Posts Tagged With: leadership

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

Competitive Choice

DSCN4484I think sometimes that you need to go through some time of reflection, ranting, and deep soul-searching before one can come to clear resolution or insightful solution to a problem.  With any luck this process happens quickly so you can move on.
As most of you know or are aware, last month was a tough one for me mentally as I was attacked by this overwhelming need to solve the problem of lazy Scouts.  And as it turned out lazy adults too.. after all, that is where lazy is learned I have found.
Through much thought and soul-searching and study I have found some solution, but am not yet there.  What I am over is the ranting stage and now deep into the fixing stage.
We started some of these fixes during our last Troop camp out by going back to the basics and reintroducing the concept of modeled behavior, learning to lead ones self, and focusing on the little things.  Those three areas will make a change in the way things have been going and with proper follow-up and mentoring we will stay on track.
What I also found is that even the laziest kid can not pass up an opportunity to compete.
Competition can be a great motivator.  No one likes to lose and no one wants to be left out.  So enter a competitive component in pretty much all of our upcoming activities.
Yes we will have winners and losers, but with good reflection and training, every one will come out a winner for it.
During the last camp out we had the older Scouts pack up and set up camp in a new location.  It went well, but noticed short cuts and a lack of attention to detail.  So we did it again after retraining and reflection.  The second time we did it we added the competitive advantage.  It was a race.  They had to pack (properly) and get to a new location and set up (properly).  The winner would be the Scout that got everything set up with no mistakes.  What we found was that 11 of the 12 set up everything with no errors, but all of them competed.  We also found that because it was a race, the time was faster even though they were looking at all the details.
The point is that they know what they are doing.  They make a choice to be lazy.  Competition took away that choice.
Thoughtful consideration and looking beyond being upset about laziness brought this out.  I think that we need to step back at times and really look at ways to demonstrate leadership.  As I teach the boys, leaders provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation.  And that is just what we did with this.  They know the purpose and direction, and we used some competition to motivate.
Man I love this leadership stuff.. it always works!
We will keep you posted as this group of young leaders really start shining!
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: blog | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Little Stuff

bsa-tentOne of the big misconceptions in leadership is that the leader needs to worry about the big stuff.  Yes, the leader has to know or have vision and that requires a look from the 1000 foot view, but when it really comes down to leading, it is the little stuff that matters.  The little things that make all of the big things happen or lead to big success.
Lets go back to our example we have used here of “The Tent”.
When we set up our tent there is but one correct way to set it up.  As a leader to ensure that the tent is set up correctly a look at the details, the little stuff, is important.
Is the footprint extended beyond the flap of the tent?  If so, it’s wrong.
Are the stakes in so that it will actually hold the tent down?  Stakes improperly placed will allow for the tent to be unstable, not tight, and ultimately not serve their purpose.
Is the vestibule staked out properly?  Are the vents open or closed dependent on the conditions?  Is the tent located in a good position to leave no trace?  Out of the elements?  In low ground?
Are the guy lines being used properly?
Are the storage bags put away or just blowing all over the camp site?
Is the rain fly on correctly or inside out?
Is the door facing away from the wind?
Is there food in the tent?
Is the gear stored properly (not in the tent)?
You see there are a list of little things that go into setting up a tent.  Multiply that by the number of guys in the Patrol and how many tents are set up and you have a lot of little things to look at.  When all of those little things are done right, everything tends to fall into place.
This habit of doing all the little things right will lead one to doing everything right.  Once the standard has been set, it is something that becomes routine.  Leaders check and recheck and inspect what they expect to see.
They first teach the skill, the task, or the method and then hold those that they are leading accountable.  Doing it over is an option.  Not correcting something that is wrong is not.  That to is perceived as a little thing.
I have heard over and over that “well.. that really doesn’t matter”, “they are just kids”, “give it a break, it’s only a weekend”…  It all matters to leaders.  There are standards for every task and when they are done right, all of the big things are right also.  All of the little things matter to make the big things work.
There is no room for lowering the standard, when that happens it to become habit and that is when things go wrong.
This example works for every task our Scouts are asked to do.
There is a reason we have our Scouts earn their Totin’ Chip before they are allowed to use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  The Totin’ Chip program introduces the standard.  The consequence for not performing to that standard is the inability to participate using a knife, saw, or ax.
When we allow the little things to slide we set our selves and those we lead up to be unsuccessful.  Mainly because they will tend to do more and more wrong.  Once the idea that everything is expected to be done right is accepted, and the leader makes sure that the little things are constantly being checked, you will see success in the big things.
So how do we make that happen?  Training and accountability.
This last weekend we conducted Junior leader training with all of the older Scouts in the Troop.  Since we have been having some issues with leadership lately, I decided it was time to get back to basics.  The Senior Patrol Leader had the Troop pack up everything on Saturday morning.  The days activities started with the Troop splitting up, the younger guys went to shoot shot guns and the older guys began their training.  We began with a discussion on packing a backpack the right way.  We demonstrated what right looks like and then made sure that every pack looked that way.  It was a lesson on attention to detail and not taking the easy way out.
Then we went on a little hike.  When we reached our first destination, the leaders were given the task to set up camp using leave no trace principles.  They set off to get camp set up.  I instructed the Scouts that when they were finished to come and stand by me.  Once they all were there, we talked about the little things and making sure all of the little things were right leading to the big thing (camp set up) being correct.  Each Scout had to go to a tent that was not his and stand.  Then one by one they instructed the group as to what was wrong with that set up.  Each and every tent had something that needed to be improved.  Corrections were made and then a second walk through happened.  This time everything was right and the Scouts could see the big picture.
After a quick reflection and discussion of the process, they were instructed to pack and move to a second location and do it again.  The same process happened the second time, this time with fewer mistakes.  Again corrections were made, this time including the use of the EDGE ™ method of teaching [Explain, Demonstrate. Guide, and Enable].  And pack it up again.  This time with a pause to inspect the packs to make sure they were packed right.  If it was not correct, do it again.  Reinforcing the idea that there is only one right way to do it and we will not settle for it being done wrong.
When the younger Scouts got back from shooting their Troop guide did this process with the new Scouts.  Packing and unpacking, setting up and taking down.  He made it a game having the Scouts race each other and in the process made it fun.  The new guys picked up on it right away.  I overheard the Troop guide explain to them that doing it right the first time will save them time and energy down the road.  There is only one right way of doing things right.
The focus is on the little stuff and making the little stuff matter.  Little things done right make the big things right.
When it comes to older Scouts and adults, modeling the expected behavior while doing the little things right and making sure that the little things are always done right will set you up to being an effective leader and leading a high performance team.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Competition, gear, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, teamwork, training, Values | Tags: , , , | Leave a 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

Action Required

actionrequiredWhen we teach leadership to our Scouts the best way to demonstrate that leadership is to be an example of expected behavior.  We show them how to lead by being good examples.  And we expect the youth leadership to follow suit.  They in turn are expected to be good examples for those that they are leading.
This requires Action.  Not just knowing how to lead, but applying that leadership.
A good foundation for leaders in Scouting is to be action oriented.  Seek opportunities to be a teacher, coach, and mentor.
In our recent discussions on “Laziness”, we outlined some of the effects of the lazy Scout.  In short, focusing on the obstacles rather than the objective.  As a leader this is where your action comes in.  First and foremost, leaders can not be lazy.  The leader needs to recognize when a follower is need of instruction or motivation.
We teach our leaders that all leaders provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation to those that they lead.  When we talk about leading a lazy Scout we need to double down on the root cause of his laziness in a specific area.  We need to find out why he either can not perform the task or why he is unwilling to complete the task.  This is where purpose and direction become the start of your action steps.
Motivating the Scout to complete the task, not by verbally beating him up or making him look bad, rather, by leading him to the objective.  Sometimes I think the obstacles just look to overwhelming that the objective can no longer be seen.  It is an effective leader that will lead the follower around, through, over, or under the objective by teaching, coaching, and mentoring.  Refocusing the follower towards the objective and developing in the follower those skills to negotiate that obstacle in the future.
This is leadership 101 and will make leaders of every level successful.  Success breads success and grow the leader to be a great leader in no time.
Action is required in leadership.
First the leader must be willing to learn and continue learning.
Second, the leader must be and model expected behavior.
And third, the leader must be willing to teach, coach, and mentor those he leads.
Remembering that the leader is a servant to those that he leads and as such, must put the followers needs above his own.  This is a daunting concept for some young men.  But when they understand that their success is based on the success of others and that by developing as an effective leader, they will find success and leadership will become a habit that they will never give up.
I had a discussion with a young leader in my Troop, he said that I make it look and sound so simple.  I told him that it is.  Again, in leadership you focus on the objective, not the obstacle and as long as you are willing to take action the rest falls into place.
A willingness to take action where action is required.. that is leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Patrol Method, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, training | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Come along side

presidentsYesterday we “Celebrated” Presidents Day… Not sure what that means, but lets go with it.  To me Presidents day is the day that we recognize two great leaders.  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  I think in their own right, those two Presidents did more to earn a day than any other in our history.  Just for starting a Nation and keeping one alone did they demonstrate great leadership.
There are essentially three kinds of leaders, those that Pull those they lead, those that Push those being led, and those leaders that come along side and walk with the follower.
It is a matter of effective leadership.  When a leader pulls the follower he will eventually get resistance.  Being pulled along is like trying to get a donkey to move when it does not want to go.  The struggle of getting those followers to move in the direction you desire will be difficult when people are pulled along.
Being pushed has the same result.  No one likes to be pushed.  We get the feeling of being forced to do something.  This will get push back to the leader and as a result he can not be effective.
We need to remember the aim of leadership… to lead.. to influence others to accomplish something.  Whatever that is.  Be it building a Nation or planning an outing, we lead to accomplish something and do it in a manner that is effective.
When we are the leader that comes along side and walks with the follower, the follower is now in a position that he does not feel threatened.   He feels that the leader is with him in the endeavor and not bossing him around.  The leader has a better perspective of what we called in the Army “Ground True”.  Meaning, what really is happening in a specific area.  The leader is with those he leads and not sitting high on a throne dictating what needs to be accomplished.  He walks shoulder to shoulder providing purpose, direction, and motivation to those being led.
That leadership style is effective.  Look at the great leaders in history and you will find that they came along side and were effective leaders.
So, as we “celebrated” Presidents day and as we think about those two great leaders in our history.  Think about leadership and how we are better more effective leaders.  Look at your Patrol Leaders Council and see what kind of leaders you have in your troop and see if they are coming along side and leading.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Patrol Method, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, teamwork, Values | Tags: | Leave a comment

Finding the Arrow

Plus 6I do not talk much about the Order of the Arrow on this blog, and maybe I should.  I have not received a lot of requests for OA topics, but over the past few months I have been giving the Order of the Arrow a bit more thought.
As many of you know (that follow me on social media) I have been elected to Vigil Honor.
The Vigil Honor is the highest honor that the Order of the Arrow can bestow upon its members for service to lodge, council, and Scouting.  Membership cannot be won by a person’s conscious endeavors. (From the OA website)  It is a great honor to have been chosen to be a Vigil member.
Since I have been giving more thought about the Order of the Arrow, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on OA membership and what the Order of the Arrow really means [to me].
First some background on the Order of the Arrow.  And rather than rediscover the wheel, I am going to use information found at the Order of the Arrow website.
The Order of the Arrow was founded in 1915 by Camp Director E. Urner Goodman and Assistant Camp Director Carroll A. Edson at the Treasure Island Boy Scout Camp.  Goodman and Edson were looking for ways to recognize campers that demonstrated a cheerful spirit and service.  In those days there were many camp honor societies throughout the Nations Scout camps.    Some of those were the Gimogash, Ku-Ni-Eh, Nani Ba Zhu, Firecrafters and Mic O Say.  Over time many of those camper honor societies merged and became local Lodges within the Order of the Arrow.  Mic O Say is still active and recognized by the Boy Scouts of America.
The Order of the Arrow became a part of the National Program of the Boy Scouts of America in 1934.   By 1948, the OA, recognized as the BSA’s national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America.  Since then the Order of the Arrow has expanded to over 300 Lodges, most Lodges representing a Council, although some Lodges make up multiple Council areas.
The mission of the Order of the Arrow is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults.  The Order of the Arrow is completely youth led.  A member of the OA is consider a youth until his 21st birthday.
The OA is more than just an honor society.  It has a specific purpose and looks to gain members that loyal live up to those goals.  It is for that reason that members should be chosen from within their units that best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.  If the Scout is willing to not only live the Oath and Law daily, but dedicate himself to service than he is a good candidate for the Order of the Arrow.  Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, you will find that many if not all camp staff at your local Scout camp are members of the OA.  They promote camping and Scout spirit daily making our Scout camps fantastic.  Arrowmen serve promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others.  OA service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich and help to extend Scouting to America’s youth.  One of the great ways that the OA promotes long-term retention in Scouting is through ceremonies starting with Arrow of Light and Cross Over ceremonies.
As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:
Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
Just like the Aims of the Boy Scouts of America, membership in the Order of the Arrow solidify in a Scout of Scouter the drive to be of service and grow in Character, Citizenship and fitness.  The Order of the Arrow is summed up in three words, often seen as WWW.  Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service.  In other words, the OA is the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service.
OA1The OA is Local and it is National.  What I mean by that is simply this.  Just like your Troop is local and the programs offered at the Troop level are planned and executed locally, you and your Troop are part of the National Council or organization.  This is strength in program and resources.  The OA has many great local Lodge and Chapter programs, but the programs offered through the National Organization demonstrate the strength of the Order.
The support of the Order of the Arrow for the National Journey to Excellence program is one such program.  JTE for the OA replaced the National Quality Lodge program and gave the OA a better tool of measuring the Quality program it offered at the National and Lodge level.
The National OA Endowment was formed more than 30 years ago as means for the Order to fund scholarships and special programs. The national Order of the Arrow committee oversees the annual program budget which is funded using the earnings from the national OA endowment.
And there are more programs at the Lodge level that benefit the local Council, Arrowmen, and Scouts in general.
The Order of the Arrow has its own recognition programs also.  You can read all about the OA’s awards at their site.
OK… so that’s the Order of the Arrow from the book  But where the Sash meets the Scout what does the Order of the Arrow mean and represent.
I won’t go into the ceremony of the Order of Arrow other than to say from the beginning the Order of the Arrow, through its ceremony and tradition call on the Scout/Scouter to Find the Arrow.
The Arrow is that symbol that we use in Arrow of Light ceremonies to signify a journey.  An adventure that is straight and true.  A trail that leads the individual to find the right path in life.  One of dedicated service to others and the living of the Scout Oath and Law.  So in finding the arrow, we strive daily to seek that which is an honorable way of living.
The Order of the Arrow uses the legend of the Lenni Lenape Indians of the Delaware to start the members of the OA on that journey.  It is a journey marked by service to others.
Personal Thoughts on the Order of the Arrow.
As stated above, the OA has high-minded goals and bases its foundation on service.  This is why I initially started to like the Order of the Arrow.  Well, lets back up for a minute… This is why I started to like it as a Scoutmaster.  I was first introduced to the OA as a youth at Camp Freedom in Germany.  The initial impact of Indians coming across a lake at night in canoes holding torches to light the way.  A Great Chief that called his Brothers to seek those that were worthy to join the tribe.. those things as a Scout fascinated me.  It was mysterious and cool.  It was special.  When I went through my ordeal we were given an arrow carved from a piece of wood.  We had to wear that arrow around our neck and if we violated any of the rules of the ordeal a chunk was cut from the arrow.  This tested us as young men to be disciplined and live that part of the oath that called us to be obedient.   For what ever reason, that is no longer a virtue that parents feel important these days and the cutting of corner or chunk of wood is recognized not to reinforce expected behavior but that of offending or hurting the feelings of the person in violation of the agreed rules.  But the couple of days that we worked hard serving our camp, quietly laboring cheerfully left a mark on us.
I had the pleasure of becoming a Brotherhood member of the Order with my oldest son.  Again, we renewed our commitment to service.  John later became a Chapter officer and served the lodge as an Ordeal master as well as a member of the Pre Ordeal, Ordeal, and Brotherhood ceremonies teams.  Josh, my youngest son also sealed his membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Brotherhood member and served as an Elangomate during an Ordeal.  Having my sons as members made being a member of the Order special in a different way.  Watching them grow with an attitude of service was a great thing.
John, our oldest son continues his journey, even though out of Scouting now as a Vigil member.  Those values or Cheerful Service carries with him in his daily life.  Josh, our youngest, although out of Scouting now also does not stray from his commitment to live the Scout Oath and Law and be of service also.  Both look back at their Scouting life with fond memories of time spent with the Order of the Arrow.
Me, in my role as Scoutmaster value the added emphasis that the OA places on living the Oath and Law and being one that goes above and beyond that of an “average” Scout.  That may be that thing that is to set Arrowmen apart.  We are all called to serve and live the values of the Oath and Law… but as Arrowmen we commit to taking it a step further and making that a life long commitment.  Being a Brother in Scouting and to our fellow-man.  To serve cheerfully.
In a perfect world that meaning and those commitments would resonate within every Arrowmen.  Often times it is lost in a sash and flap and just another Scouting thing.  As is with those Scouts that say the Oath each week at their meetings, but fail to live the standard of it, there are Arrowmen that fall short.  But the Arrow is within them.  The need only to find it.
That happens when the mature and look into themselves and see where their lives are headed.  It happens when they see examples of Scouts and Scouters that truly live those values.  The example of leaders that proudly wear the symbols of membership and share the meaning and journey of seeking the arrow.
Elections are held annually for membership in the Order of the Arrow.  The Scoutmaster sets the ballot of eligible Scouts.  Scouts that have met the requirements of membership and more importantly are those Scouts that have demonstrated leadership in serving their fellow Scout.  I think also that we need to look at the Scouts potential to lead and serve.  I have seen Scouts that met the requirements but fell short in the service area that really took to the OA.  Becoming members of ceremonies teams and working for their troop and Council at camps and within the service opportunities offered through the Lodge.  The OA can enhance a Troops program because of the higher calling of the Arrowmen.
Now, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here, but it does work.  You can see it in the faces of a Scout called to serve.  Reluctantly at first he finds success and meaning in his leadership and service.
The Order of the Arrow is good for Troops.  I know of many Scoutmasters that feel that the OA takes away from Troop programs.  When used correctly, the OA can be a game changer in a unit.  It is not meant to be secret or exclusive.  It is meant to enhance service and leadership.  It is designed to give incentive to Scouts looking for more.  In my opinion it is a great way to focus a Scout in the direction of finding the Arrow.
Where is the Arrow?  It is up to you.  We know that the foundation is a life that is right and true, but the Arrow is within each of us to seek and find.  Once found, a life of cheerful service becomes the norm and our society is better for it.  It makes the good Scout a Great Scout.  In turn making Scouting better.
This organization, founded to honor those that served camps has grown into an organization that is looked to as the Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America.  That higher calling to serve, what more could Scouting ask for?
If you are a Scoutmaster not sure that support of the OA is the right way to go, rethink that.  Get it into your unit and watch the difference come alive.
For those of you that are in support of the Order of the Arrow.. Thank you.. keep it up.
I look forward to going through my Vigil Induction.  I don’t know what is ahead, but knowing the journey that I was set on at Camp Freedom those many years ago, I know that it will get me a step closer to finding the Arrow in me.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
**A note about the picture on top of this post.. From left to right in the picture are members of my Troop doing a Cross over ceremony.  First on the left is James, now an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member, Second is my Youngest son Josh.  A Brotherhood member and finished Scouting as a youth as a Life Scout.  Third is my oldest son John.  He is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor Member.  Forth is Parker, he is an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood member.   Finally is Lucas, he is wrapping up his Eagle Award right now and is a Brotherhood member of the OA. 

Categories: Advancement, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Motto, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Scout, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, Summer Camp, training, Values | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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 – Initiative

Dominic_GalloroInitiative is really what makes leadership work. Those leaders that understand their Patrols [the make up of the guys, how they are motivated, and their skill levels], know what right looks like, and have an idea of the plan, should be able to get anything done.
But the one thing that can not be purchased or taught is initiative.
Initiative comes from an understanding that “I am a leader, and I know what needs to be done”.
No matter what the situation, in the absence of other leaders and specific instruction, this get done by leaders that demonstrate initiative.
A leader should never have to wait till he is told to do something when it is clear that it needs to be done. We all know that the first thing we do when we get to camp is set up the tents. Patrols leaders should not wait for the SPL to tell them to do the task, they should take initiative and get it done. The same can be said for any and all the tasks that make up our Scouting experience.
In order for a leader to develop initiative, he must know the plan and have the skills. Knowing the plan is key. This means that a Patrol leader should be at the PLC meeting. This way he ensures that he knows what is coming up. He can then prepare himself and his Patrol.
A leader should never wait to begin working on the plan.
Say the Troop is going on a 25 mile Backpack trip. Right away the Patrol leaders knows 3 things. 1. We need to eat.. so lets plan a menu. 2. We will be carrying our gear.. so lets find out what we need and divide the gear up. 3. Finally, who’s going? and do we need to shake down before we go?
This is initiative, doing what needs to be done without instruction or direction.
The initiative that a leader demonstrates can be the difference between a task done well and a task incomplete.
We all know what right looks like and have the skills needed to be good patrols. Initiative is the difference.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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