Scouts

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!

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!

The Worthy Cause

acorn-wideAs I was driving home from work I was listening to a local Classical Music station.. it sooths me.  What I like about the Classical station and most talk radio stations is that they do not play a lot of advertisements.  This often goes without notice as you listen and enjoy the station but it is always noticed during those one or two times a year that the stations have their “listener-athon” or whatever they call it.  The annual or bi annual plea for funding to keep the station on the air and free of advertising.  Now there are many reasons I am sure that these stations try to stay away from endless ads, but it would also seem that the ads could remove some of the stress of “begging” for money every year.  Sure these stations receive funds from corporate donors and “friends of” donations, but by and large they rely on the listener, the end user, the person that enjoys what they produce.  It is a worthy cause to be sure… for the station and the listener.  It is free to produce what they want without being tied to this or that company paying for ad space or promoting their interest.  It is one thing to be “brought to you by…” than Company X paying holding stake in your product.. I suppose.  But a worthy cause none the less.
I, like many of you have many causes that are near and dear to you and what you do.  We get their pleas in the mail, most to only end up in the trash can.  They are all worthy causes and are in need of funding, after all it does take money to make most things happen.  I get mail from the Pacific Crest Trail Association,  The Non Commissioned Officers Association, the Red Cross, the National Infantry Association, various Alumni groups etc.  They are all worthy causes and at some point I donated, joined, answered their plea, or took interest in them.  I believe in giving to worthy causes.  I can not be an active part in all of them, so sometimes my contribution, big or small, is my way of fulfilling a need to support a cause.
Ok, by now you are noticing that I have not mentioned the Boy Scouts of America.  Well we will get to that here real soon.
First however I need to rant a bit on what seems to be an overwhelming theme with the “Worthy Cause appeal”.  The theme is that someone else will do it.
Someone else will donate.  Some “Big Business” will take care of it.. after all.. they can afford it.  Someone else should step up and keep this station on the air, or that trail maintained, or that museum staffed, or…
Someone else always seems to take care of your worthy cause.  That which you enjoy, take advantage of, or participate in.  Membership allows for that right?  I pay my dues.. I shouldn’t have to do more.  Someone else can afford to do more.
Time, Treasure, Talent.  We all have some, we can do more, we need to budget our worthy cause or causes into our lives.
You pick and choose what that cause is, we all do.  We decide what is important to us and those around us and make a choice to support it or just take advantage of “Someone else”.
The Boy Scouts of America.  My worthy cause.
For over a century it has relied on the stewardship of its members, Alumni, and those that know and understand what its mission is.  It takes money to make programs happen.  It takes support to ensure that the mission can be sustained and accomplished.  A mission that takes the life span of the member and will never stop as long as a 7 year boy comes to a join night.  It will forever need support and funding as long as Troops load up the vans, buses, and station wagons and head to summer camp.  It will continue to be in need of time, treasure, and talent as long as we wish our young people to learn, live, and share the values and make choices that shape their character.  Yes, a worthy cause.
But, Someone else will do it.
Each year the BSA asks of its members to become a Friend of Scouting.  To go above and beyond their contribution of time and talent.  To do more financially than their annual dues and registration fees.  To support the organization where it counts.  The worthy cause that is provided at the local Council level.  Where the Scout and the Scouts family benefit.  It takes more than registration fees and lending a helping hand at a local camp, it takes money, just like you local radio station that asks for support to maintain its programing uninterrupted by ads.
Yes the BSA goes to corporations and asks for their contribution.  The BSA targets organization that share our values and support our type of programing.  Buts not enough and we can’t rely on someone to do it.
We all know that Scouting is a worthy cause.  We all know what the outcomes can be because of Scouting.  We all know that Scouting offers programing that no other youth organization can do.  But we can not wait for someone else. We all need to do our part.
Budgeting your worthy cause.
I will not tell you how to spend your money.  My wife and I are like everyone else, we have a budget and try to stick to it.  We know what we have and what we can give.  We make a choice each year on what and who we are going to support.  For us, the Boy Scouts of America is our worthy cause.  We have seen what it does for the young men and their families.  We have watched as our sons took advantage of the all of the great programs the BSA offers.  From monthly campouts to the National Jamboree.  From Summer camp to Philmont our family has always enjoyed what the Boy Scouts of America offers and does.  So when we budget our giving we make a choice to give to our worthy cause.  We choose to support Scouts.  Our sons are grown and no longer actively in the program, even though Scouting will always be a part of their lives.  Now we support someone else, we have become that someone else that does it because someone else didn’t do it.  Like the radio station, I want Scouting’s programming to stay on the air.  I budget how much time I wish to give, how much of my talent I have to give, and how much treasure I have to give.  The bottom line is what we decide is our worthy cause.  The cause that means the most to us.  The cause that we see the most impact for our dollar.  And the cause that we know can last forever if we all pitch in.
What is your worthy cause.  Just because you are reading this does not mean it is Scouting.  I know that.  When I make our annual Friends of Scouting appeal to my Troop we ask that everyone help support a Scout.  We ask that they all do something to help.  A dollar, Two hundred dollars, whatever they can budget to help Scouting.  I ask that they take a look at their Scout and Scouting family and see the benefits that come with Scouting.   Finally I ask that they believe in what Scouting does and decide if it is important enough to them to keep it going.  I ask that they make Scouting a worthy cause.
Each year, we make our goal, last year we exceeded our goal and that is wonderful.  The best part for me is the understanding that the families of our unit make Scouting a priority and worthy of their giving.  This says a lot about them to me.  They share the values of Scouting and do not want to let “someone else” be the reason their son and the sons of families in the future enjoy Scouting.
Yes, it is a worthy cause.  Worthy of our time, our treasure, and what little talent I have.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Troop Leadership Corps

tlcpatchFrom 1972 to 1989 the Boy Scouts of America had a program called the Troop Leadership Corps.  This program was designed for Scouts 14-16 to serve their Troop in leadership roles.  They were not a member of a Patrol within the Troop, but held direct leadership within the Troop.  They served as guides for new Scout Patrols, they served in traditional leadership roles and they were charged with being skills instructors and role models to the Troop.
In 1989, this program was replaced with the Venture Patrol within traditional Troops.  At this point the older Scouts now became a patrol and Troop positions of leadership were created to fill the void.  The Instructor and Troop Guide Positions were created and added to the leadership roll of offices.
Since 1989 many Troops however have held on the Troop Leadership Corps (TLC) as a foundation of leadership in the Troop.  It is also a great way to maintain older Scouts keeping them active in the Troop and engaged with the younger Scouts.
Our Troop is now among them.  We are rebuilding the Troop Leadership Corp, with our own spin on it.  during the heyday of the TLC the Scouts that made up the Corps left their patrols and entered the group of leaders to form a patrol.  In our situation the Scouts will remain a part of their Patrol.  The TLC will be made up of those Scouts that demonstrate leadership and leadership potential.  They will be Scouts that buy into our leadership philosophy and are willing to step up and lead.
This is an incentive program.  The Scouts that choose to belong to the Troop Leadership Corps will have high adventure opportunities and time set aside for them to be teenagers.  We have a group of Scouts that are taking the lead on this.  They are motivated and willing to lead.  They all believe in our core values and leadership philosophy and want to see the Troop become more successful.
We are doing this to keep the older Scouts engaged and maintain them longer as members of the Troop.
Here are the 5 leadership principles (philosophy) that we maintain in the Troop.  It is these 5 principles that the Troop Leadership Corp will center their leadership on.  It is these 5 principles that they will use to teach and coach the troop to success.
1.  Never Stop Learning, Be a life Long learner.
2.  Focus on the Little things.  Focusing on the little things make the big things happen.
3.  Model Expected Behavior.
4.  Communicate Effectively.
5.  Be a Servant Leader.
When we do these 5 things the Troop works like a well oiled machine.  Leadership is not a chore, and everyone finds success.
So we are bringing back the Troop Leadership Corps.  We will report back on how it is going.
Does your Troop use the Troop Leadership Corp model?  How is that going for you?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Membership Discussion

WSJpic1Lets talk about membership.
We all know that we need members to keep Scouting alive.  There are many different angles and directions to answer the membership question.  I am not going to solve this issue in this post, rather, I am opening up the dialogue to see what you all think.
Scouting in the United States if a bit different from the rest of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM).
First, we are not Coed, until you get to the Venturing Program.
Second, our programs are not connected.  Yes, Cub Scouts go to Boy Scout etc… but in most cases outside of the US, a Scout group is made up of youth from 7 to 21.  The units are formed from a group.  This allows for continuity in the program and allows for leadership and example to be promoted from within the group.  Personally, I like this idea.  I think it solves a few of the issues we have in Scouting in the US.  Namely keeping youth in Scouting.
I have become pen pals of sorts with some Scouters from outside of the United States.  While they do have their own issues it seems that young people stay in Scouting longer and have a great Scouting experience along the way.
Starting off as a young 7-year-old and staying in Scouting till they are in their young adulthood.  I think this creates a better Scouting life for them.
Anyway, as stated, I am not going to answer the question, just start the discussion.
I think that the BSA will need to explore the COED option sooner than later.  With declining membership and the Girl Scout program not what most girls want… I think that opening the doors to a COOED program may go along way to saving Scouting in America.
So how does that work?  Will we lose our values and program?  I don’t think so.  I think we can move forward with the program we have.  We need not tailor the program to girls, they will fit right in.  Look at the Venturing program as it is?  It would be much better if it were filled with young people and adventure.
OK, membership at the core.
I think that our professionals at the National and Council level have the very best of intentions when they talk membership.  It is a simple equation.  Get more youth in and membership will fix itself.
A few things that I know for sure.
You will never be able to out recruit your losses.  You will never be able to keep Scouts in a program that is floundering.
When I was a young Scoutmaster I was told the three keys to a successful troop were Program, Program, and Program.  If you build it they will come.  Boys do not join Scouts for Monday night meetings.  They join for cool programs and camp outs.  Parents bring their sons to our program.  Not to our meetings.  They need to be able to see value in the program.
Program will drive membership.  So I think sometimes we put the cart before the horse.  The horse is our program, the cart is membership and money.  Now, you can’t have one without the other, but if your priority is not program, you won’t get members.  That, I know for sure.
So where is our effort more effective?  Building programs or recruiting?  I think we build programs and let them come.
There are more factors to this discussion to be sure.  It is not always that simple I understand.  At the unit level programs need to be the priority.  Build it and they will come.  Recruiting efforts need to be a part of the annual plan.  Focusing on Cub Scouts is not the only answer.  We need to sell Scouting to all eligible youth.
This is where I see other WOSM get it.  They appeal to youth of all ages and keep them in longer.  There is a coolness factor about hanging out with their peers and they longer they stay, so do their friends.  I think this is an important part of our membership issue.
So.. lets take a few posts and explore this issue?
What do you think?  Let’s discuss this.
Here is a little video I stumbled on that really got me thinking.  It is from the Scouts in Germany.  I would love to see our youth in American Scouting like this one day.  I got to see Scouting like this when I was a kid in the Transatlantic Council as we did many International Scouting activities.
Also take a moment to check out the Kandersteg International Scout Center videos.  See what they look like and lets see how we can implement some of this here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

A Sky Full of Scouts from Andreas Herten on Vimeo.

Where do they go from here?

gradsIt’s that time of the year.. Graduation season.  And in a lot of cases, it’s Eagle Scout season too as the young man becomes motivated by his up coming 18th Birthday.  So Congratulations to all the Grads and New Eagle Scouts this year.
Thursday night I attended the graduation ceremony of my nephew.  He is also our Troops newest Eagle Scout.  As we sat in the coliseum waiting for the graduation to start, I took a look at the program.  In it was a list of the graduates of the Gresham High School Class of 2014.  Quickly my eyes moved to find Lucas’s name, but as I scanned the page my eyes caught other names.  Jacob P, James P, Jeffery D, Jake R… These were all Scouts that have been in our Troop.  Over time some of them lost interest, had other obligations, and even earned their Eagle award and still participate.  There were other names of young men that I know from other Troops in our area.  I have watched them grow through the Order of the Arrow and other Scouting activities.  As I looked over the names I found them in the crowd.  They are all grown up.
After the graduation was over I went looking for these guys to wish them well and congratulate them.  For some it was the first time I had seen them in a while, for others we talk regularly.  The common thought that ran through my mind was how grown up they all looked on Thursday night.  Reflecting back on when they crossed over into the Troop, their first camp outs and some of the funny things they had done to bring a spark in our Troop.  Then the question repeated over and over again through out the crowd was, “What are they going to do now?”, “Where do you go from here?”
Some are going off to college in the fall, some are going to trade schools.  Some are heading into the Service, and some still are kind of undecided.  On the list of names was a list of the Scholarships and the graduates that are receiving them.  I was pleased to see that our guys are doing well.  Everyone of the Scouts from our Troop are going on to do something that they have passion for and will better themselves.  Jacob was the big surprise of the evening.  I have not seen him in some time.  He is a young man who has always had a rough go, a tough family situation, and the chips never seemed to fall in his favor.  He is going to college in the fall and received a Scholarship that will help him see his dreams come true.  I spoke with him briefly after graduation.  He said he was sorry that he did not stay in Scouting.  I explained to him that I understood.  He then told me that the reason he is the person he is today is because of the time he spent in our Troop.  Not the rank or merit badges, but the life lessons and skills that he learned.  The way to be a man and live a life of Character.  He asked if he was allowed to hug me, I said yes.  We parted ways with a smile and a promise that I will be there when he graduates from college.
Where do they go from here?
My youngest son is graduating also this year.  Thursday night of this coming week.  Josh spent many years in our Troop also and had to make a choice to play Football or stay in Scouts.  He picked Football, but not until he and I talked and looked at his dreams.  Josh has had the dream of playing in the NFL since he was in 3rd grade.  He set his goals high and worked hard.  He would throw that football for hours working on accuracy.  Then as he grew he got faster, stronger, and more knowledgeable about the game.  He understood the steps to getting to the NFL.  High School football, College football, get his degree, and never stop getting better.
He played every down in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades and then won the starting job in Middle School.  As a Freshman he started at Quarterback on the Freshman team and was the 3rd string QB on the Varsity team.  His Sophomore year he became the starting Quarterback of the Varsity team and played in the position until the last snap of his Senior year.  College Scouts looked at him, recruited him, and he knew that his dream was going to come true.  It’s just a matter of where.  Southern Oregon University finally offered him a Red Shirt QB position on the team.  But with it comes no guarantee that he will play.  If you do not play, you do not get better and you do not get seen.  The College of the Redwoods had been watching Josh and gave him an offer to actually play.  He took it.  Josh will be playing Football in College starting this year.
Determination, Patience, and a strong work ethic drove him to seeing his dreams come true.  Step by step he is making his dreams a reality.
This has been a long and hard road for him and our family.  Thousands of miles on the road to camps and college visits.  Thousands of dollars in fees, hotels, and gas for the truck.  It is has taken time and energy, pain and lots of tears.  But in the end, it is all coming alive the way he wants it.
I was told once by a mentor of mine, that the job of a Dad (among other jobs) is to make our kids dreams come true.  My oldest Son is serving in the Army.  Little did we know that he always had a vision of serving and doing great things in the Military.  My example and teaching him over the year that he grew up the son of a Sergeant Major lead him to success in finding his path.  I still want him to go to college, and would love for him to be home, but I know that he is finding his way.. his way.
Our Daughter is going to college to ultimately serve in the area of Childhood development.  I am so proud of this kind-hearted, sweet young women.  She is blossoming into beautiful young lady with a heart of gold.
When I look at the young men that come through our Troop, I wonder, where do they go from here.  Have we done everything we can to prepare them.  Do they know that life does not hand out participation ribbons and at times it is very difficult to navigate the challenges.
My Scouts and My kids have shown me those answers.  Character, Determination, and finding your dream is the key.
It does not matter where they go or how they get there.  It is what they do with it once they arrive that I come to find out is most important.
They don’t all go to college, but have great lives.  They don’t all make a million dollars, but are rich in their hearts and minds.
I am proud of all of them.
Congratulations to Lucas my nephew and Josh, my youngest Son!  And Congratulations to all of the young men that passed through our Troop and are proving today that Scouting mattered in their lives.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014!
“So long as your desire to explore is greater than your desire to not screw up, you’re on the right track. A life oriented toward discovery is infinitely more rewarding than a life oriented toward not blowing it…Don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.” – Ed Helms, Commencement Address at Knox College 2013.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

What Pleases Jerry

IMG_6206It is interesting to hear what our Scouts think and say.  At most of their ages, they have not yet learned to filter their conversations based on who they are around or what the circumstances may be.  On the way to our last camp out a younger Scout asked an older Scout what they had to do at the camp out.  The response from the older Scout was this, “What ever pleases Jerry.”
Now I know this young man and I know that he was being sarcastic to a point, and on the other hand, I know that his comment was directed at the fact that I hold the older Scouts to a higher standard and ask them to demonstrate leadership.  This Scout would much rather sit around and do nothing in most cases… and by and large, that is exactly what he and his buddy did during the last camp out.
What this and other Scouts fail to realize is that his response to the younger Scout is actually 100% accurate.  “Whatever pleases Jerry” is actually the right answer.
So what pleases Jerry?
1.  When the Scouts have fun.
2.  When the Scouts learn.
3.  When the Scouts demonstrate leadership.
4.  When the Scouts seek and find adventure.
5.  When the Scouts develop the bonds of a high performance team.
6.  When the Scouts have a sense of accomplishment.
7.  When the Scouts get the opportunity to see and do something new.
8.  When the Scouts practice leadership and find success in their skills.
9.  When the Scouts learn that winning is better than losing in life.
and finally…
10. When a Scout looks back on Scouting, smiles, and knows it was worth his time.
That is what pleases Jerry.
So Mr. Older Scout… you nailed it!  And guess what.  The Scout you told that to lived up to that expectation.
Thank You!
Have a Great Scouting Day!