Leadership

Little to Big

pennantDo a Good Turn Daily.. That is the Slogan of Scouting.  It is a challenge to each of us to look for some way to be of service.  The slogan asks us to seek opportunities every day to do something… anything that will ultimately make a difference.
It is my belief that when we look at this challenge we feel it is to large.  It is a lofty goal to actually make a difference in this world.
What we need to do is think little.  Little things matter.
When we teach leadership in our Troop one of our principles is to “Focus on the Little Things.”  That principle is all about details and those things that add up to big things.  Little things like keeping your gloves out of the snow.  Just a little thing, but the big thing is cold hands, wet gear, and maybe frost bite.  Another example is ensuring that your tent is pitched properly.  Making sure your guy lines are taught and pulled in line.  Not a big deal, until it rains and your rain fly does not function properly.  Just a little thing that makes a big difference.
And so it is with the Good Turn.  Little things make a big difference.  Holding open a door or carrying a bag.  Little things that make a big difference for the person you helped.
A smile could change someones attitude or outlook on the day.
I think we get wrapped up in service for service sake and not for the difference we make.
Just think.. there are about two million Scouts in America.  They represent about 103 thousand units.  Those units represent Schools, Churches, Communities.   So if 2 million Scouts did their Good Turn each day, just something small, we could change our world.  That does not event take into consideration the Adult Volunteers that teach, coach, train, and mentor those 2 million Scouts.  Add about 1.2 million to that number.  3 million people doing a small act of service every day.  When we talk about little to big.. we can see that we make a big difference when and where it really matters.
In 2015 the Boy Scouts of America logged 1.53 million service hours.  Those were hours of service dedicated to building things, collecting food, and working for our communities.  That seems like a big number but at the end of the day we may not see the big impact.  A lot of our service is dedicated to our chartering partners and people directly impacted in Scouting.  That is great and I certainly would not want to take one minute of those hours away.. they make a difference.  But in snap shots.
Little to Big.. each of us.. every day.  Now that would leave a mark that could be seen from outer space.
Think little to big.  Do your Good Turn every day!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Horse and Cart

horsecartYou can look at a good Scout Troop like a horse and cart.  The horse has to be strong and steadfast.  The horse has to be trained so as not to buck and run when it’s not supposed to.  The horse works as a part of a team and each pulls it’s share of the weight so the load of the cart can be pulled over the long haul.
The horse represents your adult volunteers.  They need to be trained to understand the Scouting program and what their role is in it.  The adult volunteer needs to appreciate the aims of Scouting and move the unit in the right direction.  Adult volunteers need to be steadfast and keep in mind that the unit is bigger than one person.  They need to know that what they do today will have a lasting impact on the units future.
The cart is the units program.  It can be as full as you want or as empty, but the cart is always moving behind the horse.  The program of the unit is the reason for the horse to be there.  It is the “Why” of Scouting.  The Aims, the Methods, and the thing that keeps the boys coming back for more.  The cart can be loaded heavy as long as it has good horses to pull it.
And what drives the horse and cart?  The youth.  Youth leadership makes the horse and cart go.  It holds on to the reigns and steers the team.  It is their cart.  They get to decide how much or how little gets put in.  They are taught to lead the horse team and see the benefits of what is in the cart.  A good horse, cart, and driver make for a good Scout Troop.  When the elements work together, are trained, and understand how it all works together there is no where the unit can’t go.  There is nothing it can not do.
The cart can not be put before the horse, the horse can not function without the driver, and the driver has not purpose without the horse and cart.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Ask you shall receive…

sm_conf-2Guided Discovery is the process of asking questions to achieve a learning objective.  The Senior Patrol Leader comes to you and says that Tommy Tenderfoot has a leaking tent.  You being a good Scoutmaster immediately takes action and checks out the tent.  Finding the leak you move the gear and find an extra tarp and place it over the tent. problem solved.  Nothing learned.
The learning objective has been left for another rainy day.
On the other hand when the Senior Patrol leader informs you of Tommy Tenderfoots dilemma the first thing to think is ask questions.  This is not to prolong the agony or make the Scout feel bad, it is all about teaching and coaching and Guided Discovery.
Why do you think the tent is leaking?  Where is it leaking?  How do you think it can be fixed?  Is Tommy going to be ok?  What can you do to make the situation better?
Again, not to remove responsibility of the adult leadership, but teaching leadership and responsibility to the youth leaders.  Leading questions allow the Scouts to find solutions and realize that they do have the answers.. they just need to find them.
Of course if there is an emergency, you can do the question session as a reflection after the situation is resolved.  But 9 times out of 10, a rain soaked tent is not an emergency and is, like most of the situations our Scouts find themselves in, a great opportunity to discover and achieve some learning objectives.
Learning objectives are important in the Guided Discovery process.  Like vision, if you have no objectives then you are wandering through the activity.  In this game with a purpose, every activity or event should have some opportunity to learn or develop.  Express the learning objective within the Patrol Leaders Council so that they are aware of what it is that they are trying to accomplish.  This will help the youth leader when the Leading questions start coming at them.  It should get them in the mode of finding solutions and not looking for blame or excuses.
This can be a long and frustrating process.  Play it all the way through.  The reward will come in the end when you ask and then receive a look of satisfaction that the Scout has learned.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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!

MCFBB- Combination to Lead

leaderhipsketchWe learn as we go.  Learning from mistakes, failures, and success.  Leadership is a great experiment allowing for learning by doing.  Lessons learned from success and failure. My leadership journey started when I was a Scout.  Your basic leadership as a Patrol leader and so on.  Leadership in Scouting gave me a foundation that I could build on.  Our Scoutmaster would expect the youth to lead, I think he is the guy that coined the term “Ask your Patrol Leader”.. at least we heard it a lot.  Making sure that the Scouts took care of the Troop was a key to teaching us to take care of each other.
Slow hikers were up front so we never left them behind.  Patrol Leaders ate after the patrol was fed, and the meetings all started on time because the Senior Patrol Leader made it happen.
After High School I joined the Army and immediately determined that I wanted to be a leader.  The primary reason was I have a need to know what is going on.  Leaders always get to know whats going on.  In the Infantry I got tired of endless walking to somewhere and not knowing why I was walking, how far I was going, and how I was going to get back.  Yes our leaders gave us the information, but only the nuts and bolts.. just enough to keep us walking.  I volunteered to get on a leadership track and went to Ranger School to be a leader.  In Ranger School, they taught us the fundamentals of good leadership.  Keeping every one in the Patrol informed so that everyone in the Patrol can take charge and lead to accomplish the mission.
I spent a great deal of time studying leadership and applying it during my career in the Army.  Another lesson.. leadership is applied.  You can have all the theory and study you want, but leadership is an applied science.
The science of leadership is simple… take care of those you have been given to lead.  Leadership is not management.  You manage resources and material.. you must lead people.
Over the past 30 years or so I have come to a pretty solid understanding of what it takes to be an effective leader.  It can be distilled down to 5 principles.  This combination of leadership principles will make you a better leader- MCFBB.
1.  Model Expected Behavior.  Everything we do as leaders is being observed.  Everything comes down to behaviors.  Skills, communication, attitudes, they all come down to those that we lead and the leaders behavior.  So we must model what we want to see from those that we lead.  If we expect the uniform to be worn properly, we must wear the uniform properly.  We can apply this principle to everything we do as leaders.
2.  Communicate effectively.  Communication is a key element is getting what we want from those we lead.  We need to be effective when we communicate to reduce the confusion and create better understanding.  I believe that when people have a clear task and purpose they are more motivated to accomplish what you want as a leader.  Leaders owe it to those they lead to be open and clear with expectations and in the way that they communicate.
3.  Focus on the little things.  When we take care of the little things the big things get taken care of.  I had an old Sergeant Major once that would always look at our canteen cups.  He would rip us up if we had dirty canteen cups.  Something that to us was insignificant, but to him represented attention to detail.  He would tell us that if we did not care for our canteen cup then we probably would not take care of other equipment.  That and a dirty canteen cup would get us sick.  That sickness would take us out of action and create problems for our leadership.  So it came down to the little things.
I came to see the wisdom in the canteen cup when I became a leader and started focusing on the details or little things.  I learned that when we did all of the minor things well we were successful in the big tasks.
When we as leaders realize that we can only effectively lead and manage little things we are better at it.  As part of leadership development I had all of my subordinate leaders read a good little book called “The Three Meter Zone” by Command Sergeant Major J.D. Pendry.  The essence of the book is that if you can not touch it you can not effect it.  Leaders power down.  We need to focus on the smaller unit and detail to be effective leaders.  Senior Patrol leaders need only lead the Patrol Leaders.  Patrol Leaders lead their patrols.  As a Scoutmaster I do not try to have my hand in everything.  I focus on the Senior Patrol Leader and training the youth leadership.  Assistant Scoutmasters focus on details and specific areas that they influence.  Camping, skills training, First year Scouts, High Adventure programs etc.  When we break down the responsibilities and focus areas we can be more effective.  When we train our Scouts to look at the little things they will do better at the big things.  Making sure the guy lines of a tent are tight.. that is a little detail, but one that will cause the tent to function properly or not if overlooked.
4. Become a Life Long Learner.  Never stop learning.  Take time everyday to learn something.  In the day and age that we live in there is no excuse to not learn something everyday.  It does not have to be focused on leadership or skills.  Learning is a habit and as you start to make it a habit to learn you will discover that there is so much out there that you do not know.  You will find better ways to do things.  You will open your horizons and see new perspectives.  I started watching TED talks this year.  At first just watching and listening to talks that were subjects I was interested in, then I started just watching random talks.  I really enjoy making them a part of my daily learning.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.  This one could be or should be first.. but when I talk about my 5 principles I like to finish with Servant Leadership as it is that take home message that makes leadership work and leaders effective.  I have talked a lot about Servant Leadership in this blog so I won’t go into a lot of detail this time.  Servant leadership boils down to this.  You, as a leader are responsible for those you lead.  You have been given a great deal of responsibility and so you own it to those that follow you to be the best for them.  You need to make sure that their needs come before your own and serve them.
So that is what leadership boils down to.  Five principles that will make you a better leader.  Leadership has been defined as a process, some call it a science, leadership is about getting things done.  Leadership is about people.  It is about providing purpose, direction, and motivation.  Leadership is about serving.

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!