Mark Hernes runs the Fairmont TARGET Group at Fairmont High School in Fairmont, Minnesota. I spent six hours on August 29th with about 100 student/athletes of his leadership group. He has a program that covers ninth through twelfth grade. We spent a six-hour day in a hot church and had several amazing experiences.
I put together a leadership packet of about twenty handouts, and did several small group and large group exercises. I'm only going to discuss one of the exercises.
One of my favorite exercises is having a group line up by birth date without speaking. They need to figure out alternative ways of communicating and sometimes that can be a difficult task. No matter the size of the group, usually someone thinks they are on the right spot only to find out later they are not. With these young leaders, everyone was exactly where he or she needed to be. They got creative and communicated by writing their birth date down and using hand signals. However, no one pulled out his or her driver’s license. When I asked them about it, several replied, “I don’t have one.”
To which I smiled and replied, good reason then, huh? Rarely is it, especially in a group that large, does everyone gets to the right spot.
The next part of the problem is they need to multiply their birth date by their birth month. They are supposed to line up by smallest number to largest. Then I give them more directions on how to break a tie. The first tie breaker is they add up all of the numbers in their home telephone number, and the largest home phone number goes first and works its way to the smallest phone number. If there is still a tie, the second tiebreaker is their home address. The smallest home address goes first to the largest last. In a group this size, we had several ties. Two of the tiebreakers went to the second tiebreaker.
As soon as I started giving all of these directions to the entire group, inevitably people start panicking and looking for a calculator, or paper and pencil, even if they are not involved with a tie.
They scored 100% on that part too. I was impressed. This is the first time I have every done that exercise in a group that large when everyone got to the right spot. Oh yes, this time they are allowed to talk. What usually happens is they lose their focus; start talking about all kinds of things and make mistakes.
What stuck me about this exercise was watching several of the leaders take charge and direct people where they needed to be. That’s when I know the person running their program is teaching leadership skills. Mark Hernes is running a good program and I commend him for his efforts.
That exercise was representative of the whole day. Kudos to Mark, his staff and especially the student leadership in his TARGET program!