teamwork

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!

Come along side

presidentsYesterday we “Celebrated” Presidents Day… Not sure what that means, but lets go with it.  To me Presidents day is the day that we recognize two great leaders.  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  I think in their own right, those two Presidents did more to earn a day than any other in our history.  Just for starting a Nation and keeping one alone did they demonstrate great leadership.
There are essentially three kinds of leaders, those that Pull those they lead, those that Push those being led, and those leaders that come along side and walk with the follower.
It is a matter of effective leadership.  When a leader pulls the follower he will eventually get resistance.  Being pulled along is like trying to get a donkey to move when it does not want to go.  The struggle of getting those followers to move in the direction you desire will be difficult when people are pulled along.
Being pushed has the same result.  No one likes to be pushed.  We get the feeling of being forced to do something.  This will get push back to the leader and as a result he can not be effective.
We need to remember the aim of leadership… to lead.. to influence others to accomplish something.  Whatever that is.  Be it building a Nation or planning an outing, we lead to accomplish something and do it in a manner that is effective.
When we are the leader that comes along side and walks with the follower, the follower is now in a position that he does not feel threatened.   He feels that the leader is with him in the endeavor and not bossing him around.  The leader has a better perspective of what we called in the Army “Ground True”.  Meaning, what really is happening in a specific area.  The leader is with those he leads and not sitting high on a throne dictating what needs to be accomplished.  He walks shoulder to shoulder providing purpose, direction, and motivation to those being led.
That leadership style is effective.  Look at the great leaders in history and you will find that they came along side and were effective leaders.
So, as we “celebrated” Presidents day and as we think about those two great leaders in our history.  Think about leadership and how we are better more effective leaders.  Look at your Patrol Leaders Council and see what kind of leaders you have in your troop and see if they are coming along side and leading.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Leadership- Building Confident Leaders

leaderhipsketchThe other day I talked about the four “C”s that when added to the leaders tool box makes for ease in decision-making and better leaders.
I will add that when our young leaders start using the four “C”s they will also become Confident leaders.  Young leaders need practice to become confident.  Learning and finding success builds that confidence.
Making mistakes are a good thing.
I have heard confidence defined as the “Expectation of Success”.  I think this is a fair definition in that as a leader we are striving to achieve a goal.  Whether that is a person goal or a team goal, the mastering of a task or skill, or getting from point A to point B.  The leader expects to achieve success.
Making mistakes to achieve that success is ok when lessons are learned and there is time to evaluate and make corrections.  Mistakes that are uncorrected or allowed to be swept under the rug are just mistakes and a waste of time and energy.  Further more they do not built confidence in leaders as they do not see that success when they fail to learn from their mistakes.
So when our goal as Scoutmasters is to build confident leaders we need to watch for those mistakes and coach them through the recovery.
When a Quarterback throws an interception he is often greeted by the coach as he comes to side line.  The QB failed to achieve the goal of completing the pass.  He failed to achieve the goal of moving the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown.  The coach has a choice to make.  He can discuss the play with the Quarterback and refocus his vision of success or he chew him out.  I would submit that while the Quarterback let the team down by throwing the pick, he will recover faster and make fewer mistakes if coached on mechanics of the pass, what he saw down field, or maybe even communicating better with his receiver.  The point is there are many things that the coach may have seen that the QB did not as the Defensive End came busting around the Tackle.  It is the coaches responsibility to build that confidence back up in the player.  The coach has a bigger perspective of the game and can assist in getting the Quarterback back on track by teaching him and not chastising him.
Having said that, there is room in certain situations for a good hard lesson.  I have said it many times, I care less about how you feel and more about how you act.  I would never advocate belittling or bringing a Scout down.. remember that the goal here is to build confidence.  If a leaders decision was such that it caused harm or moves away from the values found in the Oath and Law, the discussion is a bit different.  Always in the spirit of teaching and learning, but not such that the leader feels like he got away with something.
Confident leaders make consistent good decisions.  Part of that decision-making is in how the leader, by being confident builds confidence in those he leads.  The most important thing that leaders can do is show confidence in other people.
This in turn leads to leaders that show initiative.  Initiative is power.  Power to act, Power to make decisions, and Power to take advantage of opportunity.  This is when real leaders begin to shine.  This is where you see the confidence built-in your young leaders.  This is where you start to build that leadership trait in future leaders.  When the younger Scouts see their leaders show initiative and confidence it sends the message that it is ok to step up and lead.
It all begins with that vision of success.  Clear goals, personal and as part of the team.  Building confident leaders is the responsibility first of the Scoutmaster.  When that happens you have a Troop that can lead.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Leadership – Teaching Opportunity

IMG_1978One of the main functions of the Scoutmaster is to train the Junior Leaders, in particular, the Senior Patrol Leader.  I take this responsibility serious and am in a constant mode of looking for opportunities to train the Scouts to be better leaders.
Most of the training is informal and as we find ourselves in opportune times where a lesson has presented itself.  What I have found is that, first, our Scouts really don’t know what they don’t know, and second, they don’t look for opportunities to learn and train others.
Now that is a pretty lofty statement, let me explain what I mean.. here is the training opportunity.
Teen age boys typically look for the easy way out.  They find the path of least resistance, which in turn puts them in challenging leadership roles.  They typically want to just get along and resist confrontation when it comes to being a leader.
Whether it is because the Scout lacks confidence or leadership skills they find themselves in situations that often times leave them feeling unsuccessful.  This is where a good tool box full of good leadership tools comes in.
I had a discussion the other night with a Patrol leader.  He feels like no one really wants to listen to him.  So, asking a few leading questions we took a look at his leadership style and gave him tools to make it better.
First, the leader needs to understand who he is leading and why he is leading.  Is it a specific task that needs to be accomplished or just general leadership within the confines of a Patrol?  The leader needs to look for opportunities to be “the man”.  Here is what I mean by that… Leaders are not Bosses.. but leaders are the “go to” guys that people want to follow.  The leader become “the Man” when he can display in his leadership the 4 “C”s.
Courage, Candor, Competence, and Compassion.
Courage.  It takes Courage to be a leader, especially a leader of Scouts.  You will not always make popular decisions and you may be put in situations that pit you one against another.  The Leader with Courage will always do what is right and the right thing for the good of his Patrol, or Troop.
Candor.  Tell it like it is.  Tell the Truth and never shy away from the truth.  If a member of the Patrol is acting in the wrong way or not doing a skill correctly, don’t be afraid to hurt their feelings, tell the truth.  We as leaders need to worry less about feeling and focus more on actions.  Actions or the way we act and do things are far more important than feelings.  A leader that demonstrates candor is respected and shows his good character.
Competence.  No one wants to follow a leader that does not know what the heck they are doing.  Following a lost leader gets the whole group lost.  To build competence the leader must keep learning and testing themselves.  Sharpening skills and looking inward at their decision-making.  Constantly working to fill the tool box.
And Compassion.  We lead people and manage equipment.  Being that leader that cares about those that they lead grows confidence in the follower.  When we genuinely care about making those around us better, they see it and start to build a better relationship within the team.  When we care about teaching them and showing them the right way to do anything, we make them better.  When we care enough to model expected behavior, those that we lead will follow and show that behavior back to us.
Taking the four “C”s and putting them to use will make the leader better and keep him focused.
The four “C”s also give the leader a simple set of standards so he can focus on what is important in his Patrol.  My Patrol leader did not think that his patrol listened to him.  So I asked the simple questions; What are you saying and How are you saying it?  Do you come at your Patrol competent and compassionate?  We discussed a missed opportunity that he had over the weekend camp out.  A simple task of cooking a meal could have been a million dollar lesson to his patrol in skill and fun.  That patrol was cooking venison steaks.  The missed opportunity was how they cooked them.  A little bit of prior planning on the Patrol leaders part could have made him “The Man”.
Cooking steaks over an open fire would have made a bigger bang within the patrol, rather, they cooked on a frying pan and used up lots of cooking utensils and time.  The Patrol leader missed the opportunity to get his younger Scouts involved in the process and about 10 minutes into the ordeal of cooking, he lost them.
It was a great opportunity that was lost because he took the path of least resistance.
“The Good Idea Fairy”
I have listened in on many Patrol meetings.  Most Patrol meetings end in frustration when members of the Patrol do not feel that they are being listened to.  Sometimes the Patrol Leader needs to let the Good Idea Fairy be heard.  Jotting down an idea or two and seeing how they can be worked into the plan for the next event.  Maybe cooking over the open fire came up, but was dismissed by the leader.  When the leader lets those ideas happen they get buy in from those that they lead.
Always look for that Teaching Opportunity.  They are always there and we as Scoutmasters need to be on top of it.   Allow the situation to run its course and then sit down with the Patrol Leader or other leaders and ask those leading questions that get them thinking beyond the path of least resistance.
Scouts are looking for that challenge and they want to be challenges.  They just don’t know what they don’t know and you know… sometimes they are afraid that we are going to say no to them or shut down their great ideas.  Go with it.  We need to use those four “C”s also.
If it is not unsafe, unethical, or not outside of the Scouting program.. say Yes and let them find that learning opportunity.  You will be the man when you keep learning and growing in your leadership also.
Almost everything we do in Scouting will come with a teaching opportunity.  Find it and share it.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Conflict Resolution

myway_yourwaySo who here has a perfect Troop?  A group of Scouts that get along with no issues?  A unit that has a culture of absolute peace and harmony?
Yeah?  If you have that Troop, please let me know what side of Utopia you live on and I will come and check that out.. I certainly have some things to learn.
For those of you that live on our planet and work with Boy Scouts you know that at some point you will be dealing with problems.  Personal issues and friction among the Scouts.
The BSA includes a block of instruction dealing with Conflict Resolution in the NYLT or JLT sessions.  Yes, I know that there is no longer a program called JLT, but many units still run their own Junior Leader Training sessions as part of their annual plan.
The Boy Scouts train our Scouts to use the Key word EAR.   Express, Address, and Resolve.  Those are great to remember when Scouts get into sticky situations with one another.  Again, I still have lots to learn, but feel some what qualified to speak on conflict resolution.  I have been married for over 20 years, raised 3 kids, and have been a Scoutmaster now for 10 years.
I have come up with a few general rules of my own for resolving conflict.
1.  Calm Down.  When tempers are flaring and the parties are upset the best thing to do is calm the situation down.  Separate the folks involved and get them, and everyone around to calm down.  No conflict will be resolved when the blood is still up.
2.  Listen.  Both sides of the story need to be heard.  Spend more time listening and less time judging.  Give both parties time and attention.  More times than not there is no one right or wrong side of the issue.  Typically it is a personality issue or and issue of who’s idea gets picked.  Listen.  I have seen the issues work themselves out just because they talked and I listened.
3.  Focus on Behavior.   Behavior is the key to the direction that conflicts go.  Never allow the behavior to turn bad because of the conflict.  The Oath and Law are great guides in directing expected behavior.  Reinforce that behavior is more important than feelings.  How we act is more important than how we feel.  In the end our behavior will impact how we feel, so if we control our behavior and keep it within the values of the Scout Law, we need not worry about feelings.
4.  Shake and look ’em in the eye.  Each conflict needs to have an end.  A hand shake and look in the eye is the final point.  Once that happens there can be no more issues.  Those are the rules.  Don’t shake and apologize if you don’t mean it and there is still conflict.  It aint over till it’s over.   When it’s over.. Shake and look each other in the eye.
I have been using those simple ideas for some time now and find that it works great.  You have to be committed to working it through though.  Don’t allow the emotion of the conflict override the resolution.  Never allow the group to dictate or pick sides.  That turns nasty and in the end you will divide the unit with that type of behavior.
Remember that the resolution is for the good of both parties and the unit.  It’s not fixed till everyone has a sense of satisfaction in the resolution.
I hope that helps.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Thermometer or Thermostat?

thermostatThermometer or Thermostat which are you?
I had a lengthy discussion the other day with a hand full of Scouts.  We were talking about the way that if you want to, you can set the conditions in your life that will allow you to have the life that you want.  Let me explain.  For example, if you continue with your education, you will get better jobs.  If you surround yourself with good people, you will stay out of trouble.  If you manage your money well, you will have some when you need it.
So you are either a Thermometer or a Thermostat.
The thermometer is something that is effected by the temperature.  It is effected by the conditions and can do nothing about it.  It’s either hot or its cold.. or somewhere on the scale between, but the thermometer can not decide whether or not it’s going to be hot or cold, it just goes with whatever the conditions dictate.
There are a lot of people who are like that, they have no control over the conditions that life gives them.  They play the part of the victim and never seem to get ahead.  They are content with allowing the conditions dictate their behavior and the level of success that they have.   They rarely demonstrate initiative and are happy to allow others to make decisions.  They are rarely happy with the outcome, but that’s just the way it is.
On the other hand, there are those that are like Thermostats.  The thermostat is a device that controls the environment.  It can change the conditions.  Instead of being hot or cold, it changes the temperature to the desired comfort level.  It does not rely on the conditions, it makes new conditions.  People that are like thermostats do the same thing.  They create conditions for success.  They are not happy just going with the flow.  They lead themselves and others to a desired outcome.  They are rarely victims as they have the ability to change the conditions or adapt and use the conditions in their favor.
I was telling the Scouts that when I was a kid, I was small.  I was never a big jock.  I played sports but never really had the skill or body type to be real good at it.  But I tried.  My coach gave me a chance because I set the conditions to get on the field and play.  I worked hard.  I was in the chess club and sang in the choir also.  I was never bullied.  I never let myself become bullied.  Now, that is not to say that others did not try to bully me, I just would not allow it to happen to me.  I stood up for myself and never gave the bully the satisfaction of making me a victim.  When I went in the Army, again, I was small and light.  Everyone around me told me I could not do this or that.  I set the conditions to do what I wanted.  I became an Airborne Ranger to prove everyone wrong.  I got strong, smart, and tough and made the conditions around me work in my favor.  I did not allow the temperature dictate my comfort, I changed the temperature.
Every day I see people who fall into these categories.  I wonder what makes one pick one way or the other.  What I really can not understand is why anyone chooses being a Thermometer.   Just allowing everything around them to have control of their outcome.
As Scouts we need to be thermostats.  We need to set conditions for success.  In turn we can help those around us become successful.  We can set conditions to make the Scout Oath and Law a part of our daily lives.  We can choose to set the conditions to make our life worth living.
Think about it.. which are you?

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Camporee

Well, Camporee is over once again for another year.
Here are some thoughts on the weekend…
First and foremost I need to tell you that pride is just one word that comes to mind when it comes to how I feel about the boys of my Troop.  Now, you may be saying to yourself… yeah Jer.. You say that all the time.. and yes, yes I do, but this time it is a “Coming of age” kind of pride.
As you also know, our troop camps using a “Backpacking style” of camping.  We don’t have patrol boxes, we pack it in and pack it out, and we insist on boy leadership.  We teach our Scouts to be self-reliant and to think and do things for themselves.  Above all we have fun.
Our senior Patrol runs the Troop and is trained and guided to make sound decisions.  They are not always right and they certainly are not always popular, but in the end the Troop seems to meet its goals.
Maybe it’s me, but for more than a few years it seems that our Troop has been sort of black sheep within the district.  Until recently the only Troop that camped strictly using Backpacking methods.  This year we noticed that a few more Troops are adopting our style of camping.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages of being a backpacking Troop in a car camping district.
Super fast set up and take down and smaller footprint.  I think this one and cooking are the two things that other Troops can’t wrap their heads around.  We got into camp at about 7:30 PM.  Within an hour we were all set up and working on the gateway.. we will talk about the gateway later.  The camp site gets up quickly and allows for the patrols to get to the business of having fun.
This morning, the Scouts hit their typical Sunday routine.  They woke up and started packing.  Once packed, they cooked breakfast and finished camp chores.  The troop was pretty much ready to go, but given a set schedule for camporee made the choice to lolly gag around camp.  This is both a disadvantage and advantage.  Lots of time, and nowhere to go when it comes to waiting on the rest of the schedule.
Cooking and clean up is easy and not without a good meal plan.  A big misconception is that backpackers only eat freeze-dried cardboard.  Not so.  If you can cook it on a green stove, you can cook it backpacking and this was demonstrated all weekend as the boys cooked great meals
Lighter loads made for easy load out and pack up.  I figure this is where many Troops have a problem with the way we camp.  Immediately after closing ceremonies we were loaded in the cars and on our way home.  As we drove off we could see the “heavy Troops” still taking down camp and loading up the trailers.
Now, I don’t really have a problem with the car camping style.. it’s just not for me and certainly not for our Troop.  It is nice to wake up cook, clean up, pack and hike out.  Makes for happy Scouts that, at the end of a good weekend can look forward to easy tear down of camp.  A couple of our Scouts were talking with one of the troops next to us.  They reported that the Scouts were not happy that they had at least an hour of clean up, tear down, and then put away once they got home.  It is so much easier to load a bunch of backpacks into the truck and drive away.
To be honest, I find no merit in making the Scouts unhappy.
Our Troop never scores well on the camp site inspection, largely in part to the fact that the folks doing the grading don’t know what to look for.  They are looking for patrol boxes, watch stations, and tents that are all pitched in a row with even spacing and Canopies to cook under.  We don’t get scored high because our cook kits are put away after each meal and our food is hung in bear bags.  They don’t see the little bottle of camp suds that we use to clean our pots and mess kits and they are not used to seeing single person tents or tarp set ups.  So we have grown accustomed to just camping and having a fun weekend at camp o ree.  The Scouts don’t seem to mind that we don’t “win” each year, but it is clear that they have a great time.  That is not say that the Patrols don’t come away empty-handed.  Each year they show well in the events and always take home ribbons.  But as a total score, I am afraid that we won’t get the grand prize until the committee decides to grade backpacking troops fairly.  This is going to be an issue in the near future as more troops are adopting our style of camping.
We had a large group of Webelos camp with us this year.  A Troop guide volunteered to be their guide all weekend and he did a spectacular job.  I think of the 8 Webelos, we should get at least 6 of them to cross over into the Troop.  They are motivated and liked the way we camped and had fun.  The Dad’s that camped with us from the Webelos seemed to have a good time and were impressed with the way our boys ran the troop.  It was a good opportunity for them to see the Troops of the District all at once.  It was really good for us when they noticed a couple of troops that had the moms and dads doing all the cooking for the boys.  “That is not the way Scouting should be” said one of the Dad’s.  I could not help be agree.
Where are the judges when the Scouts are not doing their own cooking.. but hey to each their own.  That’s not how we do it.  Green Bar Bill is flipping in his grave.
Our Scouts did a great job this weekend.. Perfect, No… but perfect in the way we do Scouting.
We had a real fun time this weekend and like I said at the beginning.. I am proud of the Scouts of my troop.
Our Assistant Senior Patrol Leader got an opportunity to lead the Troop this weekend and continued to develop into a good leader.  He stepped up and did a nice job.  It was nice to work with him and teach him some leadership techniques.  Watching him apply them was rewarding for both him and I.  Real proud of him… he will be a great Senior Patrol Leader.
Our Senior Patrol leader was torn this weekend between the Venturing Crew that he is a member of and the Troop.  He did a fantastic job this weekend, but I could tell that he was torn when the Crew earned the Top spot for Crews this year.
Each Scout learned something this weekend and once again tested leadership and skills.  It’s those things that make me a proud Scoutmaster.
Have a great Scouting Day!