Patrol Method

Action Required

actionrequiredWhen 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!

Unit Culture

IMG_2059Monday 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!

Come along side

presidentsYesterday 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!

Scoutbook.com

scoutbookEvery unit has a method of tracking their Scouts.  Advancement, activities, special awards etc.  There are software programs and online resources for tracking, even an Excel spreadsheet can be used.  But I want to introduce you to a real cool way of tracking your unit.  Scoutbook.com.
Before I go any further, I should say in full disclosure that my unit does not use Scoutbook.com…. yet.  I was made aware of Scoutbook.com recently and thought I would review it and let you all know about some of the great features it has.  I should also say that as a Scoutmaster, I rarely get involved in any of this, but with Scoutbook.com your committee will be very happy to have such an awesome tool at their finger tips.
At first look I love the interface.  The ease of the program.  It is clean and requires no hunting to find what you are looking for.
tysonadvancement270Second thing that you notice right away is that the Scout has some responsibility for his advancement in this program.  Just like their Scout handbook, the Scout himself now has the ability to track and maintain parts of his record keeping.  Yes, he still needs to get the work done and Yes, he still needs to see the Scoutmaster or who ever signs the book.  But with Scoutbook.com, he has everything at his fingertips electronically.
I remember Former Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzucca reminding us to take Scouting where the Scouts are.  Well, 78% of our teens have cell phones, and not just cell phones, but smart phones.  So put this tool in their hands and see if they get excited about this part of Scouting.
I love that Scoutbook.com is on “The Cloud”.  Pretty much the world that we live in.  The ability to have data on your tablet, phone, computer or other device is critical these days.
Ok, So the Committee has a role in this, the Scout has a role in this, and the leaders all have roles in this.  It is a total package deal.  Constantly updated to meet all of the BSA requirements, linked to ScoutNet, and easy to use.
As a leader, you can track and maintain your training records.  I am sure that the Training chair on your committee would love for your help on that.mytraining280
Printing Blue cards is a snap also.. right from your device.
Merit Badge counselors can track the Scout and report percentages of complete to the committee in real-time.
For the leader, you can track multiple Scouts with just a few clicks.  Monitoring those first year Scouts sometimes can be chore.  But using the tools in Scoutbook.com they have been made easy and right at your finger tips.
Troop Committees can print beautiful reports and even the 34403 form to purchasing awards and advancement for your next Court of Honor.
Scoutbook.com is 100% secure and allows the unit to decide who gets what access.  The Scout, the Leaders, Merit Badge Counselors, and the Committee all have functions suited to them.
There are many features of Scoutbook.com that I can’t write about here, it would take pages on the blog.
If you are currently using other tracking software or online programs you may be able to transfer your data, but before you do, check out Scoutbook.com and see all of this for yourself.  It is worth a look.
And here is something cool about Scoutbook.com… You can have it for a year free because you read my blog.
The first 3 readers that send me an email (tbirdironchef@gmail.com) and ask for the subscription will get an annual subscription to Scoutbook.com.  You need to check out the website to see all of the benefits that come with this cool program.
I think it is a resource that you and your unit need to look into.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Leadership- Building Confident Leaders

leaderhipsketchThe other day I talked about the four “C”s that when added to the leaders tool box makes for ease in decision-making and better leaders.
I will add that when our young leaders start using the four “C”s they will also become Confident leaders.  Young leaders need practice to become confident.  Learning and finding success builds that confidence.
Making mistakes are a good thing.
I have heard confidence defined as the “Expectation of Success”.  I think this is a fair definition in that as a leader we are striving to achieve a goal.  Whether that is a person goal or a team goal, the mastering of a task or skill, or getting from point A to point B.  The leader expects to achieve success.
Making mistakes to achieve that success is ok when lessons are learned and there is time to evaluate and make corrections.  Mistakes that are uncorrected or allowed to be swept under the rug are just mistakes and a waste of time and energy.  Further more they do not built confidence in leaders as they do not see that success when they fail to learn from their mistakes.
So when our goal as Scoutmasters is to build confident leaders we need to watch for those mistakes and coach them through the recovery.
When a Quarterback throws an interception he is often greeted by the coach as he comes to side line.  The QB failed to achieve the goal of completing the pass.  He failed to achieve the goal of moving the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown.  The coach has a choice to make.  He can discuss the play with the Quarterback and refocus his vision of success or he chew him out.  I would submit that while the Quarterback let the team down by throwing the pick, he will recover faster and make fewer mistakes if coached on mechanics of the pass, what he saw down field, or maybe even communicating better with his receiver.  The point is there are many things that the coach may have seen that the QB did not as the Defensive End came busting around the Tackle.  It is the coaches responsibility to build that confidence back up in the player.  The coach has a bigger perspective of the game and can assist in getting the Quarterback back on track by teaching him and not chastising him.
Having said that, there is room in certain situations for a good hard lesson.  I have said it many times, I care less about how you feel and more about how you act.  I would never advocate belittling or bringing a Scout down.. remember that the goal here is to build confidence.  If a leaders decision was such that it caused harm or moves away from the values found in the Oath and Law, the discussion is a bit different.  Always in the spirit of teaching and learning, but not such that the leader feels like he got away with something.
Confident leaders make consistent good decisions.  Part of that decision-making is in how the leader, by being confident builds confidence in those he leads.  The most important thing that leaders can do is show confidence in other people.
This in turn leads to leaders that show initiative.  Initiative is power.  Power to act, Power to make decisions, and Power to take advantage of opportunity.  This is when real leaders begin to shine.  This is where you see the confidence built-in your young leaders.  This is where you start to build that leadership trait in future leaders.  When the younger Scouts see their leaders show initiative and confidence it sends the message that it is ok to step up and lead.
It all begins with that vision of success.  Clear goals, personal and as part of the team.  Building confident leaders is the responsibility first of the Scoutmaster.  When that happens you have a Troop that can lead.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Leadership – Teaching Opportunity

IMG_1978One of the main functions of the Scoutmaster is to train the Junior Leaders, in particular, the Senior Patrol Leader.  I take this responsibility serious and am in a constant mode of looking for opportunities to train the Scouts to be better leaders.
Most of the training is informal and as we find ourselves in opportune times where a lesson has presented itself.  What I have found is that, first, our Scouts really don’t know what they don’t know, and second, they don’t look for opportunities to learn and train others.
Now that is a pretty lofty statement, let me explain what I mean.. here is the training opportunity.
Teen age boys typically look for the easy way out.  They find the path of least resistance, which in turn puts them in challenging leadership roles.  They typically want to just get along and resist confrontation when it comes to being a leader.
Whether it is because the Scout lacks confidence or leadership skills they find themselves in situations that often times leave them feeling unsuccessful.  This is where a good tool box full of good leadership tools comes in.
I had a discussion the other night with a Patrol leader.  He feels like no one really wants to listen to him.  So, asking a few leading questions we took a look at his leadership style and gave him tools to make it better.
First, the leader needs to understand who he is leading and why he is leading.  Is it a specific task that needs to be accomplished or just general leadership within the confines of a Patrol?  The leader needs to look for opportunities to be “the man”.  Here is what I mean by that… Leaders are not Bosses.. but leaders are the “go to” guys that people want to follow.  The leader become “the Man” when he can display in his leadership the 4 “C”s.
Courage, Candor, Competence, and Compassion.
Courage.  It takes Courage to be a leader, especially a leader of Scouts.  You will not always make popular decisions and you may be put in situations that pit you one against another.  The Leader with Courage will always do what is right and the right thing for the good of his Patrol, or Troop.
Candor.  Tell it like it is.  Tell the Truth and never shy away from the truth.  If a member of the Patrol is acting in the wrong way or not doing a skill correctly, don’t be afraid to hurt their feelings, tell the truth.  We as leaders need to worry less about feeling and focus more on actions.  Actions or the way we act and do things are far more important than feelings.  A leader that demonstrates candor is respected and shows his good character.
Competence.  No one wants to follow a leader that does not know what the heck they are doing.  Following a lost leader gets the whole group lost.  To build competence the leader must keep learning and testing themselves.  Sharpening skills and looking inward at their decision-making.  Constantly working to fill the tool box.
And Compassion.  We lead people and manage equipment.  Being that leader that cares about those that they lead grows confidence in the follower.  When we genuinely care about making those around us better, they see it and start to build a better relationship within the team.  When we care about teaching them and showing them the right way to do anything, we make them better.  When we care enough to model expected behavior, those that we lead will follow and show that behavior back to us.
Taking the four “C”s and putting them to use will make the leader better and keep him focused.
The four “C”s also give the leader a simple set of standards so he can focus on what is important in his Patrol.  My Patrol leader did not think that his patrol listened to him.  So I asked the simple questions; What are you saying and How are you saying it?  Do you come at your Patrol competent and compassionate?  We discussed a missed opportunity that he had over the weekend camp out.  A simple task of cooking a meal could have been a million dollar lesson to his patrol in skill and fun.  That patrol was cooking venison steaks.  The missed opportunity was how they cooked them.  A little bit of prior planning on the Patrol leaders part could have made him “The Man”.
Cooking steaks over an open fire would have made a bigger bang within the patrol, rather, they cooked on a frying pan and used up lots of cooking utensils and time.  The Patrol leader missed the opportunity to get his younger Scouts involved in the process and about 10 minutes into the ordeal of cooking, he lost them.
It was a great opportunity that was lost because he took the path of least resistance.
“The Good Idea Fairy”
I have listened in on many Patrol meetings.  Most Patrol meetings end in frustration when members of the Patrol do not feel that they are being listened to.  Sometimes the Patrol Leader needs to let the Good Idea Fairy be heard.  Jotting down an idea or two and seeing how they can be worked into the plan for the next event.  Maybe cooking over the open fire came up, but was dismissed by the leader.  When the leader lets those ideas happen they get buy in from those that they lead.
Always look for that Teaching Opportunity.  They are always there and we as Scoutmasters need to be on top of it.   Allow the situation to run its course and then sit down with the Patrol Leader or other leaders and ask those leading questions that get them thinking beyond the path of least resistance.
Scouts are looking for that challenge and they want to be challenges.  They just don’t know what they don’t know and you know… sometimes they are afraid that we are going to say no to them or shut down their great ideas.  Go with it.  We need to use those four “C”s also.
If it is not unsafe, unethical, or not outside of the Scouting program.. say Yes and let them find that learning opportunity.  You will be the man when you keep learning and growing in your leadership also.
Almost everything we do in Scouting will come with a teaching opportunity.  Find it and share it.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Conflict Resolution

myway_yourwaySo who here has a perfect Troop?  A group of Scouts that get along with no issues?  A unit that has a culture of absolute peace and harmony?
Yeah?  If you have that Troop, please let me know what side of Utopia you live on and I will come and check that out.. I certainly have some things to learn.
For those of you that live on our planet and work with Boy Scouts you know that at some point you will be dealing with problems.  Personal issues and friction among the Scouts.
The BSA includes a block of instruction dealing with Conflict Resolution in the NYLT or JLT sessions.  Yes, I know that there is no longer a program called JLT, but many units still run their own Junior Leader Training sessions as part of their annual plan.
The Boy Scouts train our Scouts to use the Key word EAR.   Express, Address, and Resolve.  Those are great to remember when Scouts get into sticky situations with one another.  Again, I still have lots to learn, but feel some what qualified to speak on conflict resolution.  I have been married for over 20 years, raised 3 kids, and have been a Scoutmaster now for 10 years.
I have come up with a few general rules of my own for resolving conflict.
1.  Calm Down.  When tempers are flaring and the parties are upset the best thing to do is calm the situation down.  Separate the folks involved and get them, and everyone around to calm down.  No conflict will be resolved when the blood is still up.
2.  Listen.  Both sides of the story need to be heard.  Spend more time listening and less time judging.  Give both parties time and attention.  More times than not there is no one right or wrong side of the issue.  Typically it is a personality issue or and issue of who’s idea gets picked.  Listen.  I have seen the issues work themselves out just because they talked and I listened.
3.  Focus on Behavior.   Behavior is the key to the direction that conflicts go.  Never allow the behavior to turn bad because of the conflict.  The Oath and Law are great guides in directing expected behavior.  Reinforce that behavior is more important than feelings.  How we act is more important than how we feel.  In the end our behavior will impact how we feel, so if we control our behavior and keep it within the values of the Scout Law, we need not worry about feelings.
4.  Shake and look ’em in the eye.  Each conflict needs to have an end.  A hand shake and look in the eye is the final point.  Once that happens there can be no more issues.  Those are the rules.  Don’t shake and apologize if you don’t mean it and there is still conflict.  It aint over till it’s over.   When it’s over.. Shake and look each other in the eye.
I have been using those simple ideas for some time now and find that it works great.  You have to be committed to working it through though.  Don’t allow the emotion of the conflict override the resolution.  Never allow the group to dictate or pick sides.  That turns nasty and in the end you will divide the unit with that type of behavior.
Remember that the resolution is for the good of both parties and the unit.  It’s not fixed till everyone has a sense of satisfaction in the resolution.
I hope that helps.
Have a Great Scouting Day!