Every unit has a method of tracking their Scouts. Advancement, activities, special awards etc. There are software programs and online resources for tracking, even an Excel spreadsheet can be used. But I want to introduce you to a real cool way of tracking your unit. Scoutbook.com.
Before I go any further, I should say in full disclosure that my unit does not use Scoutbook.com…. yet. I was made aware of Scoutbook.com recently and thought I would review it and let you all know about some of the great features it has. I should also say that as a Scoutmaster, I rarely get involved in any of this, but with Scoutbook.com your committee will be very happy to have such an awesome tool at their finger tips.
At first look I love the interface. The ease of the program. It is clean and requires no hunting to find what you are looking for. Second thing that you notice right away is that the Scout has some responsibility for his advancement in this program. Just like their Scout handbook, the Scout himself now has the ability to track and maintain parts of his record keeping. Yes, he still needs to get the work done and Yes, he still needs to see the Scoutmaster or who ever signs the book. But with Scoutbook.com, he has everything at his fingertips electronically.
I remember Former Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzucca reminding us to take Scouting where the Scouts are. Well, 78% of our teens have cell phones, and not just cell phones, but smart phones. So put this tool in their hands and see if they get excited about this part of Scouting.
I love that Scoutbook.com is on “The Cloud”. Pretty much the world that we live in. The ability to have data on your tablet, phone, computer or other device is critical these days.
Ok, So the Committee has a role in this, the Scout has a role in this, and the leaders all have roles in this. It is a total package deal. Constantly updated to meet all of the BSA requirements, linked to ScoutNet, and easy to use.
As a leader, you can track and maintain your training records. I am sure that the Training chair on your committee would love for your help on that.
Printing Blue cards is a snap also.. right from your device.
Merit Badge counselors can track the Scout and report percentages of complete to the committee in real-time.
For the leader, you can track multiple Scouts with just a few clicks. Monitoring those first year Scouts sometimes can be chore. But using the tools in Scoutbook.com they have been made easy and right at your finger tips.
Troop Committees can print beautiful reports and even the 34403 form to purchasing awards and advancement for your next Court of Honor.
Scoutbook.com is 100% secure and allows the unit to decide who gets what access. The Scout, the Leaders, Merit Badge Counselors, and the Committee all have functions suited to them.
There are many features of Scoutbook.com that I can’t write about here, it would take pages on the blog.
If you are currently using other tracking software or online programs you may be able to transfer your data, but before you do, check out Scoutbook.com and see all of this for yourself. It is worth a look.
And here is something cool about Scoutbook.com… You can have it for a year free because you read my blog. The first 3 readers that send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask for the subscription will get an annual subscription to Scoutbook.com. You need to check out the website to see all of the benefits that come with this cool program.
I think it is a resource that you and your unit need to look into. Have a Great Scouting Day!
Mental toughness is a great leadership trait. It allows the leader to think clear and make good decisions. I recently ran into an article in Backpacker magazine that reinforced some of the leadership training that I learned early on in the Army and it applies real well in Scouting and out-door adventures.
Mental toughness is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced as a result the leader will be able to be a more effective leader.
First the leader needs to Set better Goals. Again, we turn to the SMART Goal method and make sure that our Goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. With those goals in mind as we prepare to lead a task or move a group from A to B we need to think about those contingency plans and risk management that go along with our goal. Clear goal setting is the map that leaders use to guide those they lead.
Second the leader must Monitor his self talk. Are your thoughts Purposeful, Productive, and giving yourself a chance for success. Remember that we talked about seeing success this week. Self talk needs to remain positive. It has been found that when the leader doubts himself or has a negative internal talk he will see those thoughts through. On the other hand a confident leader with a positive internal monologue will set his mind in motion for positive outcomes.
Third the leader needs to Control the Controllables. That is to say that you must wrap your arms around that which you can control and not worry about that which you can not. You will never be able to control the weather for example. You can plan for it, prepare for it, but you can not control it. You can control the skills and shape the conditions for your desired outcome. Stay focused on the things that you have control over. The number one thing that you control is your attitude and your ability. Having a positive attitude and the right skills are leadership traits that will give you more control over those that you lead. Do not misunderstand the use of control here. We are discussing the idea of control of situations, skills, and attitude. Not dictatorship style controlling of people.
And finally, the fourth thing to build mental toughness is Combat Catastrophic Thinking. This goes along with the self talk, but takes it a step further. Keep your mind from falling into the pit of worse case scenario thinking. Worrying about what can happen does not matter. Keeping it from happening using sound judgement and thinking about the risk and managing that risk is far more important than worrying about the worst cases.
I have seen leaders that get caught up in this trap and once they start with the “We will never make it” scenarios they adopt the idea that it is true. This attitude is contagious and will spread. This is critical when backpacking. The blame game starts to surface and one bad decision will lead to another.
Mental toughness is that attitude that “I am a leader and I will be successful”. It comes with confidence, practice, and when the leader realizes that the power of the mind is often greater than the power of the body.
The Scout Oath says to be mentally awake. Develop the mind to be mentally tough. We saw this at Philmont over and over again either in our crew or in other crews at the many camps we passed through. A Scout would give up on himself. He could go no further.. according to his mind. He could make it, but he was mentally weak. A 14 mile day on the trail is just 14 miles. You can do it when you set your mind to it. You can be the leader that inspires others to make it when you set your mind and attitude in the right direction. You can be the best cheerleader by putting one foot in front of the other and a smile on your face. No need to yell or cheer. Just encourage by your actions and mental toughness.
I once hiked with one of our newer Scouts. We had gone four and half miles and had four more to go to get into camp. He stopped on the trail and threw his pack to ground proclaiming that he would walk not one more step. I told him that it was fine with me and took my pack off and joined him on the ground. He was mentally finished. Video games had got the best of him and he did not want to finish.
I talked with him about our options. We could walk back to the cars almost five miles away, or we could push to camp four miles away, but either way we would have to hike out of there. The benefits of getting to camp were greater than going back to the car. Food, relaxing, and hanging out with his buddies versus going home without success, better known as being a failure. He looked around and saw that he was the only one not willing to move forward and the decision became easier for him to make. We got into camp and never had another issue with him.
To many people these days fear mental toughness. They think it is a trait of a bully or tough guy. It is a trait of leadership and one of being a man. We want to develop both leadership and manliness in our Scouts.
Something to think about in working with your leaders. Have a Great Scouting Day!
The 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!
One 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!
When I went to Wood Badge in 2005 I was introduced to a goal setting and achieving process called “The Ticket”. The term comes from an old British Army practice of earning a ticket home. British soldiers that were assigned afar would begin working their ticket closer and closer to England, through assignments, favor, and of course money. The mission was to get home and each goal that was accomplished got them closer and closer to home.
Wood Badge adopted this system in name to teach and make real the process of achieving goals. Understanding ones Vision and clearly articulating that vision in project planning, no matter the size or scope. It can be a vision for a group or a personal vision, the process is the same.
Once the vision is clear and you understand your mission, it is time to get to the work of achieving that mission… getting what you want.
In Wood Badge, you are required to come up with 5 goals that directly support you mission. Those goal have to be specific to the mission. When you narrow your focus the parts of the mission become more clear and like eating an elephant, those bit size chunks become doable. That which you measure you accomplish. If you are trying to lose weight and you step on the scale daily, you are more than likely to lose the weight. You will be motivated to see that number go down. So your goals must be able to be measured, in other words how do I know it’s working or being accomplished. Your goals must be attainable. An unattainable goal is one that will never get done. You will get discouraged and failure will drive you away from accomplishing your mission. And your goals must be relevant and timely. Keep it to the task and set a completion date. Knowing when you are going to be finished and knowing that what you are doing is getting you closer to your goal gives you hope that you will accomplish your mission.
That is goal setting 101, and the system really works.
Since 2005 and the completion of my ticket for Wood Badge, I have written many tickets. We have used them in our family to look at our finances. We have used them to complete home projects. We have written them for our Troop and at work. But like anything else it takes “want to” and “stick to” to get them done. The tools really make it “easy to” and once you see that you can accomplish what you set out to do, you are successful.
As you may have noticed I have written a ticket for this blog. I want to make it better and what better way to do that than to work a ticket. You can follow that ticket here. You will notice that I made all of you my “Troop Guides” so you are my accountability partners on this. And I thank you.
Try writing a ticket for yourself. January is a great time to write one to achieve one of your New Years resolutions.
Let me know how that is going, I’ll be your Troop Guide to. Have a Great Scouting Day!
Last night at our Troop meeting I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of super enthusiastic Webelos. They came to the meeting to wrap up their Arrow of Light requirement of participating in a Scoutmaster Conference.
During the course of our discussion, we did it as a group, I talked about the Scout Oath and Law and gave them some pointers for not only knowing how to say the Scout Oath, but how to remember the promises you make in saying the Oath and living it daily.
I explained to them the three promises.
Duty to God and Country. It is important to always remember our Duty to our God and this great Country of ours. Our God that has blessed us and continues to pour out his love for us. No matter how you view that God or by which name you call him, he has given us so much and we need to remember our Duty to love him and serve him with all of our Heart, our Soul, and our Mind. And this Country, no matter what your political slant is is a Country that is free. A Country that still values Liberty over all. It is our Country that we call home and we need to serve it where and how we can.
Duty to Other people. We pledge to help other people at all times. We need to be of help in our community, our home, and everywhere that we have an opportunity to make a difference. It is when we have a Duty to others that we learn to live with an attitude of selfless service.
And finally, our Duty to our Selves. To keep ourselves Physically Strong, Mentally awake, and Morally Straight. When we remember our promise to ourselves we can be a better person for others. Staying strong, fit, we can be an example of wellness and enjoy a life without the burden of illness. Being mentally awake we continue to learn, to sharpen our skills, and to be aware of the needs around us. And to be morally straight keeps our internal compass of right heading the way that makes us the people of Character that we are. It guides us to do the right thing at all times. Those three promises can be found in the Scout sign, a daily reminder to live the promises that we make each time we say the Scout Oath.
We say the Oath aloud each Monday night at our Troop meeting, this is an accountability measure. We all hear one another say the Oath and we hold each other to the promises that we make. Have a Great Scouting Day!
So 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!