Speaking hesitantly, I said, “Let’s go outside and play croquet!”

I have no friends that would ever say to me that that statement was a great idea.

Well, luckily I wasn’t with my friends but I was working at my first job out of college – a group home in California. There were 6, what society would call “at-risk” teenagers that I cared for in the home and it was a Saturday with nothing to do. Now picture 6 teenagers, half of them gang bangers, one a street thug, and two ‘I wanna do things my way so I’m gonna do bad stuff just to be bad’, standing in the living room looking at me sideways.

They’re from a different culture than the world of croquet and so was I. But I wasn’t about to be sitting around the house all day. Idleness is always the entrance to trouble making.

In those days I had a passionate empathy for working with “at-risk” young people. The only challenge is that there will always be a constant shifting of different personalities under one roof. There was only one goal for these teenagers – get out of this group home. And I wanted to help them learn some personal development ideas on their way through our system.

“We don’t know how to play no croquet! That’s a white boy’s sport!” they grumbled, showing their uneasiness with the boredom of the day.

“I don’t know how to play either, but we can learn. I got the rules right here.” scanning their eyes searching for the hope of someone biting on my offer, I pulled out the white paper from the game’s box and held it up.

What happened next was a miracle! We all sat down indian-style in the living room, and while I read the rules they, with a sense of excitement, got the pieces together that we would need. And if you were to drive by our home on that Saturday you would have seen so called “misfits and gangbangers” in our front yard playing a “sport” that they never thought they would ever play. Or want to. And having FUN! That was a GREAT day!

How did I get through what I call “the challenge of leading my team”? Two Things.

1) In the depths of my heart, I truly wanted to be there. You have to want to be attached to the team you’re with.

2) I purposefully, through different stages of conversation began to understand how they saw life, through their eyes. I spent time asking them about them and even going as far as asking them for advice just to see how they think. I didn’t spend my time telling them how I think they should think.

Because of those two things, we played croquet(my first time too). We even began setting the dinner table for each other! And I was able to share with them some great tools for life. Those were fun years and exciting experiences!

“Like it or not, position doesn’t make a person a leader. Title may give someone authority, but not influence. Influence comes from the person; it must be earned.” – John Maxwell

What other leading challenges can you share about? How did you get through them?          Click comment link below to leave a response


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