Who are you?

Yellow sign in the forest“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Before a Scouter attends Wood Badge, they receive a list of 20 Questions.  Those questions are for them to answer and for no one to see.  The purpose of the 20 questions is to discover just who they are and what they want in life.
If the Scouter takes these questions to heart and really puts some time and thought into them they prove to direct the Scouter to finding a personal Vision.  That vision leads to their mission and sets them up to achieving goals which in turn make their lives better, their units better, and those around them better.
Many people go through life without a sense of purpose or direction.  It is important to understand where we want to be in life in order to get there.  Life for many is a daily grind.  It is a means to some end that may or may not have meaning.  For many people WHY is not important in life.. “Do” takes over and soon they are just living but not being.
At Wood Badge we know that a life with purpose and direction leads to everything in life being better.  We do this through instruction and allowing the participant the time with the tools to set a life course.  Eating the elephant in small chunks to realize success and see their dreams come true.
The beauty of this process is that it is for the individual..  NOT Scouting or anything else.  Well, since it is Wood Badge is a Scouting activity we do ask that they make goals to make their units successful.. but we all know that when we are successful everything around us seems to fall in place.
The 20 questions are not hard, in fact for many these seem real simple.  Yes, they are simple, so simple in fact that most people do not give them second thought.  But if you do.. and you really put thought into them, they do in fact lead you to a better understanding of you.
I first took the time to answer these questions in 2005 when I attended Wood Badge.  And to be honest, I did not take them as serious as I should have.  I thought it was just another exercise and part of the ticket punch that typically comes with Scout training.  It was not until I was asked to staff for the 2011 course that I really sat down and answered the questions.  I wanted to be prepared to assist those in the patrol I was guiding.  I figured that I needed to be more in tuned with the ticket process and setting a personal Vision and Mission.  And so I did.  It was a remarkable change in my attitude and direction both in Scouting and in my personal life.
I thought I would share my 20 questions with you.  Not from 2005 or 2011, or from any other year that I have staffed Wood Badge.  No, I am rethinking my 20 questions.  As I look at this coming year and my journey as a Course Director, I know that life over the last 10 years has changed.  My values remain the same, but life has changed course.  Our youngest son is 21 years old today, that means the kids are no longer front and center with School activities, sporting events, and the drama that comes with the teen age years.  My wife and I are older and setting a course in life that is about us.  Time and energy being spent preparing to retire and looking to the rest or next chapter in our lives.  So as with everything, it is time for assessment and reflection and reevaluation of who we are, what we want, and where we are going.  Time to hit the reset button and it starts with 20 questions.
So over the next few blog entries I will share;

1. What do I feel are my greatest strengths?
I feel that my greatest strengths are they way I communicate and see things for what they are.  I believe in living on realities terms.  I am compassionate and fair.  I am honest.  I have an ability to lead and provide a desire for others to follow.
2. What strengths do others notice in me?
Communicator, Leader, Trustworthy, Kind, and fair.
3. What do I most enjoy doing?
Being with my family is first and foremost.  I love being in the outdoors.  I love to teach.
I think that beyond my family I have a desire to teach.  I love to see people learn and practice what they have been taught.  I like to share my knowledge.  It forces me to be life long learner my self.  I try to learn something new every day.  Sharing what I know is very important to me.
4. What qualities of character do I most admire in others?
Honesty and Loyalty. If you are not honest and loyal we can not be on the same team.  I have a need for people to be honest and forthcoming.  I absolutely can not stand people who are not honest.

Ok.. there are the first four.  More to come.  As I answer my 20.. consider your own.  If you have been to Wood Badge or you are going to go, take some time.  Set aside some time to honestly answer the questions.  Take them serious.  Don’t worry about what the “right” answers are or about satisfying someone else’s idea of how you should respond. No one except you will see what you write.  These questions could set you on a course to great discovery and success in your goals.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Those Knots

knotsEvery six months or so it seems that the discussion on knots come up.  Now you all know that I am not talking about the bowline or two half hitches, or even a well placed figure 8.  No I am talking about the knots that we wear on our uniforms, awards and recognition’s for training, service, and achievement.. primarily for adults.
The discussions vary in what to wear, how many to wear, why we should wear them and of course why not wear them?  I have heard thoughts on the knots and been the recipient of many comments for the knots that I wear.  I am not going to convince you what, where, when, and why you should or should not wear Scouting knots.. I am going to share my go to answer and talk about my knots.
First, Why wear them?  Well, the basic answer is that I either earned them or they were awarded (presented) to me.  I figure that if someone took the time to recommend me for an award, I should respect that and wear it.  Mostly it humbles me to think that someone thinks enough of me to go through all the work or at least paper work to recommend the award or recognition.
Second, I wear the knots as a visible resume’.  When meeting with new parents it shows a level of dedication, service, training, and experience in our program.  Even if they are unaware of the meaning of the knots, it shows that I have been there and done that.  Kind of like looking at a Scout with a full merit badge sash.  Never mind that Finger Printing takes 10 minutes to earn.. it’s on the sash and adds to the visual list of what the Scout has done in Scouting.  So I wear them to show what I have done and that I am dedicated to their son and the program.
What knots do I have and what do I wear?  Well, as you can see in the picture I have a few knots.  Starting with training, I have the Scoutmaster Training (Green knot), The Scoutmaster Key.  I still wear on some uniforms my Cub Scout knots, the Cubmaster award, Den leader, and Webelos Den leader knots.  Knots that were awarded are the Scoutmaster Award of Merit, The District Award of Merit, and The Silver Beaver Award.  I also wear my Arrow of Light award.  I also wear the James E. West recognition and William D. Boyce New Unit Organizer award.  I take pride in what I have on my shirt.  It is all about the program and how active I am within it.
I wear all of my knots on some shirts and just a few on others.  It totally depends on the shirt and what I put on it when I purchased it.  There really is no rhyme or reason, it is whatever I got when I went to the Scout shop that day.  I try to wear them all though.  I like consistency and think it is important to demonstrate that to our Scouts.  I believe that everything that we do is modeling to our Scouts.
What does the BSA say I can or can not wear?  It used to be a general rule that one only wore three rows of knots.  That has since changed and there is no restriction or limit to the knots that you can wear.  So it is up to you.
When people ask what the most important knot I have is I tend to struggle a bit.  I am extremely proud to be a recipient of the Silver Beaver.  I am honored to have been recommended and selected.   I value that award as I know the people that submitted me for it and I am thankful that the Council committee saw fit to award it to me.  The same goes for the Scoutmaster Award of Merit.  It is no longer an award that can be presented.  At the time it was awarded by the National Eagle Scout Association.  That made it special to me as I never earned the Eagle Award.  I don’t know, some sort of way I can associate with that honor… I know it’s a stretch, but hey.. it’s my mind and the way I think at times.
Clearly there is not one award that is great than the others, after all, it is what they represent and why I have them that matters.
Arguments against knots.  I have heard most of them.  The number one argument is typically that it is just vanity and the program is for the boys.
Yeah, the program is for the boys, but without adults it would just be a huge version of Lord of the Flies.  We can’t have that can we.  Vanity?  I am not vain in any stretch of the imagination. I am proud and honored, but vain.. nah.
Regardless of the argument what I have observed is that those that argue about the wearing of knots by and large do not wear the uniform properly if at all.  Now I am going to sound like the uniform police here, but, they typically do not wear their patches in the right positions and have rarely done anything to warrant the earning or presentation of the knots.  Now I am not suggesting that they are bad people, but the uniform is a method of Scouting that should be executed properly.  You all should know where I stand on that if you have read the blog for more than a year.
Wearing knots is not mandatory nor is it discouraged.  I like to see Scouters wear their knots.  It says something about their active Scouting life.  They take the time to put them on their uniforms, and they show that they are grateful for someone thinking enough about them to put them in for the award.  I like to see that they are trained and they value our program.
What is your feeling when it comes to knots?  Do you wear them?  What do you have?  If you don’t wear them.. why not?
Leave a Comment and lets discuss this.. it won’t come up again for at least six months.
I am not sure how old or up to date this site is, I know it still lists discontinued knots, but it still gives you a good idea of the knots available and downloads for application or recommendation.   Check out BSA Square Knot Guide.  You can learn more about BSA Awards at the National BSA Awards Center site.

Have a Great Scouting Day!


Changing the World

It has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.. and last night in dramatic fashion, coming back from 3 games to 1.. taking the series to a critical game 7, and then into extra innings, the Cubs won!
For many this is the sign of hell freezing over, the second coming, or whatever.  I am not one that speaks to much of hope.  I do not believe that sitting around hoping gets things done.  It took hard work, putting the right team together, and playing the game right all season to get the Cubs to the World Championship of Major League Baseball.  It takes hard work and perseverance to make things happen.
Baden Powell had a vision for Scouting to make it the worlds largest movement for Peace.  He did not hope for a better tomorrow, he knew that it would take hard work and steadfastness of the movement to make a difference.  Some may say that this cause has been a failure.  The world is still a crazy place.  Yes, but.. there is still Scouting.  Scouting still marches on with the goal.. not hope, that it will make a difference.  It is up to us.
It is up to us to be that agent of change.  It is up to us to carry the torch and make a difference.  If we hope someone else will do it we will never see it to reality.
Governments have proven that they can not do it.  So it comes down to what?  Hope?  No.. it comes down to us.  One Scout Movement that believes that it is that organization that can change the world.
I believe that it can.. and will.  It will take time.  It will take putting the right team together.  It will take hard work.  It will take perseverance, dedication, and the will to continue what Baden Powell started.
It made me happy to watch last night as the Cubs won the World Series!  It makes me happy every time I look at the Scouts of our unit and know that it some small way we are working toward making the World a better place.  It starts with us.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Greatest of them all


photo credit: the Dollarphotoclub

When it comes to leadership.. there is really nothing new.  The principles of how to lead and the core competencies that it takes to lead have not changed in thousands of years.  It is in the execution of leadership where we find new techniques and styles that cause us to be effective leaders or dare I say.. bad leaders.  But in essence, leadership is leadership.  In the Army we develop TTP’s (Tactic’s, Techniques, and Procedures) for everything.  On how to clear a room to how to repair a tank, the TTP’s associated with the task drive the leader and follower to finding success.. it is all about how to be the most effective and ultimately, Win.
As I have grown as leader and came to a better understanding of effective leadership versus ineffective leading, it dawned on my that in leadership we draw on TTP’s of effectively leading.
One such Technique of effective or good leadership is articulated very well in Simon Sinek’s book “Leaders Eat Last, Why some teams Pull together while others Don’t”.  He states, “the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”  This statement encapsulates the Greatest virtue of leadership.  Being a Servant leader or Putting the needs of others before our own.
It is a real simple concept.  We put those that we lead ahead of us.  As leaders we are bound and determined to focus on the tasks completion.  But what we need to understand is that it takes the team to accomplish the task.  The team that you lead is the effective force that will achieve success if you lead them.  Putting their needs before your own will ensure their motivation and willingness to shoulder the burden of the task.  It will build cohesion in the team and model servant leadership throughout the team. Team members will better understand what their part is and will go the extra mile for you when the trust you, believe in you, and know that you care for them.
This leadership principle has been around for ages.  It has not always been used and the results have varied.  The one thing that we know for sure is that it works and it is the Greatest leadership TTP.

Be a Servant Leader.  Put the needs of others in your daily lives ahead of your own.  Today’s mission is to be a better person and make those around you better.
Care for and take care of one another and you will be the greatest of leaders.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Good People


Me and my Wood Badge Mentor Sheryl

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” – George Washington
This weekend was our annual University of Scouting training event.  Like most Councils the training includes everything from Basic Leader training to Women in the Wilderness.  It is always attended well and with a lot of enthusiasm.  I marvel at the amount of Scouters that take an additional Saturday from their already busy lives to get trained.  Training that will ultimately make their units better.  But more so do I appreciate the Scouters that take the time to train those that show up for this event.  These amazing people spend time and energy and their own money to make great training happen.  They over deliver when it comes to training the Scouters of our Council.  I love to hang out on the Midway, that is where the action is.  That is where the parade of Scouters happens, a constant din of enthusiastic Scout chatter fills the air.  Scouters learn about program elements of the Council.  They are introduced to the adventures their Scouts have available to them.  They meet old friends and make new ones.  The networking at the University of Scouting is perhaps the greatest tool they put in their box for the day.
As I manned the Wood Badge booth before and in between classes I could not help but note that these are all really good people.  I shared with a friend of mine the quote that I opened this post with from George Washington, a quote that I have used frequently with the Scouts of my Troop.  Essentially it is about the character of the people around you and how you are perceived by others because of the folks you hang out with.  In short, be with great people and you will be great.. the opposite is also true.  As I watched Scouters walking about the midway I counted my blessings to have so many of them as friends and thought to myself that there was no where else I would rather be at that moment.
I taught three classes over the course of the day.  I was asked to teach “Effective Order of the Arrow Representatives”.  A class that I taught at the National Order of the Arrow Conference last year.  I was pleased to have a good group of Scouters that wanted to make their units better using the Order of the Arrow as a motivator in the unit.  I also taught a class introducing Scouters to Backpacking.  The gist of that class was to help unit adult leaders understand that backpacking does not have to be hard or expensive and that even first year scouts can do a 50 miler in their first year (ours have).  And then in the final session of the day I was a Co Instructor in a class that introduced and answered question about Wood Badge.  We called it “Wood Badge, What is it and Why should I go?”.  That class was packed and yielded some outstanding questions.  It gave me an opportunity to share the Wood Badge program and what it has done for me.  It was also an outstanding opportunity to meet some really great Scouters that are dedicated to making their units better.
University of Scouting is always a motivating experience.  For many it is that event that recharges scouting batteries.  For many it is a first look at much of what Scouting has to offer.  But for all of us it is an opportunity to build our reputation by being among some of the best people I know and surrounding ourselves with good company.
A day well spent.  Hope you have those kinds of days.

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

On Character

1914461961-a-people-of-character-3-quotesWe talk a lot about Character with our Scouts and on this blog.  Character is one of those things that as an organization we value and strive to instill in our Scouts.  Character development is one of the goals that support the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.  But what is it?  How do get it?  Where does it come from?  And how are we supposed to instill in our Scouts… Character?
Nature or Nurture?  Are we born with Character? If so.. why do we need to teach and develop it?  I believe that humans are born with an innate need to do good.  We are creatures that want to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  We strive to be happy or find happiness.  In most cases that means serving others.  We see this in children, they have a need to please their parents.  This is an element that shapes character.  The behavior is reinforced when the parents reward the child for “Good behavior”.
Character is behavior.  When we think about character or better yet people that have character we think about their behavior or the behaviors that they consistently demonstrate.  Behaviors that look all to familiar to those of us in the Scouting program.  They serve, they are Trustworthy and Kind.  They are Obedient and Brave.  In short they live the values of the Scout Law and try to live up to the promises found in the Oath.  This is a Nurtured act.  Just as we were taught at a young age the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule.  They, coupled with the natural tendency to do good help shape our character.
We can all agree on what we look for in someone that has character.  Honesty and Loyalty for example.  I am sure that we could also come up with lists that differ.  This is where it gets difficult to teach and train or develop character in our Scouts.  It is too easy to lean on the Scout Oath and Law, but is that all there is to it?
When we talk about being brave to a young man how do we explain it?  A Scout is Brave, according to the Scout Handbook states;  A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.  Couched within the value of being brave we find courage, tolerance,  and patience.  All could be found in a list of character traits.  So it’s not as simple as asking the Scout to live the Oath and Law and when we have those discussions it’s not acceptable to stop and what the book says.. there is much more to it that reciting the law.
We require of our Scouts to do service.  But is it service for the sake of service or is our requirement of participating in service projects just to fulfill a requirement?  The idea of being of service is clearly a desirable trait of character.  It is one of those traits that we find in most people we consider to have Character.  But service for service sake becomes a nurtured act, an act that if not taught properly will only be a ticket punch and not a desire to serve because it is the right thing to do. Again, we need to reinforce the need of people to fulfill their natural desire to do good.
We know that if not reinforced or taught, modeled and acted upon Character will not take.  We need only to look at people that we consider to lack Character.  What makes us believe that they do not feel the need to do good?   What is the trait that makes a person do bad things?  What went wrong in the natural process or the nurturing of character building?
We don’t know what we don’t know.  So if we are born with Character, I wonder why we don’t all have it.  If we believe that we don’t know what we don’t know and that we need to be taught the behaviors that build our character then Character must be nurtured alone and not part of our nature.
What does all of this have to do with Scouting?  Simple.  When we take on the role of a Scout leader we find ourselves in a position to teach, coach, train, and mentor through the Scouting program.  We find ourselves obligated to move our units and the Scouts within toward the goals of Scouting and as a result we fulfill the mission of the Organization.
In a recent discussion on facebook there was a question about taking away the Eagle award from someone that had earned it then went on to do bad things, Criminal activity etc. The Boy Scouts of America does not EVER take away rank once it is earned.. no matter what the circumstance.  The point is that if we have Scout leaders that take our role seriously we should not end up in that position.  If we do not understand Character, what it is, where it comes from, and how we teach it, how can we effectively turn out Eagle Scouts or Scouts in general that have Character.
It is easy for us to stick to the Oath and Law and draw our conclusion that within Scouting that is all we need to check the box and award rank to our Scouts.  It is not about rank.. it is about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.
We do our organization, the people in it, and our communities a disservice when we view Scouting as just another club and the values don’t matter.
We all have seen or maybe are in a unit that is all about the ticket punch.. produce as many Eagles as possible and feel great about the mythical Scoutmaster Score card.
When we really think about character we are playing with fire when we fail to teach it correctly.  When we fail to be people of character.  When we fail to model the traits that are common to people with character.
Character is learned.  It is nurtured through reinforcing good behaviors.  Behaviors not only that make the Scout good, but to do good.  To serve not to gain, but to be of service.
We need to understand that the Scouts in our care come from different backgrounds, cultures, and homes that share values across the spectrum.  We need to take into consideration that we can not change the values of the family or their faith group.  We can demonstrate doing good.  We can be those values found in the law.  We can show compassion and caring when we teach about service and what we personally expect in someone that has character. We must be consistent in our behavior and know that the Scouts are watching everything that we do.  For many of them, and I would include myself in this number, the Scout leader is someone that is looked up to and is expected to have character.
At one point or another we have all heard that “Character is what you do when no one is looking”.  While I agree, that does not define us and our character.  Character is who we are and what we do…all of the time.
So is it Nature or Nurture?  Born or Learned?  God Given or grown and developed by habits and behavior?  I think it is a combination of all of the above.  I know.. cop out answer.. but it takes it all to shape and become a person of character.  We need to know that.  We know what we know and when we act in opposition to what we know is right we demonstrate a lack of character.  On the other hand, good character comes from people with a desire to do good and be good.
Food for thought.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
― Helen Keller

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Building My High Performance Team

logoIn the Wood Badge program everything we do.. and I mean everything, is a model for what the Scouting program is supposed to look like.  From the way we dress to the way we strive to be a High Performance Team, the Wood Badge staff models success.
In this process of getting ready for “my” course I am tasked with putting together that high performance team in my staff.  A task that I learned, or am learning is of vital importance as I look down the road to August and the experience we are going to provide for those participants.  Get it wrong and it could lead to a bad experience for 56 Scouters that we truly want to go out and leave their mark.  Get it right and we will leave a legacy that will continue to have a ripple effect long into the future.
The Admin guide for Wood Badge is the standard set by the National Training committee for the conduct of Wood Badge courses.  It ensures that all Wood Badge courses Nation wide are delivering the course the same and that Wood Badge Course Directors are conducting the course in such a way as to grow the Wood Badge community and have that lasting impact in Scouting.  It sets forth guidelines so Council Training committees do not create Wood Badge empires and Critter cliques.  The Admin guide is a Model for Success.
Within the Admin guide and the course, Wood Badge stresses the importance of leveraging Diversity for successful team building.  The guide requires us to have 1/3 of our staff be first time staffers.  This creates a nature flow of new Scouters into the Wood Badge staffing community.  It forces Course Directors to go out and find those new folks that will be a part of the team.  The Course Director is also to look for the team to be diverse.  We know that diversity makes teams stronger.  Differing points of view, cultures, Scouting programs, and where they are from within the council are some of the diverse background that build a high performance team.  Note that I did not bring up race.  Yes that is certainly a part of diversity, but all to often it becomes the only lens that is looked through in the diversity discussion.  Race plays a roll in building that team, but we should not forget the many elements of a diverse team.
So through this process, I have made it a point to look at all of the elements of diversity in building our staff.
I have met with or know the men and women that will serve on the staff.  Removing bias or favorites.  I have maintained that 1/3 of the staff is new and that the staff is split 50/50 men and women.  One of my biggest criteria in building this team is how well they will get along and interact with one another.  We only have so much time together and I wanted models for success right out of the gate.. or at least the 90% fix when they meet together for the first time.
Building our team is important.  It is the foundation of the success of the course.  These 20 or so people will be the model for everything that is right about Wood Badge and Scouting.  I feel we nailed it with this group.
Just like what we want to see in our Troops, each Patrol being the model of Scouting, the staff will give a look of that for the participants to take back to their units.  When we do that, we live up to the ultimate goal of Wood Badge.. to make units Better!

Have a Great Scouting Day!