Hello SOTGC community,
Over the past couple of weeks I had the honor of interacting with students during two distinct events. Each was tailored specifically for the age of the students, and, though very different, the goals of each were basically the same … to prepare the students for their future.
The first event was for my twin boys’ 6th grade class field trip. OK, most might think a field trip is just a day away from school to have fun. That was not the case with this. In the weeks leading up to the event, which I quickly volunteered for, we received email reminders on our role and importance of arriving two and a half hours before the students to receive our “training.” One of the other requirements was to bring extra shoes/socks, plenty of water, lunch, and backpack, and, finally, to LEAVE CELL PHONES IN THE CAR!
In preparation for the big event, I looked up the field trip location online and learned it was a youth center focused on providing educational leadership skills through outdoor adventure games. The pictures showed youth of all ages from kindergarten through middle school having fun and experiencing many different outdoor activities. Immediately, I was excited thinking it was going to be a day outside, away from the office and constant battering of emails. On top of that, I would be with my twin boys!
The day came and I woke up at 4:30 a.m. (so not a 4:30 a.m. morning person) in order to pick up the other mother riding with me and drive to the location, an hour away, to meet our 7:00 a.m. deadline. There was also the necessary Starbucks stop! We went through orientation and then walked through each activity the students would participate in. By 9:30, when they arrived on location, we were already half way to exhaustion.
These students would be in groups of eight and would have 15 minutes at each event to read the “challenge,” formulate a plan, and execute on that plan. At each event they would rotate the leadership role and ensure every team member had an opportunity to share ideas on how to accomplish their task. Regardless of the plan the group had decided on, each time they turned to my friend and me for our approval. Our role was not to “bless” their plan or to provide input, our role was to ensure they stayed on track and facilitate the wrap-up at the end of each event.
The activities were tough to do! They ranged from switching sides on a giant log without falling off, balancing evenly on a large teeter totter while standing up, to rolling a white ball on 12” long open tubes for about 10’ without touching or dropping on the ground. In the end of each activity, successful or not, they would talk about what they learned and key attributes they leveraged during that particular exercise.
By the end of the day, not only did I experience physical and mental exhaustion, I was so proud of my group and the teamwork displayed throughout the day. Some were natural leaders, while others had a slower start but quickly adapted to their new role. What I found remarkable was the willingness to share ideas, build upon one another and be open-minded enough to stop, regroup, and try again. Never once did I hear a harsh word, yelling, or blaming; these students worked together to accomplish tasks they had never encountered and never gave up.
The other event I participated in was to speak with a group of high school seniors that were part of a leadership program. These students had to first qualify by being an A+ student, and then applied for the position and went through an interview. My role was to share with them about being in leadership, my career process, giving back to my community, or anything else that might help prepare them for the future.
As I thought about what to talk about, I decided on a topic that the younger generation spends more time unintentionally hurting, rather than helping, personal brand. During my time with this group, we focused on the importance of a brand and understanding why their personal brand should matter now as well as in the future. I shared with them the process I went through to define my own personal brand, which allowed me to further understand the impacts of my mis-steps throughout my career. We also talked about my decision to share this with others in my organization so they can also take accountability in their personal awareness and perceptions that are already formed by others.
In talking with this group of high school seniors, it was obvious they had some awareness to personal brand, yet it also allowed them a forum to ask more thought-provoking questions to learn more. One female student asked how I am able to balance my role as a leader in a corporation and be a mother. Another asked if my brand changes when I leave work and come home to be a mother, because in his mind, he felt my brand should be different. My response for both is that your brand should not change from office to home to church to going out with friends. Your brand is the core of who you are, your vision of who you are, your principles, and how you go about holding yourself accountable.
What I want is for my boys to see their mother have a great career while also managing a home and family through the partnership of my husband. I am able to accomplish this the same way I handle opportunities at the office, by keeping my brand as my foundation and staying focused. My hope is that one day they will marry and show their wife the same support my husband shows me. On the other hand, for my daughter, I want her to see that her dreams do not have to be limited, that she can be a strong leader in her career and have endless possibilities, while also being the best mother she can possibly be.
I was really moved by a student that asked the tough question, obviously one that had been weighing on his mind, “How do I get my dad to spend more time with me when he is always working?” That is a delicate question to answer. The important thing is to ensure he is not putting his father on the defense, instead approaching it like they both have busy schedules and they need to make a date for a dinner/movie or something fun like bowling or bocce ball. When the event happened, I encouraged him to write a note (yes…WRITE a note, not text or email … write a note) … and tell his father how much fun he had, to be specific in the note, and to quickly set up another date.
In both these experiences I realized how quickly our youth grow up and how impressionable they are. The thoughts and ideas the 6th grade students were asking were no different than those of the high school seniors. When looking back and reflecting on both groups, I realize the millennial generation has everything they need to “learn” at their fingertips, yet they still are hungry for the human contact; quality time. So, what is our role in supporting this?
As the older generations, we have an obligation to help prepare our future generations to lead.
They are our next teachers, CEOs, Armed Forces, senators, presidents, etc. We need to ensure they have the ability to work as a team to identify problems, build a strategy and execute on a plan. The answers are not always as easily available as typing in the search field on their smartphones. The answers are found talking to those that have already walked the path, successfully or unsuccessfully. We do not have the answers to everything, but we do have experiences that we can share to help them make better decisions in the future.
I challenge you to use your experiences and share with our future generations. Take time to volunteer in your local schools or through mentoring organizations. The opportunities are endless and our educators would love the chance to have guest speakers that have experience in a particular industry, field, or subject. Help our future generations be better than the last, take time to be a role model and make a difference in the life of a child!
If this post resonated with you, reach out to your local schools to see how you can be a part of developing our future generations. Share your experience for a better tomorrow. Everyone has a gift to share; whether it is a gift of time, talent, or treasure … it is a gift! Please Tweet, Pin or share on LinkedIn or Facebook.