I have been giving this some thought lately, especially since becoming our Boy Scout Round table Commissioner. But Scouting is in the trenches. To use an overused cliché.
What I mean by that is this. Far to many units and unit leaders rely on the District and Council to make their program happen. I do not have a beef with our District or our Council, but it is fair to say that if I received nothing from them our Troop would still be fine.
Now, I understand that we need the Council and District, more so the Council to support Scouting in the area. We need the Council to maintain our wonderful camps and provide administrative services to us, but beyond that I don’t need the District or Council to provide my annual plan.
In a recent discussion I had with a couple Scouters that are knee-deep in the membership world of our Council and District we talked about why membership is dropping and why we (the Council and District) can not seem to build more Packs. Yes, I was talking Cub Scout stuff.
I dawned on me that the Council will never be able to build new Packs till they put their money where their mouth is and get into the trenches with.. yes… with local units. Scouting is in the trenches, in the community, not on a white board in an office.
We do not necessarily need more Packs, we need more strong Packs that can recruit. That will bring more Packs and more Scouts.
Now, on the other hand, there are unit leaders that are willing to just wait around for the District and Council to make that happen. They are satisfied waiting for Camporee or Webelos Woods to be their program. They are content with the idea that the Council will provide Merit Badge weekends or Fairs so their Scouts can put more on their sash. They are happy with the idea that Summer camp is a cookie cutter event and they never need to think out side of the box, but then wonder why their Scouts are bored and are leaving in droves.
Scouting is in the trenches, in the units. This is not an indictment on the Council or District. I am just saying that Units and Unit leaders need to know that Scouting is right where they are… not downtown at the Council office. Scouting is supposed to happen in the community, not from the Scout Executives office. Scouting is in the woods, youth led, and sustains itself through programs that are planned and executed at the Unit level.
Resources, administrative support, and fund-raising happens from above. We just do Scouting!
That is how Scouting will grow and prosper. Waiting on the Council or District is a bad practice and a sure-fire way to kill a unit.
In a world where membership numbers matter, this is where the rubber meets the road and Scouting Happens… In the trenches. On Monday nights at Troop meetings, in the living rooms of Den Leaders, at Pizza Parlors with Crew Presidents. Scouting happens in the trenches.
Don’t wait on the Council. Get out there and do Scouting where it matters.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Journey to Excellence
I have been giving this some thought lately, especially since becoming our Boy Scout Round table Commissioner. But Scouting is in the trenches. To use an overused cliché.
I 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!
One 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!
The other night I held a couple Scoutmaster Conferences, both for Scouts earning the Star Rank and both of the Scouts good young men. During our discussion the subject of merit badges came up as you need them for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks.
One of the young men asked me why certain merit badges were Eagle required, while others were not. We looked at the merit badges that were on the Eagle required list and I explained to him that these are important merit badges that support the goals of Scouting.
Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World focus not on teaching you about citizenship, but what your obligations are as a Citizen.
First Aid, Camping, Life Saving, Hiking, Emergency Preparedness, Swimming, Cycling, Personal Fitness and Cooking all focus on the Scout being fit and self-reliant. Communication, Family life and Personal Management focus on how he acts in the world. These are important.
Finger printing, art, music, basketry, and astronomy are just cool things that spark interest in the Scout.
I have noticed that there is a big push on the STEM programs in Scouting. As if Scouting was becoming a vocational arm of the education system. Now before I get hate mail, I am all for the Science and technology stuff, I am fascinated by what engineers can do. But this is Scouting dang it. I don’t want to take my Scouts to Summer camp and have them sit in class all day learning about how to split an atom. I want them out there enjoying the outdoors. The go to School from September to June… July and August are times for them to be boys!
The STEM push has taken over and I want it to back off a bit. Even in our Council STEM is all over the place. We have great STEM partners in our areas that are assisting young men in cranking out merit badges. But are they learning anything? My guess is no.
I asked this young man in our conference which merit badges he had earned (looking at his history I knew the answer). He had really not got much out of the “filler badges”. He did talk about First Aid and the Citizenship badges though.
I am not against the STEM Program, but I personally do not want Scouting to become the math club. Scouts get enough School. They join Scouts to get adventure and that is what we need to give them.
Sit a Scout down for an hour and teach them about anything.. they want to get up and run.. give them an adventure and in the process teach them life skills and appreciation for the outdoors and you have captured them for life long Scouting.
STEM is not going away.. this is the world we live in, but let’s do more Scouting!
Just my opinion and thoughts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This weekend was spent rekindling the fire of the Order of the Arrow in me. I attended our Lodges annual gathering called Rendezvous. Our Lodge hosts three major events each year. The Native American Arts and Ceremonies Seminar, The Rendezvous of the Order, and The Leadership Development Conference. We also participate in the Section Conclave and many service projects throughout the year as well and four Ordeal weekends and a Vigil Induction annually. So, needless to say we have an active Lodge with ample opportunities to be an active member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend, I have to be honest, I was not entirely looking forward to. I did not attend last years Rendezvous because I am finding it harder and harder to tolerate some of the behavior that we have seen at some, not all, OA events. I suppose that I have an expectation that “honor society” means something and clearly that is not the case to some Scouts and their leaders.
Being elected into the Order of the Arrow is supposed to have some special meaning. Our Lodge Advisor said it best last night at the Banquet dinner when he summed up membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Journey, much like the journey Dorthy took in the Wizard of Oz. They (the principle parts of the the Wizard of Oz) sought a Brain, Courage and a Heart. We too in the Order of the Arrow seek Wisdom in the Scout Oath and Law, We strive to be Courageous in doing the right thing, and a Heart for service. And Dorthy.. she is the model of a Servant Leader, putting the other three needs above her own desire to go home. It is a Journey to constantly seek the path that leads us to be bound in that brotherhood that cheerfully serves.
And here is the problem I have been having and I guess this is a universal issue within me that expects more out of those that we trust are “worthy”. Whether that is a Scout that has earned his Eagle Award or a Scout that has been elected into the Order of the Arrow. I expect them to live that code that we promise. In addition to the Scout Oath and Law, the Obligation of the Order of the Arrow are tremendous guides for our lives. It is that yellow brick road that leads us to a life that is worthy of being called good.
I understand the need for membership and so I understand that there will be Scouts that will take time to mature into young men that we can trust to live the obligation. I get that. But where is the coaching and mentoring that get them on the path to doing right? This is my issue. When I see Scouts that are disrespectful, unkind, selfish, and run from service, I wonder how and why they are members of the OA. Or better yet, who is teaching them or not teaching them the expected behaviors that come with being a Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend I attended for a few reasons. First I was asked to do some service. We cleaned out and sorted, repacked and labeled the bins in the Wood Badge trailer. Since I was the last Assistant Scoutmaster for support and physical arrangements I had a great interest in helping out those future staffers, making their jobs a bit easier. Second, I was asked to attend the Banquet Saturday night as I was “officially” being called to the Vigil Honor along with the rest of this years Vigil Candidates. I’ll get right back to that.
The third reason was that we are trying to get the OA members of our Troop fired up again about the OA and rekindle their fire in ceremonies. So I talked it up to the members in my Troop and a group of them decided to attend. Being a good example, I knew that I needed to be there also to demonstrate that I care about the OA and their membership in it.
And finally, I knew that a bunch of my Scouter friends from around the Council would be there and to be honest, I wanted to hang out with them. It’s always a great time sharing stories and catching up.
Back to number two. The Vigil Call out.
Throughout the day on Saturday many of my friends and other members of the Lodge approached me with congratulations on being elected to the Vigil Honor. Folks that I have not seen in ages and some that at other times have never given me the time of day, but the thing that mattered was their genuine attitude about what the Vigil Honor means to them. They all shared a little something about what the honor has meant in their lives, not sharing anything about the induction, but what that simple little triangle of arrows on their sash has meant as they apply living what I gathered as the gifts they received from membership in this organization. I kept thinking last night about this trip down the yellow brick road and that, even though I don’t know what is to come in the Vigil induction, I feel like it is that point in the journey when you finally meet the great and powerful Oz and much is reveled . This journey from Ordeal member to Brotherhood has taken me on a trip to find the arrow. That spirit of Cheerful service and living the Oath and Law fully in our daily lives… above and beyond that of just being a Scout. To truly understand being selfless and applying that attitude every day. One does not need the Order of the Arrow for this, but in the context of Scouting is a great life lesson that when demonstrated by those that have been selected to the highest Honor brings great credit to Scouting, this organization that we believe in and love.
I was looking through some of my collection of Scouting literature and found a small booklet that was distributed back in 1968 to new members of the Order of the Arrow. It is a basic run down of what the OA is, gives the Legend of the Lenni Lenape and discusses the membership Honors of the Order. There is a sentence in the paragraph about the Vigil Honor that I feel sums up my attitude about those Scouts that fail to live up to the expectation of membership. The converse I suppose can be found in this statement, “…members of our Order who give outstanding or distinguished service, or who by unusual devotion to Scouting…” Unusual devotion to Scouting, maybe that is why I don’t get some of the behavior or attitudes. I have an unusual devotion to Scouting. Yep… I love Scouting that is a fact and I constantly try to tell Scouting’s Story. The Vigil Honor is calling me to do just that… I think.
I’m going to go with that for now anyway.
I am firm bound in Brotherhood.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Once 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!
When 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!
Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election. Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership. We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”. When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders. The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’. At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow. We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA. I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now. There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same. A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout. Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here. Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap. I asked why they think that is. The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it. If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee. Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree). Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire. I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed? Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look. The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit. New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture. Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture. Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled. This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop. They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp. They like to show up with nothing but their packs. This attitude is a big part of our culture. It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from? Well, certainly I had a part to play. Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it. As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other adventurous activity. It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are. And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method. The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring. When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader. They never stop hearing it. The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”. The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture. More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session. It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”. Stuff that they just need to talk about. To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust. I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law. Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here. Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them. That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence. We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting. We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program. I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend. That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is. I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men. I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous. I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone. I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times. This has become our culture, this is our Troop. I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell. That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different. My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it. Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Yesterday 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!
I 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.
The 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.