teamwork

Horse and Cart

horsecartYou can look at a good Scout Troop like a horse and cart.  The horse has to be strong and steadfast.  The horse has to be trained so as not to buck and run when it’s not supposed to.  The horse works as a part of a team and each pulls it’s share of the weight so the load of the cart can be pulled over the long haul.
The horse represents your adult volunteers.  They need to be trained to understand the Scouting program and what their role is in it.  The adult volunteer needs to appreciate the aims of Scouting and move the unit in the right direction.  Adult volunteers need to be steadfast and keep in mind that the unit is bigger than one person.  They need to know that what they do today will have a lasting impact on the units future.
The cart is the units program.  It can be as full as you want or as empty, but the cart is always moving behind the horse.  The program of the unit is the reason for the horse to be there.  It is the “Why” of Scouting.  The Aims, the Methods, and the thing that keeps the boys coming back for more.  The cart can be loaded heavy as long as it has good horses to pull it.
And what drives the horse and cart?  The youth.  Youth leadership makes the horse and cart go.  It holds on to the reigns and steers the team.  It is their cart.  They get to decide how much or how little gets put in.  They are taught to lead the horse team and see the benefits of what is in the cart.  A good horse, cart, and driver make for a good Scout Troop.  When the elements work together, are trained, and understand how it all works together there is no where the unit can’t go.  There is nothing it can not do.
The cart can not be put before the horse, the horse can not function without the driver, and the driver has not purpose without the horse and cart.

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!

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!

Cold Weather Camping 2015

>The harder the challengeCamping in the cold is adventurous and fun.  It poses challenges and requires more training to ensure a safe, fun time spent in the winter camping.
I love cold weather camping, it is perhaps some of my favorite camping.  Since becoming a Scoutmaster, I have taken pride in sharing that love of winter camping with the Scouts of my Troop.  On average, we camp about 3 times a year in a cold weather environment.  We have been very successful during these camp outs because of the training that we do before the outing.
So what do we do to make our winter outings successful? Training, accountability, and skills development.
Training.
Cold weather camping all starts with good training.  We have a rule, not a policy, that if a Scout does not attend all of the training he does not go on cold weather camp outs.
We do this simply for safety.  The safety of the scout and his buddies.  Any high risk activity requires training above and beyond your typical camping skills.
Cold weather injury prevention takes a good portion of the training.  We teach the Scouts first how to prevent cold weather injuries.
Developing the skills of the Scout to prepare for camping in the cold, identify those symptoms of cold weather injuries and then treatment.  It should be noted that as stated we average about three cold weather camp outs a year as a Troop, and when I refer to cold weather camp outs, I am talking about sub freezing temperatures.  For the past ten years we have been using this training plan and have never had a cold weather injury.  I suppose I should pay respect to my Scouting friends in Alaska and Minnesota.. we do not get the temps you all get and I would think you all have similar training programs.  Cold weather injuries are cold weather injuries no matter where you are.
Subjects under the topic of cold weather injuries include; Hypothermia, Frost Bite, Chill Blains, Frost nip, snow blindness, and immersion foot.
We move on from injuries to layering and proper wear of clothing.  We discuss how and when to layer up or down and the right clothing for the outing.  When it comes to clothing, we teach that it is easier to stay warm than to re-warm.  The idea that re-warming takes time and energy that you may want to save.
Clothing plays a major role in Cold weather camping.  Not just a lot of clothing, but the right clothing.  Moving from cotton shirts that keep moisture on the body thus cooling you, to synthetic shirts that wick the sweat away from you.  Jackets that insulate as well as protect from the elements.  A layering system that allows you to move as well as stand around.  Gloves that work for completing camp tasks as well as keeping your fingers, hands, and wrist warm.
Hats that warm and protect from wind while keeping your head dry.
There is a lot more that goes into developing your clothing list.  Keeping in mind that you still have to carry it in your pack, bulk plays a part in your packing list.  Extra socks are always a must, consideration needs to be made as to when you are going to change them, where you carry them, and how many do you need.  A thick pair of wool socks to sleep in may be packed in with your sleep system while your smart wool socks worn for hiking and moving around camp may be packed on top for easy access.
If you are like me, once your feet get cold, I am cold.  So maintaining warmth by frequent changing of socks is a must for me.
Part of the training program is a discussion of using existing gear.  Using a three season tent  to stand up to heavy snow and winds.  Adding a layer in a sleeping bag to give an additional ten degrees of warmth.  And how to make your stove the most efficient it can be in the cold.
A big area of our preparation for cold weather camping is the matter of accountability.  This is a touchy subject for some, but it is a matter of safety and therefore non negotiable.  A Scout must attend the four meetings leading to the first winter camp out.  This way he gets the training required and has an opportunity to work with the rest of the troop on the skills needed for winter outings.
Being accountable to one another is an important part of this process.  The Scouts are accountable to one another.  When they understand that they can not have a “me” attitude, they start to pay close attention to what their buddy is doing and how they are a member of that team.  We teach that cold weather injury prevention is a leaders responsibility.  Leadership and Discipline are the two key components in cold weather camping.  Leaders that care for their patrols will keep an eye on them.  They will watch for the signs of cold weather issues.  They will keep their patrol motivated an on task.  They start building that high performance team with the understanding that they are all in this together.  It takes the whole patrol watching out for each other, pitching in with camp chores, set up, take down, meal prep, etc. that makes the experience one they won’t forget.
When we talk about accountability we need to ensure that the Scout understands that he is an important part in the safety of his buddy and himself.  Most Scouts will go through their Scouting life following the leader.  Cold weather camping forces the issue of leadership on each Scout.
Accountability starts with the Scout being required to attend the meetings and training.  If the Scout fails to attend the required meetings and training the result is the Scout not being able to attend the outing.  When it comes to this we stand firm.  Training and developing the required skills are important, when a Scout does not get the training, he is setting himself up for a possible injury or at least increasing the risk of himself and his buddies.
The Scout is accountable for his attitude.  A lack of enthusiasm for the outing or having a negative attitude is not a good fit in the group dynamic in the cold weather environment.  Being able to keep that positive outlook is important.  You will need it when the conditions seem to be fighting you and you feel as though the task is out of hand.  Understanding that you can and will get through the conditions is mostly in your attitude.
We will leave this discussion right here for now… we will pick up with the skills discussion in our next post.
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Have a Great Scouting Day!

COLD WEATHER TIP

Warm up socks and boot insoles by keeping them in the sleeping bag next to you.

The Little Stuff

bsa-tentOne of the big misconceptions in leadership is that the leader needs to worry about the big stuff.  Yes, the leader has to know or have vision and that requires a look from the 1000 foot view, but when it really comes down to leading, it is the little stuff that matters.  The little things that make all of the big things happen or lead to big success.
Lets go back to our example we have used here of “The Tent”.
When we set up our tent there is but one correct way to set it up.  As a leader to ensure that the tent is set up correctly a look at the details, the little stuff, is important.
Is the footprint extended beyond the flap of the tent?  If so, it’s wrong.
Are the stakes in so that it will actually hold the tent down?  Stakes improperly placed will allow for the tent to be unstable, not tight, and ultimately not serve their purpose.
Is the vestibule staked out properly?  Are the vents open or closed dependent on the conditions?  Is the tent located in a good position to leave no trace?  Out of the elements?  In low ground?
Are the guy lines being used properly?
Are the storage bags put away or just blowing all over the camp site?
Is the rain fly on correctly or inside out?
Is the door facing away from the wind?
Is there food in the tent?
Is the gear stored properly (not in the tent)?
You see there are a list of little things that go into setting up a tent.  Multiply that by the number of guys in the Patrol and how many tents are set up and you have a lot of little things to look at.  When all of those little things are done right, everything tends to fall into place.
This habit of doing all the little things right will lead one to doing everything right.  Once the standard has been set, it is something that becomes routine.  Leaders check and recheck and inspect what they expect to see.
They first teach the skill, the task, or the method and then hold those that they are leading accountable.  Doing it over is an option.  Not correcting something that is wrong is not.  That to is perceived as a little thing.
I have heard over and over that “well.. that really doesn’t matter”, “they are just kids”, “give it a break, it’s only a weekend”…  It all matters to leaders.  There are standards for every task and when they are done right, all of the big things are right also.  All of the little things matter to make the big things work.
There is no room for lowering the standard, when that happens it to become habit and that is when things go wrong.
This example works for every task our Scouts are asked to do.
There is a reason we have our Scouts earn their Totin’ Chip before they are allowed to use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  The Totin’ Chip program introduces the standard.  The consequence for not performing to that standard is the inability to participate using a knife, saw, or ax.
When we allow the little things to slide we set our selves and those we lead up to be unsuccessful.  Mainly because they will tend to do more and more wrong.  Once the idea that everything is expected to be done right is accepted, and the leader makes sure that the little things are constantly being checked, you will see success in the big things.
So how do we make that happen?  Training and accountability.
This last weekend we conducted Junior leader training with all of the older Scouts in the Troop.  Since we have been having some issues with leadership lately, I decided it was time to get back to basics.  The Senior Patrol Leader had the Troop pack up everything on Saturday morning.  The days activities started with the Troop splitting up, the younger guys went to shoot shot guns and the older guys began their training.  We began with a discussion on packing a backpack the right way.  We demonstrated what right looks like and then made sure that every pack looked that way.  It was a lesson on attention to detail and not taking the easy way out.
Then we went on a little hike.  When we reached our first destination, the leaders were given the task to set up camp using leave no trace principles.  They set off to get camp set up.  I instructed the Scouts that when they were finished to come and stand by me.  Once they all were there, we talked about the little things and making sure all of the little things were right leading to the big thing (camp set up) being correct.  Each Scout had to go to a tent that was not his and stand.  Then one by one they instructed the group as to what was wrong with that set up.  Each and every tent had something that needed to be improved.  Corrections were made and then a second walk through happened.  This time everything was right and the Scouts could see the big picture.
After a quick reflection and discussion of the process, they were instructed to pack and move to a second location and do it again.  The same process happened the second time, this time with fewer mistakes.  Again corrections were made, this time including the use of the EDGE ™ method of teaching [Explain, Demonstrate. Guide, and Enable].  And pack it up again.  This time with a pause to inspect the packs to make sure they were packed right.  If it was not correct, do it again.  Reinforcing the idea that there is only one right way to do it and we will not settle for it being done wrong.
When the younger Scouts got back from shooting their Troop guide did this process with the new Scouts.  Packing and unpacking, setting up and taking down.  He made it a game having the Scouts race each other and in the process made it fun.  The new guys picked up on it right away.  I overheard the Troop guide explain to them that doing it right the first time will save them time and energy down the road.  There is only one right way of doing things right.
The focus is on the little stuff and making the little stuff matter.  Little things done right make the big things right.
When it comes to older Scouts and adults, modeling the expected behavior while doing the little things right and making sure that the little things are always done right will set you up to being an effective leader and leading a high performance team.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

How do You fix Lazy?

skillsHere is a question for you… How do you fix lazy?
I do not intend this to be a rant, rather a real look into why are people.. in particular.. some of our Scouts so lazy.  Yes.. I said Lazy, and if the shoe fits they need to wear it.
Well, Scoutmaster Jerry… you can’t call a boy out like that.. you may hurt their feelings… Really?  If you don’t want your feelings hurt, stop being lazy.  It’s really that simple.
Here is the situation.
We do a very good job of teaching skills.  As is the case in Scout Troops all over our Country, Scout leaders have vested interest in making sure that our Scouts are trained in skills, both life skills and those skills that can be applied in the great out doors.  In the case of my Troop, we have assembled a group of adult leaders that are the best.  That is a pretty lofty claim, but true.  We have multiple BSA certified Climbing instructors.  Multiple Wilderness First Aid trained and First Responders.  Medical professionals, skilled outdoors men.  Trained and certified trainers for extreme cold weather activities, etc. Avid backpackers with years of experience and mastered skill levels.  Leave No trace experts etc.  We  have made it a point to be over trained so the Scouts of our Troop will have the benefit of training that is current, relevant,  expert, and will ensure that the Scout will gain the most of his Scouting experience.
Now, before I go on.. YES, we are YOUTH LED… BUT…
As you all know there are times that Adults with know how need to step in and not lead, but train.  The Scout leadership is still leading and teaching basic skills, but when it comes to high risk activities it is important that Adult instruction from those that are qualified, skilled, and trained need to do the teaching.
So, we have assembled this great group of skilled folks that know what they need to know and are willing to teach and provide mentoring as the Scouts develop their skills.
I suppose it is worth mentioning that a Scout joins our Troop knowing what he is getting into.  It is also fair to point our that we do not push participation.  A Scout will get out of Scouting exactly what he puts into it.  If a young man makes the choice to not participate, well then he will get that experience out of Scouting.  On the other hand, if he makes the choice to fully immerse himself in the experience, he will have an outstanding experience while a Scout and more likely than not carry that with him the rest of his life.
We are what we are we are not going to change that based on Lazy.  We have made it a point to never cancel based on outside of Scouting choices.  We encourage our Scouts to be active outside of Scouts also and we know that there are certain outings that lend themselves to less participation, but we will not cancel those based on the interest level of some of the Scouts taking away that opportunity for others.  We would rather go with 5 that are totally into it than 40 that are not.
On one hand we preach that this is the Scouts Troop, and yes that is the case.  They are the Scouts that made the choice years ago that they wanted to be a high adventure unit.  And that is what we became.  That is why boys join our Troop.  Then some realize that we expect more from them individually than perhaps their School teacher do or their parents.  We expect them to become self-reliant.  We expect them to pay attention and learn.  We expect them to develop skills and become proficient in those skills and at some point teach those skills.  We expect them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.  We do not think that this is too much to ask, and when parents bring their son to us, it seems that it is not too much for them either.  Parents by and large seem to like the idea that we expect much from their sons.
We see it over and over again though that some, not all, of our Scouts are just plain lazy.  It would seem that they would rather freeze to death and starve before they took a tiny bit of initiative to do the right thing.  They are trained, but have difficulty applying that training because they are too busy trying to take a short cut or allow someone else to do it for them.
They would rather be told 100 times to do something than just do it.  They would rather be cold and miserable than to apply the training that they have learned from some of the best folks around.  Simple things like keeping your gloves out of the snow or staying dry.  This is just plain lazy.
They would rather have Mom and Dad replace gear than take care of it.  They would rather crawl into their sleeping bag than learn new skills and develop their own level of expertise in those skills.  They would rather… well, I think you are getting the point.
I do not understand this way of thinking.  I do not understand Lazy.  Now before I get one comment that tells me that kids today are different from they were 20 years ago… JUST STOP.  They are no different.  The difference is not in the kid, it is in how they are raised in the world around them.  They have been wrapped in layer of bubble wrap and not allowed to explore.  They have been force-fed pills to calm them down, they have been sheltered because of the boggy man and Al Qaeda.   They are sat in front of a TV as a baby sitter and the world around them tells them that they don’t have to work for a living.  Don’t worry.. the Government will take care of you and the more ailments you can rack up the more Uncle Sam will take care of you.  You don’t have to get a good paying job, you can apply for hand outs.. so don’t work and you will be fine.  I don’t understand this thinking.  And it is happening.  Citizenship used to mean making a contribution, now it means waiting for one.
Are their legitimate ailments out there?.. sure there are.. but c’mon.. When you are a 13-year-old boy, you need to get out and at it.
Lazy is a habit.  It is formed early and reinforced often.  Here is the thing.  I don’t know how to fix it.  Well I do, but in the process I will lose Scouts and upset parents.  This is the issue I am dealing with.  How do I fix lazy and maintain Scouts and get them on board?  How do I do this and keep Mom and Dad happy?
I will be working on answers to this question.. I am curious as to what you have to say.
Please leave your answer to How to fix lazy in the comments section.  I want to know what you do.. or do you just allow it.  Either way.. share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Unit Culture

IMG_2059Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election.  Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership.  We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”.  When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders.  The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’.  At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow.  We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA.  I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now.  There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same.  A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout.  Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here.  Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap.  I asked why they think that is.  The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it.  If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee.  Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree).  Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire.  I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed?  Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look.  The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit.  New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture.  Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture.  Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled.  This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop.  They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp.  They like to show up with nothing but their packs.  This attitude is a big part of our culture.  It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from?  Well, certainly I had a part to play.  Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it.  As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other  adventurous activity.  It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are.  And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method.  The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring.  When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader.  They never stop hearing it.  The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”.  The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture.  More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session.  It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”.  Stuff that they just need to talk about.  To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust.  I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law.  Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here.  Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them.  That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence.  We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting.  We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program.  I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend.  That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is.  I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men.  I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous.  I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone.  I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times.  This has become our culture, this is our Troop.  I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell.  That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different.  My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it.   Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!