Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Daughter, the Junior Philanthropist

Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Daughter, the Junior Philanthropist

It’s a lot of fun to watch children grow up as a parent, especially when they start to come into their own as a person. I have two kids and both are pretty amazing in their own ways. My 9-year old son loves sports and works hard at each of them and is very naturally gifted in the athletic arena.

My daughter continues to amaze me with both her thoughtfulness and unselfishness and her willingness to sacrifice for others. I wish I could tell you I taught her that, or it was an intentional outcome of great parenting. However, she has exhibited this characteristic since she was very young.

I remember her making cards for her friends that were sick when she was in Kindergarten and first grade. She made a sympathy card for one of her teachers when she was in the 4th grade that showed an enormous amount of compassion and empathy.

What’s impressed me most, though, is her willingness to raise money for a specific group of kids in Haiti. My wife has visited an orphanage in Haiti over the last few years – Hands Across The Sea. It is an integral part of her year, and my daughter has involved herself in a number of ways, even though she hasn’t been able to go (yet).

Molly decided a couple of years ago that she wanted to help one of the students pay for school. The amount she needed to raise? Two hundred seventy five dollars. That’s a decent amount for anyone to fund-raise, but for a 9-year old? I didn’t want to discourage her, but I had my doubts. Yet I also knew my daughter and, once she decides to do something, she’s almost impossible to stop.

After a year of lemonade stands, selling rainbow loom bracelets, collecting change, dog-walking and more, she did it. She saved up for a whole year and not once did I see her get down or discouraged. She accomplished her goal chunk by chunk, bit by bit.

You should have seen her face when we counted the money and she was only $10 shy of reaching her goal. She was overjoyed! And, being the good dad that I am ;), I committed the final $10 to the cause.

Just this weekend, she made cake pops for her teachers for Valentine’s Day. She had help from a couple of friends, but she did the majority of the work herself. (And they’re a lot of work!) They were pretty amazing too! (Just ask our neighbor who recently ate 9 in one sitting.)

And she’s back at it for the kids in Haiti. Last night, she went to Hobby Lobby with my wife and used $25 of her own money to buy them art supplies, toys, and fun crafts to do. She loves it. And she can’t wait until the day that she can go with my wife to meet these kids in person. And they will love her!

To say I’m proud of my daughter is an understatement. But it’s not about what she does or is doing.

It’s about Who. She. Is.

She’s making a difference one life at a time. And here’s what I’ve learned and continue to learn from my baby girl.

Do What’s On Your Heart

Whether it’s big or small, act on your intuition. Help when you can and where you can. Don’t worry about the what or when or why. As you seek to do what’s on your heart, doors will open and you might be pretty amazed at the result.

Give What You Can, When You Can

Again, it doesn’t have to be a huge sum of money. It might just be a little bit of your time or a smile that can make a difference in someone’s day. Write a note to or text a friend and let them know you’re thinking about them. Send a card with a handwritten note. Or cake pops. You could make some cake pops. 🙂

Think Outside of Yourself

This is so hard sometimes. The older I get, the harder it seems. When you have work, sports, music lessons, and more, life can get in the way. It’s easy to get lost in the busy-ness of life. But it’s important to remember and to think about how we can love and serve others. For Molly, it’s easy because that’s just who she is. For you and me, it might take a little more effort.

Persistence is Key

Chunk by chunk. Bit by bit. Stay on that goal until you achieve it. Does it matter if you don’t get it done by the time YOU want it accomplished? Don’t give up – keep after it – even if it takes much longer than expected. Think about how incredible it will be when you’ve achieved it.

Invite Others to Share in the Journey

My daughter is a very social creature. She loves being around friends and including them in her projects. What a great lesson to learn. Isn’t life more fun when we share the journey with others? Oftentimes, we start to wonder what people will think if we tell them about an idea or something we want to do. Ask other people to be involved – let them decide whether they want to or not (and don’t get discouraged if they say, “no”.)

Those are just a few of the lessons I learn from this crazy cool kid. I love watching her grow up and can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do with her in the future. Whatever it is, though, I know one thing. She will embody all the things I’ve listed above and more. Because that’s who she was created to be.

One more thing. Her birthday is coming up next month. Guess what she wants to do for her “party”? Go take some friends to feed the homeless at a local shelter. Yup. She’s THAT kid. And I love it.

What leadership lessons have you learned from your kids? What is one way you can implement the lessons above? Let me know in the comments below. 

How to Use Team Building Activities in the Classroom

How to Use Team Building Activities in the Classroom

This week’s post is dedicated to teachers everywhere. You are a hard-working bunch, and I admire what you do and the dedication you bring day in and day out. I have a lot of gratitude and respect for educators. I consider myself an educator; although, not in the traditional sense.

Here are some suggestions on how to use different kinds of team building exercises in the classroom. I’ll also include some specific names and ideas of activities you can use, as well as some links where you can go to find more detailed instructions.

Most team building activities are designed to be done in smaller groups (10-12), but there are always ways to modify them. I would encourage if at all possible to do these outside. Allow your students a chance to take a break from the classroom and enjoy a change of scenery.

Set Your Goals

Before doing any kind of team building activity, I always recommend setting goals. This will help you be very focused and intentional about the activity and its purpose. Questions to ask when settings goals for these exercises should include:

  • What is the purpose of this activity?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What do you want the end result to be?
  • How will your team (or class) be different when they’re done?

It’s important to be intentional about these activities from the beginning. Although you can do activities just for fun, I find that the more purposeful you are, the better the activity will go, the more the students will get out of it, and the more effective they will be in the long run. It does take a bit more time on the front and back end (because you also want to make sure you debrief the activities, including icebreaker activities [link]).


Icebreakers are great activities to use for your classroom. There are all kinds of icebreaker exercises that you can use. They are good for having your students get to know each other (and you) better. They are fun and high energy, so be aware that they might get your students engaged but some will also be loud and spirited.

Depending on your goals, there are different categories of icebreakers that you can use. There are problem-solving icebreakers, get to know you games, and more. Check out a few problem-solving activities here. [link]

Icebreaker Ideas
Group Juggle 

Groups of students form circles of 12-15 each and attempt to toss a number of objects around the circle without dropping them.  There are a few helpful suggestions:

  • Say the name of the person you are tossing to before tossing
  • Toss across the circle (don’t just hand it to someone next to you)
  • Underhand tosses only
  • Everyone gets it once, except the person who started.  The game starts and ends with him/her.

Name Samurai

Using a foam sword, students sit in a circle with legs extended. The “samurai” stands in the middle trying to tag the people speaking. Someone in the circle starts by saying their name and then “to [another person’s name], so it would sound like, “Jeff to Amy”, “Amy to Molly”, “Molly to Braden”, etc. The player who gets tagged while speaking then becomes the Samurai. Great activity for learning names!

Man – Gun – Bear

Think the full-body version of rock-paper-scissors. Divide the group into pairs (perfect for a large group). The pairs start back to back and after the facilitator counts to 3, they jump around assuming one of the 3 characters (man, gun or bear). Karate man beats the gun-slinger, gun-slinger beats the bear, and the bear beats the karate man, and if you tie, both die! Play until there’s one winner.

Team Initiatives

Team initiatives are great for getting groups of students working together to achieve a common goal. You can focus on leadership, communication, problem solving, and more. These challenges can vary from short 10-15 minutes problems or longer (30-45 minutes or more) exercises that require some planning.

Marshmallows & Knives

Using the large marshmallows and knives (like you would find in your school cafeteria), teams must figure out a way to keep the knives off the table using only the materials given (just those 2 items). This is another great problem-solving and brainstorming challenge!

Tallest Tower

Using strands of dry spaghetti, small marshmallow, and a roll of tape, teams must create the tallest free-standing tower possible in 10 minutes. For an extra challenge, give all the teams less time. {You can also do this with a roll of aluminum foil and see how high they can go).

Hula Hoop Hut Relay

Teams use 6 hula hoops to create a “hut” and then all team members must pass through the hoops without letting the hut fall down. Want to make it more challenging? Require each team member to start through a different opening or have the team member passing through be blindfolded!

team building exercises for students


(photo courtesty of Flickr, Create-Learning, no changes made)

Helium stick

Teams figure out how to lower a lightweight dowel rod with just their forefingers. The crazy thing is – it wants to go up instead of down! Great for communication and leadership!

Icebreaker and Team Building Resources

Teampedia is a collection of team building activities and icebreaker ideas.  It’s a great collection that is searchable by activity name and category.  You can also add team building activities here if you know one that’s not in the database.


Playmeo is also a collection of team building activities, icebreakers, group games, and more.  The difference is that many of the activities also have a video to accompany them, and they also offer a monthly or yearly subscription that allows you to access ALL of their activities, videos, and awesomeness!

www.playmeo.com (affiliate link)


What team building activity will you use with your students?  What other team building activities have you used?  Let me know in the comments below. 

How to Become a Team Building Jedi Master, Saga II

How to Become a Team Building Jedi Master, Saga II

Welcome back to Team Building Tuesday, young master!  Last week you learned some of what it takes to become a team building Jedi master.  We will continue your training today – are you ready?  You must not lose focus.  You must continue to press on and complete your training.  Don’t turn back now!  Let’s begin. (more…)

15 Ways Leaders Say, “I Trust You” Without Using Words

15 Ways Leaders Say, “I Trust You” Without Using Words

There are many ways that leaders say, “I trust you”; however, the most effective are often said without using words. You can tell in their voice, the way they manage, and the way that they don’t hover over you like a news helicopter waiting for a story to break.

1. Delegate

One way to develop team member’s trust is to delegate more tasks to them. This doesn’t mean that you dump everything onto one or two employees or delegate your most important tasks to them; however, as you see individuals working hard and doing well, increase their level of responsibility. Give them increasingly harder tasks and assignments when they show the capability.

2. Promotion!

This is a great way to motivate employees and to really let them know you trust them. Obviously, you would not reward a promotion to an employee who was not trustworthy. Even if it’s a small promotion, this is a huge encouragement for just about anyone.

3. Give a raise or bonus

Raises don’t have to be big to make a huge impact. In this economy, every little bit helps. What if you can’t afford to give a team member a raise? What about getting creative with benefits? Give employees their birthday off, offer a gym membership (maybe work something out with a local gym), or give days off for volunteer work. There are countless creative solutions that can motivate and earn your team’s trust.

4. Get to know your team

Often times, leaders stand at a distance from their team. There is an appropriate distance to maintain, but too often, this distance is too much. Letting your guard down every once in a while and sharing something personal with your team shows them you not only trust them on a professional level, but also trust them on a more personal level. This is especially true for working with the Millennial and younger generations. They want to know you care as much as they want to know your expertise in a certain area.

5. Communicate openly

If there is a problem in your group or at work, communicate as much as you can. Not communicating can actually encourage rumors to fly and begins an atmosphere of mistrust. Not sharing anything can really harm a team. People are naturally curious and sweeping issues under the rug help no one.

Share as much as you can without betraying confidences and without causing unnecessary fear or worry. There is a fine line here, but I feel that it is better to share as much as you can.

6. Recognize excellence

There are all kinds of ways to recognize employees without spending a fortune (this might even be an idea for a future post). A plaque, a certificate, or just a simple thank you card lets employees know that you appreciate them and helps to build trust in your team. How? They know you are watching them and appreciate hard work and effort.

7. Nothing says “I trust you” like telecommuting!

With the availability of the Internet, virtual machines, and cloud storage, the virtual office is on the rise. More and more companies are allowing their employees to work from their home or another location. This is a huge trust issue and can also save a company overhead. For jobs that don’t require a lot of face time, this could be a legitimate solution for people who have family responsibilities, want to work part-time, or use it as a reward for those that have earned your trust and continue to produce results.

8. Send employees to a conference

Here’s another way to let specific people know that you trust them and believe in them. Send them to a conference. What’s better? Let them pick a conference themselves. Final approval is up to you, but what if it’s a conference on personal growth, spirituality, or something that doesn’t pertain to business? If it’s something that they want to do and the budget allows, why not? A happy employee is a productive employee, and what better way to let them know you trust them than to allow them space to develop personally as well as professionally. Don’t have the budget to send them? Allow them time off with pay to go anyway.

9. Provide ample space and time to work

No, I’m not talking about Fringe or the space-time continuum (might make for another interesting post, though). Wherever there are bosses, there are those who have a tendency to hover. I’ve been on the receiving end of that and it’s no fun. If you’ve hired someone, give them room to work (and breathe). No one likes a boss who micromanages them. As a former boss of mine used to say, “There are a million ways to wash the dishes.” Meaning, she did not care how we got our job done as long as we got it done. You might have a member of your team who does not do a project in the way or the time that you would. So what? Now, there’s a problem if things don’t get done at all. I realize that. But if they are working and the end product works, then does it really matter how?

10. Ask opinions

I believe that this is probably one of the under-utilized tools of leadership. Ask other’s opinions – especially those that work for you. People astound me at how creative they are, but no one ever notices. Why? Because hardly any one asks them for their opinion. Lead a brainstorming session with your team. Better yet, visit with your workers one by one. See their eyes sparkle. See their chest puff out. If that doesn’t say, “I trust you,” I don’t know what will.

11. Listen to suggestions

This suggestion (see what I did there) goes hand-in-hand with #10 above. Just asking someone’s opinion doesn’t mean a thing if you’re not engaged in really listening and trying to understand who you’re talking to. What’s behind their suggestion? What motivates them to work and be part of the team (the answers might surprise you)?

Research shows that money and position aren’t necessarily the things that motivate workers. They want to feel like they’re making a difference and that the work matters beyond the immediate payoff. They want to contribute and be a part of something that is bigger than them. As you listen, you will begin to discover just what motivates your team and how you can continue to build trust.

12. Serve employees

Serving employees builds trust? Just as respect has to be earned, so does trust. Leaders model what they want from their team. As the leader goes, so goes the team. Servant leadership is a trait that is lacking from the business world today.

Many leaders expect their subordinates to serve them, but what about doing things that serve your team? Serving others requires a certain amount of vulnerability which translates into trust. Your people will trust you more and shows that you trust them to model their leadership after you.

13. Team Building Outing

One of the greatest ways to build trust among teams is to organize a team building event. I would suggest at least a day or two for your event. Half-day events are fine for motivation, but if you really want to establish trust with your team, you need more time.

Although team building events take time and money, with the right event, you can dive into team issues, build trust, improve communication, and solidify your team structure using a variety of activities and exercises.

14. Empower others to lead

You don’t have to give a raise or promotion to start letting others lead. What does this look like on a day-to-day basis? As team members grow and develop, you will notice some that just “get it”. They are loyal to you and they understand the vision of the organization and their role in it. You sense a desire from them to do more and be more.

Little by little, groom them to lead.

Start with small things: have them lead a portion of the team meeting, have them help create a presentation you are working on, let them co-lead a workshop with you. Some of these things might take more time and effort than just doing them yourself, but the dividends will pay off in the end.

15. Encourage time with family or personal time

For those who have families, the work-life balance can be difficult to maintain. Kids sports and activities, school functions, sickness, and just spending time with spouses can be stressful when combined with demands of the job. Encourage your team to spend time with their families and help them think of ways to create space for that.

Will you have people take advantage of this? Maybe, but you can spot that pretty quickly and deal with it. I would venture that the rest of your team will work better and have better attitudes and be more productive without the worry of family on their minds.

What about your single employees? Don’t assume that they will “pick up the slack” from your employees with families. That’s not fair to them. Encourage hobbies, personal time, and time with friends as much as possible.

Feedback: What about you? What are ways you let employees know “I trust you” without using those specific words?