Journey to Excellence

Qualified, Trained Leaders

trainednewWe often talk about having all of our adult leaders trained.  When we speak of training we are talking about the basics.  Has the adult completed Youth Protection?  Attended their Basic Course for the specific position?  And according to the Boy Scouts of America, that’s pretty much a trained leader.
You are qualified to be an adult that delivers the promise of Scouting.  Really.
Ok, now… everyone just take off your Scouting hat and put on your parent hat.  Now you know nothing about Scouting except that your son wants to be a Scout.  You know that Scouting is a great organization that reinforced those character traits that you are teaching at home and he and his friends enjoy going camping once a month.  But who is this “Trained” leader?  What qualifies him to take your son out into the woods?
A couple videos?  An online training session and a “suitable for framing” print out certificate?
That’s it.
Oh, but maybe the leader has been to Wood Badge.  So he knows the Boy Scout Program and is able to teach and reach his goals.  He communicates well, but what of the skills he needs to take my kid into the woods.
My point here is this.  In a world in which we bubble wrap our kids.  We don’t let them stay out after dark, they can’t climb trees, drink from a garden hose, or in some cases even push a lawn mower.. we drop off our sons to people we don’t really know, they hop into their trucks and vans and drive away for a weekend in the woods.
Say that out loud and it is a bit creepy.
We trust that they know what they are doing with our kids.  We hope to see smiles on their faces and that they are in one piece when they arrive back at the meeting hall.
Trust.  That is what we have in our leaders.  But it’s 2014 so what has he done to be trusted.  What skills does he have to gain my trust.  Who is this guy taking my kid into the woods?
I am a big fan of Boy Scout Training and take it a step further.  I am on our district training team and teach the Scoutmaster basic course.  I am a Wood Badge staffer and love to teach leadership.
So knowing what I know, I know that the Boy Scout minimum training is not enough to build that trust.  But the leader that goes the extra mile and gets more training, now that’s the guy I want.
Not to toot my horn, or the horns our leaders in my Troop, but we respect that trust and that is why we all go the extra mile.
In our Troop, all the Assistant Scoutmasters are Wood Badge trained.
We have Certified Climbing instructors.
We have Certified Wilderness First Aid First Responders.
We have Wilderness First aid trained leaders.
COPE instructors
White water rafting guides
Leave No Trace master trainers
Kayak guides
Cold Weather camping experts
Backpacking experts
Pioneering instructors
Leadership trainers
Everyone is CPR/AED trained
Everyone has done the supplemental training for Trek Safe, Safe Swim defense, Safety Afloat, and Climb Safely.
I know that I am missing something, the point is that we go out of our way to be over trained.
This is where the trust of the parents is gained and maintained.
It is an important part of protecting our youth and delivering the very best program to them.
So who is your Scout leader?  Do you trust him or her with your son in the woods?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Road

roadsI can not remember where or who I heard this from, but I recalled a quote the other day that I thought was a good way of illustrating our job as Scout leaders and parents.
“We are not building roads for our children, we are building children for the roads.”
Essentially it is saying that we can lay out everything to make life easy for our kids or we can prepared them for the road of life, which we all know is not easy.
When I thought about this quote, it got me to thinking about some of the ways we discuss our Scouting programs.  As you all know I am a fan of traditional Scouting and doing things the right way.  I am not a fan of giving everyone a trophy and I know that not every Scout will be an Eagle Scout… nor should they be.  If they have been properly trained in their young lives to work hard, then they will reap the rewards of hard work.
The road of life is difficult and only made easier by getting on it and traveling.  Know that it is hard, but stay the course.  The beauty of the road is that you get to pick your destination.   You can pick the path of least resistance and when you get there you will find that it took you to a place a fewer rewards.  You can get on the highway of success and its direction will lead you to the world of Success.  But you need to know that there will be detours and pot holes, but if you negotiate them, you will be successful.
So as Scout leaders and parents we need to encourage our children to take that road and prepare them for the detours and pot holes.  We do not need to drive them there with the knowledge of the location of the pot holes and hardships.  You can build the road, nice and smooth.  Pave it with gold and make it a fast lane for your child, but he will not get the most out of it and will fail to learn lessons along the way.
On the other hand, we can train him up to set a course, know how to go around a detour and take it slow on a pot hole filled road.  He will learn and develop and by the time he gets where he is going he will be a man who you will be proud of.
Last night at Round table I had a little chat with a Scouter about Eagle Scouts.  He made the comment that every Scout should be an Eagle Scout and that the sooner they get it, the better.
Again, I thought about the road.  Did we build the road for the Scout or did we build the Scout for the road.  I don’t know the answer in his particular case, but how many Eagle Scouts have we seen that are not prepared for the road.  I personally can tell you that I have seen many.  While I am proud of their accomplishment, I wonder if we as Scouters are not quick to reward and less enthusiastic to take the time and build that young man.
The road of life is a tough one.  We owe it to our children and our Scouts to build them ready for the road of life.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Learn to Lead Yourself

lead-learn-word-cubesI have spoken about the five principles of leadership that we use in our Troop to develop both our Junior Leaders as well as our Adult Leaders.
To recap, those five principles are Learn to Lead Yourself,  Focus on the little things, Model Expected Behavior, Communicate Effectively, and Be a Servant Leader.
In this post we are going to focus on the first of these principles, Learn to Lead Yourself.
Simply put, if you can not lead yourself you can not lead others.
To illustrate this point we talk often about the way you act.  You set an example of what you would like in those that follow you.  You, as a leader can not get away with the “Do as I say and not as I do” philosophy of leading.  It just does not work if you are trying to be a good leader.
The way in which you carry yourself, your habits,and your skills show the follower that you are a leader that is worthy of following.
You pack your pack correctly and assist others in getting theirs right.
You take your promise to live the Scout Oath and Law in your daily lives seriously.  This is important in showing those you lead that you do not compromise in your values and you are consistent in the way you act and expect them to act.
Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman of IBM, said, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day-to-day to lead himself.”
Learning to Lead Yourself takes work.  The learning part comes in developing those skills, attitudes, and habits that make you a better leader.
This means that you spend time in the study of leadership.  It means that you take extra time to be trained in skills and develop methods of instruction to help others.
It means that you never stop learning, this becomes a habit.  Once developed you long for more learning and skills development.
This goes for youth and adults alike.
I know many Scouters that will do training because they have to and I know Scouters that do training because they want to.  They see value in adding to their skill sets in the bigger picture of how they deliver the promise of Scouting.
I also have seen this in our youth.  Youth that seek more adventure and know that they must develop that knowledge base before they can execute certain skills and tasks.  On the other hand, leadership is just a block to be signed on the way to Eagle Scout.
This concept of learning to lead yourself is nothing new.  It has been taught for years by leadership guru’s and is a foundation of leadership development.  It is a means of focusing on the leadership qualities that we need in order to be effective leaders.  Think about what you want to see in a leader.
You want the leader to be Trustworthy.  You want the leader to be reliable.  You want the leader to be accountable.  The leader should demonstrate integrity.  Well, if those are the things that you want in a leader, you need to focus your learning, habits, and attitudes to becoming that person… that leader.
Like I said before, if you can not lead yourself, you can not lead other people.
So how do we learn to lead ourselves?
First.  Find out who you are.  What kind of leader are you?  What habits do you currently have?  What are your skill sets that contribute to your leadership?
These may be hard questions to answer.  You may not like what you hear, either from yourself or others.  Find a leader that you trust and appreciate.  Ask them to assist you with these questions.
Second.  Find out what skills you need to develop to be an effective leader.  Make a list and a commitment to mastering those skills.  Take extra training and opportunities to learn and practice those skills.  Make changes in your habits and attitudes to get better at leadership and skills.
Third.  Commit to be a life long learner.  You need to always stay a couple of steps ahead of those you lead.  Get out in front with learning, practicing, and sharpening your leadership skills.  There is always something new and there are always way to improve.  Perfection is a curious thing.  It is something that can be seen, but moves farther away as you get closer.  It forces us to get better.  Shoot for perfection in leadership with the knowledge that I can not reach it, but the closer I get, the better I get.
Be patient but persistent.  Stay focused on making yourself better and those that you lead will be better.
The first step in effective leadership is getting the leader right.  That leader is you.  Learn to lead yourself and you will be on your way to being an effective leader.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Looking back

 

Cooper2005

Camp Cooper, 2005 Troop is 2 years old.

I have been digging through my collection of Troop Pictures and wanted to find some good annual pictures of our Troop, you know, the Summer camp shots that show what a great year of Scouting we had.
As I dug through my collection I looked back on all of those young men that have enjoyed a great program at our Troop.  I think about all of the young men that have come and gone.  Some stuck it out to the end, some are still active with the Troop.
It has been fun to look at the guys and think about the funny stories that come with each of these pictures.
In light of current discussions on growth and membership, when I look at these pictures I see our program and why it works.  I see great kids that want to play the game with a purpose.  I see those adults that give a ton to the program.  I see the place we have been and things that we have done and it makes me want to give more to these incredible young men that join looking for the adventure of a life time.

Baldwin2008

Camp Baldwin, 2008

As I look back on these pictures I can’t help but remember those years when membership was booming and activities never seemed to end.  I think back on our transition from a “Patrol Box Troop” to a “Backpacking Troop” and how that changed our adventure.  It also changed our membership.  It made us a bit smaller, not every young man wants that kind of adventure.  I think about all the Scouts that we talked with on join nights and Troop visits that we suggested different Troops to.  Those young guys that had that look that they did not want to join our Troop, but for us them staying in Scouting was more important.  I often run into some of those young men and am glad that they stayed in Scouting.  Even though we did not ‘get them’ Scoutingwon and so did the Scout.  A look at the pictures bring back memories of attacking raccoon’s and awesome dutch oven cook offs.  They tell a story of our Troop and the fun that we have had.

Holmlund2007

Camp Holmlund, 2007

Doing an independent camp out in Eastern Oregon was a great adventure.  A staff made up of our parents and Scout leaders.  Trips to historical sites and learning to catch bee’s.  Water skiing, horseback riding, and launching rockets.  Hanging out in the stream and paddling rubber rafts across the pond with our hands.  Catching fish and having an amazing fish fry, for some the first time they ever had Trout.

Leaving an Order of the Arrow Sash at Chief Josephs grave marker was a special day and raising the flag on the flag pole we cut, shaved, and placed on the ranch property leaving the owner speechless with a tear in his eye is a memory I will never forget.  Troop 664 shined that summer and did something that I never thought we could pull off.  5 hours from home and one of the best summer camp experiences we have ever had.

Jambo2010

2010 Nation Jamboree

In 2010 13 members of Troop 664 went to the National Jamboree with Contingent Troop 720.  I had the pleasure of being the Scoutmaster for that Troop and Rob, one of Troop 664’s Assistant Scoutmasters was an Assistant Scoutmaster in 720 also.  The rest of the Troop went to Camp Baldwin that year and I do not have a picture of that group.

If you have never been to a National Jamboree you need to go.  It is said that the National Jamboree is a once in a life time experience.  Well, not really, you can go to as many as you want.  But 2010 was a special year.  Being the 100th Anniversary of Scouting in America, the Jamboree in 2010 was very special.  It was very cool that I was selected to be a Scoutmaster.  It was extremely special that my two sons were in my Troop.  It was the only National Jamboree that the three of us would every be able to go to together.  The young men of that Troop were very special and bonded quickly.  Those bonds remain.  That group will forever have a special place in my heart.

PSRTroop2012

Philmont, 2012

As you all know, Philmont has a special place in my heart also.  I love Philmont.  In 2012 our Troop put together two Crews and made the journey to Scouting’s Paradise.
It was a life changing event for many of the Scouts of our Troop.  That group of Scouts that made the trek in the Sange DeCristo Mountains came home different.  The other day we were talking about the guys that went to Philmont Scout Ranch.  Of that group all but three stayed in Scouting. 5 are or will be in the very near future Eagle Scouts.  The rest are still active in the Troop.  One completely turned himself around and became our Scout of the Year last year.  Philmont made a lasting impression on the life of Troop 664.  Last Monday I sat with a Scout, he was my Crew leader at Philmont, for his Scoutmaster Conference for the Eagle award.  We talked about Philmont and his impression of the experience.  He shared with me that at first he was not to excited because he was the crew leader and was afraid that he would be to busy leading that he would miss the experience.  On the contrary.  It was his leadership and the way our Crew bonded that made the Philmont experience a special one.  We talked about his experiences in the Troop and his growth.  He talked about Jamboree, Philmont, and all the cool camping trips.  Troop 664 delivered the promise to him and continues to provide the adventure of Scouting to the young men that keep showing up.

pigott2013

Camp Pigott, 2013

Last year our Troop went North to the Chief Seattle Council to Camp Pigott.  It was the second time we have been there and the experience was once again fantastic.  The camp is great, the staff is wonderful and the experience is always one that the Scouts talk about for year.  In all of this, as I look back though, it’s not the camp, it’s not the staff, it’s not the time of year.  It’s the Troop that makes these pictures come alive.  It’s the Troop that as it grows and passes along traditions, stories, leadership, and fun creates the wonderful adventure of Scouting.  That is the common theme that has run through the adventure of Troop 664 for the last 10 years and I am certain it will continue for the next 10… and beyond.
Finding that adventure in where we go and what we do.  In our young men and the dedication of the adults that go along for the journey.  As I look back at these pictures I can’t help but think that we are doing it right.  The proof, they keep coming back.  They learn, they grow, they become men of Character.  All of that wrapped up in this game we play.
Delivering the Promise is a unit thing.  Every unit needs to wrap itself in that promise and provide endless adventures for the young men of tomorrow.  I look forward to seeing more and more pictures of Troop 664.  I need to find the rest.  It is fun to watch the growth of the Troop.

How’s your adventure?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

In the Trenches

trenchesI 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! 

Leadership according to Me.

Sticky-Note-with-I-Am-a-LeaderI have been receiving emails lately requesting information about leadership.  I have been pretty heavy on the leadership subject matter as of late.  New youth leaders in the Troop, a batch of great new Assistant Scoutmasters and the idea that we really need to focus our attention on leading and not just reacting to the things that seem to come up from time to time and executing the vision of our Troop.
One emailer asked where I get my information from.  Simply put, lots and lots of training, learning, and developing those leadership skills, traits, and habits that I have seen and done that works.  I was formally trained in leadership while in the Army.  Attending every leadership development course from the Primary Leadership Development Course to graduating from the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy.  Over the course of my career in the Army I served in many direct leadership roles culminating as the Command Sergeant Major or an Infantry Battalion.
One thing that I know for sure is that Leadership is Leadership.  Whether is it good or bad what you learn and how you apply it is what matters.  Leadership in the Army has the same principles as leadership in a Boy Scout Troop.  That is not to say that the missions are the same, nor are the styles.  But the principles that are applied by the leaders are the same.
In Scouting, I have made it a point to learn and attend every course I can that would add to my leadership tool box.  Understanding the vision and mission of the organization plays a great part in how we lead it.  Wood Badge has played a major role in adding to my leadership tool box.
Another emailer asked if I could narrow down my leadership focus to some simple things that would be effective for him to teach to junior leaders.
Certainly.  Again, over the course of a 21 year Army career and serving as a Scoutmaster for 10 years I have narrowed down how and what I teach to adults and youth alike.  I think that we can get overwhelmed with leadership philosophy and technique, but at the end of the day, it is all about leading.  How you do that effectively is what matters.  I have distilled my leadership down to 5 things.  Now, these five things have a multitude of sub tasks and sets, but essentially it [leadership] comes down to how we do these 5 things effectively.
1.  Learn to lead yourself.  You can not lead others until you learn to lead yourself.  Establishing good habits, getting trained and understanding the institutional values are a part of learning to lead yourself.  Developing in yourself a want of life long learning and a willingness to share that knowledge.
2.  Focus on the little things.  The little things make up the big things and when they are correct, the big things fall into place.  Develop a critical eye and stay focused on those things that drive success.  A leader must be willing to be critical and constructive.  Letting the little things slide are a sure-fire way of killing the big things.
3.  Model Expected Behavior.  Set an example of what you want.  Know what right looks like and be the model of it 100% of the time.  This takes work and does not allow for lazy leaders.  If you expect those you lead to act a certain way, model that way of acting.  Modeling expected behavior is critical in leadership.  As a young leader I hated and still do hate the mantra of “Do as I say, not as I do”.  That is a leadership failure.
4.  Communicate Effectively.  The ability to communicate is paramount in leading.  Written and verbal communication must be effective to lead effectively.  Develop communication skills to be an effective leader.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.  Leaders are to serve first.  The praise, glory, or rewards for a leader are in the success of those they lead.  Servant Leaders put those that they lead ahead of themselves.  Develop a heart to serve and you will be a great leader.
So those are the basic 5 principles that guide my leadership and the way that I lead and teach leadership.
I will elaborate on each of those five things in future posts.  None of this is new or creative, they are things that leaders since the beginning of time have done.  They are packaged this way by me because it is what I know works in leadership.  I am certain that if you dug around the writing of authors like Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, Colin Powell, and others you will find these principles throughout.  Like I said, Leadership is Leadership.  From the US Army to the Disney Institute they all teach the basics of being an effective leader and when it comes down to it, it’s all really the same stuff, just different packaging.
That’s leadership according to me in a nut shell.  Those 5 things work in effective leadership every time.
What are some of yours?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Little Stuff

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