Month: February 2012

Preaching to the Choir

During this last years recharter we had an extremely disappointing turn in of the Journey to Excellence form.  As a District committee we chalked this up to a couple of things.. perhaps it was that many people were not aware of the change in program.  Maybe some Scouters did not receive proper or inadequate training on the subject.  It could have been that the program was not communicated effectively.  Another reason may have been that some Scouters just don’t care enough to fill it out.  Then again, it may have just been that there are units out there that really are not delivering the promise and would not fill out the form for any reason.
I will go on record and say that the answer is All of the Above. (In my opinion).
So rather than simply complain about it.. I figured that the right thing to do, because I love Scouting and believe in the program, would be to tackle the issues and start with training.
So I volunteered to teach about the JTE program and give out all the tools that would make a unit successful in at least getting the 2012 form in with their charter in November.
So back in January, I announced that we would hold a JTE session at the February Round table.  I made arrangements with the Round Table commissioner and we decided that this would be a great class.  We could have all levels of Scouting attend and present the information in a clear and easy to use format.
I made copies of all of the materials and even used my own Troop as an example.  I made copies of our spreadsheet JTE tracker and our goals for this year.  A sample budget was included as well as the Pack, Troop, and Crew requirements for 2012.
Last night at Round table, the room was set and I prepared to teach this subject of which I have developed a passion for.  7 people showed up for the training.  7.  2 of them were Assistant Scoutmasters from my Troop, 1 was a Scoutmaster of a high performance troop that is using the JTE tools and is delivering the promise of Scouting.  2 were Cub Scout leaders that I assume got a lot out of the class.  They had great questions and seemed to be very interested in getting this ball rolling within their Packs.  1 was an Assistant Scoutmaster of another Troop that is always in the hunt for Troop of the Year, and finally a committee member from on of the LDS units in our District.  She had never heard of JTE and took lots of notes.  She informed me that she thought that this was all done at the Stake level.. but wanted to know more so she could get the program started with the Troops she worked with.
7 Scouters.
85 units did not bother to fill out and turn in the form during the last recharter process. 
So essentially last night I preached to the choir… again.
As I drove home from Round table last night my mind was filled with disappointment which of course drove me to thinking about the other areas in which we fall short in our District, Council, and of course the BSA.
Mostly I think it comes down to training.  We do a fantastic job of getting people to help.  Just look at the numbers.
1.1 Million volunteers currently serve the youth of Scouting.  1.1 Million.  Now I am no fool, and I know that in any population you will never get 100 % of the folks to do anything, but we need to try right?
So we have lots of Scouts that deserve the best, and we have lots of volunteers that have at some level made a commitment to give their best, and yet we don’t.
Lets assume that my District (which I consider a real great district) is representative of most if not all districts in the BSA.  First, lets throw out some numbers again… bear with me here.  Remember that I said 85 units in my district did not bother to turn in the JTE form.  My district has 129 units in it.
In 2010 the BSA reported that there were 47,259 Cub Scout Packs, 40,099 Boy Scout Troops, 8,539 Varsity teams, and 18,856 Venture Crews.  That would be a total (in 2010) of 114,753 units in the BSA.
So assuming everything is equal, 40,000 units within the BSA did not turn the JTE form this last year.  Now I do not know this to be true.. I am just looking for a solution.  IF that big a population within an organization that makes it its business to deliver the promise of Scouting to the 2 million (plus) Scouts that come to us allows this to happen.. then I think it is worth a review.  Not a change in the Journey to Excellence program.  It is rock solid.. after all its all about making every unit the best.  It follows the methods and places its focus on what is important.. serving Youth!.  No, it does not need to change.  What needs to change is how we present, train, and work with units to ensure that the program (both the Scouting program and the JTE) are being followed.  Units that are in need of help need to get it.
I think this is where the commissioner service comes in… and there again.. we are preaching to the choir… assuming again that your district is like mine.. where are all the commissioners?  We are in need of good commissioners that are dedicated to making every unit a great one.
There are many ways that we need to attack this.  I think that we have a huge disconnect here and it will not get better as long as we keep preaching to the choir.  The choir is fine and is singing loud and clear.  It is the folks that don’t want to sing that we need to reach.  It is the people we never see, it is the countless applications that come through the council that never get a hand shake or a visit.  It is the volunteers that are not reached by hands on training or a friendly invite to Round table.
As much as I am a big fan of computer based training.. I think we may have lost some of the contact by going away from class room training.  We need to connect with the 1.1 million volunteers, or what ever that number is in your District and not only fix this JTE problem, but get more leaders trained, active, and taking on rolls that complement their skills, attitudes, and level of committment within the District.  We need commissioners that actually pay visits to their units.  Commissioners that do not wear multiple hats in Scouting.  Commissioners that can take the time to work with and mentor unit leaders.
We need to get a bigger choir!  I’ll have more to say on this later… I am curious to hear what you have to say about all this… leave a comment!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Larry says it well

On the heels of a great JLT weekend and Troop elections, it is fitting that Clarke Green, fellow blogger and podcaster posted an article today that nailed my thoughts.  The article was written by Larry Geiger, a contributor to Clarke’s blog and regular commenter here on the Scoutmaster Minute Blog.
So rather than me rewrite what Larry has so succinctly said..
Go to his blog and read this.  Well done Clarke/ Larry… Bravo!… and thanks!.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Modeling the Expected Behavior

This weekend, our Troop conducted Junior Leader Training.  Because we have so many young Scouts, we decided to do things a little different this year.  This year, wanted to ensure that the leaders clearly understood what was to be expected as a leader.  Instead of the typical classroom environment, we took the training out doors where we do the leading.  An over night camping experience in which the Scouts attending the training committed to doing everything right.  The committment of the Scouts that arrived on Friday evening at Camp Discovery was apparent from the word go.
We built a camp fire and pulled our chairs up close.  The theme for the weekend was Modeling the Expected Behavior.  What that means to the Scouts of our Troop is that as leaders they need to set the very best example that they can.  As examples they model the behaviors that we expect to see from the rest of the Troop.
So this weekend, the leaders learned about the Teaching EDGE, Leading EDGE, Ethical decision-making, Communicating effectively, and Learning to teach.  The leaders shared expectations and demonstrated to one another what “Right looks like”.  This morning after teaching one another how to properly pack gear, leave no trace, and cook a meal, they spent some time on the C.O.P.E course working on team development.
At the end of the training it was time for reflection and reinforcing the theme of the weekend.  Modeling the Expected Behavior.
This theme will be the driving force for the rest of the year.  It is the hope of those that attended the training that they will affect a positive change in the Troop.  They all understand that as they go, so will the rest of the Troop.

In my opinion this was the best Junior Leader Training session I have seen our Troop do.  There was a clear understanding at the end of the training and I too feel that the Troop will better for it.  With so many young Scouts in the Troop and more coming at the end of the month, Scouts that are willing to take responsibility and be the very best example by modeling the expected behavior, will be have a lasting impact on our unit.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Leadership Expectations

We have heard and practice that defined leadership is simply that Leaders provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation.  To accomplish those three things, leaders MUST clearly set and enforce expectations.  They need to be able to clearly communicate those expectations to those they lead.  The leader must paint a picture of what the result should look like.  The picture should be clear enough that the people you lead know exactly what they are supposed to do and accomplish.
Before we go on.. the first step in this process is to set the BEST example.  Not a Good example.. the BEST example.  Good is not Good enough when it comes to leadership.  With your BEST example you will then be able to set expectations and achieve results.

What Great Leaders Do to Set Expectations
Great leaders set clear expectations and standards for the people they lead.
Great leaders clearly communicate these expectations and standards to the people they lead.
Great leaders constantly reinforce the expectations and standards they have set for the people they lead.
Great leaders lead Great organizations.  Mediocre Leaders lead Mediocre Organizations.  Do not be satisfied with “Good enough”.
How Great Leaders Set Expectations
Great leaders develop clear expectations and standards for every position that reports to them.  They make sure that they understand, in their own mind, the output they expect from that position — regardless of the individual who fills it.
The SPL must expect Patrol Leaders to lead their Patrols with the understanding that they are assisting in achieving the Goals of the Troop.  At every level, everyone needs to be aware of what it is that the organization is trying to accomplish.  This is true for the very big tasks or goals and the small steps that get you there.

Great leaders use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Specified) tool to clarify their expectations and set goals.

  • Specific – great leaders set expectations that are targeted, not broad and general.  Good expectations are focused and explicit.  They should be easily understood by everyone.
  • Measurable – great leaders are able to tell quickly and easily if an individual that they lead or a task by the group has met their standards and expectations.  They develop a set of criteria that will demonstrate success or failure in meeting the expectation or standard.
  • Achievable – great leaders set expectations and standards that are challenging, but not to difficult to achieve.  A challenging expectation is motivating, an impossible one will lead to set backs in your goal.
  • Relevant – great leaders don’t get caught in the activities.  Their expectations focus on the results they expect the team to achieve, not the activities they will do to get there.  For example, “improved knot tying skills” is a result; “participating in Pioneering merit badge class” is an activity.  It’s possible to complete activities and not achieve the desired result. Keep your goals relevant to the task or goal.
  • Time Specified – great leaders know people need to know the deadlines associated with expectations and standards.  If you give a team 6 months to achieve a goal they will take 6 months to achieve that goal.  Do not allow for this to happen.  Set a time line for your goal or task and then hold yourself and the team accountable to get the goal or task completed.  Never leave a goal or task open ended when it comes to time.

Once great leaders have a clear picture of their expectations for the positions reporting to you, they communicate them to the people they lead who are in these positions.  Great leaders explain three things:

What needs to be accomplished and Why.
The deadline for accomplishing it.
What successful completion of the goal or task looks like.

Finally, great leaders never miss an opportunity to reinforce their expectations with the people they lead.  Repetition is a great tool for reinforcing expectations.  The more you keep your expectations in the forefront of the minds of the people you lead, the more likely they will be to focus their attention and efforts on achieving them.
Skills and Habits are formed and reinforced by clear expectations that come with clear expectations.  As a leader you must “Inspect what you expect”.  Never be satisfied by mediocre results.  The Scout Oath says that we will do our BEST.. not our “Good enough”.  Clear expectations will lead to higher skill levels and good habits.

Note- This is the First block of instruction for our Troop Junior Leader Training.  Once expectations are clear to everyone, it is easier to move on and expect the Junior Leaders to then learn in a practical way why leadership is important and what it takes to lead.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Fitness

Citizenship and Character are real easy to identify, teach, and train our Scouts, but what about this fitness thing?  We are not just talking about physical fitness.  We need to make sure and look at the emotional and mental fitness of our Scouts.  It is a total package.  We are mentoring young men.  These young men are living a time in their lives that is full of emotion, change, and in many cases confusion about who they are and what they are going to be.  Emotional and mental fitness is something that we as Scout leaders need to be aware of.  How we talk to these young men, how we understand where they come from, and how we work with them on a weekly or more basis is important to how they come to understand what emotional fitness and mental fitness is.   It is tricky ground to step on, and no we are not psychologists or therapist, but by our example and our care, we can go a long way to helping these young men through the tough days of teen age boyhood.
There was an article I picked up along the way.. I thought it had some great ideas and was worth sharing.  The article basically talked about attitude en route to mental and emotional fitness.  There are a few simple things to look at.  Improving your emotional health by positive thought, Choosing positive actions, Disputing pessimistic thought, Doing the right thing, and taking a look at your emotional health.  When we take a look at these things, we can see in our Scouts where they may be in their journey.  When we look at these things in ourselves, we can get a better understanding as to how we are helping, through our example, the Scouts in our care.
So lets take a look at these topics.  See where you are and how you can help.
Improve your emotional health by thinking positively
You’re okay. But can you be even better? That’s one of the questions being asked by a movement in the mental health field known as “positive psychology.” Unlike most traditional psychology, which seeks to understand and heal problems of the mind and emotions, positive psychology delves into what makes us emotionally healthy—or happy—and tries to build on those sources of strength to increase our happiness. According to several studies by psychologists in this movement, happiness can be achieved just by making these adjustments to your attitude.
Choose positive actions. In other words, you may not be able to change everything about yourself, including much of your environment, but there’s a lot that you can control. You can choose to think and act in ways that make your life more pleasant and, ultimately, more meaningful.
Dispute pessimistic thoughts. It may help to treat your own negative thinking as if it were coming from another person. Sometimes simply checking the evidence is enough to show that a negative belief is untrue. For example, you may think you “blew” your diet, when an actual calorie count says you haven’t. Also, you should get in the habit of taking the optimistic tack in explaining events; by remembering bad things will pass, but good things will last.
Do the right thing. As the old saying goes, “Virtue is its own reward.” Be inspired just by doing what’s right in your home, your workplace and your community.
Consider your emotional health. Is happiness this easy to attain? The answer depends in part on how happy or unhappy you already are. For people with serious emotional problems, positive psychology is not a replacement for getting help from a coach, therapist or physician.
Take baby steps. High expectations for change in your life have to be realistic. Happiness springs from actions, but the actions often have to be small steps. For example, shyness is something that keeps people from really engaging in life, but you can’t be expected to just toss aside your shyness and go out and enter a life of politics, or corporate leadership.

You may not want to play the part of psychologists or therapist in your unit, but as a Scoutmaster you are an influence in their lives.  Whether you accept that or not.. you are, and you play a major role in the development of their emotional and mental health.

Have a Great Scouting Day!