Girl Scouts vs. Mean Girls: Who Will Win?

Posted In: Confidence and Control
Posted On: 8/4/2014

Saturday I had the great pleasure of speaking to about 100 Girl Scouts, troop leaders and parents followed by a workshop with 14 girls from 7th to 9th grade.  To the large group, I spoke about how each girl could do whatever she wanted in her life, if she knew this secret: that building a successful life starts with personal confidence.  I told them confidence builds character and gives them the courage to stand up to the challenges that would surely come their way in life. Of course, I shared my background to give some credibility to the fact that I know you can overcome your circumstances.  And then I shared my four tips to building confidence:

1)   Set goals. Achievable goals to start, like working out three times a week, getting an A on a test, joining the track team.  Accomplishing goals gives you confidence.

2)   Leverage your strengths.  Focus on what you do best.  Don’t strive to be perfect by comparing yourself to the best attributes of every other girl.

3)   Learn from your mistakes.  I shared a few headlines from this CNN article that highlighted how boys shrugged off mistakes and used them to build their confidence. Conversely, girls would take mistakes so personally it would actually shake their confidence.

4)   Help other girls.  Don’t go it alone!  Don’t just be focused on your own path, but help others on their way.

I was prepared for the short speech to the big group, but leading a workshop came as a total surprise.  There was a little bit of miscommunication as I thought I was going to be a participant, not the leader!  But I jumped in with a few concepts from my book on how you create your serendipity and develop your personal brand.  Those were both received with a resounding “thud.” Or more accurate, an awkward silence.  So I did what any self-respecting executive who does not have a teenage girl would do:  I pulled out my app for Ellen Degeneres’ game called Heads Up.  After four rounds of that fun, the girls were energized and ready to dig into a little project. (For the record, Team One beat Team A). The troop leader suggested I would get better participation if we did smaller groups. (Thank you, Sheryl.)  So they counted off, and we got into four mini-groups.  This was brilliant as the girls were now animated and engaged!  We tackled three different leadership topics and the girls’ answers were articulate, caring and insightful.  But there was a huge surprise for me behind the scenes at this workshop.  I got into a discussion with three of the girls asking them the biggest issue they faced at school.  Their answer: mean girls.  One girl said she only hung out with boys because they were easier to be with and less judgmental.  Another said that she tried to associate with several groups so as to not be singled out. And when I brought it up to the whole group—have you experienced mean girls?—they all nodded their heads knowingly. So, privately I asked the troop leaders how big a problem mean girls are. Their answer was that it was prevalent and hardest for the girls in middle school.  Coincidentally, that is also when a large percentage of girls drop out of Girl Scouts.  They went on to tell me that many of the girls in the room would not want anyone to know they are in Girl Scouts.  That would be another source of ridicule from the mean girls. How can that be?  How can these wonderful girls be afraid to let anyone know that they are in the Girl Scouts?  When I asked for their answers to my last question: “what have you learned in Girl Scouts that you will take into your life?” these were just some of the words: Leadership, entrepreneurship, communication, tenacity, survival skills, marketing, project management, social skills, teamwork. Girl Scouts.  This is not about selling cookies, this is about equipping great girls to take on mean girls.  And life. Girl Scouts versus Mean Girls?  My money is on the Girl Scouts.  Two boxes of Thin Mints, please!