training

Cold Weather Camping – Sleep System

photo courtesy of Thermarest

photo courtesy of Thermarest

Getting a good nights sleep is an important part of any camp out, and very important when camping in the cold.  Sleeping in the cold creates some anxiety in young Scouts.  While the Scout is up and moving he can control his level of warmth.  Teaching the Scout that it is possible to be warm in the winter will help him get a good nights sleep.
First, lets talk gear.
When I talk gear for sleeping, I refer to it as a sleep system.  The system may vary depending on conditions, temperature, and he person.
The sleep system consists if the Sleeping bag, the sleeping pad (insulation), and sleep clothing.  You may add to the system a sleeping bag liner, a bivy sack, and of course a pillow.
The sleeping bag is the base of the system.  The rating of the bag needs to be at least 20 degrees.  Lover is preferred especially when the temps are known to frequently dip below 20 degrees.  Adding the sleeping bag liner will add another 10 degrees of warmth to you in the bag and is a light weight, inexpensive option to adding warmth.
Down versus Synthetic?  It really does not matter.  They are equally as warm, down is going to cost more, but you will get your savings in weight.  Down needs to stay dry to keep warm.  Synthetic materials fair better than down when wet or damp.  Which is an important consideration when coaching Scouts on which type of bag to purchase.
It used to be popular opinion to wear as little as possible when in your sleeping bag, now however, your clothing is considered a part of your sleep system.
First thing to remember is whatever you decide to wear, it needs to be clean and dry.  For most that means wearing a clean set of poly pro long underwear.  Again, keep in mind that it is easier to stay warm than to re warm.  Change into your “sleeping clothing” when you are warm.  Boil up some water and drink a hot beverage.  While you are drinking, boil up enough water to put in a water bottle.  Throw it in your sleeping bag as you change into your sleep clothes.   Hand warmers are also a good way to preheat the bag.
A change of your socks is also a great idea.  If you are like me, your feet are the first thing to get cold.  Dry socks going into a sleeping bag is fantastic and will keep you warmer.  Find a real thick pair of wool socks, you know, the kind that you would never hike in but look super comfy.  Wear them at night to keep your feet warm.
Possumdown socks or a good thick merino wool sock are what I find to work the best.
The set up of your gear is important.  Get out of the elements.
Don’t sleep in low ground.  Cold air settles in low ground.  When selecting your sleep area, where you pitch your tent, make sure you stay on the upper part of the slope.  If you must pitch camp in low ground, dig a sump outside of the door of your tent.  This will pull the cold air away from you as you sleep.
Vent your Tent.  If you fail to vent you will wake up wet, condensation will form in your tent.  You can expect a little, but if you don’t vent you will certainly get too much moisture in your tent.  This is bad for your gear and also will make your packing a bit harder.
The sleeping bag liner is a great piece of gear.  It is perhaps the biggest addition to my winter gear.  Adding ten degrees to my sleeping bag, it is made of fleece, which absorbs some moisture from my breath at night, keeps my bag dry, and takes away the feel of cold nylon as I slip into my bag.
Getting a great nights sleep is critical when camping.  Staying warm is key.  Knowing your sleep system and how to use it is an important skill in winter camping.
We will talk more about winter camping in our next post.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, Skills, training, Winter Camping | 3 Comments

Cold Weather Camping 2015

>The harder the challengeCamping in the cold is adventurous and fun.  It poses challenges and requires more training to ensure a safe, fun time spent in the winter camping.
I love cold weather camping, it is perhaps some of my favorite camping.  Since becoming a Scoutmaster, I have taken pride in sharing that love of winter camping with the Scouts of my Troop.  On average, we camp about 3 times a year in a cold weather environment.  We have been very successful during these camp outs because of the training that we do before the outing.
So what do we do to make our winter outings successful? Training, accountability, and skills development.
Training.
Cold weather camping all starts with good training.  We have a rule, not a policy, that if a Scout does not attend all of the training he does not go on cold weather camp outs.
We do this simply for safety.  The safety of the scout and his buddies.  Any high risk activity requires training above and beyond your typical camping skills.
Cold weather injury prevention takes a good portion of the training.  We teach the Scouts first how to prevent cold weather injuries.
Developing the skills of the Scout to prepare for camping in the cold, identify those symptoms of cold weather injuries and then treatment.  It should be noted that as stated we average about three cold weather camp outs a year as a Troop, and when I refer to cold weather camp outs, I am talking about sub freezing temperatures.  For the past ten years we have been using this training plan and have never had a cold weather injury.  I suppose I should pay respect to my Scouting friends in Alaska and Minnesota.. we do not get the temps you all get and I would think you all have similar training programs.  Cold weather injuries are cold weather injuries no matter where you are.
Subjects under the topic of cold weather injuries include; Hypothermia, Frost Bite, Chill Blains, Frost nip, snow blindness, and immersion foot.
We move on from injuries to layering and proper wear of clothing.  We discuss how and when to layer up or down and the right clothing for the outing.  When it comes to clothing, we teach that it is easier to stay warm than to re-warm.  The idea that re-warming takes time and energy that you may want to save.
Clothing plays a major role in Cold weather camping.  Not just a lot of clothing, but the right clothing.  Moving from cotton shirts that keep moisture on the body thus cooling you, to synthetic shirts that wick the sweat away from you.  Jackets that insulate as well as protect from the elements.  A layering system that allows you to move as well as stand around.  Gloves that work for completing camp tasks as well as keeping your fingers, hands, and wrist warm.
Hats that warm and protect from wind while keeping your head dry.
There is a lot more that goes into developing your clothing list.  Keeping in mind that you still have to carry it in your pack, bulk plays a part in your packing list.  Extra socks are always a must, consideration needs to be made as to when you are going to change them, where you carry them, and how many do you need.  A thick pair of wool socks to sleep in may be packed in with your sleep system while your smart wool socks worn for hiking and moving around camp may be packed on top for easy access.
If you are like me, once your feet get cold, I am cold.  So maintaining warmth by frequent changing of socks is a must for me.
Part of the training program is a discussion of using existing gear.  Using a three season tent  to stand up to heavy snow and winds.  Adding a layer in a sleeping bag to give an additional ten degrees of warmth.  And how to make your stove the most efficient it can be in the cold.
A big area of our preparation for cold weather camping is the matter of accountability.  This is a touchy subject for some, but it is a matter of safety and therefore non negotiable.  A Scout must attend the four meetings leading to the first winter camp out.  This way he gets the training required and has an opportunity to work with the rest of the troop on the skills needed for winter outings.
Being accountable to one another is an important part of this process.  The Scouts are accountable to one another.  When they understand that they can not have a “me” attitude, they start to pay close attention to what their buddy is doing and how they are a member of that team.  We teach that cold weather injury prevention is a leaders responsibility.  Leadership and Discipline are the two key components in cold weather camping.  Leaders that care for their patrols will keep an eye on them.  They will watch for the signs of cold weather issues.  They will keep their patrol motivated an on task.  They start building that high performance team with the understanding that they are all in this together.  It takes the whole patrol watching out for each other, pitching in with camp chores, set up, take down, meal prep, etc. that makes the experience one they won’t forget.
When we talk about accountability we need to ensure that the Scout understands that he is an important part in the safety of his buddy and himself.  Most Scouts will go through their Scouting life following the leader.  Cold weather camping forces the issue of leadership on each Scout.
Accountability starts with the Scout being required to attend the meetings and training.  If the Scout fails to attend the required meetings and training the result is the Scout not being able to attend the outing.  When it comes to this we stand firm.  Training and developing the required skills are important, when a Scout does not get the training, he is setting himself up for a possible injury or at least increasing the risk of himself and his buddies.
The Scout is accountable for his attitude.  A lack of enthusiasm for the outing or having a negative attitude is not a good fit in the group dynamic in the cold weather environment.  Being able to keep that positive outlook is important.  You will need it when the conditions seem to be fighting you and you feel as though the task is out of hand.  Understanding that you can and will get through the conditions is mostly in your attitude.
We will leave this discussion right here for now… we will pick up with the skills discussion in our next post.
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Have a Great Scouting Day!

COLD WEATHER TIP

Warm up socks and boot insoles by keeping them in the sleeping bag next to you.

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Leadership, teamwork, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Troop Leadership Corps

tlcpatchFrom 1972 to 1989 the Boy Scouts of America had a program called the Troop Leadership Corps.  This program was designed for Scouts 14-16 to serve their Troop in leadership roles.  They were not a member of a Patrol within the Troop, but held direct leadership within the Troop.  They served as guides for new Scout Patrols, they served in traditional leadership roles and they were charged with being skills instructors and role models to the Troop.
In 1989, this program was replaced with the Venture Patrol within traditional Troops.  At this point the older Scouts now became a patrol and Troop positions of leadership were created to fill the void.  The Instructor and Troop Guide Positions were created and added to the leadership roll of offices.
Since 1989 many Troops however have held on the Troop Leadership Corps (TLC) as a foundation of leadership in the Troop.  It is also a great way to maintain older Scouts keeping them active in the Troop and engaged with the younger Scouts.
Our Troop is now among them.  We are rebuilding the Troop Leadership Corp, with our own spin on it.  during the heyday of the TLC the Scouts that made up the Corps left their patrols and entered the group of leaders to form a patrol.  In our situation the Scouts will remain a part of their Patrol.  The TLC will be made up of those Scouts that demonstrate leadership and leadership potential.  They will be Scouts that buy into our leadership philosophy and are willing to step up and lead.
This is an incentive program.  The Scouts that choose to belong to the Troop Leadership Corps will have high adventure opportunities and time set aside for them to be teenagers.  We have a group of Scouts that are taking the lead on this.  They are motivated and willing to lead.  They all believe in our core values and leadership philosophy and want to see the Troop become more successful.
We are doing this to keep the older Scouts engaged and maintain them longer as members of the Troop.
Here are the 5 leadership principles (philosophy) that we maintain in the Troop.  It is these 5 principles that the Troop Leadership Corp will center their leadership on.  It is these 5 principles that they will use to teach and coach the troop to success.
1.  Never Stop Learning, Be a life Long learner.
2.  Focus on the Little things.  Focusing on the little things make the big things happen.
3.  Model Expected Behavior.
4.  Communicate Effectively.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.
When we do these 5 things the Troop works like a well oiled machine.  Leadership is not a chore, and everyone finds success.
So we are bringing back the Troop Leadership Corps.  We will report back on how it is going.
Does your Troop use the Troop Leadership Corp model?  How is that going for you?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Ideals, Leadership, Patrol Method, Scouts, Service, Skills, training, Values | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Delivering the scolding… or promise?

BP“The Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself.”
“The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of another brother.”
“The spirit is there in every boy; it has to be discovered and brought to light.”
“There is no teaching to compare with example.”
“To get a hold on boys you must be their friend.”
I know that it is bad form to start with a list of quotes, but all of these quotes are from the founder of Scouting, Baden-Powell.  They come to mind when I look back on this weekend and some of the things that I saw at our District Camporee.
The question is Why?  Why do some Scoutmasters feel the need to make Scouting a chore?  Why do they insist on not making it fun for the Scouts?  Why is there is a reason to yell or belittle a Scout?  Why?
I wish I could say that this is an isolated case and I am talking about one Scout Leader.  But I am not.
Here is the problem as I see it.  These leaders have no idea what Scouting is supposed to look like.  One particular Scoutmaster explained to me that what the Scouts lack is discipline and it was his job to make sure they are disciplined.  You see, I feel that is the parents job.
The same Scoutmaster yelled at his troop over a bent tent-peg.
Another leader explained to me that Scouting is supposed to make our boys gentlemen and respectful.  I asked if her example was helping as she screamed at a Scout for playing with his patrol mates.
Yet another Scout leader had a group of Scouts at attention as they were dressed up and down about not doing well in their uniform inspection.  The leader’s shirt was un-tucked and looked like he slept in it and instead of a Scout hat or Troop hat, he was wearing a hunting hat as he ripped a Scout a new one over not wearing his Troop hat.
Why?
And we wonder why Scouts leave.  I even talked with a Scout who would love to leave his Troop, but can’t because his Dad is one of the leaders.  Really?
This weekends Camporee was fun.  It was one of the better camporees we have had in a while, so why do the adult have to screw it up for the boys.
Again, they clearly do not understand what Scouting is all about.
We are not the Army.  We are not a boarding school for wayward boys.  This is Scouting and above all, the boys need to have fun.  It is that game with a purpose that will teach them the skills to deal with life’s challenges and develop those life long values that will guide them to be disciplined and self-reliant.
How can a boy discover that light when the adults around him are constantly looking to snuff it?  How can a boy learn to play the game, when the rules change or are unclear?  How friendly is the constant brow beating?
I think that some leaders need to take a look in the mirror and find out if they are delivering the promise of Scouting or just a good scolding.
The best part of the discussion I had with our Anti Powell was when he pointed to my Troop, at the time they were all playing Frisbee in a field between the camp sites.  Loud laughter and complete grab ass was in full effect.  He pointed out that camporee was not about playing.. it was about competition.  I explained that there is certainly a time and a place for everything.  He said, “Look at your camp site… no matching tents, no patrol boxes, no discipline.”  I explained that we are a backpacking troop and do not have patrol boxes or matching tents, and so far as discipline, we have plenty of that.  It comes with living the Scout oath and law.  Then in a moment of arrogance, I pointed out that what he was looking at was the Troop of the Year and we are doing it right.  With that, I bid him a good day and joined the boys in the game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Camporee was a fun time and a great experience for our Troop.  They all had fun and competed well.  It is unfortunate that there are leaders out there that just don’t get it.  If only they took the time and put in the effort to delivering the promise of Scouting, using the same energy they put into yelling, berating, and making life hard for their Scouts, they would have great Troops.  The boys are there and willing, they need good adults to have the heart of a Boy and do Scouting the way the founder wanted it to be.
If only.
I had a great weekend with the Scouts of our Troop.  It’s why we keep playing this game.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Character, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, respect, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Skills, training, Values | Tags: | 1 Comment

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 3

bepreparedThe motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared”.  Prepared for what?  Well, any old thing said our founder.  Being prepared for your backpacking trek is an absolute must.  When planning your next trek you need to consider those things that can go wrong.  Preparedness will reduce the risk and make the trek a lot more fun.
Andrew Skurka, an Ultimate hiker, Adventurer, and Guide, shares on his website “When I embark on a trip, I always try to abide by the Boy Scout motto — “Be prepared” — by bringing three types of resources, either carried on my back or between my ears, to help me achieve my goals:  Gear, e.g. clothing, shelter, stove, etc.  Supplies, e.g. food, water, fuel, etc.  Skills, e.g. how to hike efficiently, select good campsites, purify water, start a fire, navigate on-trail and off-trail, ford snowmelt-fed rivers, stay warm when it’s cold and wet, etc.”
Training.
Being prepared for those things that can go wrong starts with training yourself and your group to do things right.  Practice packing, unpacking, setting up gear, looking at the individual gear and group gear that is on the trip.  Map reading, first aid, and an honest to goodness understanding of where you are going.
Before a trek learn about the conditions you are walking into and how to deal with them.  Trail conditions, weather, and the condition of your crew.
Planning.
You know the route and conditions but what can go wrong?  Plan for it.  Injuries?  How do we react if someone twists an ankle?  Big cuts?  Sickness?    What are your bail out plans and how have you communicated them?
There is a fine line between over packing for your plan and making sure you are prepared to react.  I have hiked with guys that carry 65 lb packs because they plan for every contingency.  You can build kits for every plan, but what about that great tool between your ears.
In our Troop we have very few rules.  Rule number 1 is always to Have fun.  Rule #2 is no one gets hurt, if you are hurt you are not having fun.  Rule #3 is refer to the Oath and Law.  That is it.  Not getting hurt and putting yourself in a position to get hurt is a person thing and starts between the ears.
I have heard the saying “stay low and slow” on the trail.  That means to keep a good pace that reduces chance of injury and to stay grounded on the trail.  Jumping, climbing, and choosing to venture on bad trail increases the chance of injury.  Assess the risk and then go if it is safe.
Look at what you carry to react to or mitigate risk and risky situations.  We all carry the 10 essentials and in a lot of cases we carry gadgets and neat tools to make our backpacking experience fun.  Do you know how to use it all and have you ever needed it.  If the answer is no to one or both, get it out of your pack.
So what can go wrong?
Injuries.  Probably the thing that we worry about the most, but the fact of the matter is that we rarely have injuries that can not walk themselves off the trail.
Getting lost.  This is a big one.  More people get lost because they rely on guide books, GPS, and the fact that because they shop at REI they think they can take their shiny Subaru to a trail head and go hiking.  Learn to read a map and use a compass.  Train yourself on terrain association and staying oriented on the trail.  Don’t wander or allow group members to wander off or away.  Have a plan to rally should something go wrong while on the trail.
When hiking with a group always stop at any trail intersection and wait for the group to catch up.  Stop and check the map every once in a while.  Make sure that lots of people in the crew have a map.
Weather.  We can not control the weather, but we can plan for it.  Rain is not a downer on the trail if you are prepared.  Know when the weather is going to change by monitoring the forecast in the area.  Know that it will get darker sooner if you have heavier cloud cover.
If you are not prepared to hike during hours of limited visibility, be prepared to start looking for good camp locations before it gets dark.
Water.
Have a plan for water.  Filtering, boiling, or carrying a lot of it.  You need water.  Plan your day around your water availability and resources.
Sit down and list all of the things that you think will go wrong on your trek.  Think of ways that you can reduce those risks and plan for how you are going to address them when and if they happen.
Planning prevents poor performance and when you are backpacking you need to be aware and be prepared.
Know all of the skills that will make your trek fun.  Make sure that you share that knowledge with the members of your group.
Skills, Gear, and Supplies will get you through the toughest times on the trail.  What you have between your ears will go along way to making it a fun trek.  Your skills and attitude will reduce the risks that come with backpacking.  In short.  Be Prepared.
In our next segment we will talk about preparation of gear and what to consider for your next long trek.
Have a Great Scouting Day.

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, fitness, gear, Leadership, Motto, Risk Management, Scouting, Skills, training | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 1

philmontmap1.jpgWhether it is for your Scout Troop or you are heading out into the wilderness by yourself or with buddies there are some things that need to be planned before you go.  To get the most of your backpacking experience if you follow a few steps, you won’t forget something and will set yourself up for a worry free backpack trek.
First.  Figure out where you want to go.  Once you do some online research or hit a few guide books and talk to friends, pick a trek.  Next, and way before you get your heart set on the amazing adventure.. Get the map or maps for that section of trail.  Do an exhaustive map recon of the trip.
During your map check look for:
Trail head location.  Can you get there and are there facilities at the trail head?  Restrooms, safe parking, water?
If you are making your trek a loop, can you get in and get out at that trail head or do you need to move the car to a different location and shuttle to the trail head.  This would apply for an in and out hike too.  You may need to check with local guides for shuttles, but you better plan for it or you will find yourself in a pickle real quick.
Look on the map for camp locations along the route.  What is the water availability along the way and in camp locations?
What is the terrain like.  Check out those contour lines… Don’t be surprised once you get on the trail.
This is a great time to learn to really read map detail.  You should know the trail so well from studying the map that you recognize the terrain and land marks as you hike it.
This is also the time where you plan for bail outs.  Locations on the map that will allow you to get out if the weather turns south or someone in the party gets hurt.  Road intersections, crossing trails and mile markers that will allow for quick decision-making when out on the trail.
Now that you have your map and you know where you want to go and see, how far do you want to make the trek.  You will need map in hand to figure this one out also.  Your distance will determine a lot in the trip planning.
How far can you go each day?  How many days are you going to be out on the trail?  Based on the trail, how far can you push or relax daily?    What is the trail like and how difficult?  This will determine how far you may get each day and how far you will want to go total.   But there may be a certain location or destination that you are looking at getting to.  How far do you need to go to get there and answer all the questions that we listed above.
Also consider the time of year you are heading out.  Crowds, snow, and closures are all things to consider.  You need to make sure that you have appropriate permits for the area that you are heading into and think about your group size.
I am a big fan of trekking to a destination.  Mileage means far less to me than seeing something cool.
Planning using your map will get you started on a great backpacking trip.  In our next post we will talk about gear selection and what to bring.  In the next few post we will discuss food, problems, and preparation for a long trek.
Thanks for reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Just fun, Leave no trace, planning, Risk Management, Skills, training | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Training, Nature or Nurture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other day I posted my thoughts on training.  I received some great feedback and feel that I need to address a couple of the comments, specifically a question that came up about the leaders themselves in the unit and how our attitude toward training is part of the reason we have great trained leaders.
Bob asked, “I’m curious as to whether you find that this “going the extra mile” is primarily something that a leader brings to the unit (nature), something that the unit brings to the leader (nurture), or some combination of the two.  Or, to put the question another way, do you find that the adults that volunteer for leadership positions already have that “going the extra mile” mentality, or that the culture of the unit inspires a new (or existing) leader to go that extra mile?”
Thanks Bob the answers is simple.  All of the above.
I believe that it is a bit of both Nature and Nurture.  First, I think that our unit has built a culture of trained leaders and an expectation that leaders are trained.  We ask a lot of our adult volunteers.  It is the nature of the unit that we expect the adult to be willing to “go that extra mile”.  Because it is a cultural thing or part of the nature of our unit, the volunteer knows what he or she is stepping in to.  It is not a surprise when they ask that they will be given a list of training courses, materials, and expectations of what training in our unit looks like.  If an adult leader expects to do the minimum, they are quickly encouraged to participate in some position other than that of a direct contact leader.
The culture of the unit dictates that in order to deliver the  very best program to our youth, keeping them safe, and instructing them properly we need to do better than the training that is provided by the Boy Scouts of America.
We agree that the training provided by the BSA is designed for the common denominator and not adequate for high adventure, advanced leadership, and activities that take you more than an hour away from a car.  This is all well and good, but in our opinion we need to do more.  Maxing the minimum is not good enough.
We ask of the Scout to “Do his Best”… so should we.
We also Nurture our adult leaders to want to be “Over Trained”.  Again, this is part of the culture of the unit.  Firm expectations of the training that allows our unit to function at a higher level.  When a parent asks to become a part of the adult leadership of the unit, the parent is invited to participate fully.  But training comes first.  Before an Assistant Scoutmaster for example can function as such, he must complete all of the BSA required training.  He needs to seek advanced first aid training to include CPR/AED.  We ask them to attend Wood Badge.  We take the time to instruct them on being a mentor, teacher, and coach to our Scouts.  We remind them that we do not lead, we assist.  There are not patches in the Boy Scout program for adults that say the word “Leader”.
This nurturing and development of the new adult volunteer leads them toward advanced training.
What this does for the unit is simple.  It opens doors.  We need not rely on any outside instruction or guides for our activities.  If we want to climb, we have certified climbing instructors to facilitate that activity.  Water craft, backpacking, shooting, Orienteering, Pioneering, First Aid, and more are all on the table because of the adult cadre of volunteers that have become the culture of the unit.  We also find that the adults stay active, even when the Scout has moved on.  This level of commitment has kept our knowledge base growing and stable.  The culture of the unit dictates that we do it all for the Scouts and we go the extra mile to make sure they have the very best Scouting experience.
So it is both Nature and Nurture.  It is a culture that expects the adult to set the example by giving more.  Being a model of the expected behavior of a servant leader.  One that reinforces our 5 Leadership principles in the Troop.
Leading ourselves, Focusing on the small stuff, Being the model of expected behavior, Communicating effectively, and being a Servant Leader.
Once that culture is developed and has a strong by in, the unit will flourish with trained leaders.
Allan and Alex, I hope that answer addressed your questions also.
If you have more questions, comments of concerns, please feel free to drop me a note.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, Cooking, gear, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Patrol Method, Risk Management, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, training | Tags: | Leave a comment

Qualified, Trained Leaders

trainednewWe often talk about having all of our adult leaders trained.  When we speak of training we are talking about the basics.  Has the adult completed Youth Protection?  Attended their Basic Course for the specific position?  And according to the Boy Scouts of America, that’s pretty much a trained leader.
You are qualified to be an adult that delivers the promise of Scouting.  Really.
Ok, now… everyone just take off your Scouting hat and put on your parent hat.  Now you know nothing about Scouting except that your son wants to be a Scout.  You know that Scouting is a great organization that reinforced those character traits that you are teaching at home and he and his friends enjoy going camping once a month.  But who is this “Trained” leader?  What qualifies him to take your son out into the woods?
A couple videos?  An online training session and a “suitable for framing” print out certificate?
That’s it.
Oh, but maybe the leader has been to Wood Badge.  So he knows the Boy Scout Program and is able to teach and reach his goals.  He communicates well, but what of the skills he needs to take my kid into the woods.
My point here is this.  In a world in which we bubble wrap our kids.  We don’t let them stay out after dark, they can’t climb trees, drink from a garden hose, or in some cases even push a lawn mower.. we drop off our sons to people we don’t really know, they hop into their trucks and vans and drive away for a weekend in the woods.
Say that out loud and it is a bit creepy.
We trust that they know what they are doing with our kids.  We hope to see smiles on their faces and that they are in one piece when they arrive back at the meeting hall.
Trust.  That is what we have in our leaders.  But it’s 2014 so what has he done to be trusted.  What skills does he have to gain my trust.  Who is this guy taking my kid into the woods?
I am a big fan of Boy Scout Training and take it a step further.  I am on our district training team and teach the Scoutmaster basic course.  I am a Wood Badge staffer and love to teach leadership.
So knowing what I know, I know that the Boy Scout minimum training is not enough to build that trust.  But the leader that goes the extra mile and gets more training, now that’s the guy I want.
Not to toot my horn, or the horns our leaders in my Troop, but we respect that trust and that is why we all go the extra mile.
In our Troop, all the Assistant Scoutmasters are Wood Badge trained.
We have Certified Climbing instructors.
We have Certified Wilderness First Aid First Responders.
We have Wilderness First aid trained leaders.
COPE instructors
White water rafting guides
Leave No Trace master trainers
Kayak guides
Cold Weather camping experts
Backpacking experts
Pioneering instructors
Leadership trainers
Everyone is CPR/AED trained
Everyone has done the supplemental training for Trek Safe, Safe Swim defense, Safety Afloat, and Climb Safely.
I know that I am missing something, the point is that we go out of our way to be over trained.
This is where the trust of the parents is gained and maintained.
It is an important part of protecting our youth and delivering the very best program to them.
So who is your Scout leader?  Do you trust him or her with your son in the woods?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, High Adventure, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, planning, Scouting, training, Values, Wood Badge, Youth Protection | Tags: | 3 Comments

Learn to Lead Yourself

lead-learn-word-cubesI have spoken about the five principles of leadership that we use in our Troop to develop both our Junior Leaders as well as our Adult Leaders.
To recap, those five principles are Learn to Lead Yourself,  Focus on the little things, Model Expected Behavior, Communicate Effectively, and Be a Servant Leader.
In this post we are going to focus on the first of these principles, Learn to Lead Yourself.
Simply put, if you can not lead yourself you can not lead others.
To illustrate this point we talk often about the way you act.  You set an example of what you would like in those that follow you.  You, as a leader can not get away with the “Do as I say and not as I do” philosophy of leading.  It just does not work if you are trying to be a good leader.
The way in which you carry yourself, your habits,and your skills show the follower that you are a leader that is worthy of following.
You pack your pack correctly and assist others in getting theirs right.
You take your promise to live the Scout Oath and Law in your daily lives seriously.  This is important in showing those you lead that you do not compromise in your values and you are consistent in the way you act and expect them to act.
Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman of IBM, said, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day-to-day to lead himself.”
Learning to Lead Yourself takes work.  The learning part comes in developing those skills, attitudes, and habits that make you a better leader.
This means that you spend time in the study of leadership.  It means that you take extra time to be trained in skills and develop methods of instruction to help others.
It means that you never stop learning, this becomes a habit.  Once developed you long for more learning and skills development.
This goes for youth and adults alike.
I know many Scouters that will do training because they have to and I know Scouters that do training because they want to.  They see value in adding to their skill sets in the bigger picture of how they deliver the promise of Scouting.
I also have seen this in our youth.  Youth that seek more adventure and know that they must develop that knowledge base before they can execute certain skills and tasks.  On the other hand, leadership is just a block to be signed on the way to Eagle Scout.
This concept of learning to lead yourself is nothing new.  It has been taught for years by leadership guru’s and is a foundation of leadership development.  It is a means of focusing on the leadership qualities that we need in order to be effective leaders.  Think about what you want to see in a leader.
You want the leader to be Trustworthy.  You want the leader to be reliable.  You want the leader to be accountable.  The leader should demonstrate integrity.  Well, if those are the things that you want in a leader, you need to focus your learning, habits, and attitudes to becoming that person… that leader.
Like I said before, if you can not lead yourself, you can not lead other people.
So how do we learn to lead ourselves?
First.  Find out who you are.  What kind of leader are you?  What habits do you currently have?  What are your skill sets that contribute to your leadership?
These may be hard questions to answer.  You may not like what you hear, either from yourself or others.  Find a leader that you trust and appreciate.  Ask them to assist you with these questions.
Second.  Find out what skills you need to develop to be an effective leader.  Make a list and a commitment to mastering those skills.  Take extra training and opportunities to learn and practice those skills.  Make changes in your habits and attitudes to get better at leadership and skills.
Third.  Commit to be a life long learner.  You need to always stay a couple of steps ahead of those you lead.  Get out in front with learning, practicing, and sharpening your leadership skills.  There is always something new and there are always way to improve.  Perfection is a curious thing.  It is something that can be seen, but moves farther away as you get closer.  It forces us to get better.  Shoot for perfection in leadership with the knowledge that I can not reach it, but the closer I get, the better I get.
Be patient but persistent.  Stay focused on making yourself better and those that you lead will be better.
The first step in effective leadership is getting the leader right.  That leader is you.  Learn to lead yourself and you will be on your way to being an effective leader.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, training, Values | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Leadership according to Me.

Sticky-Note-with-I-Am-a-LeaderI have been receiving emails lately requesting information about leadership.  I have been pretty heavy on the leadership subject matter as of late.  New youth leaders in the Troop, a batch of great new Assistant Scoutmasters and the idea that we really need to focus our attention on leading and not just reacting to the things that seem to come up from time to time and executing the vision of our Troop.
One emailer asked where I get my information from.  Simply put, lots and lots of training, learning, and developing those leadership skills, traits, and habits that I have seen and done that works.  I was formally trained in leadership while in the Army.  Attending every leadership development course from the Primary Leadership Development Course to graduating from the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy.  Over the course of my career in the Army I served in many direct leadership roles culminating as the Command Sergeant Major or an Infantry Battalion.
One thing that I know for sure is that Leadership is Leadership.  Whether is it good or bad what you learn and how you apply it is what matters.  Leadership in the Army has the same principles as leadership in a Boy Scout Troop.  That is not to say that the missions are the same, nor are the styles.  But the principles that are applied by the leaders are the same.
In Scouting, I have made it a point to learn and attend every course I can that would add to my leadership tool box.  Understanding the vision and mission of the organization plays a great part in how we lead it.  Wood Badge has played a major role in adding to my leadership tool box.
Another emailer asked if I could narrow down my leadership focus to some simple things that would be effective for him to teach to junior leaders.
Certainly.  Again, over the course of a 21 year Army career and serving as a Scoutmaster for 10 years I have narrowed down how and what I teach to adults and youth alike.  I think that we can get overwhelmed with leadership philosophy and technique, but at the end of the day, it is all about leading.  How you do that effectively is what matters.  I have distilled my leadership down to 5 things.  Now, these five things have a multitude of sub tasks and sets, but essentially it [leadership] comes down to how we do these 5 things effectively.
1.  Learn to lead yourself.  You can not lead others until you learn to lead yourself.  Establishing good habits, getting trained and understanding the institutional values are a part of learning to lead yourself.  Developing in yourself a want of life long learning and a willingness to share that knowledge.
2.  Focus on the little things.  The little things make up the big things and when they are correct, the big things fall into place.  Develop a critical eye and stay focused on those things that drive success.  A leader must be willing to be critical and constructive.  Letting the little things slide are a sure-fire way of killing the big things.
3.  Model Expected Behavior.  Set an example of what you want.  Know what right looks like and be the model of it 100% of the time.  This takes work and does not allow for lazy leaders.  If you expect those you lead to act a certain way, model that way of acting.  Modeling expected behavior is critical in leadership.  As a young leader I hated and still do hate the mantra of “Do as I say, not as I do”.  That is a leadership failure.
4.  Communicate Effectively.  The ability to communicate is paramount in leading.  Written and verbal communication must be effective to lead effectively.  Develop communication skills to be an effective leader.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.  Leaders are to serve first.  The praise, glory, or rewards for a leader are in the success of those they lead.  Servant Leaders put those that they lead ahead of themselves.  Develop a heart to serve and you will be a great leader.
So those are the basic 5 principles that guide my leadership and the way that I lead and teach leadership.
I will elaborate on each of those five things in future posts.  None of this is new or creative, they are things that leaders since the beginning of time have done.  They are packaged this way by me because it is what I know works in leadership.  I am certain that if you dug around the writing of authors like Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, Colin Powell, and others you will find these principles throughout.  Like I said, Leadership is Leadership.  From the US Army to the Disney Institute they all teach the basics of being an effective leader and when it comes down to it, it’s all really the same stuff, just different packaging.
That’s leadership according to me in a nut shell.  Those 5 things work in effective leadership every time.
What are some of yours?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, training, Values | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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