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Keller Williams Realty in the United States teaches their agents a cool idea called a 411 that can help children track their actions to achieve goals. What does this have to do with teaching leadership to kids, you may ask?

In my experience, most leadership positions that are formal organizationally sponsored positions require tracking of goal setting and attainment of employees and volunteers. In finding which applies most easily to children and teens, I looked for which was the least directive and allowed them to govern themselves.

Keller Williams aims to help their agents set goals and be successful with as little “management overhead” as possible. They don’t have time to be “a boss” because they are busy selling too, so they set up this site to help their people help themselves when it comes to goal setting, tracking and attaining.

We are introducing it to our teens to help them have minimal structure for getting stuff done. The Kellar Williams site is called http://www.productivitywarriors.com. It explains it and has some templates in MS Word. Check it out so you can visualize what I’m talking about. Also instead of corporate-speak “performance goals”, we are calling them “getting better goals” with the kids.

To make it feel less formal, we’re just drawing the 411 on a sheet of school notebook paper by hand. Function over form for these initial efforts is okay in my book. The top “1” is annual goals, the next “1” is the month goals that are needed to achieve the annual goals, and the “4” is the four weeks actions needed to achieve the month goals. All visible with a single sheet of paper.

This alignment of tactical efforts to strategic aims is a crucial piece for leading and fully aligning organizations. For kids, no jargon is necessary. We just say, the annual goals need stuff to be done to meet them, so the monthly goals provide twelve iterations to get it done. Then the weekly goals help us do our weekly accountability session.

Again, Keller Williams has a very cool accountability session script. I like it because it helps focus on self governance, teaching the kids how to stay after their own goals without it sounding like some parental talking to (in a bad way). This business uses this for their adult agents, so why not use it for kids to help them realize they are the captains of their own ships? The accountability session script goes like this:

  1. “Do you have your 411 with you?” (prerequisite for continuing)
  2. “How did you do on your goals?”
  3. “How do you feel about how you did?”
  4. “What will you do differently during the next period of time?”
  5. “What can I do to help you?”

This is the most gentle goals session script I have come across in all my life’s travels that is still effective at helping both the coach and the goal planner (kid) remember who’s accountability this really is.

For those of you that prefer computer stuff, check out Trello.com for a neat and free method of tracking to do actions from Joel Spolsky. I like Trello a lot.

After we walk them through the 411 and help them establish goals, we’ll check back in with them to see how they are doing since early teens sometimes have a hard time with anything beyond today or this week.

Eventually we’ll teach the teens the ideas in “Getting Things Done” or GTD by David Allen, combined with Kanban concepts for following Lean principles of visual management. Teams of people using Kanban tools (a whiteboard with sticky notes moving across columns) helps avoid micromanagement. But for now, the 411 is sufficient for their needs.

Do your own 411 to show them you’re doing it too. Or make some fake entries, but teens tend to spot falseness very easily. Set follow ups with them on your own 411 form.

I tried mini-Kanban boards from Office Depot with the children a few months back, but realized I had not taught them the basics first after I observed that they put a bunch of sticky notes on their board and promptly forgot them after the excitement of the first night wore off.

So I am starting with Goal setting, tracking, and attaining first. Then I’ll move to breaking a project down into its component tasks and putting those tasks on sticky notes on the Kanban board to keep progress visual.

This article on goal tracking is a follow up to a previous article on goal setting.

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KW Lanham


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