Leaders Learn To Trust

Andy Braner does the Trust fall with KIVU Students
Andy Braner does the Trust fall with KIVU Students

Yep, that’s me.

Up on the platform, ready to fall in the arms of 13-14 year olds who promised to catch me.

The ending of the story resulted in everyone cheering, and my body slowly lowered to the ground without any trauma.

WHEW!!  I made it through that one.  

Leadership and Teamwork

One of my favorite activities at summer camp is the low challenge course exercises.  Each event has specific goals for a team of people with real-time flexibility as they present issues each student needs to address and real issues each student needs to work on.  Vulnerability, Honesty, Integrity, and Courage are all value systems all being worked through as these young students get a chance to see what it means to Lead, Follow, and Accomplish a Task with others.

The Faith Fall is one of the highlights of the course.

I have all the students line up shoulder to shoulder with their arms held out.
Then I have one student climb up to the platform with their heels on the end of the wooden plank.
They pull their arms up to their chest, and shout READY!

The students on the ground reply READY.
The Next command from the platform is FALLING.
And in response the students reply FALL ON!

And this is where the magic happens.

With all the fear in their eyes, each student slowly leans backwards in the welcoming arms of their friends.  With their backs flat, falling like a plank, each student meets a cushion of hands and is slowly lowered to the ground.  (I’ve done this thousands of times for those of you worried about safety.  I’ve worked through many industry standard exercises, and this one works the best.)

At the end of the exercise, after all the students have been given the chance to feel the fall, we sit and talk.

Leaders have to learn to Trust

In any leadership role, a leader has to learn how to trust those who are following.  They have a responsibility to provide, protect, and give encouragement; but in fact, many leaders forget they have to trust the people around them.

Micro-Management leadership works in dictatorial, top down organizations, but if you want to experience real synergy and rally the new generation of millennials; it is essential they feel like the leadership is a part of the team.  I’ve been associated with organizations who have strong leaders who operate from the top down, and the organizations have to figure out how to understand what the leaders mean, if they’ll approve of certain tasks, and often are people who do just enough to satisfy the job descriptions they’ve been given.

But when you have an organization that learns how to trust the people involved, excitement, energy, and creativity bubble to the surface.

I ask the students who do the faith fall, “Nobody wanted to see anyone fall and hit their head on the ground, right?” And almost every group I’ve worked with responds with a resounding “NO!”  When given the opportunity and with skin in the game, every human wants to support the person on the platform.

So if we have a task to accomplish, and someone is afraid or incapable of falling, what is our responsibility?

I wish you could be here to listen to millennial students respond.

We need to encourage
We need to support
We need to find ways to help them understand we will catch them
We need to show them we’re all in this together

They get it!

When we find ourselves in a place of leadership, we need to learn that the mission of the organization is paramount to all our best interest.  If we can move the ball down the field, metaphorically speaking, then we all win and have a good time enjoying our success.

One of the most important shots of energy happens when they ask me to fall.

As I teach them to trust, I feel an obligation to show them I can learn to trust them too.  So I found myself on the platform yesterday falling into the arms of the Jr. High Students who have become rising leaders.

People respond to the Synergy of Success

As we started the process yesterday, the group took the first two obstacles and failed.  They argued with each other.  They shouted over one another’s ideas.  Some even faded into the background, frustrated with they weren’t being heard.

But when they learned how to get through this trust exercise, and succeeded; each event afterwards was tackled with a new look on life.  They tasted success, and then they set the record for the next two exercises I gave them.

When asked, How did you guys get it together? they responded, We learned how to trust each other, and give ourselves over to finishing the events.  It was WAY more fun when we got together.

Leaders understand how to give organizations glimpses of success.  Unlike an organization whose leadership continues to beat down on goals, quantified results, and increases pressure to see people produce; an environment of success gives people the confidence they need to move forward.

Leadership isn’t always about winning every single goal.  It’s more about building a group of people who believe they can accomplish the big goal, and then setting them free to accomplish that goal.

At the beginning of the day, I was unsure that these Jr. High students had the capability of coming together to trust one another.  But by the end of the day, I saw people who were excited to win.  They were hungry to tackle even the hardest problems I could give them, because they believed in each other.

Leaders Value People 

One of my own favorite parts of this exercise is the ability to see people’s gifts play out.  I can mark the natural leaders in the group in about 2 minutes after they arrive.  And then I watch carefully to see who needs encouragement, who is sandbagging, and who needs to be incorporated in the group.

After each event we sit and process the way each person uses their gift to accomplish the task.

Yesterday, I saw one of the 14 year old boys who had a natural leadership gift, but the group wasn’t listening to his ideas.  After we sat and talked about how to accomplish a task, I looked the boy in the eye and told him I believe you have the gift of leadership, but you’re kind of negative when you talk to people.  He heard me, and in the next event he totally shifted his approach to talking to his teammates.

At the end of the day I asked them if they learned anything about themselves, and Brad said, I learned today, I can be a leader!

All it took was a simple comment from someone he respected, and now we’ve unleashed this leadership potential in a 14 year old boy.  It was AMAZING!!

Leaders see people and value them for what they’re gifted to do.  They don’t see people as machines to be used for more production.  Leaders have the ability to lift people from where they are to what they were meant to accomplish in this world.

This morning, I’m confident we’ve created an environment where students have learned how to value one another rather than see people as objects.

What a day!!

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