Mistakes I’ve Made #9

15 July 2011 — 1 Comment

Everyone makes mistakes, and when it comes to my youth work I’ve made some clangers! Hopefully by reproducing them here, it may give you a bit of a laugh and help you to avoid doing the same thing.

Photo: 'EXECUTED BY MISTAKE' by the_moog on Flickr

Mistake #9: Not backing up my team

This is something that’s happened quite recently and has been a bit of a painful learning experience…

You may know the situation; you’re having a meeting with a number of volunteers who give up their own time to run various activities. There’s a mix of people there who have different skills and understandings of the work and you’re all talking about how it could be developed for the future. And then someone, in their enthusiasm to improve the club, says something quite critical of how it is currently run.

Everything goes a bit quiet. A few people hold their breath. Those who’ve invested a lot of time and care into the club tense their shoulders and bite their lips. It’s obvious someone needs to address this. Someone should explain how hard it’s been. Someone should point out how well the team have done in the circumstances. Someone should praise their commitment and faithfulness. Who should it be? The team leader should do it! Who’s the team leader? Oh wait… that’s me.

In this particular situation, I failed utterly. I didn’t defend the team. I didn’t even gently back them up. I let the comment go and the conversation lumbered on, my silence reaffirming everything the critique had implied. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand – I could see what was happening. It’s just I knew the person who made the comment didn’t mean it as a personal attack so I didn’t want to exacerbate the situation. Unfortunately that’s exactly what I did.

Much later the individuals whose club was criticised came to see me and unpacked just how hurtful my inaction had been. They explained blow by blow how unvalued, unsupported, and worthless I had made them feel in that meeting because I didn’t defend them. That was a tough day.

So what about you?

Have YOU ever let your team down? Have there been moments where you should have lept in, but failed to do so? Share with us in the comments!


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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

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  1. Jon Jolly (@bobweasel) - 15 July 2011

    Mistakes I’ve Made #9 http://bit.ly/nrKlh1

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