Character

Boy Led or Lord of the Flies?

lord-flies-william-golding-paperback-cover-artI often have discussions with Scoutmasters about what constitutes a “Boy Led Troop”.   There seems to be a misunderstanding as to what that means and it is executed in different ways depending on the unit.  But there is a right way to have youth lead and a wrong way.  Finding balance and understanding of the roles of the Adults and Youth in the Troop becomes the difference between Boy Led and Lord of the Flies.
Youth leadership is the method that we use to teach and provide opportunities for the Scouts to learn, develop, and practice leadership.  It is an opportunity to learn styles of leadership and challenge personal growth, communication skills, and working as a member of a high performance team.  Leadership in a Scout troop is shared.  Shared between other Scouts and with adults.  They share experiences, learning, and responsibility.
A Boy Scout Troop is Boy (or Scout) led but it is Adult run.  We do not expect our Scouts to administer the Troop, maintain the checking account, resource seat belts, or make camp reservations.  All items that certainly would fall under most leadership descriptions.  We also do not allow the Scouts to discipline one another, that to would be a leadership role in most organizations.
We use a technique called Guided Discovery when teaching leadership and expectations with our Scouts.  This keeps them from becoming tribal.  It removes the conflict between Ralph and Jack (the principle characters in Lord of the Flies).  It is done by asking leading questions and offering the Scouts the chance to find solutions in their leadership challenges.
Guided Discovery is all about coaching the youth to find success.  Not doing it for them, but keeping them within the limits.  It allows for the Scouts to set boundaries and learn from mistakes in a safe environment.
A few weeks ago I stood in the back of the meeting hall with some parents.  Mom and Dad were concerned that our Troop did not allow the boys to do “Everything”.  Their idea of Boy leadership was that adults monitored but did not get to involved with the operation of the Troop.  They wondered why the Assistant Scoutmasters were working with the Scouts on advancement.  One of the Assistant Scoutmasters was signing off a Scouts handbook.  Dad asked why the Scouts were not doing the signing.  I suggested that when the ASM signs the book he can take that opportunity to get to know the Scout, understand the Scouts knowledge of the skills, and keep his (the ASM) finger on the pulse of the unit.  This allows the Adult leadership the opportunity to know what is going on and understand how the Scouts are doing in the their Scouting experience.
We teach the Scouts through Guided Discover what leadership is and how to lead.  We allow them to ask questions and test their leadership skills.  If they feel that they are totally left to their own devices, they will feel overwhelmed and not learn.  Scouting is a safe place to practice these valuable life skills.  It is an environment where the leader gets mutual support from both the adults and his Troop mates.  If you recall in the book “Lord of the Flies” the conflict between Jack, Simon, and Ralph and the division between the biguns and littluns came when they lost the ability to resolve simple issues.  When and were to hunt, building shelter, and protection the tribe from the beast.  Simon rises as a leader bound to protect the littluns from the biguns.  Piggy becomes an outcast and the butt of pranks and laughter from all of the boys.  They did not understand the concept of leading to serve and without adults on the island to assist in decision making and conflict resolution they quickly turn on one another.  Without learning from mistakes and being led in reflection the boys turn on each other develop a lack of trust and paranoia.  Their experiment in civility is crushed.
This can easily become analogous in the life of a Troop without guided discovery and the ability for Adults to step in and drive the learning.  It does not mean that the adults do everything for the Scouts, but it does mean that the development of young leaders is conducted in a meaningful and focused way.
100% youth led does not allow for learning.  They just don’t know what they don’t know.
The argument of “Well, have the older boys be the guide” is valid.  But like the Lord of the Flies, the older boys will also have their agenda and reasons for wanting to lead.  I am not suggesting that we allow agenda driven leadership, that is where guided discovery comes in.  When we can direct the learning and keep it all focused on achieving the goals of Scouting we can eliminate the Lord of the Flies.
So where is your unit?  Boy Led or somewhere on the island?  Guided discovery can fix that.  Learning, developing, and growing as individuals and a unit is dependent on the shared leadership of youth and adults.
If you have not read Lord of the Flies recently, it is a good study on human nature and leadership among youth.  It is a great study on what we can become.  Worth the read.
Check out Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

What are you?

knowledgeIn the last blog post I shared my answers to the first four questions of the 20 questions that we ask participants of Wood Badge to consider before they get to their course.
Who you are and what you learn about yourself gets you started in discovering your life’s Vision and Mission.  In other words it sets you on a course for a life with purpose.  I will be sharing more about myself in this post as I move through a re look of the 20 questions building toward a better future for me and those close to me.
Before I get to that however, I would like to ask you all a few questions.
First.  Does this blog help you?
Second.  Do you find value in this blog?
Third.  What would you like to see more of in the blog?
Finally.  Do you share the content of the blog with other Scouters?
I ask this not to determine whether or not to continue, I am all in.  I ask this to make the blog better.  A blog with content worth sharing and a blog that keeps you coming back for more.  I truly want to help deliver the promise of Scouting in whatever way I can.
One thing that I think most of the readers of this blog have in common is a desire to make Scouting great and build fantastic experiences for the youth we serve.  Scout training is often not enough.  Round table is typically not attended by those that really need the coaching.  The internet has opened so many pathways to information and I want to use this tool to teach, coach, mentor and inspire other Scouters.  Is that happening?
I am not a numbers guy, but I do look at the blog stats on occasion to see trends and where impact is happening.. or not.
I have noticed a drop in subscriptions to the blog.  That is a natural thing.  And do not worry I do not lose sleep over it.  It is what it is.  In my perfect world I would have millions of subscribers, not to pad my ego, but to help Scouting.  But holding at 1630ish subscribers, I will go with it.  I don’t understand how it all works sometimes.  I think that site identity and recognition have a lot to do with it.  During the time when I did the blog and podcast I had the most views and subscribers.  The podcast is not coming back anytime soon, so I need to build this brand to the best it will be.
That may mean that I never see 2000 subscribers.. and that I will live with as long as this blog speaks to those that need it, want it, and keep coming back.  And to all of you I say Thanks!
The title of this post is “What are you?”  I selected that title because in answering the 20 questions you should also learn about what you are in relation to your relationships and activities.  What you are to other people, a leader, a parent, a friend, a partner.. you are identified by not only who you are but what you are.  Leaders are often viewed in this manner.  Their leadership style is not so much who they are but what they act like, what their actions are, and what they do for the group.  So what are you?  Understanding what you are is an important part of seeing your vision and building your life plan to get there.
Here are a few more questions and my answers:

5. Who is a person who has made a positive impact on my life?
My Dad.  We learn by watching others.  My Dad has always been a role model.  Teaching me many of the attributes to being a good Dad, Husband, and worker.  My Dad is not perfect, but his imperfection has been great lessons in leading, and living.  He instilled in me the importance of family, hard work, and taking care of others.  He taught me how to interact with people and when to filter my thoughts.  He has been a constant part of my life and I appreciate him.
6. Why was that person able to have such significant impact?
He is a good teacher.  I think that teachers teach more so by their actions than lecture.  For good or for bad what they do models how to be, know, and do things in your life.
7. What have been my happiest moments in life?
Watching my children find joy and success.  I have always loved watching as my kids grew up.  They had something that I never had growing up and that is friendships that have lasted their entire lives.  I grew up moving just about every three years.  They have lived on the same street their entire lives.  I have grown to know these kids (the friends of my kids) all their lives.  Seeing their relationships with one another is amazing.  Through sports, school, band, and scouting they and their friends have all grown to be good people.  Watching them will always be happy moments.
8.  Why were they happy?
Because my kids always bring me joy.  Through good times and tough times, they have always been my greatest success.

Well, OK.. there are the next four questions.  I hope that you are taking the time to answer them for yourself.  As you do, look for the opportunities for personal growth and understanding.  When we get to the end, go back and read your answers.  You never have to share them with anyone.  But as they say ‘knowledge is power’ and you will have the power to make your life better.
Please share the blog with your friends, Scouters, and whomever you feel will get something out of it.  It’s not about numbers, it’s about Vision and the mission of helping where I can.
Leave a comment below with the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of the post.  I really do want to know what you think.  It is all about the assessment of this process and I do want to make it better to serve you.
Thanks for coming back time and again.  I sincerely appreciate it.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Creating separation

4-PercentOnce a Scout meets the requirements for First Class the focus changes from basic skills development to discovering all that Scouting has to offer, service, and leadership.
The Scout will discover Scouting through the merit badge program, high adventure bases, Jamboree’s and being an active member of his Troop.  Often times his participation in high adventure increases once he has developed the skills and is a little more mature and taking on greater responsibilities in the unit.
But it is in leadership that the Scout starts to separate himself from the pack.  When a Scout sits with me for his First Class and Star conferences I explain to him that it is important to begin that separation from the crowd.  I am not suggesting that they leave, I am encouraging them to stand out.
Only 4 percent of all Scouts that stay in our program will earn the Eagle award.  Only 4%.  So it is important for a Scout that wants to earn his Eagle award to stand out from the other 96%.  There is a difference in those young men.  Not everyone is supposed to get their Eagle.  It takes dedication and effort and a willingness to serve and lead.  The Scout that does not separate will not stand out in leadership and service.  They need not go above and beyond.. they only need to meet the standard, but the standard [when kept] is high… by design.
While I want all of my Scouts to achieve the rank of Eagle, I find it more important that they have a well rounded Scouting experience.  I want to them to demonstrate sound leadership and develop the heart of a servant.  In the world in which we find ourselves.. that is a stand out person.  We can teach the value of merit and working for what you get.  We can reverse the cycle of “participation trophies” and meaningless activity. The Scout that learns about the value of setting goals, working hard, and making a choice to be better than average is a young man that is separating himself from his peers to be a better man.
Creating separation is an important part of achieving goals and being a better man.  It is easy to go with the flow and maintain mediocrity.  It is another thing to actually do your very best and make a choice to make a difference.
Encourage your Scouts to stand out.. separate from the pack.. be better.
Thanks for hanging out on the blog.. let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Worthy Cause

acorn-wideAs I was driving home from work I was listening to a local Classical Music station.. it sooths me.  What I like about the Classical station and most talk radio stations is that they do not play a lot of advertisements.  This often goes without notice as you listen and enjoy the station but it is always noticed during those one or two times a year that the stations have their “listener-athon” or whatever they call it.  The annual or bi annual plea for funding to keep the station on the air and free of advertising.  Now there are many reasons I am sure that these stations try to stay away from endless ads, but it would also seem that the ads could remove some of the stress of “begging” for money every year.  Sure these stations receive funds from corporate donors and “friends of” donations, but by and large they rely on the listener, the end user, the person that enjoys what they produce.  It is a worthy cause to be sure… for the station and the listener.  It is free to produce what they want without being tied to this or that company paying for ad space or promoting their interest.  It is one thing to be “brought to you by…” than Company X paying holding stake in your product.. I suppose.  But a worthy cause none the less.
I, like many of you have many causes that are near and dear to you and what you do.  We get their pleas in the mail, most to only end up in the trash can.  They are all worthy causes and are in need of funding, after all it does take money to make most things happen.  I get mail from the Pacific Crest Trail Association,  The Non Commissioned Officers Association, the Red Cross, the National Infantry Association, various Alumni groups etc.  They are all worthy causes and at some point I donated, joined, answered their plea, or took interest in them.  I believe in giving to worthy causes.  I can not be an active part in all of them, so sometimes my contribution, big or small, is my way of fulfilling a need to support a cause.
Ok, by now you are noticing that I have not mentioned the Boy Scouts of America.  Well we will get to that here real soon.
First however I need to rant a bit on what seems to be an overwhelming theme with the “Worthy Cause appeal”.  The theme is that someone else will do it.
Someone else will donate.  Some “Big Business” will take care of it.. after all.. they can afford it.  Someone else should step up and keep this station on the air, or that trail maintained, or that museum staffed, or…
Someone else always seems to take care of your worthy cause.  That which you enjoy, take advantage of, or participate in.  Membership allows for that right?  I pay my dues.. I shouldn’t have to do more.  Someone else can afford to do more.
Time, Treasure, Talent.  We all have some, we can do more, we need to budget our worthy cause or causes into our lives.
You pick and choose what that cause is, we all do.  We decide what is important to us and those around us and make a choice to support it or just take advantage of “Someone else”.
The Boy Scouts of America.  My worthy cause.
For over a century it has relied on the stewardship of its members, Alumni, and those that know and understand what its mission is.  It takes money to make programs happen.  It takes support to ensure that the mission can be sustained and accomplished.  A mission that takes the life span of the member and will never stop as long as a 7 year boy comes to a join night.  It will forever need support and funding as long as Troops load up the vans, buses, and station wagons and head to summer camp.  It will continue to be in need of time, treasure, and talent as long as we wish our young people to learn, live, and share the values and make choices that shape their character.  Yes, a worthy cause.
But, Someone else will do it.
Each year the BSA asks of its members to become a Friend of Scouting.  To go above and beyond their contribution of time and talent.  To do more financially than their annual dues and registration fees.  To support the organization where it counts.  The worthy cause that is provided at the local Council level.  Where the Scout and the Scouts family benefit.  It takes more than registration fees and lending a helping hand at a local camp, it takes money, just like you local radio station that asks for support to maintain its programing uninterrupted by ads.
Yes the BSA goes to corporations and asks for their contribution.  The BSA targets organization that share our values and support our type of programing.  Buts not enough and we can’t rely on someone to do it.
We all know that Scouting is a worthy cause.  We all know what the outcomes can be because of Scouting.  We all know that Scouting offers programing that no other youth organization can do.  But we can not wait for someone else. We all need to do our part.
Budgeting your worthy cause.
I will not tell you how to spend your money.  My wife and I are like everyone else, we have a budget and try to stick to it.  We know what we have and what we can give.  We make a choice each year on what and who we are going to support.  For us, the Boy Scouts of America is our worthy cause.  We have seen what it does for the young men and their families.  We have watched as our sons took advantage of the all of the great programs the BSA offers.  From monthly campouts to the National Jamboree.  From Summer camp to Philmont our family has always enjoyed what the Boy Scouts of America offers and does.  So when we budget our giving we make a choice to give to our worthy cause.  We choose to support Scouts.  Our sons are grown and no longer actively in the program, even though Scouting will always be a part of their lives.  Now we support someone else, we have become that someone else that does it because someone else didn’t do it.  Like the radio station, I want Scouting’s programming to stay on the air.  I budget how much time I wish to give, how much of my talent I have to give, and how much treasure I have to give.  The bottom line is what we decide is our worthy cause.  The cause that means the most to us.  The cause that we see the most impact for our dollar.  And the cause that we know can last forever if we all pitch in.
What is your worthy cause.  Just because you are reading this does not mean it is Scouting.  I know that.  When I make our annual Friends of Scouting appeal to my Troop we ask that everyone help support a Scout.  We ask that they all do something to help.  A dollar, Two hundred dollars, whatever they can budget to help Scouting.  I ask that they take a look at their Scout and Scouting family and see the benefits that come with Scouting.   Finally I ask that they believe in what Scouting does and decide if it is important enough to them to keep it going.  I ask that they make Scouting a worthy cause.
Each year, we make our goal, last year we exceeded our goal and that is wonderful.  The best part for me is the understanding that the families of our unit make Scouting a priority and worthy of their giving.  This says a lot about them to me.  They share the values of Scouting and do not want to let “someone else” be the reason their son and the sons of families in the future enjoy Scouting.
Yes, it is a worthy cause.  Worthy of our time, our treasure, and what little talent I have.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

The Character Habit

aristotle-quoteCharacter is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses or avoids.– Aristotle
In other words, what we do shows our true Character.  For good or ill, how we behave is truly the mark of who we are.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.-Aristotle
Excellence is measured in many ways.  Wins, a great batting average, achieving a Gold standard in the Journey to Excellence program, becoming an Eagle Scout, or raising your children to be great adults.  What is comes down to are the habits that your form to achieve excellence.  How can Scouting help one develop these habits?  Simple, but providing programs that move toward the aims of Scouting.  Keeping the Scout Oath and Law at the forefront of everything that we do in Scouting.  Ensuring that character, citizenship, and fitness are never missing when we reflect on the game we play.
The values expressed in the Oath and Law become those habits that drive us to excellence.  We measure that daily when we lay in bed at night and reflect on the day.  Did we help other people?  Did we make a difference in someone’s life?  Were we kind and courteous?  Were we friendly and obedient?  Did we do all we can to be someone that can be trusted and counted on?  Were we thrifty with our resources, our money, and our environment?  Do we ask ourselves these questions so that tomorrow we can be a better person that wants to be excellent?  That is how we shape our character and maintain it.
As Scouters, did we do something today to enrich the lives of our Scouts and their families?  Are we the role model to them?  What does that mean to you and what are you doing about it?
We are what we repeatedly do.  Can you honestly say you do your best?  I know it’s a struggle at times, but we need to try and try hard.  Everything that we do is seen by our Scouts.  They look to us to be models of character.  To them maybe the concept of character is still a bit foggy.  What they see in you will make a difference in how they develop those habits.
The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons. – Aristotle.
The most worth-while thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.– Baden Powell
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Reflection

campfireIf you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
By and large that is the reason we have an Eagle Scout Board of Review.  We can assess and determine though the interview with the Scout whether or not the program is delivering the promise of Scouting and achieving its goals of helping make young people of character, good citizens, that are physically fit.  Along with all of that, do they make ethical choices and does it look like they will do the same in the future.
Reflection is an important part of every thing that we do in Scouting.  It allows us to take a look back and see if we achieved the outcomes we want in playing our game.
Reflection comes in many forms, we can do it as a group or take time in silent reflection.  But no activity is complete until the reflection is done.
This last weekend our Troop went camping.  First winter camp out of the year and we went caving on Saturday exploring the largest Lava tube cave in the US.  It is adventurous and challenging and our Scouts love to test themselves.  As with most outings or activities a theme develops throughout the weekend.  This weekend the theme quickly became “Rising to the Challenge”.  Overcoming hardship, attitudes, and things that make you uncomfortable were some of the behaviors that we noticed in our Scouts as they went through the weekend.
For some of the Scouts it was the first time they would camp in sub freezing temperatures.  For some it was their first time in a cave.  For others it was a leadership challenge as they learned that as a leader there were Scouts that depended on them to just get through the weekend.  Cold weather, challenging experiences, and doing something new and difficult.
These young men learned and practiced great leadership.  I was pleased to watch as members of the Patrol Leaders Council made their way through camp checking on the younger Scouts.  Instructing them on how to get through the night.  Reassuring younger Scouts that they will be ok and that if they do what they are taught, they will be warmer in the morning and will be able to have a better experience in winter camping.
I walked through camp Saturday night around 10:30 and found gear properly stored, tents pitched with all the tie outs in place and the sounds of tired happy Scouts sitting in their tents, the gentle glow of a headlamp lighting the green nylon of a tent fly.
Sunday morning leadership was once again challenged as cold fingers attempted to pack even colder nylon tents and sleeping bags.  Our departure time was supposed to be 9:00 AM.  We missed it by 20 minutes, but the reason was acceptable to me.  The Troop was in Patrol lines taking a few minutes to share a few things they learned over the weekend.  Patrol leaders talking with their patrols about the challenges they faced over the weekend and how they all rose to the challenge.  Before we loaded up I shared with them my pride in them and how they are great young men.  I shared with them the fact that they needed to reflect on the weekend and see just how much they learned about skills, their attitude, and how they grew because of the experience.  The final question that I asked them to reflect on was this, Is there any place you would rather be?
When we got back to the hall and parents started arriving to pick up their Scouts, many of the Scouts came to me and shared the answer to that last question.  Each and every one of them say “NO WHERE ELSE”.
So reflecting back on this weekend I would say Promise Delivered and Program solid.
It is important to reflect.  You may not always get the answer you want, that is your opportunity to learn and grow doing better next time.  If things are going well… keep it that way!  Don’t let it slip.
Make sure that reflection time is a part of your program.  Have the Scouts take time to reflect and have serious reflection on how they are doing in the Scouting program.  It is a game with a purpose, without reflection, you will not know if that purpose is being met.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Living or Dying

r1933A Scout Troop is a family.. and it’s either living or dying.  It’s either growing or shrinking, viable or withering on the vine.  There are many reasons for this, but the point of the matter is that if we are not watching for it we will let units fail.  It isn’t always easy to pinpoint one thing or another, but the more you focus the clearer the issues become and the faster a unit can recover when it finds itself dying.
I find that a close examination of the how the unit is using the methods is a great start.  Oh and by the way, this is important for units that are living and living well too.  You may just find that you are slipping in an area that down the road can lead to a cancer that can not be cured in the unit.
Is the unit using all eight of the methods or just picking and choosing which ones are important to them?  I liken that practice to picking and choosing which of the values in the Scout Law are less important and need not apply.
A strong program relies on the methods to achieve the goals of Scouting.  Too many units favor advancement over other methods.  I have seen those units race their Scouts to Eagle and then die.. they lost the older Scouts and leadership.  The families disengage once their son “Eagles Out” [a term that does not have any place in Scouting].  There is no longer a dog in the hunt for the family and the Scout feels as though he has reached the end.  NO NO… he has just begun.  Now it’s time to give back and be a leader.  But with the emphasis on advancement, the Scout and his family see no other needs that the unit can provide.
Some Troops believe that the Patrol Method is all you need.  While I agree that the Patrol method is everything to the Patrol and health of the Troop, it is certainly not all you need.  Where do you practice the Patrol method?  At Troop meetings?  Sure, some, but its the Outdoor program that makes the Patrol method come alive.. so no the Patrol method is not all you need.  How do you put into practice the Ideals of Scouts, you know those ideals and values found in the Scout Oath and Law?  You need a well planned and executed Service program in the life of the Troop.  Service opportunities that engage the Scout and teach him to be a selfless servant to others.  This is a wonderful leadership trait as well.  Being a servant leader will certainly get the young man farther and reinforce the ideals of Scouting.
I once heard a quote, and I want to say it came from Baden Powell, “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.”  The uniform is an important part of Scouting.  I have talked about this before so I won’t beat that horse to death, but the uniform is an essential part of Scouting.  It builds the team.  It helps with discipline.  It is a great equalizer.  The uniform connects us in the World Brotherhood of Scouting and is the most visible part of the Scout in public.  It should be worn completely and correctly.  Many adult leaders make a choice to allow jeans and other parts of the uniform to be exchanged.  They claim that it is a money issue.  It isn’t.  A Scout is thrifty.  He can always go mow a lawn, rake some leaves, or even sell popcorn to buy a new uniform or pants for it.  Taking the easy way out on the uniform reflects the attitude of the leader to not use the methods of Scouting completely.  “Attitude reflects leadership” so says my favorite quote from the movie Remember the Titans.  This attitude of pick and choose can do more harm than good in the long run and it has been my observation that it can ultimately lead to a unit dying.
And no.. it’s not about the uniform.  It’s about the methods.  Those tried and true methods that lead our youth to a better understanding of who they are and what they will become.  It teaches Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  And that my friends is why do Scouting.  We believe this works and that is proven daily, weekly, monthly in units all across our country.  It is proven in the Eagle Scouts that go on to do great things in their lives and in the Scouts that go into the world and become Dads that raise wonderful people.  Scouting works, but we need to keep it alive.  Using the eight methods will keep it from dying.
The methods need to be visible in your annual plan, in your interactions with the Scout, and in your attitude.  That will reflect great leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!