Scoutmaster minute

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!

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!

Backpack cooking- Patrol Method

Since word is out that our Troop is doing a 10 day backpacking trip this summer as our summer camp, there has been some concern as to how we are going to incorporate all of the “Scouting Methods” that normally come with the summer camp experience.
Well, I would first of all suggest that our Scouts will have more of the Scouting methods during our 10 day adventure than most Troops will have during your typical Summer camp experience, namely in the area of cooking.
Most summer camps offer a dining hall with cafeteria or family style dining.  This is great and takes a lot of pressure off of the Scouts during the day.
Our Scouts this summer will be using the Philmont cooking methods for our meals.  This will ensure that the patrols or crews will eat together, share responsibility, and eat the appropriate amount of calories that will be required on the trail.
I visited the Philmont web site and recalled a video we shared with our Crews before we went to Philmont.  This video basically sums up how we will be doing our cooking this summer while we trek through the Olympic National Forest.

Our Scouts will be eating on the go for breakfast and lunch, much like the Philmont experience.  We downloaded the Philmont menus plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, to get a good feel for our planning.  It looks like we will pretty much stick to their plan.  Why reinvent the wheel?
Patrol or Crew cooking in this fashion will be a great experience for our Troop.  We are going to start using this method with our next camp out and continue to practice this through summer camp.  This means each camp out till July will incorporate our meal plan and methods for preparing, cooking, and cleaning while on the trail.  This should be real fun at Camporee this year.
I’d love to know how you all cook on the trail or in camp.  Leave a comment.
Thanks!
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Going Camping

Merit Badges or Fun?Heading out into the woods this weekend with the Troop.  New Scout Patrol will be stepping off on the Trail to First Class, but not until after a fun morning on the range shooting Shot Guns.  Then the older guys will get to shoot all afternoon, but not until they develop some leadership skills in camp.  Modeling the Expected Behavior will be their theme for the weekend.
Weather calls for sun tomorrow.. we hope for the best.
So, I will let you all know how it goes on Sunday!
What are you up to this weekend?
Please share!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The STEM Push

stemThe other night I held a couple Scoutmaster Conferences, both for Scouts earning the Star Rank and both of the Scouts good young men.  During our discussion the subject of merit badges came up as you need them for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks.
One of the young men asked me why certain merit badges were Eagle required, while others were not.  We looked at the merit badges that were on the Eagle required list and I explained to him that these are important merit badges that support the goals of Scouting.
Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World focus not on teaching you about citizenship, but what your obligations are as a Citizen.
First Aid, Camping, Life Saving, Hiking, Emergency Preparedness, Swimming, Cycling, Personal Fitness and Cooking all focus on the Scout being fit and self-reliant.  Communication, Family life and Personal Management focus on how he acts in the world.  These are important.
Finger printing, art, music, basketry, and astronomy are just cool things that spark interest in the Scout.
I have noticed that there is a big push on the STEM programs in Scouting.  As if Scouting was becoming a vocational arm of the education system.  Now before I get hate mail, I am all for the Science and technology stuff,  I am fascinated by what engineers can do.  But this is Scouting dang it.  I don’t want to take my Scouts to Summer camp and have them sit in class all day learning about how to split an atom.  I want them out there enjoying the outdoors.  The go to School from September to June… July and August are times for them to be boys!
The STEM push has taken over and I want it to back off a bit.  Even in our Council STEM is all over the place.  We have great STEM partners in our areas that are assisting young men in cranking out merit badges.  But are they learning anything?  My guess is no.
I asked this young man in our conference which merit badges he had earned (looking at his history I knew the answer).  He had really not got much out of the “filler badges”.  He did talk about First Aid and the Citizenship badges though.
I am not against the STEM Program, but I personally do not want Scouting to become the math club.  Scouts get enough School.  They join Scouts to get adventure and that is what we need to give them.
Sit a Scout down for an hour and teach them about anything.. they want to get up and run.. give them an adventure and in the process teach them life skills and appreciation for the outdoors and you have captured them for life long Scouting.
STEM is not going away.. this is the world we live in, but let’s do more Scouting!
Just my opinion and thoughts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!