Service

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! 

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!

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!

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!

13 year old Eagle.

From the Facebook page of Steve Harvey

I thought I would let it simmer for a bit before I weighed in.. and now I just can’t keep my blog silent on this.
So, at a risk of pissing a bunch of folks off.. here it goes.
By now, if you are an active Scouter, you are aware of the young man named James Hightower III.  He was presented his Eagle award on the Steve Harvey show.
This ambitious Scout earned his Eagle award at age 12.  (he is now 13) He earned 61 merit badges, the last of which, the ever so tough Fingerprinting on the Steve Harvey show.
He is a member of the Order of the Arrow and appears to rank among the young genius’ of our time.  Band, Leadership in his Church, etc etc.
OK.. you all know that I am one that believes in maintain standards.  First, there is no age limit other than 18 for earning the rank of Eagle Scout, I get that.. but let’s do the math.
He crosses over at a minimum of 10 1/2 years old.  Earned his Eagle rank at 12.  From First Class to Star the Scout must be active with his Troop for at least 4 months.  During that 4 months, he needs to serve as a leader for that time period.  Then from Star to Life, the Scout needs to serve as an active member of his Troop for 6 months.  During that time, he needs to serve in a leadership position and do service.   We are up to at least 10 months… not to mention the 30 days it takes to earn Tenderfoot and at least a few months to get to First Class.  Since joining, he would have participated in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight.  In most Troops that would represent at least 3 months.  So the simple math is 14 months.  He is now 11 1/2 or 12 depending on when his birthday is.
Then he must serve for another 6 months as a Life Scout to earn Eagle.  We are now 20 months into this young mans Scouting life.
20 months.
Some one please tell me.  Has he really practiced real leadership?  How much leading has he done?  Was he the Librarian and Historian for his leadership?  I know they count, but really.. we are talking about an Eagle Scout here.
Yes I know that this wunderkind is active in many areas of his life.  Which begs the question.  When did his have all this time to lead, earn merit badges, rank, perform service projects etc?  Band, Church, Junior National Honor Society, active in the Order of the Arrow, Top Teens Program… 20 months as a Scout.  Just think about the Scouts in your Troop.
OK.. 20 months… Most Troops camp 11 times a year and go to Summer camp in that 11 months.  He needs 20 nights camping for the Eagle Required  Camping Merit badge.  That’s 6 camp outs plus a 6 night summer camp.  So that’s the first year.  12 of the 20 months got the basic nights out-of-the-way.  I assume as a leader he attends most if not all camp outs.. after all, that is where leadership and the Patrol method are really practiced.
10 1/2 to 12 years old is one and a half years.  That’s 18 months.  Now we don’t know when his birthday is, but the numbers do not add up.  From a math point of view and a practical point of view.  What has this young man got out of the Eagle experience.
The article says he plans on staying in Scouting.  That’s awesome.  Maybe now he will become the Eagle that he is.
I am sorry if I seem to be bashing this young man.  I am not.  I am really bashing his Adult leadership for not ensuring that the process is producing Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.. not just Eagle Scouts.
I applaud this young man for his achievement… I don’t know how he did it… 61 merit badges alone takes time.. when did he find all that time in 18 months.  I am sure he has friends, school, and eats and sleeps on occasion.
When people see the Eagle badge, they think leadership, accomplishment, self-reliance, the ability to serve and accomplish tasks.  When I see a 12-year-old.. I think HOW?  I wish I could applaud and not question.  But I have been a Scoutmaster for a long time and just can not see how this works.
For me, it takes away from every person that has earned the award and has come through Scouting with Knowledge, experience, and the ability to lead as a servant.
Again, I am sorry if I question this young mans achievement.  I just can’t see how this math works, which makes me believe that those standards are being manipulated some how.  And that my friends, I can not tolerate.  I never hold back a Scout, but I do make sure that he does it right.  I make sure that he is completing the requirements without short cuts.  I do not add to or take away any requirements and produce no false road blocks.  As a Scoutmaster, I just make sure that the experience is more important than the badge.
Congratulations?

Have a Great Scouting Day!