“High Risk Kids”…what CEOs can learn from them!


The headline is not a misprint there is a ton a CEO can learn from a high risk child. This year I was asked to speak to a group of at risk high school students who have repeatedly been in and out trouble, and this program is the last opportunity to clean up or head to jail. While it was somewhat of an intimidating experience for me to speak to a group who quite frankly didn’t want to be there…let alone listen to some “chump” they do even know. The very moment when I spoke the first word I had this out of body experience where I could see myself sitting among them…it was weird. You see my childhood wasn’t too far different than theirs, although I was blessed with having a mother who was relentless in making sure I didn’t go left…when the correct direction was right. Nonetheless, I was far from a perfect child my Mom can verify that and then some.

The interaction with the group was surreal because as I peered out at each of them at the same time speaking with them all I saw was…. spiritless. I actually broke down in the car after it was over which surprised me, I just became overcome. At the beginning of “the talk” I tried with little futility to gather audience participation thinking I’m in a “corporate environment” (it was dumb thinking), and they pretty much just looked at me as if they wanted to attack me, it was that kind of stare. When I failed at the attempt to get them to open up I opened up and BOY did the flood gates open. While I wasn’t able to get most to communicate the feedback I received was valuable to me personally. You see I was there to help them but interestingly enough in an ironic way they helped me. “PERSPECTIVE” is such as strong and under-utilized word that has some many meanings, most of which we simply ignore. The life and backgrounds of these kids I learned from the program’s organizer almost brings me to tears even at this present moment as I type on this keyboard. I’m a grown man and I haven’t had the life of some of these kids and for me to say to a child “GET IT TOGETHER, SHAPE UP”!!!….misses the target totally. I was doing the best I can in a short period of time to have some impact and at the same time…just LISTEN.

In wiping the tears from my eyes on the way home, I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy the experience nor should I have…that wasn’t the objective. The value I received and hopefully provided addressed whatever satisfaction was supposed to be gained. I learned from the group that sometimes being a better listener is far more important than being a better “lecturer”. Just stopping and listening with sincerity, honesty, and humility goes a long way I found out…something I really hadn’t taken seriously in my personal life.  I’ve been asked to participate with the program again which I humbly accepted, and will follow through on with even better listening skills.

This was just a short blog to provide my experiences on how this group of so-called “High-Risk Teenagers” pulled a quick one on me…..by helping me to be a BETTER person and even better LISTENER.

One of them hugged me when it was over……………


“High Risk Kids”…what CEOs can learn from them!


Thank you!!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting





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