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Valuable leadership lessons from 14-year-old boys

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Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

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Have you ever wondered what a teenager could teach you?

Probably nothing, you might think. But I recently had the opportunity to coach a group of 14-year-old boys through their four-month basketball season. This is what I learned about leadership from them:

Angry? Get over it

Fourteen-year-old boys are prone to losing their temper when things don’t go their way. During our season, we had several incidents where, as a coach, I had to discipline some of these players for their verbal outbursts at referees or other players.

One thing I noticed is that these boys were able to get over their anger and get back into the game within minutes. How often as leaders are we mad at someone and let that anger ruin our whole day, weekend or month?

Putting the drama aside and getting back to business is something we could all do better at.

It hurts. So what, get back in the game

Teenage boys play hard and get hit hard. One of my players got an intentional elbow to the head. After a few minutes of ice treatment, he wanted to get back into the game, despite the pain.

As adults, we have a truckload of excuses as to why we can’t perform at our best. But sometimes, we just need to ignore the pain of our problems and challenges and get back in the game.

If it’s not for you, it’s okay to quit

One of the boys on the team realized after three months that he loved hockey more than basketball and gave notice that he couldn’t make the last few weeks.

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So often, as leaders, we stick with something long past the time we’re enjoying it.

While there’s a time for sacrifice, we need to recognize that it’s okay to make a change if we find we’ve taken a route that no longer fulfils us.

Have a plan for the unexpected

In one of our last games, we came up against a tough team, and as I stood on the sidelines watching this team beat us, I realized I didn’t have a plan for the unexpected.

At the end of the game and on the losing end of the scoreboard, I recognized that though I had the tools and the team had a variety of plays, I had underestimated the challenge and didn’t have a proper plan in place for the game.

The teenagers had looked at me for direction, and I feel I failed them because I hadn’t prepared properly. In the last two games of the season, I had a game plan and followed it with great success.

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As leaders, we’re flustered when something out of the ordinary happens and everyone looks at us for direction. Sometimes we choke because we hadn’t planned properly.

Having a game plan to follow can settle us down and improve our outcomes.

It’s just a game be positive

One of the lads on my team was just a beacon of positivity. He was happy to play no matter what the outcome. He was there to have fun and would make suggestions on what we might try to defeat our opponents.

How often, as leaders and adults, do we worry about winning so much that we forget that life is to be enjoyed and appreciated? If 14-year-old boys in the angst of puberty and adolescence can enjoy the moments of life despite the tensions, so should we.

We didn’t achieve our goals as a team to win the districts because a wrench was thrown into the works. However, if I look back to the goals the boys stated at the beginning of the season – to become better basketball players, to have fun and make friends – they were all winners.

Life isn’t all that complicated and sometimes teenagers are smarter than we give them credit for.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc. What have you learned in the past few months? I would love to hear. For interview requests, click here.


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