Skills

Ask you shall receive…

sm_conf-2Guided Discovery is the process of asking questions to achieve a learning objective.  The Senior Patrol Leader comes to you and says that Tommy Tenderfoot has a leaking tent.  You being a good Scoutmaster immediately takes action and checks out the tent.  Finding the leak you move the gear and find an extra tarp and place it over the tent. problem solved.  Nothing learned.
The learning objective has been left for another rainy day.
On the other hand when the Senior Patrol leader informs you of Tommy Tenderfoots dilemma the first thing to think is ask questions.  This is not to prolong the agony or make the Scout feel bad, it is all about teaching and coaching and Guided Discovery.
Why do you think the tent is leaking?  Where is it leaking?  How do you think it can be fixed?  Is Tommy going to be ok?  What can you do to make the situation better?
Again, not to remove responsibility of the adult leadership, but teaching leadership and responsibility to the youth leaders.  Leading questions allow the Scouts to find solutions and realize that they do have the answers.. they just need to find them.
Of course if there is an emergency, you can do the question session as a reflection after the situation is resolved.  But 9 times out of 10, a rain soaked tent is not an emergency and is, like most of the situations our Scouts find themselves in, a great opportunity to discover and achieve some learning objectives.
Learning objectives are important in the Guided Discovery process.  Like vision, if you have no objectives then you are wandering through the activity.  In this game with a purpose, every activity or event should have some opportunity to learn or develop.  Express the learning objective within the Patrol Leaders Council so that they are aware of what it is that they are trying to accomplish.  This will help the youth leader when the Leading questions start coming at them.  It should get them in the mode of finding solutions and not looking for blame or excuses.
This can be a long and frustrating process.  Play it all the way through.  The reward will come in the end when you ask and then receive a look of satisfaction that the Scout has learned.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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!

Hypowrap

I have discussed the Hypowrap in a previous post, but I wanted to share with you a presentation that I recently did for a group of Scouters.
As we are now preparing for Winter Camping it is always good to start with First Aid for Cold Weather injuries, prevention, and treatment.
The Hypowrap is a good way to prevent hypothermia and certainly the start of hypothermia treatment.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

How are going to get there?

mapcompassBefore I set out on any journey whether it’s a backpacking trip or vacation to Disneyland it is important that I have a plan.  Pulling out the map I can identify places where I can get water, camp for the night, and see a great view.  On the way to Disneyland knowing what the flight times are and which hotel we are going to stay at is an important part of the trip.  How we get from point A to point B keeps me on track and focused in one direction.  For many of us removing the clutter and confusion from the journey makes it more meaningful and effective.
When we set our goals that lead us to our Vision we are setting way points that allow us to see the journey to the end.  The goals are the way that we see intermediate success that keep us moving in the right direction.  Even with set backs and challenges, when we set goals we can realize our vision.
So how are you going to get there?  You need to know where you are going first.  Identify your vision and share it with someone.  Figure out your mission that gets you to seeing your vision become real.  Then set a few goals that are relevant to getting there.
In Scouting we teach the use of SMART tools.  The goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time based.  We will go into that in greater detail in a later post.  To illustrate the point of SMART tools though we can use a trip to the moon.
To get to the moon we need to set goals.  One goal may be to build a rocket ship.  We know when it is done when we can see a Rocket that is ready to launch.  It is a task that is attainable in that we have the smarts, technology, and materials to build the rocket.  The relevance of rocket is that we need it to get to the moon.. we can’t walk or drive there.  And we set a time line for when it needs to be finished.  Going to McDonalds would not be a good goal to getting to the moon.. it is not Specific or Relevant to the mission.
Think about John F. Kennedy when he shared his vision of getting to the moon.  He was dealing with “metals and materials that have not been invented yet”.  It was still attainable as it set the course for discovery.  It forced NASA to work to the vision by setting goals and a mission to set up the conditions to get to the moon.
So how are you going to get there?  Goal setting to support your mission.
Here are more questions from our 20.. as we get closer to number 20 you should start seeing a vision coming to life.

13. What can I do best that would be of worth to others?
Be a good example of living the Scout Oath and Law.. this is a daily chore.  Teach skills, outdoor, leadership, and continue to build character in our young men.
14. What talents do I have that no one else really knows about?
At times I have a rough exterior.  Not sure if it is talent, but I am very thoughtful in that I like my quiet time and reflection.  A talent that I have that may go unknown is that I studied Speech pathology in College and did two internships in speech therapy clinics.  Not sure that is talent either.. but it used to be a passion of mine.  Money got in the way though and changed my course in life.
I am pretty transparent.  What I am talented in is pretty much visible and known.
15. If there are things I feel I really should do, what are they?
I need to focus on the things that are most important to me and my family.  I need to wear less hats.  I need to prioritize better.  I need to write more.  I need to be more deliberate in how and what I teach the Scouts of the Troop.  I need to take a look at my original ticket from 2005 and rekindle some of the goals I had then and see if I can get closet to my vision.

Your road map to your vision starts here.  I hope that you are beginning to see a picture forming.  Are you seeing who you are and what you want your future to look like.  Are you looking at this through a Scouting lens or a personal lens.  At some point those two paths will.. must cross.  Is your journey taking shape?
Keep going.  Don’t give up.  We have 5 more questions to go.

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!

Gloves for Winter Camping

Gloves are an important part of your winter gear.  If you are like me, your hands and your feet are the most important part of staying warm.  Once my hands and feet get cold.. that’s it.. I want to go home.
So I keep my hands and feet warm.  The way I do that is by using a layering system.
Three things that gloves do, 1.  Keep your hands dry.  2.  Keep your hands out of the wind.  3.  Keep your hands warm.
Here is a video I shot some time back showing my glove system.  Even though it is a little old.. these are the gloves that I still use today.  Once you get a good system and spend the money on good gear, you will have it for a long time.
Remember.. It is easier to stay warm than to get warm!
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!