Someone recently posted the article on social media, “Dear Kids: If I Die, Please Don’t Be a Sh**head.” As a parent and grandfather, it caught my attention due to the bluntness. But I also thought about it as a leader and manager. The following quote was particularly important to me:

DO pass the ball. PASS THE DAMN BALL!  And I don’t mean to your best friend or the star player on the team, I mean pass it to that kid that will probably miss it. The one who might fumble. Throw it to him/her and if they miss it, no big deal, this isn’t the NFL or the NBA.  They just want a chance. Everyone wants to be a part of the team.

That point resonated with me on several levels. As a grandfather of two kids I adore, I think about their futures. We live in what seems to be a harsh world that seems a lot harder than when I was growing up.

For example, although there have always been bullies when I was growing up, a bully embarrassed a kid in class or at school. Today, it seems bullies can destroy other children by bullying on social media. It’s cowardice, mean-spirited and I know children aren’t born bullies. They learn it.

As I’ve mentioned in my books and writing, despite the fact that I had friends growing up, I did arrive at a point where I was an awkward kid full of self-doubt. I wanted to belong and felt that somehow I just wasn’t fitting in at the time––despite the people all around me.

We have to be more compassionate. We have to teach our kids to make it a point to throw the ball to the boy or girl who may fumble it. We have to include each other.

The mess that we seem to be in today with vile hatred, which seems to be more pronounced because we live in the digital age, begins and ends with each of us. It means that if we have children in our lives, we each have a responsibility (not just parents and teachers) of educating kids to have compassion and kindness toward one another. That means actively reaching out and including the shy kid or the classmate who seems like a misfit.

The other reason that particular piece of advice resonated with me is that as a business owner, I’m very much about “team.” If you work with me or know me, I rarely use the word “staff.” I don’t like it. It’s too hierarchical. To me, it’s a word that drives a wedge between management and the rest. I use “team.”

It’s not only kids who have to be reminded to pass the ball. It’s also adults.

How many times have you sat in a meeting or seen someone on your team fade into the background because no one wants to let the “misfit” or “square peg” take on more responsibility?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen it a lot. Managers and team members create little groups of the popular ones and the not-so-popular individuals. Then you have a situation where someone who could be very talented is not achieving his or her full potential because they’re never given a chance.

Want to know what a good leader does?

He or she sees the one person on their team who no one passes the ball to and gives them a special project. It doesn’t have to be a major project. It just has to be something that will give this person confidence and acceptance.

As a manager I know giving the ball to the team member who people assume would fail or not deliver is also an opportunity. It’s a chance to see what this person can do. I’ve seen it time and time again. I’ve given countless opportunities to the individual who was once the kid no one ever gave the ball to in a school game, and it’s turned out that the team member has been the most reliable and creative worker. People just have to be given a chance.

As the writer of the article said in her post, “Everyone wants to be part of the team.” Remember that with the children and youth in your life. And, also remember it every day when you go to work with your team members.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)


© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.