Scoutmaster conference

The STEM Push

stemThe other night I held a couple Scoutmaster Conferences, both for Scouts earning the Star Rank and both of the Scouts good young men.  During our discussion the subject of merit badges came up as you need them for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks.
One of the young men asked me why certain merit badges were Eagle required, while others were not.  We looked at the merit badges that were on the Eagle required list and I explained to him that these are important merit badges that support the goals of Scouting.
Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World focus not on teaching you about citizenship, but what your obligations are as a Citizen.
First Aid, Camping, Life Saving, Hiking, Emergency Preparedness, Swimming, Cycling, Personal Fitness and Cooking all focus on the Scout being fit and self-reliant.  Communication, Family life and Personal Management focus on how he acts in the world.  These are important.
Finger printing, art, music, basketry, and astronomy are just cool things that spark interest in the Scout.
I have noticed that there is a big push on the STEM programs in Scouting.  As if Scouting was becoming a vocational arm of the education system.  Now before I get hate mail, I am all for the Science and technology stuff,  I am fascinated by what engineers can do.  But this is Scouting dang it.  I don’t want to take my Scouts to Summer camp and have them sit in class all day learning about how to split an atom.  I want them out there enjoying the outdoors.  The go to School from September to June… July and August are times for them to be boys!
The STEM push has taken over and I want it to back off a bit.  Even in our Council STEM is all over the place.  We have great STEM partners in our areas that are assisting young men in cranking out merit badges.  But are they learning anything?  My guess is no.
I asked this young man in our conference which merit badges he had earned (looking at his history I knew the answer).  He had really not got much out of the “filler badges”.  He did talk about First Aid and the Citizenship badges though.
I am not against the STEM Program, but I personally do not want Scouting to become the math club.  Scouts get enough School.  They join Scouts to get adventure and that is what we need to give them.
Sit a Scout down for an hour and teach them about anything.. they want to get up and run.. give them an adventure and in the process teach them life skills and appreciation for the outdoors and you have captured them for life long Scouting.
STEM is not going away.. this is the world we live in, but let’s do more Scouting!
Just my opinion and thoughts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Camping, Character, Citizenship, comments, Cooking, fitness, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, Summer Camp, technology, training | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Star, Life, and Eagle- Service

SLEbadgesOnce a Scout has completed all of the requirements and has achieved the rank of First Class, he can be expected to know all of those skills that make a good Scout.  Camping, First Aid, Citizenship, and living the Scout Oath and Law.  And so as the Scout continues his growth to becoming and Eagle Scout, the ranks of Star, Life, and ultimately Eagle require of the Scout to develop leadership and service and in doing so complete the continuum of become an Eagle Scout.
Summed up as being a Servant Leader.
Aside from earning those few merit badges that assist in the growth of the Scout, the young man should focus on that which is required but mainly on being a servant leader.  A merit badge sash filled from top to bottom means less than being a good leader.  A leader that is willing to serve.
Last night after our Troop meeting, I sat with a young man for a Scoutmaster conference for the rank of Star.  Consequently, this young man also became a Troop Guide for the new Scout patrol last night and began his skills instruction by assisting in their meal planning for the up coming camping trip.
During our discussion, which focused on future plans and leadership I shared with him the proven principle of Servant Leadership and the fact that if a Leader is not willing to first be the servant, the leader will never be able to lead effectively.
What is the purpose of leadership?  To get somewhere with a group.  To realize a vision.  To complete a task or mission, achieve a goal.  And to build up those that follow you making them leaders.
There are many ways and examples that we could debate, discuss, and define when it comes to leadership, and certainly every leader has his own style or method of leading.  But the constant is service.  All good and effective leaders understand that they are serving.  So it all starts with learning to serve.
This young man who became a Troop Guide is going to learn how to serve and I would argue that as of last night, he embarked on a learning journey that will make him a great leader.  His role in our Troop right now is more significant in its service than perhaps any other and as we discussed will have a greater impact long-term.  And so it goes with every servant leadership opportunity.  He has all of the skills and the right attitude, now it is time to build that in others and serve them on the way to meeting their goals.
The Senior Patrol leader is in the same boat in that he is serving the Troop.  He understands the vision of the Troop and maintains his focus on meeting the goals of the Troop while building up the rest of the Scouts, the Patrol leaders in particular.
In talking with our newest Eagle Scout on Sunday, I asked him if he could define his Scouting experience.  Was it the 34 merit badges he earned?  The interpreter strip?  The nights of camping, climbing, and canoeing?  No he said, it was becoming a leader and knowing how to lead by knowing that everyone has value.  He became a servant leader.
One Scout, our newest Eagle taking his leadership development into the real world, and another Scout, our newest Troop Guide stepping into the great unknown with a willingness to learn and a spirit of being a servant first.
I think that when we boil all of this down to its parts, the thing that always bubbles to the top are good leaders.  And right behind them are those that follow, that will one day be leaders also.
We want our leaders to model expected behaviors.  They never stop hearing that.  We adult leaders model servant leadership every day.  That is the way we will grow and develop great young leaders.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, camp skills, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Order of the Arrow, respect, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Obstacles to Objectives

DSCN4484In an effort to “fix lazy” it dawned on me that one of the problems is that our young men, and I am not just talking about Scouts here, tend to get caught up in the obstacles rather than focusing on the objectives.  This bogs them down and they feel defeated.  They fail themselves in the mind before they can feel the success of completing a task.
In the last post I listed a few “rathers”.. they would rather freeze then change clothing, they would rather be cold and miserable than apply the training they have learned.  This is lazy and it is an attitude that someone will come to my aid.
This is also an inability to get past the obstacle and get to the objective.
The objective is the skill or the task or goal.  Lets take for example setting up a tent.  The tent does not change.  It is the same tent that they have set up many times, but insert an obstacle like snow and cold and now it is a whole new tent.  NO, it’s still the same tent.  The challenge is to get it set up.. the goal is to get the tent set up to get out of the elements, but in their mind they can’t do it because it is cold.  I was talking with one Scout about what they would have done had we hiked in at night.  Something we do 11 times a year.. but none the less.  He asked what we would have done, so I told him that we would have set up camp… just like we always do.  I asked him if he knew how to set up his tent, he said yes.  Then I told him that it’s no different setting it up in the dark than it is setting it up in the day light.  The tent is the tent.  Same poles, same grommets, same rain fly, same guy tie outs, same everything.  If you can set it up in your living room, you can set it up in the woods, the snow, the rain, and the dark.  He immediately found the obstacle rather than the objective.
I am finding this more and more with the Scouts that we have these days.  The look for the obstacles rather than focusing on the objectives.  This is the wrong way to think.
If we focus on the objective, we will negotiate the obstacles to get there.  The obstacles become the fun challenge that it takes to get the reward or success.
We have been talking about our up coming backpacking trip this summer.  The younger guys are doing a 50 miler, while the more experienced guys are going to do about 80.  When the PLC announced this immediately they thought about 50 miles of backpacking and not the adventure.  They failed to hear the part about 10 days of hiking, breaking up the mileage into reasonable chunks,  that anyone with a pair of legs could do.  They did not think about 10 days of being out with their buddies in the Olympics.. nope.. just the obstacles that would make it hard.
This we need to work on.. but it is the first part of fixing lazy.
What are your thoughts on this?  I’d love to know.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, comments, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scouts, Skills, Values | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Unit Culture

IMG_2059Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election.  Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership.  We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”.  When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders.  The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’.  At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow.  We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA.  I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now.  There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same.  A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout.  Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here.  Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap.  I asked why they think that is.  The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it.  If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee.  Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree).  Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire.  I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed?  Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look.  The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit.  New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture.  Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture.  Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled.  This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop.  They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp.  They like to show up with nothing but their packs.  This attitude is a big part of our culture.  It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from?  Well, certainly I had a part to play.  Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it.  As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other  adventurous activity.  It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are.  And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method.  The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring.  When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader.  They never stop hearing it.  The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”.  The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture.  More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session.  It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”.  Stuff that they just need to talk about.  To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust.  I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law.  Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here.  Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them.  That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence.  We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting.  We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program.  I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend.  That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is.  I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men.  I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous.  I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone.  I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times.  This has become our culture, this is our Troop.  I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell.  That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different.  My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it.   Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Patrol Method, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, teamwork, Values | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Why do we do this?

Quote from BP“Scouting is not an abstruse or difficult science: rather it is a jolly game if you take it in the right light. At the same time it is educative, and (like Mercy) it is apt to benefit him that giveth as well as him that receiveth.”  Baden-Powell of Gilwell.

I have been digging into my copy of Aids to Scoutmastership once again.  I find that the little book written by Baden-Powell in 1920 still holds water today.  As BP makes clear in Aids to Scoutmastership, the book is not an instruction manual, rather it is a book outlining Why we do what we do in Scouting.  And once we know why we are doing something it is easier to see the vision and achieve the goals or aims.  I would encourage you to get a hard copy of this.  Mine is full of notes and highlights.. a must for every Scoutmaster.
Seeing the vision and understanding the goals are an important part of the Scoutmasters job.  I think that too many Scoutmasters get caught in the “game” that they lose focus on the goal.  Now, “the game” may be different in each unit and dependent on the leader.  Some pay particular attention to advancement, while others focus on the outings.  In most cases there is a good balance, but there still is a missing piece.  That piece is the Aims and the Why we are playing this game with a purpose.
It is nice to watch as a Scout becomes and Eagle Scout.  As a Scoutmaster, I love to sit and talk with a young man who has earned the Eagle Award.  Like the leader that misses the true goal of Scouting though a young man may only think that he has achieved the highest rank.  He may thing that he is a the end of the journey because he is now an Eagle Scout.  But that is not the case, he is far from done, he is just beginning.
In becoming an Eagle Scout he is starting to realize the vision and starting to grow in his manhood life long habits of good decision-making, life skills, leadership, and of course being a good citizen.
The other night I sat with a Scout in my troop for his Scoutmaster Conference.  He has completed all of the requirements to earn his Eagle Award.  Yes, he has completed all of the requirements, but he has actually become an Eagle Scout.  In our discussion we talked more about the future and why he is going to be successful.  He looked back at all of the challenges that got him to this point and I was happy to hear that instead of making them a negative thing, he looked back on them as learning points along his Scouting trail.
We talked about leadership.  It has taken this Scout a little longer to develop into a leader, but he is there now and we talked about the different ways in which he developed those skills.  It was important for me to remind him that in becoming an Eagle Scout he has demonstrated that he has what it takes to lead.  The American public may not know much about Scouting other than helping old ladies across the street, but they all know that being an Eagle Scout is special.  They look to Eagle Scouts to lead.
Where am I going with this?
We often lose the forest for the trees as they say.  We make sure to teach camping skills and encourage Scouts to earn all the merit badges they can… but what of the Aims?  What about the purpose of Scouting?  I think that is what BP was reminding those leaders back in 1920 and he continues to remind us today… Stay focused on why we play this game with a purpose.  It is not about Eagle Scouts.  It is about Citizens of Character that are fit.  The BSA reminds us in the mission statement that we are to teach young people to make ethical choices over their lifetimes.  This is why we go camping, do service projects, earn merit badges and become Eagle Scouts.
I love digging in that old book.  It gets me refocused on what is important.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: Advancement, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Leadership – The power of the mind

thinkMental toughness is a great leadership trait.  It allows the leader to think clear and make good decisions.  I recently ran into an article in Backpacker magazine that reinforced some of the leadership training that I learned early on in the Army and it applies real well in Scouting and out-door adventures.
Mental toughness is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced as a result the leader will be able to be a more effective leader.
First the leader needs to Set better Goals.  Again, we turn to the SMART Goal method and make sure that our Goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  With those goals in mind as we prepare to lead a task or move a group from A to B we need to think about those contingency plans and risk management that go along with our goal. Clear goal setting is the map that leaders use to guide those they lead.
Second the leader must Monitor his self talk.   Are your thoughts Purposeful, Productive, and giving yourself a chance for success.  Remember that we talked about seeing success this week.  Self talk needs to remain positive.  It has been found that when the leader doubts himself or has a negative internal talk he will see those thoughts through.  On the other hand a confident leader with a positive internal monologue will set his mind in motion for positive outcomes.
Third the leader needs to Control the Controllables.   That is to say that you must wrap your arms around that which you can control and not worry about that which you can not.  You will never be able to control the weather for example.  You can plan for it, prepare for it, but you can not control it.  You can control the skills and shape the conditions for your desired outcome.  Stay focused on the things that you have control over.  The number one thing that you control is your attitude and your ability.  Having a positive attitude and the right skills are leadership traits that will give you more control over those that you lead.  Do not misunderstand the use of control here.  We are discussing the idea of control of situations, skills, and attitude.  Not dictatorship style controlling of people.
And finally, the fourth thing to build mental toughness is Combat Catastrophic Thinking.  This goes along with the self talk, but takes it a step further.  Keep your mind from falling into the pit of worse case scenario thinking.   Worrying about what can happen does not matter.  Keeping it from happening using sound judgement and thinking about the risk and managing that risk is far more important than worrying about the worst cases.
I have seen leaders that get caught up in this trap and once they start with the “We will never make it” scenarios they adopt the idea that it is true.  This attitude is contagious and will spread.  This is critical when backpacking.  The blame game starts to surface and one bad decision will lead to another.
Mental toughness is that attitude that “I am a leader and I will be successful”.   It comes with confidence, practice, and when the leader realizes that the power of the mind is often greater than the power of the body.
The Scout Oath says to be mentally awake.  Develop the mind to be mentally tough.  We saw this at Philmont over and over again either in our crew or in other crews at the many camps we passed through.  A Scout would give up on himself.  He could go no further.. according to his mind.  He could make it, but he was mentally weak.  A 14 mile day on the trail is just 14 miles.  You can do it when you set your mind to it.  You can be the leader that inspires others to make it when you set your mind and attitude in the right direction.  You can be the best cheerleader by putting one foot in front of the other and a smile on your face.  No need to yell or cheer.  Just encourage by your actions and mental toughness.
I once hiked with one of our newer Scouts.  We had gone four and half miles and had four more to go to get into camp.  He stopped on the trail and threw his pack to ground proclaiming that he would walk not one more step.  I told him that it was fine with me and took my pack off and joined him on the ground.  He was mentally finished.  Video games had got the best of him and he did not want to finish.
I talked with him about our options.  We could walk back to the cars almost five miles away, or we could push to camp four miles away, but either way we would have to hike out of there.  The benefits of getting to camp were greater than going back to the car.  Food, relaxing, and hanging out with his buddies versus going home without success, better known as being a failure.  He looked around and saw that he was the only one not willing to move forward and the decision became easier for him to make.  We got into camp and never had another issue with him.
To many people these days fear mental toughness.  They think it is a trait of a bully or tough guy.  It is a trait of leadership and one of being a man.  We want to develop both leadership and manliness in our Scouts.
Something to think about in working with your leaders.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: blog, Character, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Philmont, Risk Management, Scout, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, training, Values | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Leadership- Building Confident Leaders

leaderhipsketchThe other day I talked about the four “C”s that when added to the leaders tool box makes for ease in decision-making and better leaders.
I will add that when our young leaders start using the four “C”s they will also become Confident leaders.  Young leaders need practice to become confident.  Learning and finding success builds that confidence.
Making mistakes are a good thing.
I have heard confidence defined as the “Expectation of Success”.  I think this is a fair definition in that as a leader we are striving to achieve a goal.  Whether that is a person goal or a team goal, the mastering of a task or skill, or getting from point A to point B.  The leader expects to achieve success.
Making mistakes to achieve that success is ok when lessons are learned and there is time to evaluate and make corrections.  Mistakes that are uncorrected or allowed to be swept under the rug are just mistakes and a waste of time and energy.  Further more they do not built confidence in leaders as they do not see that success when they fail to learn from their mistakes.
So when our goal as Scoutmasters is to build confident leaders we need to watch for those mistakes and coach them through the recovery.
When a Quarterback throws an interception he is often greeted by the coach as he comes to side line.  The QB failed to achieve the goal of completing the pass.  He failed to achieve the goal of moving the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown.  The coach has a choice to make.  He can discuss the play with the Quarterback and refocus his vision of success or he chew him out.  I would submit that while the Quarterback let the team down by throwing the pick, he will recover faster and make fewer mistakes if coached on mechanics of the pass, what he saw down field, or maybe even communicating better with his receiver.  The point is there are many things that the coach may have seen that the QB did not as the Defensive End came busting around the Tackle.  It is the coaches responsibility to build that confidence back up in the player.  The coach has a bigger perspective of the game and can assist in getting the Quarterback back on track by teaching him and not chastising him.
Having said that, there is room in certain situations for a good hard lesson.  I have said it many times, I care less about how you feel and more about how you act.  I would never advocate belittling or bringing a Scout down.. remember that the goal here is to build confidence.  If a leaders decision was such that it caused harm or moves away from the values found in the Oath and Law, the discussion is a bit different.  Always in the spirit of teaching and learning, but not such that the leader feels like he got away with something.
Confident leaders make consistent good decisions.  Part of that decision-making is in how the leader, by being confident builds confidence in those he leads.  The most important thing that leaders can do is show confidence in other people.
This in turn leads to leaders that show initiative.  Initiative is power.  Power to act, Power to make decisions, and Power to take advantage of opportunity.  This is when real leaders begin to shine.  This is where you see the confidence built-in your young leaders.  This is where you start to build that leadership trait in future leaders.  When the younger Scouts see their leaders show initiative and confidence it sends the message that it is ok to step up and lead.
It all begins with that vision of success.  Clear goals, personal and as part of the team.  Building confident leaders is the responsibility first of the Scoutmaster.  When that happens you have a Troop that can lead.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, respect, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, teamwork, training, Values | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leadership – Teaching Opportunity

IMG_1978One of the main functions of the Scoutmaster is to train the Junior Leaders, in particular, the Senior Patrol Leader.  I take this responsibility serious and am in a constant mode of looking for opportunities to train the Scouts to be better leaders.
Most of the training is informal and as we find ourselves in opportune times where a lesson has presented itself.  What I have found is that, first, our Scouts really don’t know what they don’t know, and second, they don’t look for opportunities to learn and train others.
Now that is a pretty lofty statement, let me explain what I mean.. here is the training opportunity.
Teen age boys typically look for the easy way out.  They find the path of least resistance, which in turn puts them in challenging leadership roles.  They typically want to just get along and resist confrontation when it comes to being a leader.
Whether it is because the Scout lacks confidence or leadership skills they find themselves in situations that often times leave them feeling unsuccessful.  This is where a good tool box full of good leadership tools comes in.
I had a discussion the other night with a Patrol leader.  He feels like no one really wants to listen to him.  So, asking a few leading questions we took a look at his leadership style and gave him tools to make it better.
First, the leader needs to understand who he is leading and why he is leading.  Is it a specific task that needs to be accomplished or just general leadership within the confines of a Patrol?  The leader needs to look for opportunities to be “the man”.  Here is what I mean by that… Leaders are not Bosses.. but leaders are the “go to” guys that people want to follow.  The leader become “the Man” when he can display in his leadership the 4 “C”s.
Courage, Candor, Competence, and Compassion.
Courage.  It takes Courage to be a leader, especially a leader of Scouts.  You will not always make popular decisions and you may be put in situations that pit you one against another.  The Leader with Courage will always do what is right and the right thing for the good of his Patrol, or Troop.
Candor.  Tell it like it is.  Tell the Truth and never shy away from the truth.  If a member of the Patrol is acting in the wrong way or not doing a skill correctly, don’t be afraid to hurt their feelings, tell the truth.  We as leaders need to worry less about feeling and focus more on actions.  Actions or the way we act and do things are far more important than feelings.  A leader that demonstrates candor is respected and shows his good character.
Competence.  No one wants to follow a leader that does not know what the heck they are doing.  Following a lost leader gets the whole group lost.  To build competence the leader must keep learning and testing themselves.  Sharpening skills and looking inward at their decision-making.  Constantly working to fill the tool box.
And Compassion.  We lead people and manage equipment.  Being that leader that cares about those that they lead grows confidence in the follower.  When we genuinely care about making those around us better, they see it and start to build a better relationship within the team.  When we care about teaching them and showing them the right way to do anything, we make them better.  When we care enough to model expected behavior, those that we lead will follow and show that behavior back to us.
Taking the four “C”s and putting them to use will make the leader better and keep him focused.
The four “C”s also give the leader a simple set of standards so he can focus on what is important in his Patrol.  My Patrol leader did not think that his patrol listened to him.  So I asked the simple questions; What are you saying and How are you saying it?  Do you come at your Patrol competent and compassionate?  We discussed a missed opportunity that he had over the weekend camp out.  A simple task of cooking a meal could have been a million dollar lesson to his patrol in skill and fun.  That patrol was cooking venison steaks.  The missed opportunity was how they cooked them.  A little bit of prior planning on the Patrol leaders part could have made him “The Man”.
Cooking steaks over an open fire would have made a bigger bang within the patrol, rather, they cooked on a frying pan and used up lots of cooking utensils and time.  The Patrol leader missed the opportunity to get his younger Scouts involved in the process and about 10 minutes into the ordeal of cooking, he lost them.
It was a great opportunity that was lost because he took the path of least resistance.
“The Good Idea Fairy”
I have listened in on many Patrol meetings.  Most Patrol meetings end in frustration when members of the Patrol do not feel that they are being listened to.  Sometimes the Patrol Leader needs to let the Good Idea Fairy be heard.  Jotting down an idea or two and seeing how they can be worked into the plan for the next event.  Maybe cooking over the open fire came up, but was dismissed by the leader.  When the leader lets those ideas happen they get buy in from those that they lead.
Always look for that Teaching Opportunity.  They are always there and we as Scoutmasters need to be on top of it.   Allow the situation to run its course and then sit down with the Patrol Leader or other leaders and ask those leading questions that get them thinking beyond the path of least resistance.
Scouts are looking for that challenge and they want to be challenges.  They just don’t know what they don’t know and you know… sometimes they are afraid that we are going to say no to them or shut down their great ideas.  Go with it.  We need to use those four “C”s also.
If it is not unsafe, unethical, or not outside of the Scouting program.. say Yes and let them find that learning opportunity.  You will be the man when you keep learning and growing in your leadership also.
Almost everything we do in Scouting will come with a teaching opportunity.  Find it and share it.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, respect, Scout, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Values | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Using Evernote ™ for Scouting

Evernote_Icon_256One of my goals for this year and in particular in working on the blog is to use tools to be more successful.  There is nothing worse than a goal that is not attainable because of lack of want to or know how and sometimes tools can assist in making a goal more attainable.
A new years resolution to go to the gym only works while the motivation to work out is there.  Going to the gym and not working out because you don’ t know how only discourages you and you don’t go back.
I am one of “those people” that needs constant motivation to stay on track.  I do that by motivating myself and finding tools and resources that keep me focused and on task.
For example.  I am working on doing more to lift some of the burden of household chores from my wife.  She does and has done a fantastic job over the past 22 years and I know this is an area that I can do better at.  So I have picked up the responsibility to doing the grocery shopping.  I hate grocery shopping, but it is a task that I can do so I had to find motivation (other than just being more helpful).  So I dove into the task to find tools that would make grocery shopping more interesting for me and make me want to do it.  Enter an app for my phone.  I downloaded the Out of Milk app and started using it.  We make the grocery list on the computer and sync it with my phone.  Bingo.. we have a winner.  I am actually finding grocery shopping fun, walking up and down the isles scanning products and adding them to the shopping cart.
Apps and software have made much of what we do these days more tolerable.  They have also made managing tasks, lists, notes, and resources more accessible.  A few years back I started using an app called Evernote ™.  It was a cool way to take notes and have them available across different platforms.  My computer, phone, tablet etc.  Then I started using for Scouting.
Some of the cool things about Evernote ™ that I really like are the note taking and sharing of information I gather.  With Evernote ™ I can clip and save things right from the internet.  I can save PDF files for retrieval later and I can record voice notes.
Evernote ™ has all of this in one nice bundle.  I have many notebooks within Evernote ™.  This is nice to I stay organized and have everything right at the tip of my fingers.
evernotescreenshotOur Troop uses Troopmaster ™ to manage the Troop’s administrative functions.  But Troopmaster ™ does not have a corresponding app for my phone or a mobile way of accessing information from Troopmaster ™.  So I save the reports and most frequently used items from Troopmaster ™ as PDF files and drop them into Evernote ™.  I can’t tell you many times we have been at a Scout property and they need a roster with phone numbers, ages, etc.  I just open up Evernote ™ and there it is.  I can even print the roster from Evernote ™ if they have wireless printing available.  I had to do this last summer at summer camp.
Scoutmaster conferences are easily tracked and noted using Evernotes voice memo feature.  It is nice to talk with a Scout and then capture some of my thoughts right after we are finished without sitting a writing it all down.  Then once I get home I can transcribe the voice memo into a note for future reference.
Project planning is another great use for Evernote ™.  In 2012 I used Evernote ™ to plan and track our Philmont trek.  Everything from setting reminders to making checklists to ultimately making notes along the journey.  Adding pictures to remind me of tasks, people, places, and things we needed to do.
As most everything we get now electronically from the BSA comes in PDF format, dropping our reservations and other correspondence from Philmont was easy to save and retrieve.
I am still learning of new features and ways to use Evernote ™, but so far it is a great tool to make my Scouting life and my personal life more organized.  It is a way that I stay focused and on task and therefore more productive.
Some of the other ways in which I use Evernote ™:
workflowBuilding Packing list for Backpacking.  It is a nice way to make checklists and track weight and gear.
Lists for places I want to go.  Using the clip it feature on the web I can save maps, brochures, and information about places I want to go, in particular backpacking.
Saving ideas for future planning with the Patrol Leaders Council.
Recipes for Dutch oven or backpacking meals.
Using Evernote ™ Hello I save business card and meeting information.  That is really a neat feature and a fast and easy way to build and maintain contact lists.
That’s just a few.  I follow the Evernote Blog also.  It is amazing all of the different ideas shared there for use cases, tips, and what’s happening with Evernote ™.
Finding a good way to stay motivated and on task is important. It is critical if you are like me and have many irons in the fire and want to stay focused.  But like everything else if you don’t commit to using the tools then you as good as that new years resolution to go to the gym.
I hope that helps you find a tool that will help you manage your irons in whatever fire you place them.
Let me know what you use.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, comments, Cooking, High Adventure, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Philmont, reviews, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, Summer Camp, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Money and Scouting

Friends of ScoutingI am going to tread lightly on this subject as I have some unpopular opinions when it comes to money and Scouting, but bare with me as I make an attempt to articulate my thoughts on this.
When we talk about money and Scouting there are always a couple of concerns.  First, the cost of Scouting.  It can seem overwhelming when a new parent is hit up with the initial cost of Scouting.  The uniform, the handbook, and the gear all seem to drain a family in the pocket-book.  Then there are dues, summer camp, and in some units the nickel and dimeing that is part of the annual program.  Yeah, that can seem a bit too much, unless your unit is aware of this and makes an effort to either reduce the cost or have programs in place to assist a new young man stepping off on his journey in Scouting.
Let me say at the outset that there is absolutely NO REASON at all that every young man in America can not be a Scout.  Money IS NOT an issue and at least in our unit will not become one.  If a Scout has financial needs, we will accommodate, but no young man will be left out.
How do you do that?  Well, let me share with you how our unit does it.  Your mileage may vary on this and I am certainly not saying that we do it best or there are no other ways to do this.. I know what we do works and it removes the excuses about money in Scouting.
I challenge any parent, no matter what your economic status to argue that your son can not be a Scout because of money.
So having said that…
Number 1.
Get a good plan and with that plan, a budget.
Just like in your home, you budget to maintain your financial health.  Your unit is no different.  Our Troop committee has made it a practice to never say no to the PLC.  If they plan it, the committee will figure out a way to support it.  Now, before you think that we are stepping away from Youth led.. no, we are not.  The Troop committee is responsible for  the budget.  They figure out how much the program is going to cost for the year and pass that on to the Scouts.  They figure out seat belts, rentals, and fees and provide the Council level fund-raising opportunities for the Scouts to participate in.  Once that is provided, it is up to the Scout to participate.
Number 2.
Announce the dues for the year and promise not to ask for another penny (save FOS).
This is key.  Once the program cost is set we divide it among the members of the unit and that becomes the dues for the year.  We never ask for another dime.
That number is typically around $200.  The parents are given a complete budget break down of everything that the money is for.  The Scout then has an option to make 3 payments to pay his dues.  Note that I said the Scout has that option.  The Scout is responsible for paying his way.
Number 3.
Offer the Council level fundraising opportunities.  Pop corn, candy sales, etc.  Our Troop also offers a Christmas Wreath sale opportunity.  It is up to the Scout to participate and the unit does not do mass fundraising.  It is up to the Scout to pay his own way.
Number 4.
A Scout is thrifty.  He pays his own way.  If the Scout chooses not to participate in the fundraisers, it is up to him to earn the money to pay for his year in Scouting.
Here is where the eye brows are raised and I catch flack from those not in our unit.
There are plenty of money earning opportunities out there.  Mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, walking dogs, baby sitting, house sitting, painting fences, odd jobs will certainly earn a Scouts way for the year, and then some.  I am not expecting our Scouts to get a job in a spoon factory, I am just suggesting that they need to get off their butts and work for their year in Scouting.  If that is payment for their chores at home or hitting their neighborhood and mowing lawns, the Scout needs to earn his keep.
I can not tell you how many parents I have talked to that disagree with that.  As with most things in life, that which you earn you value.  So we ask that our Scouts earn their way.
Number 5.
Accountability.
If a Scout fails to pay his dues, he is given notice that he can not participate.  If there are circumstances which preclude the Scout from money earning we will talk.  If a Scout participates in the Council fundraising opportunities, he is given the benefit of the doubt and given more time or opportunity.  If the Scout has not made an attempt at money earning he will not.  It is that simple.  There are just to many opportunities out there not to at least cover basics.
Summer camp can seem to burden a family.  We again ask the Scout to pay his way.  If that does not happen, we find ways of funding the Summer camp experience.

Big money in Scouting.
I have heard many Scouters talk about not giving to FOS for one reason or another.  And I am not going to go to deep into that.  Lets just say those people for the most part are misinformed as to what that money does to have a direct impact on Scouts and Scouting.  So give to FOS.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of representing our Council at the National Meetings of the Boy Scouts of America.  I got to go to some work shops and meet a lot of the “heavy hitters” in Scouting.  At the big Banquet dinner on Saturday night, my wife and I sat as they presented the Silver Buffalo awards.  Someone at our table made the comment that those people purchased the Silver Buffalo and therefore it meant nothing.  I disagree.
The fact that 10 people who that year each had made contributions in the millions to Scouting, most going directly to Scout camps, facilities, and scholarships impressed me.  Scouting could not function without those dollars.  The fact that they pay so the rest of us can essentially afford great programs impressed me.  And I applaud them.
I am a member of the James E. West fellowship, and proudly wear my $1000 knot.  Yeah, folks joke about that too, but at the end of the day, it is paying for Scouting.  The James E. West fellowship endowment money is legacy money and will have lasting impacts on our Council.  I can not give the millions, but what I can give ensures that Scouts can go to camp and have a camp to go to.  So that too I would ask that you consider.
I am not going to debate how one Council or another manages their money, that is not my concern.  My concern is delivering the promise of Scouting… and that takes money.
So Scouts can pay their way and we adults can support their effort and their program.
Money and Scouting can work.  Have reasonable expectations, goals, and hold the Scouts accountable for being Thrifty.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, planning, Scout Law, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, Values | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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