The Participation Problem

campfireWe often focus on membership when it comes to the retention and recruiting issue.  This is absolutely a  header in the discussion.  However a better indication of unit health is your participation percentages.  That is how many of your registered Scouts are participating in your activities.  This number can tell you many things about your unit.  First, it reflects your annual plan.  Do the Scouts want to be there and do the things the plan that the Patrol Leaders Council came up with (using Guided Discovery)?  Second, is that plan a plan that compels the Scouts to come and be with their patrol mates.  And third, does that plan conflict with other events.  School, Sports, Council and District events and family plans.  These three areas are the top three that I have seen and discussed with committees to find out why and what the issues are in solving the participation problem.
The Scoutmaster plays a big role in the planning of the Scout year.  Teaching the Patrol Leaders Council how to look at the calendars and get the right program in place to meet the goals of the unit.  Polling the unit to get a feel for what they want to do.  And adding elements of the National Program into the plan, Jamborees, High Adventure Bases, and other National opportunities are all critical in giving the Scouts a reason to want to participate.
Here are a couple of tips that have helped us have a successful annual program and increase that participation percentage.
1.  Start early.  Establish what the range or start and finish of your “Scout year”.  Most units use the School year as their beginning and end.  Have your annual plan published before the beginning of the planned year.  Allow time for budgeting and family planning.  My unit uses October as the start of our Scouting year.  We do this for a few reasons.  First, it falls on a month with a “Non Negotiable” event.  Webelos Woods in our District is always in October.  This event is a fantastic opportunity to recruit for the unit as well as stand up against the rest of the District allowing our program to be showcased.
And second, October is a good month to launch the program year.  Everyone has been in School for a solid month, the holidays are just around the corner and it allows for time in summer to get the plan in place.  Starting in June and July, the Patrol Leaders Council meets with the patrols polling them for prospective activities for the coming year.  This includes location for Summer camp.  Starting early in the summer allows for plenty of time to look at all the calendars that effect the unit and by the end of August a solid plan is in place and the committee can start the budgeting process
2.  Stay away from the same old stuff.  Pretty much camping is camping.  Try new locations or different activities at favorite places.  Ensure that opportunities for National experiences are a part of the plan.  This in large part is the responsibility of the Scoutmaster and the Committee to provide the resources that introduce these opportunities.  In my Troop we look at the time spent in the Troop of the average Scout.  That seems to be about 7 years.  Over the course of those seven years we want the Scout to have the opportunity to get the very most out of his Scouting experience.  Local Council camps, out of Council opportunities, National Jamborees, National Order of the Arrow Conferences, and High Adventure Bases.  So we, along with the Patrol Leaders Council established a matrix that plugs these type of activities into the annual plan.  If a Scout takes advantage the plan, he will have a well rounded and extremely active time in Scouting.  When a Scout joins the unit he and his family can pick those High adventure trips, Jamborees and the like that he will go to well in advance.  This takes the burden away from fund raising plans and family vacations etc.  Families that have more time to plan will facilitate their sons Scouting experience.
Staying away from the same old stuff gives the Scouts of the Troop something to look forward to.  It shows that planning is important and that their experience is important to the life of the Troop.
3.  Possibly the most important, make sure the plan comes from the Scouts of the Troop.  The Patrol Leaders Council owns the plan, it is theirs and the success of the plan with rest with them.  They will  be guided and coached along the way, but in the end, they will be happy or not with their plan.  Now before you jump off the blog now, keep reading… this is a process that will not happen in one year.  We use guided discovery in Scouting.  Mistakes can be made as long as the Scouts learn from them.  The key for the Scoutmaster in this regard is breaking the Patrol Leaders Council from always taking the path of least resistance.   Give them permission to think big and out of the box.  If they want to go to Disneyland for Summer camp.. let them.  We had a troop recently go to Hawaii for summer camp.  Lots of planning and coordination went into it, but it was that kind of out of the box thinking that raised their participation percentage.  But its all about their plan.  As adults in the program we should support it and do what it takes to make it a success.
4.  And the final advice for today, Keep it fun.  Scouts are in School all day, they last thing they want is more School at meetings and on weekend camp outs.  Give them a reason to want to be a participant.  Each outing should be fun and adventurous.  When the Scouts know how much fun they are going to have they want to be there.  Here is the rub,.  Define fun.  Fun for one patrol may not be fun for others.  Find a balance within the Troop.  A great place to start is by establishing Troop Traditions.  Fun, silly, and things that build up the team.  A tradition of fun camp fires on each outing for example is a neat way of bringing together the Troop while having lots of fun.  A mascot can bring the Troop together also.  It gives them something to rally behind.  In our Troop we do and have both of those and we came up with a necklace that tells their Scouting story.  We took our mascot, a Gnome, and had totems made.  Each outing and activities has a bead that represents it.  At each Court of Honor, the Scout is presented with the beads for the activities he has attended.  At first it did not seem like that big of a deal, then the Scouts really took to it.  We make a real big deal about presenting the beads and wearing our totem.  This is a fun way of making the outings important and creating a reason to be a part of it.  We have had a Gnome as our mascot since our first summer camp in 2004.  This quickly became a Troop Tradition.  Now that we are a backpacking Troop we have inflatable Gnomes that the Senior Patrol Leader carries on each outing.  The Scouts love to show off the Gnome.  Allow the Scouts to define fun, but remember Guided Discovery, keep the fundamentals and methods of Scouting at the forefront of the program.  The Scouts may not need to know the exact purpose of the game, just make sure that the game is played fair and fun.
The participation problem is one that can be solved by a great plan, building in adventure, making sure the Scouts own the plan, and keeping it fun.  Traditions, and sticking to the methods of Scouting will assist in building a program that Scouts want to be a part of.  This will go along way in solving the problems with Scouts not participating fully in their Troop.
What are some things that your unit does to solve the Participation problem?  Share them with us.  May be a big help for someone struggling.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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5 Tips for Recruiting

We are now in the heart of recruiting season in Scouting.  Actually all year is recruiting season for Scouting, there are no set guidelines as to when your unit brings new Scouts on board.. all year long is the best time to introduce boys to Scouting.
But now that School is back in session and our Scouts are seeing their friends again and playing after school it’s about time to get busy recruiting.
So here are five tips to making your recruiting season effective.
1.  When out there doing product sales like Popcorn, don’t sell popcorn, sell Scouting and leave an informative flyer with your prospective customer.  The flyer can be a simple outline of your units program and some highlights from years past.
2.  Get out in the public.  March in a parade, participate in the community fall festival. While you’re out there hand out invitations to join Scouting.  Be personal with your contact and seek prospects.
3.  Hold an open house.  Show off your patrols or your Pack.  Have lots of hands on things to do and a simple slide show of all the fun you have had as a unit.  Have lots of applications on hand and don’t let the applications walk out.  Even if they fill it out and don’t come back, you have their contact information for a follow up.
4.  Make invitation cards and have the Scouts hand them out to their friends.  A party like invite is more personal than a flyer and may just be that invite that makes a difference.
5.  And finally, the best recruiting tip I can suggest.  Get Den Chiefs in local Cub Scout Packs.  These young men are your best recruiters.  They are the first line when working with and making an impression on Webelos that are readying themselves for entry in a Scout Troop.  Den Chiefs are a great example of what Scouting and your unit is all about.  They tell the story of your Troop.  They have contact with the parents of the Den, those parents get to see a young man practicing leadership and living the Oath and Law while teach and coaching a Webelos Scout.
So there are five quick tips to help you get the most out of this years “Recruiting season”.  Every young man deserves an opportunity to be in Scouting.  So every young man needs to be invited to join your unit!
Give those a shot and see how it works for you.
Use this link to find some cool resource materials for your invitations, flyers, and posters for the open house.
Let us know what your best practice for recruiting is.  Leave a comment here and share what makes your unit successful in recruiting.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Luci EMRG Lantern Review

Here is a quick review of the Luci EMRG lantern.  A new product from MPOWERD.  This versatile little lantern will easily fit on your backpack, pocket, glove box or first aid kit.
With 4 different light settings it is perfect for reading in camp, marking your location, or providing an emergency light source wherever it’s needed.
At 2.6 oz this little lantern is a must in camp.  It spreads light out 10 feet and is waterproof.
It takes 8 hours to charge with the solar panels attached, but it will put out 7 hours of light.  If you are concerned about the charging, no worries.  This little gems retains 95% of its charge while being stored.  But snap it to the outside of your pack and by the time you get into camp and inflate the lantern, you have light to get you through the night.
I highly recommend this lantern, and I am super impressed with the company that makes it.
Visit there site at and learn about how they are helping change the world.  They really should get into the #daretodo program.  Speaking of which, on their site you can buy this little lantern for $9.99.. and you can share one by giving one to folks in countries that lack solid power grids.  They call them “Solar impoverished countries.  You can help by providing some light.  I did.  Will you?

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

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Facebook and Twitter and Blogs oh my!

Social-MediaIn my last post I talked about Scouting’s message.  If you look at the mission statement of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM) it states; “The Mission of Scouting is to contribute to the education of young people, through a value system based on the Scout Promise and Law, to help build a better world where people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society.”
From the WOSM website: The Mission was adopted at the 35th World Scout Conference in Durban, South Africa in 1999. Illustrating both the local and global impact of Scouting, the Mission of Scouting has been captured in World Scouting’s brand as “Creating a Better World”.
Creating a Better World, a simple thought and one that expresses the Vision of our Founder Lord Baden Powell.  The important part about this Vision is that it requires work, that is what my last post was all about… What are you going to do to realize that Vision?
Part of making change in our World is telling our story.  This is all part of the message.  The message of Peace and what Scouting is all about needs to be out in front of the public.  In Scouting we do a good job of preaching to the choir.  We have great internal communication tools that let our Scouts and Scouters know what’s going on and share our successes.  And by the way, there are far more successes than failures in Scouting.
There are a handful of good Scouting blogs out there and of course the world of Social Media has plenty of Scouting outlets to get your fix of Scouting news.  Here is the deal though.. are they telling Scouting’s Story.  The answer is yes.
I am not an advocate of sugar coating or smoothing out the edges.  If something is wrong or being done incorrectly, I feel that it needs to be called out.  But there is a time and place.  When we want to tell Scouting’s story we want to share what is happening in Scouting that leads us to “Creating a Better World.”  That is Scouting’s byline.
When you look at the program of Scouting it all comes down to Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  Those three goals coupled with the Oath and Law are everything in Scouting.  A good backpacking trip is full of opportunities to reinforce values, life skills, and connect character to being a part of a high performance team tells Scouting’s Story.  Complaining about a policy does not share the values and character of the movement.
Again, not sugar coating, but telling the Story how we want it to be told.  There are too many great things going on in the Scouting world to let one or two little insignificant things cloud the story.  Tales of leadership and accomplishment should always overshadow a Facebook post about how Dad was upset because of the annual pinewood derby race.
Creating a Better World starts at the unit level with each Scout.  Telling that story on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media is important.
So what of Social media?  It’s here and it’s here to stay.  Electronic media is where our Scouts are and where the vast majority of the public is.  We take Scouting where the Scouts are, not the other way around.  There is something to be said for the “Good ol Days”, but they are just that.. Good and old.  We live in an age of instant communication and information.  If you look at the demographic of your average Cub Scout Pack, they are young adults with their young boy.  These folks are plugged into these media outlets.  They are attached to one another with their phones, laptops, and tablets.  They crave information and want it now.  They are a part of the Scouting Story and the more they get the better they feel about Scouting.
These young Scouters are not shy about posting something on Facebook so we want them to help us tell the story.  Providing good program and being consistent in our message will help them to share our story.
At the recent NOAC it was clear that electronic media is where the Scouts are.  If you did not adapt, you were pretty much left out.  I don’t have a problem with that in and of itself.  There is certainly a place for this in Scouting, but leaving someone out.. ahhh… let’s not leave them out, lets get them on board.
When we do that.. we help share the story.. we help make the world better.
So it’s Facebook and Twitter and Blogs… oh my.. we have a great opportunity to tell Scouting’s Story.
What do you do to tell our story.  Please share.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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The Message

MOPIf you pay attention to more than just your monthly camp outs and weekly meetings you will have seen or are noticing a very loud message in Scouting.  Over the past few years Scouting has turned up the volume on its message of Peace.
The Messengers of Peace program launched asking not only individual Scouts but whole units to make a difference and show that we want Peace.  This program is a global program telling the world that an attitude of Peace has to start somewhere and it should start with what Baden Powell founded as the largest Peace Movement in history.
This year the Order of the Arrow and Scouting launched the #daretodo campaign.  An extension of Messengers of Peace in that it asks Arrowmen and Scouts all over to remember to do a good turn daily.  This good turn will have a ripple effect that will see big changes in their lives, communities and Nation.  If only we listen to the message.
You see, it’s not a merit badge or other form of recognition, so many just won’t do it.  It is better off in the long run to just take the path of least resistance and do nothing or max the minimum.  It’s easy to go to a merit badge weekend and crank out stuff that will get you a medal in the end, but what of Scouting’s mission?  What of the Aims that we try to attain?  What of Character, Citizenship, and Fitness?  Do they not promote a peaceful existence?  Do they not promote a Scout doing his best to make a difference?
The messages from Scouting are clear.  This generation of Scouts and Scouters have a greater calling.  It has an obligation to right the ship.  The world we live in needs Scouting more than ever, but it will take all of us to do our part.
I just spent the weekend in Eureka California.  A place that has beauty and potential, but a place I would never want to live.  They have a huge “transient” issue in Eureka, along with which comes drugs and a community hamstrung by a group that has no buy in to the community.  This results in a run down looking and underdeveloped look to the city.  And worst of all it appears that no one seems to care.  Where are the Scouts was my question when entering Eureka.  Why do the people choose to live like this?  Crime, Drugs, Homelessness, Poverty.. all symptoms of the community giving up it appears.  There are jobs.  I saw the signs in shop windows and in the paper.  So that’s not it.  The weather is good.. so that’s not it.  And there are people.  That’s it… the people.  They just don’t care.
And the same can be said about lots of places in America.  So if the community doesn’t care who will?  How about us Scouts that pledge to do our duty.  To do that good turn.  To help other people at all times?
The message is clear, it is timeless and on point.  But do we care? Can we do it without the recognition?  Without a patch or a medal?  Or is it just easy to turn the other way and keep Scouting to ourselves.
This is not the Message of Peace.

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Knowledge to action

scoutingvaluesThere are those times as a Scoutmaster that leave you inspired.  The other night I had one of those moments as I began to share my Scoutmaster minute with the Troop.  Like most Troops, we have young men that make up the membership of the unit.  Ranging from 10 1/2 to 17 these young men tend to be exactly what we want them to be… boys.
We all know that at times boys do not always think before they act and they certainly allow emotion to over rule logic.  And so it is when working with boys.  As much as I hate the saying “boys will be boys”.. boys will be boys.  There is nothing at all wrong with that, as long as Adults are Adults and work to being good teachers, coaches and mentors to the boys.
So the Scoutmaster minute this week was addressing some issues that came up, nothing earth shattering, but boys heading down a trail that would not lead them to positive outcomes.  Heading them off now will save lots of grief later.  It comes down to, like most things in Scouting and life, living the Oath and Law.
And so I explained to the Troop that we make a promise to live the Scout Law in our daily lives.  Yes, they know that.  So I asked the question, “what is the Scout Law?”  The Assistant Senior Patrol Leader spoke up with, “A Scout is…”  I cut him off.. yes.. yes.. we all know the 16 words that make up the Scout law.. but what is the Law?  Really, its just a bunch of words that we commit to memory and rattle off each meeting.. but why do we need a Scout law and why bother saying it?  A young Scout chimed in, “It is how we should live”.  Yes, I said.. but what are those twelve words that make up the law?  They are values that we should be living every day.  So what are values I asked?  One of the Scouts from the new Scout Patrol spoke up.  He said that Values are things that you think are precious.
We do hold those things as precious that we believe in and act upon.  We protect and maintain things that are precious to us.  Our families, our nice car, our collections, and our relationships.  We value all of those things and we live good values that we have been taught.
So now we need to take our knowledge, those things that we know like the Scout Oath and Law and translate those values in action.  We will do that when we determine that the values found in the Scout law are precious.
We will be more friendly, we will be more trustworthy by giving those that are around us a reason to trust us.  We will be more obedient and cheerful because we know that those values make a difference in the lives of those that we make contact with every day.
The Scout Law is something that is precious to us.  It drives us to turn that knowledge into action.  When we do that we will change our attitudes and truly begin to view one another as precious.  That will compel us to serve them from the heart, not the head.
When things start needing redirection and attitudes need to be checked, coming back to the Scout Law is always a great idea.  Who knows, you may even hear from the one that you least expect a gem that places it all in perspective.  That discussion has the power to change the lives of members of our Troop.  In turn, we can make a big difference everywhere.
Turn that knowledge into Action!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

print used in this post by Joseph Csatari

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Keys for the Order of the Arrow Rep.

repI had a great opportunity to teach a class at NOAC this year.  The class was part of a three class block on making Order of the Arrow Troop Representatives successful.  I taught the last block which wrapped up the session.
In summary, the first two hours discussed tools and identifying issues that come up within the Troop, Chapter, and Lodge that the OA Rep needs to not only be aware of but work to fix in order to have a good Order of the Arrow program in their Troop.
In my session I focused on what makes the OA Rep successful now that they understand the challenges that face them.
To be a successful Unit Rep there are a few things that every representative must be and do.  No matter the size of the Troop, Chapter, or Lodge.
First.  The Scout must be a servant leader.  He needs to understand that his role as a leader in his Troop is one that sets a positive example.  He models behavior that he and the unit expects of him and his fellow troop members.  He must remember that he is serving those that elected him.  Those that elected you are counting on you.
Second.  Be an active member.  Attend Chapter meetings and become active within the Lodge.  Being and informed member will allow the representative to pass on information and enthusiasm to the members within his Troop.
Third.  Set goals with the members of the Troop to make a difference in their unit.  Find a part of the unit program that you can be helpful.  Running Junior leader training, Hosting the membership open house, Leading the Courts of Honor are a few ways that can capture the spirit of the unit and bring the Order of the Arrow to the fore front of activity.
Use the SMART tool to achieve your goals.  Being Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely with your goals will serve to not only accomplish them, but get the Scouts of your Troop used to using them to achieve future goals.
Fourth.  Understand that a patch does not a leader make.  Anyone can lead, they do not need a patch to be a leader.  So lead all the time.  Pass that on to all the Arrowmen of the Troop.  They all have an expectation placed upon them by virtue of being members of the OA.  Remember that those that elected you are counting on you.
And finally, the fifth thing to know is that there are tools to help you.  Advisors, Troop leadership, Chapter Officers etc.. not to mention this wonderful tool called the internet.  It’s all out there.  We do not need to reinvent the wheel, its already round.. we just need to perfect the ride.. make them more efficient and smooth.  So use all the tools that you can find to make your unit better.
Follow this link for more information on the Troop Representative.
Here is a link to the Troop/Team Support Pak. A great resource for the Troop Representative.
There are great tools and resources to make every Troop Representative successful.  He first needs to know that if he has a vision of what he wants his Troop to look like, he maintains an active membership in the Chapter and Lodge, and he wants to seek a higher vision, he can and will make a difference.
We want them all to be successful!  We can help by being good coaches and advisors to our OA Troop Reps.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Doing your Good Turn

daretodoAt the Wednesday show at the National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) the National Chief rolled out a social media blitz.  Staying with the theme “It Starts with Us”, the National Chief challenged.. no Dared each person in the Breslin Arena to remember that to change the world we must first love one another.  With that love comes serving those that we love.  The social media part of this dare is simply that once an act of service no matter how big or small is completed we post it to social media, Twitter, Facebook, whatever using the hashtag #DAREtoDO.
Immediately this drew the raising of eyebrows from many.  A good turn should not be something that need be announced.  It is something that is between the server and those being served, right.  Baden Powell himself instructed us not to boast about our Good Deeds.  And I agree.. Except for the fact that I understand why the National Chief and the Order of the Arrow is promoting this.  A simple act of posting our good deed to social media may be that inspiration that will get others to do the same.  The act of service is what is important.  That act of doing to someone else that which we would like done to us, the fact that what we do may impact the life of someone else in a positive way will make our world a better place.
I could not help but think that if the 15,000 of us in that arena went from there and did one good deed the next day that would be 15,000 lives impacted.  If that person then did a good deed the next day, coupled with our 15,000 now that is 30,000 lacts of love..and so on every day.  I relate that to the town I live in. given these numbers, it would only take a week till everyone in town was serving one another.
The National Chief asked that we #DAREtoDO for 100 days.  This would make it a habit.  It takes about 21 days to form a habit.  In 100 days our 15,000 alone will have touched 1,500,000 lives with the same amount of acts of service.  Yes, I get that we should not boast and brag.. but how about spread the word to motivate?  To me this is a great idea.  The Scouts we have in our units today are connected via social media.  Using this hashtag is a way that they can connect and challenge one another.  We need to use all of the tools that we can to spread the word.
The theme “It starts with Us” is a challenge to each of us to remember our great past and look to the next 100 years.  As National Chief Alex Call said at the Wednesday night show “Each day, opportunities to demonstrate unselfish service present themselves,” Alex told the conference. “A classmate who sits alone on the school bus, hoping that someone will strike up a conversation. A co-worker who stays late every night, wishing they could make their daughter’s soccer game instead of an extra shift. A homeless teenager who stands at the street corner during your daily commute, looking for a warm meal – or even just a warm smile. With just a few words and a few minutes of our time, we can live out the admonition of the OA through everyday acts of service.” these simple acts can and will change the world.. but only if we embrace the idea and truly live the admonition.  The choice is ours.
Many will think that this is impossible, the world does not want change.. but it needs it.  Others will say that our acts will not be enough, that may be true, but it’s something and if we are not at the head of the change who will be?
Governments,Corporations, and even the Churches have not been able to make a difference.. so what about Scouts.  There are 162 Nations that are members of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement.  These members all believe in the Scout Oath and Law and understand the value of the Good Deed.  25 million adults and youth wear the Scouting uniform and make an oath to live these values.  So now think back to our 15,000 at the NOAC that stood when the National Chief called us to the task.  25 million people all serving to make a difference.  That my friends can change the world.  Hashtag or not.. it can make a difference.
SO… here is the Scoutmaster Minute challenge to all of you.  Embrace the National Chiefs call to service.  Whether you post if or not do a good turn everyday.  Those opportunities are out there and they need you to serve.
I have been posting my #DAREtoDO acts everyday since the Wednesday show at NOAC.  The opportunities big and small are all around us, I have had no trouble being of service everyday.  The smiles on the faces the looks of people that take notice, they are priceless.  I would like to think that these people go and pay it forward to someone else.  I hope that what I do makes a difference and causes them to change too.
I know that some will say that this is all hype.. and so what if it is.  Do you like the world as it is.  If you can make a difference in just one life everyday.. if you can do just one thing for your hometown each day, if we can spread this movement to all 25 million Scouts and Scouters we can change attitudes, lives, and live the Admonition of the Order of the Arrow seeing it to reality.  It really can work.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

From the OA website:
#DareToDo has a website,, as well as social accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These accounts will highlight acts of service posted using the hashtag and the website includes an interactive map to see the spread of the movement across the world. Arrowmen and their friends are encouraged to follow these accounts for inspiration and to encourage others participating in #DareToDo.

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Moments in Time

startswtusThere are moments in your life where vision is realized, made clear, and action set in motion.  We have lived moments that have greater meaning, cause us to be moved, and in the words that resonate through out the Order of the Arrow, we “Seek a Higher Vision”.
I have had a few of those moments in my life.  While we can not separate our time spent in Scouting with our lives not wearing a tan shirt, I look at moments in my life that have truly moved me.  Graduating from Ranger School, the day my wife said “I DO”, the birth of my children are all moments in my life that changed me.
September the 11th is the day of our generation in which we made a choice to do something.  Whether that was serve our Country or recommiting to serve our community, it was a moment in time, much like the moments of my fathers generation remembering where they were when Kennedy was shot.  Or my Grandfathers call to serve after Peril Harbor.
We have those moments in Scouting.  If you have been to a Jamboree you have been in that moment where thousands of tan clad Scouts and Scouters sing, laugh, and celebrate.  You have shared in the fellowship and have seen that Scouting is bigger than your Troop, District, and Council.  These moments serve to shape you as a Scout.  A trip to Philmont can be life changing.  It is a spiritual place.  Your time spent hiking through the valleys and standing on the peaks truly move you.
Last week I had another great Scouting moment.  A moment in time that. while I know there will be more, has moved me more than I thought I would ever be moved.  Returning from the National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) at Michigan State University has left me on a three foot hover.  It has taken me four days to be able to put my thoughts down in writing.  I tried to post daily while at the NOAC.  Getting back to my dorm room around midnight everyday I would sit at the computer and stare.  Everyday left me happy, tired, and looking forward to the next.
I had the privilege to be asked to be on the training staff months ago.  I have done a lot of training as both a trainer and trainee, the training sessions at NOAC were impressive.  When asked, of course I said yes, not really understanding the scale and scope of the training and the impact it would make.  Meeting Arrowmen, both youth and adult, from all over the country, many lodges big and small, each with a shared goal but many challenges and paths to get there was a great experience.  I taught a class which was part of a three hour block on making OA Unit Representatives successful.  I was amazed at the attention that the Arrowmen gave.  Adults that serve as advisors looking to help the youth and the youth looking to make their units, chapters and lodges better.  Their ideas and their passion was overwhelming.  Our session was held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Mornings.  Nine hours of training, over a couple hundred Arrowmen being trained.  That is a ripple that will impact their Troops and Chapters for years to come.
I loved that moment in time as our session broke for the day.  Everyone heading to lunch but I was pleasantly surprised when groups of people wanted to stay after to talk about ideas or share a personal experience.  It was also very cool to spend time with readers of this blog.  I had one gentlemen come up to me after the class and say.. “It has taken me all hour to place the name, face, and voice..but I got it.. you are the Scoutmaster Minute guy”.  We shared a laugh and of course patches.
Those moments in time are so precious.
bigshowCrisThe theme of the NOAC was “It starts with us”.  I did not know where they were going with that upon arrival at MSU.  But it did not take long to see that there was something special in the air.  A vibe if you will that something big was going to happen this week.  But here is what I got the most from the week.  Listen.
Listen to our youth.  They are smart, they are motivated, they are willing, they are excited.. BUT…They feel we [Adults] don’t listen.  They don’t have faith that we believe in them.  They are tired of being overwatched and under trusted.  They want to have adventures and desire to have their own moments in time.  They want to feel as though they matter.
They don’t want to be hovered over and over protected.  They want to make a difference, but they want to do it in their own way.  They are not us, but share the same values, vision, and have a respect for tradition.
As I watched these youth this week I could not help but think to myself.. so what’s new.  Seems to me that every generation goes through that thought process.  The 50’s, 60’s, 70’s.. no different in what they wanted.. but these kids are special.  They have something that we never had.  They are connected.  They are smarter in some ways.  They have never lived in a world where information was hard to find.. and they find it.
I heard many adults complain about the “Spark”.  A little device that served a few purposes.  First, to connect with one another.  A little touch of the four fingered hand and you instantly shared your contact information.  You found out where someone was from and you could connect on a personal level with a fellow arrowman.  Second, it was a game.  Who can get the most contacts and check in’s.  I loved this idea, it moved the participant to sample a little bit of everything and seek out fellowship.  It caused Arrowmen to meet Region and National officers.  It was great that the likes of Wayne Brock, Tico Perez and our National President Robert Gates were also playing the Spark game and more importantly they were walking around making themselves accessible to everyone, not just those that were at the Gala event. And third the Spark served as a portal to information.  All of the course material and contacts are available to the Arrowmen once they get home.  This resource is greater than all the handouts, books, and give a ways that one gets at a normal conference.  We were sent home with the tools to change the world.
But the complaint was once again the hum drum voice of old.. and it can be that statement which tells the story of why we can not connect with our youth and why they feel we do not think they matter.
The cell phone (smart phone) is as a part of their generation as the Scout Uniform and we saw it’s impact on the NOAC.. I for one am on board.  Social media is a driving part of their and our lives.  I talked with a older Scouter one day at lunch.  He was not happy about all the phones and the spark game/tool.  I asked him what the issue for him was.  He said that it kept the boys from actually talking to one another.  I asked him if he really knew what they could do with these phones and what the Scouts were doing with them.  Sending Tweets about their experience so the world could share.  Instantly exchanging information.  Taking pictures to capture their moment in time and much more.  An awesome way to staying connected.  Texting to meet up and using social media to share the difference they want to make in the world.
On Wednesday night the National Chief talked about the impact that we should be making on the world.  It starts with living the Admonition of the Order of the Arrow.  It starts with loving one another, first as Brothers in the Order and sharing that love with everyone.  He dared all of us to do our good turn daily and share it on social media.  Again, there was a voice of decent from the older folks.. We should not brag about our good deed.. and I agree.  But I remember Bob Mazzuca when he was the Chief Scout Executive reminding us that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are.  They, whether we like it or not, use social media to stay connected.  If posting a good turn on twitter using #DAREtoDO will motivate others to do the same, imagine the impact that it will have.
Friday night at the closing show the youth of the Order of the Arrow spoke loud and clear that this was their moment in time and they want us to listen.   They are not asking for much.  Just know that they do care, they do have great ideas, and that they want the Order of the Arrow and Scouting to last forever.  They understand tradition and they want to preserve it, they just want to do it their way.
Now I have never been to a NOAC before, but I am sure that this message is not entirely new.  I am sure that as the Order of the Arrow entered new decades and looked forward the youth then (who are the adults now) shared the same view.  But for some reason it seemed as though this moment in time had momentum.  It felt like a wave that was building throughout the week.  This wave is big, powerful, and is looking to change the landscape of the OA and Scouting.. for the better.  From the songs they chose, the message they sent, and the training they attended, they want to make a difference and they know that it starts with them, it starts with us.
That message flowed in everything over the course of the week.  You could feel it.  At the shows, when 15,000 Arrowmen packed into the arena, you could see it.  A tidal wave crashing into the beach of Scouting.  The sand is the same, it is taking a new shape.
nutsOAFriday night as the sea of Arrowmen flowed from the Breslin Arena the feeling was strong.  As they gathered and shared ice cream while listening to the driving music from the stage outside I took up a vantage point to watch this moment.  My good friend Cris and I looked over the crowd as they continued the party.  I told Cris to take a look across the sports field next to the arena.  Thousands of Brothers gathered in circles, some larger than others but made up of Scouts from different Lodges.  Boys from California sitting with Scouts from Illinois.   Arrowmen from big Lodges hanging out with their Brothers from the smaller cities and towns.  This is what our Brotherhood is all about.  They shared that moment in time, they shared that last night at NOAC with the understanding that the next day we all had to go home and put these feelings into action.
I returned to the dorm that night to find that many of the adults of our contingent had already arrived.  The interesting thing was that they all hanging out in front of the dorm.  The youth started filtering in.  Groups of threes and fours.  They were all smiling and some even singing.  As they past us they would ask if we had a good time.  Of course we did I told them.  I meant it.  This was one of the best times of my life.. and yep.. I heard the youth loud and clear.  And so did all of the adults.  The choice now is theirs.  The youth have a vision, are the adults willing to be apart of it?  It’s a good thing and those that do not get on board will be left behind.  This tidal wave is strong and will take Scouting and the OA in particular into the next Century.  This excites me.
Alright, so we have had this moment in time.  What do we do now.  We know that change will start with us.  Change is happening.  From membership policy to program Scouting is different today, but that is not a bad thing.  Scouting has changed a lot in its first Century plus.  From uniforms to camping styles Scouting has changed to meet the needs of the Scouts it serves.  We Scouters need to be the at the head of these changes.  Our Values and Mission have not changed and are strong enough to stand the test of changing times.  The Oath and Law are promises and values that are as relevant today as 1915 and they are being embraced by our Scouts today, it just looks different.
On the heals of the National Order of the Arrow Conference we watched from a far as Scouts from all over the world gathered in Japan to reaffirm that Scouting is alive and well.  Again, this moment in time that needs to be paid attention to.  If you can’t hear it you are not listening.  Scouting is living!
So what will you do?  Where will you take your Scouting life?  It is part of everything we do, no separation, no division, Scouting is who we are.  NOAC was a great moment in time, time that I want to stand still, but it can’t.  This time must move so we can grow and make a difference.  Then, years from now we will look back with a smile and say that we were a part of it.  We remember that moment in time.
It starts with us.. you decide what “it” is.

Have a Great Scouting day!

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Critical eyes

hpteamLeaders must have a critical eye.  They must develop a habit of looking for opportunities to improve themselves and their team.  With a critical eye they will start seeing those opportunities.
Now, when I say opportunities, I am not suggesting that the leader look for all the things that are wrong.  On the contrary.  Those opportunities are those habits, skills, and activities that can use improvement and praise.
Without a critical eye the leader can not effectively move through the stages of team development.  The leader will overlook opportunities to move the team forward.
Using the EDGE method of leading and teaching, the leader with a critical eye will spot those skills and habits that are holding the team back not allowing them to be a high performance team.
It is easy for a leader to walk past a Scout struggling to get his tent packed.  It is not only a good example of being helpful, but also a confidence builder for the team when the leader steps up and pitches in demonstrating his skill and ability to lead.
Over the last weekend I had the opportunity to see this in action.  Our Senior Patrol leader assisted a new Scout in getting his tent stored properly.  This was a nice thing to do, but as a leader myself I could not resist the opportunity to teach the Senior Patrol leader some leadership.  After the Senior Patrol Leader finished showing the new Scout how to fold and roll his tent,  He handed him the stored tent and walked away.
Pulling the Senior Patrol Leader aside, I asked him which of the 4 methods of EDGE did he use to teach the new Scout how to fold his tent.  Demonstrate, He replied.  Absolutely I told him, but do you think he now knows how to put his tent away?  Not sure said the Senior Patrol leader.  Well, How will you know?  When he does it right the next time he suggested.  So when is that I asked.  Well, we have time now he said and returned to the new Scout.  He explained to him that he knew that he putting his tent away properly was a piece of cake and that now that he had been taught, he could do it right each time.  Then he asked to see the tent, took it out of the bag and unfolded it.  Then he told the new Scout to show him how to do it.  The new Scout did the skill correctly and received some great positive reinforcement from the Senior Patrol leader.
All of this is to say, that we tend to leave it at that.  No matter what the skill or task is, we tend to leave it at the basic level.  Unfortunately most of the time this leads to a lack of learning and skills are underdeveloped.  As leaders we know that it is a lot easier to look the other way, take the path of least resistance, and allow skills to remain mediocre.  It is an effective leader that wants his team, troop, crew what ever to be the best to be a high performance team.
One of the things that we work on with our junior leaders is having a critical eye.  At first, they focus on only those skills and tasks that are not being done well. Once they realize the importance of seeing the good and the bad, they become better leaders and as a result they start moving their unit to a high performance team.
Just something to think about.
Develop a critical eye in you and your junior leaders.. the results will amaze you!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | 2 Comments

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