Leadership

ILST.. what did we learn?

jonteachingIntroduction to Leadership Skills Training (ILST), for some of you it means JLT others remember TLT.. either way it amounts to training your youth leaders to make their troop better.  Each year we conduct our youth training with the goal of getting the youth leaders of the troop all on the same page, giving them a basic level of understanding leadership as it applies to them, and teaching them how to BE, KNOW, and DO their job as leaders.
This year we have spent a great deal of time discussing leadership at each troop meeting.  The goal was to move our troop from a great troop to a high performance team.  A team that believed in itself and was able to integrate new members without a step backward.  With an aggressive annual plan and some really great young men the year was a banner year for the troop.
This weekend was a busy weekend for the Scouts and adults of 664.  The day started with the annual Scouting for Food campaign.  Collecting food and then working for 6 hours at the St. Vincent dePaul food pantry.  After a great morning of service it was off to our meeting place for ILST.  The training ended with dinner and then the rest of the troop arrived for an all night lock in game night.
The approach this year for ILST was a lot different than in years past.  We had Scouts that attended NYLT (National Youth Leader Training) in the summer and so over the last few months we have called on them to pass on some of the skills learned.  We also provided opportunities for those Scouts to practice some of what they learned at NYLT.  This proved to be very positive and as a result much of what we normal cover during ILST has been taught, learned , and practiced within the youth leaders of the troop.
The Senior Patrol leader and I talked a bit about what we wanted to develop in our leaders this year and going into next.  We decided that we needed to know what our leadership styles are and how use those styles to move the troop to being that high performance team.  Not just doing our best, but making every patrol better and making a difference in the Troop.. so much a difference that we maintain a level of high performance.  So we narrowed our focus to two subject areas.  1.  What is leadership and the pillars of leadership that move our troop.  and 2.  What are the nuts and bolts of the stages of team development and how do we apply that at every level in the troop to ensure we achieve and maintain the high performance team.
We split the training, I took the first half discussing leadership and our pillars.  This is where we really started to learn about the young men of the troop.  Rather than lecture, we held a discussion on the five pillars of leadership that make our troop successful.
Learning to lead yourself, Focusing on the little things, Modeling Expected behavior, Communicating effectively, and being a Servant Leader.
As the discussion went each Scout provided input on what he believed it meant to be and know those leadership traits as well as how they would use them to make our troop better.  I was pleasantly surprised to listen as the Scouts really did have a good grasp of them and understood how they could make a difference in the Troop.
It was comments like, “if I can’t get me own gear together.. how do I expect the rest of the Patrol to follow me and get theirs together”.  Or perhaps it was “Do as I say not as I do doesn’t work with my patrol.”  Comments like that let me know we are on track.
Then the Senior Patrol leader instructed the stages of team development session.  He went through the Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing stages as they are defined and shared what he thought they should look like.  The patrols then did an exercise that we use in Wood Badge where they each put together and share a story about a high performance team that they have been on and why it was successful.  We heard stories about NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), our 50 miler in the Olympics, and the story of a Scout that finally found a fit in a new patrol that allowed him to make friends and increase his level of activity in the troop.   Again, I learned a lot about the youth leaders of our Troop.
Following the training as we sat and ate dinner, I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader.  I asked him what he learned.  He shared that he was happy to hear that “they get it”, he added that the final exercise we did when we asked each Scout what they were going to do to make a difference in the troop really spoke volumes.  Each Scout shared something that could really move the needle in our troop.  It was great to hear.  The coolest part was when the Senior Patrol leader said.. “Ok.. let’s do it!”
That was all that could be said to wrap up the training.  I thought about it a bit last night as I watched the Scouts have fun playing games and socializing.  They are a high performance team, then just need to get all the arrows lined up.  This morning as they cleaned up what looked like the mess that FEMA should have been called for.. it was an efficient process and well led.
I am so proud of these guys.
Another JLT/TLT/ILST.. what ever you call your Youth Leader Training…in the books and moving our Troop to perfection!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Reflection

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

Living or Dying

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

Giving Up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis post is not going to sit well with some folks, but be that as it may, it is a message that I feel is an important part of the Character, Citizenship, and Overall fitness of the Scouts that we are trying to develop.
As with most ideas or thoughts that bounce through my mind, I find that themes reoccur or present themselves to me.  And so as I go through my daily life I look for those things that can both make me a better person and pass on to our young men.
First, I have been observing a “homeless guy” over the past few months.  Now please understand I am not being insensitive to the plight of the homeless here.  I am absolutely not passing judgement and understand that there many folks out there with needs.  I am also not expressing an opinion or solution about mental health issues that plague our country.. so.. with the caveats out of the way…
I finally had the opportunity to talk with this young man.  I bought him a Frosty from Wendy’s and asked if I could ask him some questions.  He agreed.  I asked him why he was homeless.  A simple question and he gave me a simple answer.  He said he gave up.  He gave up on school, he gave up on his family, he gave up on trying.  I didn’t ask why, but I really wanted to know.  It would have been too obvious to ask if he liked the results, so I left it alone.  I did however ask how long he planned on staying on his current course.  He answered by saying that it wasn’t that bad.. people in general are generous.  He had no plan or expectation of life getting better.
I asked him if I could ask two more questions.. he agreed.  Number one, are drugs involved? And number two, are you going to try to get help?  To the first question he answered yes.  That is why he is in Portland.  Easy to get and cheap.  To the second, he said he would like to get help.  He added that he had dreams and goals, but giving up was easier.  I thanked him and went on my way.
Second, as you know I am a football fan, especially when it comes to watching my youngest sons football team play.  He plays for the College of the Redwoods and is a real good Quarterback.  The team though has much to be improved.  They are up and down and all over the place searching for consistency.   The only thing that is consistent about the team is their willingness to give up.  They seem to play for themselves and give up on their team mates.  Because it is a Junior College, the players are looking at moving to higher Division Schools to continue playing football and advance their education.  They are playing selfish to gain better stats without an understanding that if the team does well, they will get their stats.  Giving up on plays and letting team mates down when the going gets tough.
So why do I care?  I do not think it is acceptable to ever give up.  As a young soldier it was always expected that we never give up.  Giving up left people’s life in the balance.  When people give up they don’t just give up on themselves, but there is always an effect to other people.  When parents give up, the kids suffer.  When employees give up, the work group suffers, when members of a Patrol give up, the whole Patrol is effected in a negative way.  They end up moving in the wrong direction in the stages of team development or stay in a storming mode too long.
Giving up is a choice.  It is a condition that while there are certainly circumstances that lend themselves to someone wanting to give up, there is never a reason to follow through.
Jerry, you are too insensitive..  no, I am a tired of seeing the effects of people who just give up.  People get hurt when you give up.  It’s not fair when people give up.  As we talk about leadership with our Scouts we always start with the concept of being a servant leader or leading selflessly.  If you can’t do that, you can’t lead.  We also remind them that if they can not lead themselves they can not lead others.  Having said that, giving up is in my opinion on of the most selfish things one can do.
So why do people give up?  I don’t know.  I don’t like it and I don’t allow it in my Troop.  Scouts in my Troop are not allowed to say “I can’t”.  If you believe that you can’t.. you are right.  But that is not an option in life and the more we allow young men to give up, it becomes easier and easier to do.  Scouts can do amazing things, but they need to have the self-confidence to push themselves.  We need to give them permission to do so.  When we accept the Scout saying “I can’t”.. we tell them it’s ok to pass or give up.  Simply put.. it’s not ok.
So, no I don’t have the answer, but you can rest assured that I am fighting it by using my influence as a Scoutmaster to teach, coach, and mentor our Scouts to never, ever give up.  I do not give up, so I expect them to take that attitude and grow into great men.
Can you imagine in our founding fathers gave up?  Imagine if they decided it was not in their best interest or it was too hard.  What if they did not test the resolve of their fellow countrymen to join the fight.  We need not go to those extremes, but the principle is the same.  Never give up on yourself or those around you.
Just something to think about.. I know I do.
A note on this post.  It has taken me two weeks to put this together.  It is a subject that has really been weighing on my heart and mind.  I have talked to the Scouts of my Troop about this.. an ongoing discussion we have held over the past couple years.  I finally wrapped it up tonight because once again, I talked with the homeless kid today.  Still giving up.  I don’t judge and make him out to be a bad guy.  I see potential that is wasted.  I see a young man who never was taught that giving up has long-term and far-reaching effects.  He is living it.  It saddens me.
Teach our Scouts the right way to become men.
The picture I used in this post is of me and a young man in my Troop.  At the time, he was in his first year as a Boy Scout.  What you don’t see in the picture are the big tears and the knocking knees this youngster had.  What you also don’t see is him at the bottom of the rappel with a huge smile on his face knowing that he conquered fear and accomplished his goal of earning the climbing merit badge.  You don’t see me 5 minutes after the picture was taken going over the edge with him and coaching him to stay with it and never give up.  I am proud of that Scout and many others like him that make a choice not to quit.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Find a Map

philmontmapWatching an old episode of Bonanza the other day and as with most of the stories, the guys with the white hats typically come out on top while the bad guys in their black hats seem to have the opportunity to listen to Mr. Cartwright give them a lesson in good livin’.
The lesson this time was about finding your way in life.  I don’t remember the particulars of the story, but Old Ben Cartwright shared some wisdom that I immediately felt a need to share.  He said “It’s alright to find your way in life, it’s a lot easier if you have a map.”  I could not help but think that this is a message that we often share with our Scouts.  The map, our Oath and Law.  There are many other maps out there also, The 10 Commandments, our laws, the Golden Rule.  All pretty much lead you in the same direction and certainly make your life a little easier and worth living.
Baden Powell left us a good road map to a successful life in that first Scout Handbook.  He shared with us the Values of Scouting, a good Oath to live by, and skills that help make a young boy a man.
It is important to find a good map to live well.  Whether that is through your faith, our laws, or in our Scout Oath and Law it is of value to you and others to live right.  I always go back to what BP said about Happiness in that true happiness comes from making others happy.  It takes a good map for good living to do this.  I think that there are many ways just as there are many maps to do this.  I grew up in the Church and it gave me a firm foundation of how to treat other people.  As the Golden rule says in essence to treat others as you want to be treated.  I thought as a grew up that this was a Christian thing, but as I got older I learned and came to realize that happiness is universal and so too is the Golden Rule.  This ethic of one good turn deserving another goes a long way in the happiness of the world.  The Golden Rule often called The Ethic of Reciprocity is found in 21 of the Worlds Religions.  Knowing that it is a wonder why we fight and how Religions the world over have caused so much pain in the world.
The Roman Pagan Religions taught “The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves.”  Native America teaching lead us in “Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself.”  And hundreds of years before Christ walked our planet, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow-man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” from the Jewish faith.
I think that this last quote speaks more to me in the world that we live in today as it relates to the Golden Rule and Happiness.
So what does all of this have to do with our map?  It’s simple.  The map does not have to be complicated.  It does not have to come with a degree in Social Science.  The map needs to be clear and easy to understand.  The map needs to have clear markings that lead us in the direction that we wish to go.
Our map in Scouting is the Scout Law.  It is simple, clear, and leads us in the right direction.  12 simple words that are the foundation of our happiness and the happiness of others.
So you can have the Bible, The Tora, The Koran, or any other of the sacred text, what matters in the end is that you use them to do find good and happiness… more importantly, you use them to give happiness to others.
If you don’t you are not using them right.  The same is the Oath and Law in Scouting.  Words are great, Actions are better.  Finding your way in life is a good venture… having a map certainly does make it easier.
Find and use your map.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Guilt by association

judged“You can judge a man by the company he keeps”-Euripides

Guilty as charged.  The company we keep, tan shirts, dedicated to being good Citizens, men of Character, and Fit.
I have heard this saying all my life.  You are judged, as unpopular an opinion as that is these days, by the company that we keep.  If you hang out with knuckle heads, you are viewed as a knuckle head.  If you hang out with good people, you are judged as one of the good guys.  This holds true in every case.  I can not think of one example where people who hang out with bad people are viewed as one of the good ones.. or the better of the bad.  Huh.. yeah.. I heard that one last week.  “He’s a good guy, just hangs out with the wrong crowd.. he’s the better of the bad guys”.. but you know, he’s still among the bad guys.  And yes, lets call it like it is.  If they are bad, they are bad.
Too many times these day’s we try to give the benefit of the doubt or try to find that silver lining.  Sometimes it’s just not there.  More times than not there are opportunities for behavior change and it is neglected.  I don’t buy the idea that circumstances create a lack of opportunity.  It’s there, it just needs to be taken.  I have known many people who came from bad circumstances only to find opportunity, take it, and make something good of their lives.
Here is the deal.  We have Scouting.  Scouting is available everywhere.  Now, it certain circles it may not seem “cool”..so explore the alternative.  Join our Scouting gang, or join a thug gang.  In both circumstances you will find support, belonging, and a set of values.  The difference is one leads to good, the other doesn’t.  It comes down to choices.
Parents have a lot to do with this.  As a young man growing they assist in creating the environment that will lead their son to hanging with the right crowd.  Generations of “good guys” typically lead to more good guys.  On the other hand the lack of want to.. the fact that the path of least resistance creates the easy road down a path which lacks character puts young men in the bad category.
I don’t mind calling like it is.  The people who I associate with are good.  I need not worry about their character.  I don’t have to worry about the values that they live.  I don’t have to worry about the impression that I leave with the friends I keep.
I see our young men.. they look for that easy road.  That road will never lead the right way.  As a Scoutmaster, it is my job to help the parents in creating that environment which leads to good character and values.  Being a role model in that endeavor is part of the program.
Too often we forget as Scouters that we have an obligation to create those conditions for the Scout.  We get wrapped up in making Eagle Scouts that we forget what we are really there for.  Citizens of Character.
Now Eagle Scouts that hang out with Eagle Scouts is a good group to be associated with.. You will certainly be judged by that standard.
I tell ever Scout of our Troop that attains the rank of Eagle that up till now they had completed and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, from that day forward they must prove that they are worthy of being one.
That is the company that they keep.  It is the company we keep.  We are judged in that company.  I am happy with that.
Have a Great Scouting Day!