world that want to lift you up, not tear you down. I’m one of them.
4. Be the storm.
If you’d like to come experience Equus Coaching for yourself, or with a family member, friend or co-worker, I would love to share it with you. Send me an email or book a complimentary consultation and we’ll schedule a time for you to come out – It really is magical. ♥ For traditional Life and Executive Coaching (in-person or virtual), I’m currently accepting new clients and would love to see if I can provide the kind of support you’re seeking! Let’s talk!