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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Three Rules to Live By if You Are Developing Students

Each week, I blog to teachers, youth workers, coaches, parents and employers who work with young people. In fact, my tagline for the blog is: Leading the Next Generation. Today, I’d like to unveil three rules every leader of young people ought to know about human nature, particularly young humans. If you train students or young adults, never forget the following life rules:

1. People don’t do well when things in life come easy.

It’s true for all of us—but certainly for kids. If students grow up and everything has been handed to them on a silver platter; they’ve never had to work for any of it, in fact, the “poop never stuck to their shoes” (meaning they never had consequences for the wrong things they did), they likely will not fare well in life as an adult. We must teach appropriate consequences to students, for all of their actions.

2. People almost always do better when they are watched.

My friend told me how he runs daily around the track at the local high school in town. One day, a bunch of beautiful young ladies stood beside the track chatting. He told me he made sure his form was perfect and he looked good when he ran by them. Why? Just in case they were watching. The bottom line? We all perform better under surveillance. We need accountability. We do better when we’re watched.

3. People don’t perform well without encouragement and example.

Most of us forget a universal principle in life. Encouragement is not a luxury. It is essential for people to move forward. Additionally, seeing an example is often a necessity, since people generally do what they “see” not what they “hear.” Last year 61% of American workers said they received no encouragement on their job and saw no positive examples. Ugh. As you attempt to train young people, be intentional about the encouragement you offer and the example you set for those students.

So, whoever you’re students are, whether they’re…

  • An Athlete or a Mathlete
  • A Musician or a Thespian
  • A Jock or a Geek
  • Fuzzy or Focused about the future

I suggest you follow these three rules if you want to prepare them for the future. Are there any other “rules” you’ve found are universal?



  1. Jacksons on July 1, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Well said.

  2. Lennon Scott Noland on July 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    One practice I have in leading students is to continually express that I care for them beyond what they do for my organization.  Vocalizing affection may not be as common in the workplace, but in leading in college ministry I have found it 1. Draws great commitment from them and 2. Makes them respond incredibly well when we disagree on a matter or in those circumstances where some sort of moral failure requires removal from leadership and (ideally) eventual restoration.

  3. Ray Weston on July 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    In regards to encouragement, be careful that it is specific, meaningful and truly deserved.

  4. brianlmerritt on July 4, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Thanks Tim – great post.

    May I humbly add “4. People perform better when they have a goal or objective which they buy into”

    Youngsters (and adults) need goals, even if it isn’t always “create an Internet startup and get rich”

    I’m creating a site where young people can create entire timelines of predictions and goals, mapping out their/our future.

    For those less concerned with the future, I have also included a fantasy and historical element, so many different types of activity are supported.

    If you are interested, my contact details are my handle above and just add 

    Either way, I hope you agree goal setting is a key part of interacting with and motivating students, even if individual objectives will differ.

    Happy 4th of July!!

    • Tim Elmore on July 7, 2011 at 8:30 am

      Thanks for adding that! Goals help us start with the end in mind and a clear vision of where we’re heading. Your new website sounds like a great way to help people set and reach goals. Hope you had a great 4th of July, too!

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Three Rules to Live By if You Are Developing Students