You’ve taught them since they were born. Except for a couple higher math classes at the local co-op or community college, you’ve inculcated your students with just about all the academics they possess. They are ready scholastically to tackle college. According to many studies and sources, they are ahead of their contemporaries by one to two full grades, have learned to study, and are ready to learn.
But although they are ready academically, are they ready to lead themselves and others through the tumultuous college years when you aren’t there to be their leadership? What leadership skills should you pass on?
The following statistic is meant only to make a point about leadership—not about the subject of the statistic—so please stay with me. According to an article in the 2011 September/October issue of Relevant Magazine and a 2011 study—
…a recent study reveals that 88 percent of unmarried young adults (ages 18-29) are having sex. The same study, conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, reveals the number doesn’t drop much among Christians. Of those surveyed who self-identify as “evangelical,” 80 percent say they have had sex. Eighty percent.”*
Today (May 2016), the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy notes that by the end of 12th grade, 64% of teens have had sex. Remember, this isn’t an article about sex—but about leadership—about choices.
Why is this important? Because our students have not learned to say no—or maybe they don’t think it’s important to say no? According to the same article, “…in a recent Gallup poll, 76 percent of evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong.”
That means that three quarters of those that have had sex are going against their conscience—going against what they believe. This is the issue. Our graduating seniors haven’t learned to lead themselves. That needs to change or they simply won’t get to where they really, really, really want to go. Again, stop—don’t fixate on the sex part of this—that is a statistic for the greater point I am making. Yes, it is very important—but I need you to work with me here to get to the main point of this article or you may not get the meat of how to fix it. Stay with me on the point of leading oneself—of actually doing what they think is the right thing to do.
Take a deep breath… hold it for 20 seconds… Okay. Let’s continue.
Whether you homeschool for religious or secular reasons, the point is we are not teaching our students to determine and stick with their convictions, their integrity, their beliefs. This is just one example—an important one to be sure—but it’s just one example. The problem isn’t academics—you’ve been pouring that into them for years. The problem isn’t a lack of social skill—like the world criticized homeschoolers during the 27 years we homeschooled and I’m sure complain to you as well. That’s been debunked a long time ago. The problem is a lack of self-leadership. I see it all too often.
Why? Because most of us don’t understand how to lead ourselves. We were not specifically taught leadership principles. If anything, the maturing process has helped parents learn to accomplish—our frontal cortex has had time to develop—but our students don’t have that benefit (experience). They are just starting out.
The proper leadership skills teach you to live intentionally, have personal awareness, learn to reflect and change, be consistent, have self-discipline, take responsibility for yourself and stop blaming others, develop a life plan and plan daily, learn to fail forward, to master fear, develop your character, balance tasks and relationships, and so much more. That’s one of the benefits of being on a serious sports team—they teach you to work as a team with other people—to learn respect. It’s where the rubber meets the road for most. On top of that, depending on your personality traits, some of these things are significantly harder than others. Y0u have to learn who you are, how you are wired (good article on this coming soon), and how to apply good specific leadership concepts.
As a counselor and an executive coach, I watch adults go through the struggle of learning who they are and making the necessary changes in life to get to where they want to go. Some are just now learning to lead themselves—at age 50. How much better for our young students if they learn now to do the right things to jumpstart their lives instead of waiting until they’re… old—and maybe never getting there. It’s like compound interest—if you start when you’re young, the money you invest early will have grown so much more than if you start investing a lot more when you’re older. Speaking of compound interest, have you taught your students about it? Helped them start investing? Shown them the fruits of their own labors? How about balancing their bank account? How to flee from debt? These are some of the topics I teach—often—and most 20 something students don’t know much—if anything—about it. Most are not sure it’s important—until it’s too late.
What can you do to help your student before (and even after) they head off to college or jump into the work world? I would start by teaching them three truths—or laws—of personal growth and leadership—
• Live intentionally. As author of As A Man Thinketh, James Allen says, “People are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” We need to live in such a way as to be improving ourselves daily. Daily. Leadership expert John C. Maxwell teaches that there are eight growth gaps that keep us from growing daily. The first one, The Assumption Gap, is huge for young people. It says that I assume I will automatically grow. Since we were children, we did just that—physically grow automatically. But now, we must be intentional about everything we do. Everything. Nothing happens naturally any more. If you want it to happen, you need to plan it and make it happen. Do you have a system to remind you daily how to live intentionally? Do you know how to build a system? Can you define what a system looks like? We teach how to build systems in our mentorship program.
• Grow character. Doug Firebaugh says, “Achievement—to most people—is something you do… to the high achiever, it is something you are.” Is your student living on your values (which may be great but they lack the conviction because they are your values and they have not embraced them as their own fully) or have they developed their own values and embraced them strongly? What happens when they cannot defend your core beliefs vs. what happens when they defend their own? American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker Jim Rohn said,
Character is a quality that embodies many important traits such as integrity, courage, perseverance, confidence, and wisdom. Unlike your fingerprints that you were born with and can’t change, character is something that you create within yourself and must take responsibility for changing.”
For many, it’s difficult to take responsibility for their actions, especially the high ‘I’ or Inspiring personality types (DISC Model of Human Behavior). Many think that character is something you’re born with. Not so. It is easier for some personality types to mold character than other types, but we all can and should develop good character with the right tools and a lot of tenacity. Systems help here, too.
• Leave a Legacy. I’ve seen too many young people lose their first decade on their own. They get out of high school or college and wander for 10 years. They sit across from me in coaching sessions talking about how they don’t really know what they’ve done for the past 10 years. I call it the lost decade. Eleanor Roosevelt said,
Some people waste an entire life bouncing off other people and things never achieving what they wanted to. Like Thomas Watson of IBM, we need to plan our lives with the end in mind. Imagine you’re 85 years old, sitting on your front porch rocking away. Ask yourself, what did my life look like—what did I accomplish in those 85 years? What do I want it to look like? How do I ensure it looks like that to the best of my ability? Another system? Yep.
I think I need to write a book on systems. But that’s another story.
What inspires your student? What motivates her? What knowledge is he putting in? Is she applying that knowledge or just taking it in? And what’s helping him stay on target? If they don’t take those answers with them when they head off to college, they won’t know what to do when it hits them in the face—and it will. All the academics in the world won’t help them if they mess-up their lives in some other way. An article in Forbes magazine by Dan Schawbel talks with leadership author Mark Murphy whose company’s
research tracked 20,000 new hires, 46% of them failed within 18 months. But even more surprising than the failure rate, was that when new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill. The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.”
Attitude? Yep. How will they respond to the trouble that comes at them in college and in their first jobs? They get the skills part—it’s the rest that will hurt them. And—depending on their Personality Trait Blends—they will respond differently to each set of problems. If they know how they are wired, they can combat the problems better and faster.
Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. Who is influencing them today?
Reflection: Will your student be a source of influence or will they be the one influenced? And what will that influence be? Good—or ill? College is a tough environment with a myriad of worldviews pulling on your student all the time—especially today. Incredibly today. The key is for your student to learn to lead him/herself so no matter who or what is influencing them, they can do the right thing. Not just morally, but intellectually, physically, financially, and a whole lot more. Knowing what the right thing to do is very important—knowing how to actually do it, is even more important. Accomplishing it—is most important.
Action: During their last year of high school, or right now if it’s past that, sit down with your student and ask some tough questions. Roll play. Deal with the issues before they become issues. Ask them what they think will be hard. Ask them for worse case scenarios. Ask them to plan a way of escape from those things. Find out what their limits really are. About sex, drugs, drinking, work-ethic, and all the things you think are important. You know what you’ve taught them, but what do they believe? Make a list and talk it over with your spouse or a friend and then discuss with your student. My bride and I worked hard raising five students/kids—a lot of love and discipline. Some of them still got hurt big time. And that was 5-15 years ago—things are even tougher now in college and life—and scary. When I was a younger man, I worked in YoungLife as a counselor. I also worked with the youth for years at church. I love working with students. And I hate to see the pain they suffer because they we’re not ready emotionally. Remember—the key here is not to be a helicopter parent (hovering and interfering) but to train them to make great decisions for themselves. Decisions that they have already bought into and want to make for their own good.
Also, get serious about your student’s success in life. Enroll them in our live online mentorship program—it will be the best leadership training they receive for their entire life.
For those of you that stayed with me the whole time, here is a bonus—I have put together some top things to discuss with your student. Add or subtract to this list and help your student to a greater success. The list is here.
Take the day by storm!
*Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/almost-everyones-doing-it#20qfIWv44i1Mhs30.99