Monthly Archives: June 2011

Difficult Opportunities or Successful leadership

How many times do we see our Scout try to take the “easy way out”?  It is a natural thing to seek the path of least resistance.  Pop Tarts rather than cooking a breakfast, pre fab meals rather than doing the prep work, planning shorter hikes rather than get to the beauty of a hike deeper into the wilderness.  Those and many other decisions are made all the time by our PLC’s and Scouts in general.
“Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.” – Reed Markham
We also see this played out in the decisions for Scouts to do the right thing and call out their buddies when they are not doing the right thing.
In a youth led troop it is the SPL and Patrol leaders that should be monitoring and adjusting attitudes and policing themselves.  Now I am not suggesting that Scouts discipline one another, but leaders setting a good example and holding their patrol mates to the same standard is good leadership.  There need not be punishments, but using good old-fashioned peer pressure to change behavior may be what the doctor ordered.
But it all starts with the decision to make the difficult choice of confronting the Scout that is misbehaving. 
As adult Scout leaders, we need to seek those opportunities and turn them into learning opportunities.  Scouts that are disruptive or acting contrary to the Oath and Law need to be made aware of their behavior and that it is not acceptable in our organization.  I have seen many Scout leaders turn the other way because they fear the Scout will leave the unit, tell his parents, or face the fall out from “above” when discipline is measured out.  I would not suggest that a Scout ever be physically disciplined and two deep leadership should alway be exercised when dealing with a youth that has gone out of control.  But the choice must be made by both youth and adult leaders to do something about what ever needs to be fixed.
As this applies to no discipline areas of Scouting… encouraging our Scouts to seek opportunities that challenge them and take them out of their comfort zones will lead to successful leadership and enthusiastic scouts.
Theodore Roosevelt said “ I dream of men who take the next step instead of worrying about the next thousand steps.”
That is a perfect way for your PLC to break the fear of decision-making.
Try it.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Leadership, Values | Leave a comment

The Life of a Serendipitist

I think it is important to have “Hero’s” in life.  People that we look up to or try to learn from chapters of their lives.  William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt is one of my hero’s.  His love for the Scouting program drove him and in the end elevated him to a father of Scouting in one sense or another.  Scouting in America would not be what it is without Green Bar Bill.  I wish I could have met him.
William Hillcourt wrote the following essay on his life.  I want to share it with you, because I think that in the end we will all find that there is a hidden treasure out there with our name on it.

The Life of a Serendipitist
By William Hillcourt

Did you ever hear the story of the King of Serendip? He had three sons. He was proud of them and saw to it that they had the very best upbringing. He brought in the finest swordsmen and athletes of his kingdom to coach them in all the fitness skills of a true knight. He had the wisest men of the country teach them about the world and its wonders. He himself taught them kingship: how to rule with compassion and fairness.

He loved his three sons equally well. But as he grew old, he wondered which of them would make the best king when his own days were up. He decided to put them to the test: He sent them out into the world with one year to find a very special treasure. When the year was up, they returned.

All three had failed! Not one of them had found the treasure he had been sent out to find. BUT-each of them had found a treasure far more precious than any their father could have imagined!

Out of this story of the King of Serendip have come two words for the English language: serendipity, a gift for finding valuable things not sought for, and serendipitist, the person who does the finding.

Columbus, the greatest serendipitist of all time, became one at the age of 41. I became one at 25. The treasureColumbussought was the fulfillment of his dream of findingIndiaby sailing west. Mine was the fulfillment of a similar dream: of circling the globe before settling down in my nativeDenmarkfor the rest of my life.

Columbusfailed in his quest. He did not find the route toIndia. He found something far superior: a new world. I failed in mine-for the time being. But I, too, found something far better than what I sought. I found a different country to treasure and serve, a girl to love and cherish, a challenging career and a lifework in Scouting.

It took some doing. It took timing, special skills, willingness to take a chance and the ability to recognize treasure when I saw it, plus some extraordinary coincidences. As to timing: I was born at exactly the right time for Scouting, in 1900, the year when a British officer by the name of Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell became the greatest military hero in the war the British Empire was fighting in South Africa.

I was 10 at the right time for becoming a Scout inDenmark: Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys had just been translated into Danish. I got it for a Christmas gift. It told me how to become a Scout. I became one in January 1911.

I was at the right age also and had reached the right advancement-the Danish equivalent of Eagle-when my troop picked me to represent it at the first World Jamboree inLondonin 1920. I celebrated my birthday that year by joining 5,000 other Scouts in proclaiming Baden-Powell Chief Scout of the World.

And my timing was right when, at 25, I set out to see the world, fit and prepared with the kind of know-how I would need to get along.

But let me get back to my beginnings.

I was born on August 6, 1900, inAarhus,Denmark, the third son of a prosperous building contractor. My childhood years were carefree ones. My teen-age years were rough. My father nearly went bankrupt in an economic depression of 1909. He kept the family afloat building stations for the expanding Danish railroad. We moved from place to place wherever his work took him. My Scouting became Lone Scouting: Troops were few and far apart in those early days of Danish Scouting. When we finally returned to my home town, my Scout life really took off. I became a patrol leader and senior patrol leader in Aarhus Troop 3 under an extraordinary Scoutmaster, Jorgen Boje.

By then I had to think of my future. My main hobbies as a boy had been chemistry and botany. They added up to pharmacy. For my early training, I became a “disciple” in the 400-year-old pharmacy of my home town. When my disciple years were over, I went toCopenhagento finish my studies at thePharmaceuticalCollege. I had hardly arrived before I was invited to become the Scoutmaster of Copenhagen’s most famous troop, Vedel’s Own. I accepted.

I had another childhood hobby to satisfy: writing. In whatever time I had left from studying and of the Danish Boy Scouts, got out a Scout handbook and wrote a boys’ book based on the experience of my own patrol camping on a desert island in Denmark’s largest lake. It wasn’t a runaway best seller, but it had a respectable sale for a first novel by a 23-yearold.

Danish Scouting was astir in those days. The Danish team at the lst World jamboree inLondonhad won the world championship in Scouting. Because of that, the 2nd World Jamboree was coming toDenmark. I made up my mind that my wholeCopenhagentroop would take part in it. It did.

At the same time I made up my mind about my own future. I had become a full-fledged pharmacist in May 1924. One week after, I walked into the office of one of the largestCopenhagennewspapers and offered my services as its jamboree correspondent. “I know all about jamborees,” I told the editor. I had been at the only one ever held. “And I can write.” I had two books to show him. He took me on. And I left pharmacy forever.

My reporting must have been satisfactory. After the jamboree, the editor made me the managing editor of the paper’s Sunday magazine. I could look forward to a good solid newspaper career.

But I had become a restless dreamer. The two world jamborees had stirred my blood. I had met people from around the world. I wanted to meet them on their home grounds. I arranged with my newspaper to be its roaming reporter on a trip around the world. I took off in September 1925, coveredLondonand southernEngland, then settled down for a month inLiverpoolto write another boys’ book. It paid my boat fare forNew York, where I landed in February 1926. There I spent the spring writing articles about its teeming life.

From time to time I visited the national office of the Boy Scouts to pick up my mail fromDenmarkand to see a friend, Bill Wessel. He had been the Scoutmaster of the American troop that won the world championship in Scouting at the jamboree inDenmark. He arranged for me to spend the summer at the camp of the New York Boy Scouts.

It was here that I became an Indian “expert.” Besides taking part in the camp’s main activities, I spent much of my time in the sub camp run by Julian Salomon who later wrote the book Indian Crafts and Indian Lore. He was to have staged four Indian dances for the large pageant that was to close the camp season but was called home because of illness in the family. The pageant director was frantic. Julian calmed him. “Use the Danish Scout,” he said, “he knows the dances.” So I was put to work teaching half-a hundred Brooklyn Scouts four Indian dances. The pageant was a success.

The Danish Chief Scout had asked me to find out how the sales of Scout uniforms and equipment were handled in other countries-inDenmarkthey had been in private hands from the start. To learn, I took a job with the BSA Supply Service.

On a cold December day I was checking in a shipment of World War I surplus army signal flag poles in front of the warehouse when one of the heavy boxes tumbled over, knocked me down and broke my right leg. An ambulance rushed me to the hospital. The bones were set and a plaster cast applied. I was out on the street on crutches three days later. I wasn’t particularly perturbed. “The Lord will provide,” I figured. He did.

A week after my accident I hobbled into the national office on my crutches to pick up my mail. I was walking to the elevator when an astonishing coincidence changed my life completely. Someone else was on his way to the same elevator: James E. West, the dynamic Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America. He knew of my accident. He stopped to greet me, then said, “Well, my young man, what do you think of American Scouting?” The elevator came. We went down together, chatting.

His words may have been just a casual remark. But I took them seriously. I wrote an 18-page report and sent it to him. It was complimentary in spots, critical in others. But for each criticism I offered a suggestion for remedying the situation.

Within a week, he had me in his office. “While I don’t agree with everything in your report, I am interested in what you say about the Boy Scouts of America not using the patrol method effectively. You suggest that we should have a Handbook for Patrol Leaders. What should it contain?”

I told him what I had in mind.
“Would you be interested in writing it?” he asked.

“I should like to,” I said, “but my English isn’t that good.”

“For any person in this world who has an idea,” he told me, you can get a hundred to put it in final shape. So why not try?”

And that’s how I became a member of the national staff of the BSA.

My English in those days was the English of a 13-14-year-old American school boy, exactly the age of the boy leader for whom the book was intended. My manuscript was hardly touched in editing. I received the first copy of my first book in English the day I arrived atArrowePark,Birkenhead,England, for the opening of the 3rd World jamboree, July 31, 1929.

That fall the bottom fell out of the American economy with the stock market crash of October 29. The United Statessank into the deepest depression in its history. All phases of American life were affected, including magazine publishing. James E. West was determined that Boys Life, the Boy Scout magazine, should survive. But money was needed. He applied for a Rockefeller Foundation loan. The foundation studied the magazines contents. It came to the conclusion that Boys Life was not sufficiently different from the other boys’ magazines to warrant the loan. But it hinted that it might reconsider if more Scouting material were added.

I suddenly found myself an assistant editor of Boys’ Life responsible for editing its Scouting sections and writing a monthly feature of MY own. What should it be? I decided on a page of hints for patrol leaders. To make it more exciting, it should be written by a mysterious person. By what name? The patrol leader’s badge in those days was a square of cloth with two green bars embroidered on it. I took those bars, added my nickname and became Green Bar Bill in the October 1932 issue of Boys Life.

The following spring I made one of the most important decisions of my life. I had found the girl of my dreams, Grace Brown, the Chief Scout Executive’s personal secretary. As a teenager, she had vowed never to marry a foreigner, never to marry a blond, not to get married in June. But when a blond foreigner said to her, “The boat leaves forEuropeon June 3, will you marry me?” She didn’t say “No” and she didn’t say “Yes’-she said, “Of course!” She knew that all Danes spend most of their lives riding bicycles. She decided that our honeymoon trip throughDenmark,Germany,Czechoslovakia,Austriaand intoHungaryfor the 4th World Jamboree should be by bike. We had an adventurous journey of exactly 100 days.

Back home again, we settled into aNew York Cityapartment-but not for long.

The Schiff Scout Reservation, a beautiful 480-acre estate in the rolling hills ofnew Jersey, had been dedicated in 1933 as a training center for the Boy Scouts of America. Green Bar Bill had a dream that he conveyed to the Chief Scout Executive: “If Green Bar Bill is to go on urging patrols to a vigorous life in the outdoors, he should live in the outdoors he is writing about. He should live on the Schiff Scout Reservation.” West agreed. Green Bar Bill and his mate moved into their new home-a remodeled sheep barn in September 1934.

The twenty years that followed became the most productive of my whole life.

My first major assignment at Schiff was the writing of a new Handbook for Scoutmasters. I had been a Scoutmaster inDenmarkbut knew nothing about Scoutmastering American boys. To write the book, I had to know. I gathered the boys of the nearby Mendham village into a troop and took on the job of Scoutmaster. During the sixteen years of my Scoutmastership, Troop 1,Mendham,New Jersey, was the most photographed Scout troop in the world.

The earliest photographs were used to illustrate the Scoutmaster handbook. But when Life magazine came out in 1936 with a new kind of news reporting-photojournalism, combining photographs and captions-I figured that Scoutcraft could be learned the same way. I got the camera equipment I needed, a studio, a darkroom and a helper. With the Mendham Scouts as enthusiastic models, we turned out Boys Life photo features on hiking and camping, cooking and pioneering, swimming and Indian dancing, and many other subjects.

The hundreds, yes, thousands of pictures that were taken came in handy for my next brain storm: a handbook on Scouting illustrated entirely with photographs. It became our first Scout Field Book.

But, possibly, the most important thing to come out of the years we lived at Schiff was the relationship we established with the Chief Scout of the World and his wife, Lady Baden-Powell.

It began on a visit by the Baden-Powells to Schiff in 1935, when Lady B-P, by the coincidence of being with “the right people” at the right time came for breakfast with the Hillcourts and asked her husband to join us afterwards in our cottage. The relationship was greatly strengthened two years later during and after the 5th World Jamboree inHolland. The Baden-Powell’s adopted Grace while I was in camp and had us for house guests at “Pax Hill,” their home inEngland, afterwards. This close relationship specifically with Lady Baden-Powell after B-P’s death in 1941had some important outcomes: She granted me permission to edit Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys into the World Brotherhood Edition that helped reestablish Scouting in devastated countries around the world after World War II. She helped me with the research for my biography about the founder of Scouting,BadenPowell-The Two Lives of a Hero, by turning over to me all her husband’s letters, diaries and sketchbooks. She later presented all these valuable documents to the Boy Scouts of America.

In 1954, the national office of the Boy Scouts of America was moved fromNew York Cityto its own building inNorth Brunswick,New Jersey. In addition to my regular work, I was now assigned the most important task of my whole Scouting career the writing of a new Handbook for Boys to celebrate the forthcoming Golden Jubilee of the Boy Scouts of America. This would involve intensive work in the national office. And so, the Hillcourts left the Schiff Scout Reservation after twenty years and moved into a garden apartment within walking distance of the office.

The new handbook, for the first time with color illustrations and written by a single author, and with the new title of Boy Scout Handbook, was ready for the 50th anniversary festivities in February 1960. So was another book of celebration, The Golden Anniversary Book of Scouting, with text by Bill Hillcourt telling the 50-year history of Scouting inAmerica.

The day for my retirement from the national staff of the Boy Scouts of America arrived August 1, 1965. Grace and I, in 1971, celebrated it by taking off on the trip around the world I had failed to complete at 23. We made it coincide with yet another jamboree, the 13th, inJapan. It was Grace’s sixth and last before she died in 1973. It was my ninth. I finally managed to attend 13 world jamborees out of 15 and all the national Jamborees.

Except for traveling, I had expected a fairly tranquil retirement. But something else was “in the works” that would change my plans again.

A new handbook for Boy Scouts was needed, one that would tell about the romance and excitement of Scouting. I came out of retirement and gave the Boy Scouts of America an offer they couldn’t refuse: “I will give you a year of my life free, gratis, without pay, to write a new Boy Scout Handbook.” My offer was accepted. I started the book October 25, 1977. I finished it October 25, 1978. It came out on schedule, February 8, 1979. Today, three million copies are in print.

After that Boy Scout Handbook came out, I traveled around the country and spoke to Scouters by the thousands at council dinners and conferences. I have met Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Explorers by the tens of thousands at large council shows and camporees, at Diamond Jubilee celebrations and at the National Jamboree.

You may even be one of those Scouts. Did I sign your book? Were you one of the Scouts who asked me if he might shake my hand? Did you possibly press a troop badge or a council patch into my hand? Wherever we may have been together we must both have felt the same vibrant spirit all around us: a great pride in the past of our movement and faith in its future.


Categories: blog, Character, Just fun, Leadership, Scoutmaster minute | Leave a comment

SMMpodcast #89 Training, Promises, and Serendipity

In this show we talk about Troop Junior Leader Training, Delivering the Promise of Scouting, and Finding that life of serendipity from my hero Green Bar Bill.
Leave me feedback, drop and email, or leave a comment letting me know what you think.
This show is sponsored by The Boy Scout Store.
You can listen to the show by Clicking on the show number –> SMMPodcast # 89

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Leadership, podcast | Leave a comment

Understanding Boys

In the old Scoutmaster Handbooks, there was always at least a chapter on what makes up a boy and how that boy grows, learns, and develops.  I think it is important to know these things as a Scoutmaster.  We work with boys becoming young men and each is different.  They all have needs and wants and are motivated in their own unique way.  To train a young man to lead other young men it is important that we understand them in order to set them up for success.
I stumbled on this video taken from the 2010 BSA National Youth Forum.  This video is Don Elium, author and Family Therapist.  He talks about the three things that Boys need to know.

There are a lot of resources out there for us to better understand and support our Scouts.  Take the time and learn more.  It will make for more effective leadership development, and stronger troop, and life long learning for both the youth of our organization and us.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Ideals, Leadership, Scoutmaster minute | Leave a comment


I am not sure if you all are aware yet.. but there is a website to help you and your Scouts to get and stay Fit.
I figured after my last post, that there should be some solutions offered as well.  We can all stand to be better fit and lose a few unwanted pounds.
So check out BSA FIT and get FIT!
Check out the Boy’s Life Gym too.. this is a neat resource in getting you and your Scouts on the trail to fitness!
As for me and my unit.. we are looking into how we can get fit!  Join us and the rest of the BSA, especially all the great Scouts and Scouters that are participating in #100daysstrong!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: High Adventure, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership | Leave a comment

Get fit.. or get left out…

So says the BSA… Now before I get hate mail.. Raise your right hand in the Scout sign and repeat after me..
“To keep myself physically Strong, Mentally Awake, and Morally Straight.”
In a minute I want you to watch this video.  This is Tico Perez, our National Commissioner talking about Jamboree 2013.  He discusses the challenges it will provide and the need to be physically strong as out lined in the standards that all of us should be using on the new medical form.  I would suggest that if you have not got on board with this yet, well then you should.
Comments please, but don’t shoot the messenger.
So here is my take before I pop in the video.
Do I want to exclude anyone, NO.. BUT.  I don’t want anyone getting hurt either.  AND.. I do not want to take away the adventure.  Everyone in our government talks about child obesity in America, but they are not willing to do anything about it really.  Statistics show that we are fat.  So let’s get skinny.  You can do it, if you want to.
Eat right, exercise, and get fit, or the BSA is going to leave you out of certain activities.
I had a dear friend that was extremely heavy.  Along with his weight came a lot of medical issues I am not going to dive into, but by and large you all know what those can be.  He applied to go on staff for Arrow Corps 5 a few years back.  He was declined because of his weight, or should I say BMI.  He was very upset about it, but in the end understood the liability that he would create in this high adventure activity.
My Troop is sending 2 crews to Philmont in 2012.  We will all be fit before we go.  One of the committment markers to signing up was that you would be fit and meet all the standards before you would be allowed to go.  Is this harsh?  No, it’s the real world and we need to help these Scouts stay fit.  Now you may say, Well I know Scouts that are heavy that out pack, out hike, and out last any of the skinny kids in the Troop.  Well good for them, but what is the harm in shaving a few pounds for the future.  That heavy kid is going to grow into a heavier adult and the problems on the horizon are many for him.  Don’t get upset, just know that this is a fact and we all can help by enforcing the BSA standard and helping our Scouts get fit.
OK.. so here’s the video.. let me know what you think.  Leave a comment, shoot me a voice mail or drop an email into my in box.  I love to hear what you think.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, Character, comments, High Adventure, Ideals, Jamboree, Leadership, Oath and Law, Risk Management, Values | 7 Comments

The Promise of Scouting and the Journey to Excellence

I am often asked about the “Promise of Scouting”.  In the title of the Blog and Podcast I declare that I have just trying to help deliver the promise of Scouting.  To help you understand what I am talking about when I say this let me show you where I got it.  The 11th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook from 1998.  On page 1 is tells the Scout:

Welcome to the Boy Scouts of America,
SCOUTING promises you the great outdoors. As a Scout, you can learn how to camp and hike without leaving a trace and how to take care of the land. You’ll study wildlife up close and learn about nature all around you. There are plenty of skills for you to master, and you can teach others what you have learned. Everyone helping everyone else-that’s part of Scouting, too.
SCOUTING promises you friendship. Members of the troop you join might be boys you already know, and you will meet many other Scouts along the way. Some could become lifelong friends.
SCOUTING promises you opportunities to work toward the Eagle Scout rank. You will set positive goals for yourself and then follow clear routes to achieve them.
SCOUTING promises you tools to help you make the most of your family, your community, and your nation. The good deeds you perform every day will improve the lives of those around you. You will be prepared to help others in time of need.
SCOUTING promises you experiences and duties that will help you mature into a strong, wise adult. The Scout Oath and the Scout Law can guide you while you are a Scout and throughout your life.
Adventure, learning, challenge, responsibility – the promise of Scouting is all this and more.

So this is the Promise of Scouting that I refer to when you hear me talk or write about it. 
Now, why is this important today?  Well I have been talking about the Journey to Excellence lately and how it will be a great tool in our programs.  When I look at the Promise of Scouting and hold it up against the JTE criteria.  Well folks.. there it is.  It’s not about percentages or working numbers.  It’s about measuring the delivery of the Promise.
And as Forrest Gump would say.. “That’s all I got to say about that”.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, podcast, Values | 1 Comment

JTE.. More

The balanced Score care approach is nothing new, it has been floating around organizations for some time now and provides a balanced view for organizational performance.  Who looks at this?  Well really you do.  As much as some would like t0 think that Councils and District level leadership are actively engaged in what goes on at the unit level (and I am talking Pro staff here, not volunteer) the fact of the matter is that where the rubber hits the road, the unit leadership are really the only leaders dedicated 100% to their units.  That is not to say that District, Council, and even National leadership could care less.  It is just that they have different fish to fry.  They are concerned at the “Big” organizational level in areas of membership, fundraising, and policy.  And that is fair.  Hey, I don’t want to think about that stuff, I want to go camping.  So the Journey to Excellence program is a tool that ensures our units are meeting the mark as we can measure our programs.  I think this is important to make sure that we all are delivering the promise of Scouting in a uniform manner.
Last month I attended the National meetings of the BSA in San Diego.  The Assistant Chief Scout Executive for Council Operations Gary Butler gave a great talk at the Scoutmaster dinner.  In his talk he gave the analogy of Starbucks coffee.  He said that when you order a coffee at Starbucks in Seattle it tastes like the same cup in New York City, or Atlanta, or Boston.. the message is that the coffee is the same where ever you go and that is part of business model of Starbucks.  The Promise of Scouting is just like that cup of coffee.  It needs to be the same consistent program, delivered in many ways, but the same program throughout the Boy Scouts of America.  We have great outline, but Scouters choose not to use it.  The Journey to Excellence program attempts to bring some of that back in line.
Now, I know that many of you, myself included, do not like to view the BSA as a business.  Certainly not at the unit level.  But just like every organization if certain measures are not in place, lets say for growth, for financial stability, for improvements in the program, the organization will fail.
Remember a couple posts ago, I shared that I knew a unit that was a Quality unit every year, but then it just folded?  It is because they did not have a plan to grow and stay fit.  They took it year to year and hoped that the Cub Scout pack would just continue to “Feed them”.  They did not have a stable financial plan, they did not have a plan to assist the youth leadership… and yet they were “always a quality unit”.
None of us want to see our units fail.  JTE is a week to week, month to month, year to year tool that sets on a Journey to Excellence.
OK.. 500 words in and not a word about camping.. so lets talk just a little about Short term and Long term camping as it applies to the JTE.
You all understand that Short term equates to weekend camp outs and long term camping refers to those week long (or longer) camping opportunities such as Summer camp, Jamboree’s, High Adventure base participation.  Now I think the BSA set the bar low on this one, and so many if not all of us will automatically qualify at the Gold level when it comes to short term camping.  Bronze = 4 camp outs throughout the year.  Yeah, that is not a typo.. I wrote 4.  Silver requires a unit to camp 8 times and to achieve the Gold standard you need to camp at least 10 times.  Like I said.. I think we all have this one in the bag.   And for the Gold level you get 200 points for just doing what we all do, and that’s camp.
Now I think it is interesting how the JTE handles long term camping.  You will qualify for the bronze level if your unit attends a long term camp.. lets call it summer camp.  You will achieve Silver level status if 60% of your Scouts attend Summer camp (or another long term opportunity).  And it only takes 70% of your unit attending camp to achieve Gold level status.  I recently had a small discussion on Camp staff with some Scouters that I consider “In the know”.  We debated on whether a Scout that serves on camp staff is counted in that percentage.  And the answer according the definitions of JTE is this; ” Boy Scouts attending any in council or out of council long term summer camp (of at least three days and nights), high adventure experience, jamboree, or serve on camp staff within the past year”.  The part that really weirds me out on this is the three days and nights.  But not to worry, most if not all summer camps run a week.  No problems there.
The bottom line is that camping is where Scouting happens.  It is where the Patrol method is executed, it is where teaching happens, it is where the boys can be boys and learn, practice, and teach skills.  Camping, I am sure you will agree is what most think about when we talk Scouting.
Next time we will dive into the Patrol Method.
Thanks for the emails, you can email me anytime.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Camping, High Adventure, Jamboree, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, Summer Camp | 8 Comments

Journey to Excellence Pt. 2

Ok.. so the first post on JTE has been met with some resistance.  Let me just say this, then I will move on.
As a Scoutmaster or Committee Chair, you need to have a way to measure the success of your unit.  Going camping, having Scouts cross over, and holding a Court of Honor or two is not an accurate way of knowing that you are delivering the promise of Scouting to the youth of your Troop.  We all can stand back and say that we are doing a good job, but can’t we do better?  Sure.
I heard a comment about JTE as it applied to the old Quality Unit program in that they were always a Quality Unit, and now they may not be in the new system.  Well then, maybe your unit needs to work harder in the areas that you fall short.  Other comments reflect a need to pass it off to the youth leadership.  And while I agree that Scout units are to be Youth led, every unit should have a plan that is part youth driven and part adult driven.  The Troop committee must have a plan that supports the plan of the PLC.  Handing off the JTE program to the PLC will only get them so far down the road.  This is not setting them up for success.  The Journey to Excellence program is designed to bring out the best in the units leadership both adult and youth.
OK.. so having said that, lets dive into the program.
In this post I am going to discuss the first couple elements of the JTE program.  Advancement and Retention.
The objective is to increase the percentage of Boy Scouts earning rank advancements.  To earn the Bronze level you need to have 55% of your Scouts earn one rank or have a 2 percentage point increase.  I think this is important especially if you have older Scouts that are not going to advance in the year.  Lets say a Scout is Life, it is likely that he will not earn Eagle in that next year.  So having a percentage increase helps your score when you have younger Scouts earning Tenderfoot to First class in that first year.  This is attainable in every unit.  For the Silver level 60 % of your Scouts need to advance or 55% AND a 2 percentage point increase.  The Gold level requires that 65% of the Scouts advance AND a 2 percentage point increase is attained.  I find that these goals are within reason and with encouragement from the committee and Scoutmasters, every Scout, especially those younger Scouts can assist your unit in achieving this goal.
So what is the PLC’s role in this objective.  If the PLC encourages each Patrol to shoot for the Honor Patrol award, then Patrol members will advance.  The Troop guides play a major role in attaining this and working the younger Scouts on the trail to First class.  So its not just a number, it is a goal that assists your PLC and Troop Guides in properly functioning within the structure of their leadership roles.
Simply put the objective here is to improve your retention rate.  So you have to retain and reregrister 76% of your Scouts or have a 2 percentage point increase from the previous year to earn the Bronze level.  80% for Silver and 85% for Gold.  I think this is a worthy goal.  My only heart burn with this goal is retention in general needs to be thoughtfully considered with each Scout.  Here is what I am saying.  I believe that every young man should be in Scouting.  I don’t however think that every young man fits in Scouting.  I have often said that I would rather have 10 Scouts that want to be there than 100 Scouts and no one really wants to be there.  Having a large troop that has a small percentage of active Scouts is just as good as having a small troop.  I like the idea that the Boy Scouts of America wants us to retain everyone, but at 85% retention that means we are really allowing for those that do not want to be there to find a fit elsewhere.  I like that.
So in my Troop I can lose 6 Scouts (not that I want to) and still have an 85% retention rate.  Last year we gained 9 and lost 6.  Our retention rate was still at 85%, but our net gain for the year was +4.  This would be a 40% gain for the year and qualify for the Gold in the JTE program for both retention and Building Boy Scouting.  Most of us would agree that these numbers are reasonable and easy to attain, as long as we are building a good program that the Scouts want to be a part of and establish good recruiting habits and relationships with Cub Scout packs.
Now, more than likely I lost many of you that are tired of the numbers.  Those of you that think that Scouting should not be about the numbers and that this is just an excercise in helping the DE’s look good.  I beg to differ though.  I think that periodic looks at the numbers keep your unit on track.  Further, I think it is important for the Scouts of your PLC to understand some of this.  It is a tool that they can use to assist in recruiting for the future of your troop.  Who better to recruit then the Scouts that enjoy the program?
This is just as much a function of the Patrol leaders council as the Troop committee’s.  They, working together will achieve success as a unit on a Journey to Excellence.
As much as the PLC of my Troop wants every year to be the Troop of the Year, the Journey to Excellence is a part of the program that gives them goals and tangible results.
I know that I am not going to convince some of you.. and you are probably the same Scouters that balk at anything that “National” forces on you.  Like methods and Aims.. you reluctantly went along with Quality Unit and this has no meaning to you either.  So be it…  I am sure you can run a great program without it also.  As for me.  I like the tools and I like to teach and mentor Scouts to do the hard things in life.  To set goals and plan to achieve them.  This is yet another opportunity to do that with our Patrols, our committees, and our Scoutmasters.
More later. 
Your comments are welcome.. send them to or simply leave a comment here or at the SMMVoice mail 503-308-8297.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scouting, Webelos to Scout Transition | Leave a comment

Journey to Excellence. Part 1

Now before I even get started on this.. let me tell you that as much as I like patches.. this is NOT about a little patch.  This is about measuring success.  In the world that I live in, working for the Big Brown, I am totally in tuned to everything being measured.  I do believe in measuring, it gives us good solid data that we can learn from and grow.  When we measure things based on a standard, we can see where we are and where we need to go in order to be successful.
Here is the beauty.  In most cases in life, we get to decide what success looks like.  And so we get to determine what that measurement is.
Quality Unit was a program that, well kinda measured what a unit was doing.  I say kinda, because at the end of the day.. if you had a pulse, went on a few camp outs, recruited a Scout or two (read held a cross over ceremony) and got your charter turned in.. you were a quality unit.  I saw units in our district that got Quality unit and then did not recharter the following year.  HUH?  How is that possible.  Quality unit one year and dust the next.. errrr… something was wrong with this.
The Centennial Quality unit, was not much better.  The same old take on Quality unit, but cooler patches.
Now we are heading down the path to the Journey to Excellence.  This program is actually performance based and not just numbers.  Where the old programs of Quality Unit measured a process.. the Journey to excellence (JTE) measures the performance of a unit.  NOW STOP READING HERE if you are afraid of delivering a good Scouting program to your Scouts.
Over the next couple posts I am going to share and discuss the Journey to Excellence program as outlined and defined by the Boy Scouts of America.
There are three levels of levels of performance in the JTE.. Bronze, Silver, and of course Gold.  It is the unit that will decide at what level they have performed based on real numbers and expectations set out in their annual plan.
The JTE will ask of units to actually look at certain areas of their program and improve on them.  The beauty of the program is that measured success can be tracked all year long and point values are attached to the areas of concern.  It is a total score at the end of the year that will determine your success.. falling short in one area can easily be over come by larger success in others.  But the point is that rather than a simple sheet filled out at recharter, the JTE is a tool that a unit can use to measure and track success all year long.
There are 13 individual criteria that is measured in the JTE. For a Boy Scout Troop they are:  Advancement, Retention, Building Boy Scouting, Trained leadership, short term camping, Long term camping, Patrol method, Service projects, Webelos to Scout transition, Budget, Courts of Honor/ Parent meetings, Reregister on time, and a final annual assessment.
I will go into all of these in greater detail in the next few posts.
Here is the bottom line.  If you have no goals or a plan then you will not improve.  There is not a unit out there that is perfect in every way, and the JTE is a tool that will move you to greater success.  Building your Scouting program is important, not only for your unit, but for Scouting in general.
I like the new JTE program, and I hope I can share some information here to help you achieve that success your unit deserves.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning | 3 Comments

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