Maybe it’s that I am getting a little older. Could be that my mind tends to view things a little different with the kids growing and moving on with their lives. It may be that I have a clearer understanding of what is really important in my life. All of these things race through the mind and heart as I had hours and hours to reflect on life, keep my fire bright, and look to the future.
Scouting, the Order of the Arrow, Wood Badge… they all have a place in our hearts and minds. We pick and choose how we feel about them and they take on meaning in our lives, some greater than others and some more meaningful to each of us than others.
At the Rendezvous of the Order this year I got into a rather spirited debate about the Order of the Arrow and how some members do not get the most of the message of the ceremony, the meaning of membership, and of course the lack of some to uphold their obligation. It seemed that most youth can take it or leave it, it is just another part of Scouting, a part of the Scouting experience that they know is a bit more special, but at the end of the day, just another part of Scouting. I have watched as some Scouts do not fully grasp the meaning and the high ideals of the Order and on occasion I too have been that voice crying out for them to understand that it is more than just a club within Scouting. As an adult I tend to be more aware of the meaning with the hope that it all sinks in to these young men. I suppose I am one of those adults that want more from our boys.
Back at the Rendezvous I was one of the voices that expressed my concern about how Scouts are elected into the Order of the Arrow. Some units send everyone that meets the eligibility requirements, while other units select those that are good candidates to live the obligation. Looking ahead to a Scouts potential to be that example of Honored Camper-ship, a leader in Service, and one that will strive to uphold the obligation of the Order. Somewhere along the way Scouts get in to the OA and in some cases do not see the symbolism and meaning of membership.
Yesterday morning I was reassured about the Order of the Arrow when I completed my Vigil. I was welcomed to the fullness of the Order of the Arrow and in a discussion with a good friend of mine afterward, assured that this is where the separation of those that “get it” and those that don’t happen. Being called to the Vigil Honor is that affirmation that we do pledge to live the obligation and take it to heart and mind.
I do not say this with any intent to be arrogant or self-righteous. Simply that for those of us that do take this serious, it is nice to be among others that in their hearts and minds believe in the good that this Honor, this Order brings to our fellow-man. It is more than a club, more than ceremonies, more than camping… it is a life spent seeking the opportunity to be a leader in service to others. To be that example of service and a dedication to help other people at all times.
We serve to teach, we lead to serve, we serve to make our world a better place.
Ten hours alone in my mind and my heart was an overwhelming experience for me. I can share thoughts, but I will reserve the discussion about the Vigil so as not to ruin it for you.
Maybe it is that I am getting older, maybe a tad bit wiser. Maybe I think about the future, my kids, wife, and family. Maybe it is the lessons I try to impart on the young men of my Troop and the life that I try hard to lead. This organization offers so much in the way of finding yourself and giving you the tools and motivation, maybe the purpose to serve.
The more I sat and thought about why I was sitting in the woods, in the rain, tending to my fire, the clearer it all became. My steadfast purpose to be a better husband and father. To be a man who serves unselfishly. To be a leader that not just teaches, but models the way in which we want our young men to grow.
A rekindling of a fire that burns ever brighter today, the spirit of which will never grow dim. Even when the flame is not at its peak, the hot bed of coals glow from below keeping the fire burning.
I am Honored, and you know I do not throw that word around, to have been called to the Vigil. I have kept the Vigil and will keep it burning deep in my heart and mind to be shared.
I was given the name Schachachkatschimuin Wewingtonheet. Translated from the language of the Lenne Lanapi to Inspiring Story Teller. I think it fits. Have a Great Scouting Day!
We often talk about having all of our adult leaders trained. When we speak of training we are talking about the basics. Has the adult completed Youth Protection? Attended their Basic Course for the specific position? And according to the Boy Scouts of America, that’s pretty much a trained leader.
You are qualified to be an adult that delivers the promise of Scouting. Really.
Ok, now… everyone just take off your Scouting hat and put on your parent hat. Now you know nothing about Scouting except that your son wants to be a Scout. You know that Scouting is a great organization that reinforced those character traits that you are teaching at home and he and his friends enjoy going camping once a month. But who is this “Trained” leader? What qualifies him to take your son out into the woods?
A couple videos? An online training session and a “suitable for framing” print out certificate?
Oh, but maybe the leader has been to Wood Badge. So he knows the Boy Scout Program and is able to teach and reach his goals. He communicates well, but what of the skills he needs to take my kid into the woods.
My point here is this. In a world in which we bubble wrap our kids. We don’t let them stay out after dark, they can’t climb trees, drink from a garden hose, or in some cases even push a lawn mower.. we drop off our sons to people we don’t really know, they hop into their trucks and vans and drive away for a weekend in the woods.
Say that out loud and it is a bit creepy.
We trust that they know what they are doing with our kids. We hope to see smiles on their faces and that they are in one piece when they arrive back at the meeting hall.
Trust. That is what we have in our leaders. But it’s 2014 so what has he done to be trusted. What skills does he have to gain my trust. Who is this guy taking my kid into the woods?
I am a big fan of Boy Scout Training and take it a step further. I am on our district training team and teach the Scoutmaster basic course. I am a Wood Badge staffer and love to teach leadership.
So knowing what I know, I know that the Boy Scout minimum training is not enough to build that trust. But the leader that goes the extra mile and gets more training, now that’s the guy I want.
Not to toot my horn, or the horns our leaders in my Troop, but we respect that trust and that is why we all go the extra mile.
In our Troop, all the Assistant Scoutmasters are Wood Badge trained.
We have Certified Climbing instructors.
We have Certified Wilderness First Aid First Responders.
We have Wilderness First aid trained leaders.
White water rafting guides
Leave No Trace master trainers
Cold Weather camping experts
Everyone is CPR/AED trained
Everyone has done the supplemental training for Trek Safe, Safe Swim defense, Safety Afloat, and Climb Safely.
I know that I am missing something, the point is that we go out of our way to be over trained.
This is where the trust of the parents is gained and maintained.
It is an important part of protecting our youth and delivering the very best program to them.
So who is your Scout leader? Do you trust him or her with your son in the woods? Have a Great Scouting Day!
I can not remember where or who I heard this from, but I recalled a quote the other day that I thought was a good way of illustrating our job as Scout leaders and parents.
“We are not building roads for our children, we are building children for the roads.”
Essentially it is saying that we can lay out everything to make life easy for our kids or we can prepared them for the road of life, which we all know is not easy.
When I thought about this quote, it got me to thinking about some of the ways we discuss our Scouting programs. As you all know I am a fan of traditional Scouting and doing things the right way. I am not a fan of giving everyone a trophy and I know that not every Scout will be an Eagle Scout… nor should they be. If they have been properly trained in their young lives to work hard, then they will reap the rewards of hard work.
The road of life is difficult and only made easier by getting on it and traveling. Know that it is hard, but stay the course. The beauty of the road is that you get to pick your destination. You can pick the path of least resistance and when you get there you will find that it took you to a place a fewer rewards. You can get on the highway of success and its direction will lead you to the world of Success. But you need to know that there will be detours and pot holes, but if you negotiate them, you will be successful.
So as Scout leaders and parents we need to encourage our children to take that road and prepare them for the detours and pot holes. We do not need to drive them there with the knowledge of the location of the pot holes and hardships. You can build the road, nice and smooth. Pave it with gold and make it a fast lane for your child, but he will not get the most out of it and will fail to learn lessons along the way.
On the other hand, we can train him up to set a course, know how to go around a detour and take it slow on a pot hole filled road. He will learn and develop and by the time he gets where he is going he will be a man who you will be proud of.
Last night at Round table I had a little chat with a Scouter about Eagle Scouts. He made the comment that every Scout should be an Eagle Scout and that the sooner they get it, the better.
Again, I thought about the road. Did we build the road for the Scout or did we build the Scout for the road. I don’t know the answer in his particular case, but how many Eagle Scouts have we seen that are not prepared for the road. I personally can tell you that I have seen many. While I am proud of their accomplishment, I wonder if we as Scouters are not quick to reward and less enthusiastic to take the time and build that young man.
The road of life is a tough one. We owe it to our children and our Scouts to build them ready for the road of life. Have a Great Scouting Day!
I have spoken about the five principles of leadership that we use in our Troop to develop both our Junior Leaders as well as our Adult Leaders.
To recap, those five principles are Learn to Lead Yourself, Focus on the little things, Model Expected Behavior, Communicate Effectively, and Be a Servant Leader.
In this post we are going to focus on the first of these principles, Learn to Lead Yourself.
Simply put, if you can not lead yourself you can not lead others.
To illustrate this point we talk often about the way you act. You set an example of what you would like in those that follow you. You, as a leader can not get away with the “Do as I say and not as I do” philosophy of leading. It just does not work if you are trying to be a good leader.
The way in which you carry yourself, your habits,and your skills show the follower that you are a leader that is worthy of following.
You pack your pack correctly and assist others in getting theirs right.
You take your promise to live the Scout Oath and Law in your daily lives seriously. This is important in showing those you lead that you do not compromise in your values and you are consistent in the way you act and expect them to act.
Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman of IBM, said, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day-to-day to lead himself.”
Learning to Lead Yourself takes work. The learning part comes in developing those skills, attitudes, and habits that make you a better leader.
This means that you spend time in the study of leadership. It means that you take extra time to be trained in skills and develop methods of instruction to help others.
It means that you never stop learning, this becomes a habit. Once developed you long for more learning and skills development.
This goes for youth and adults alike.
I know many Scouters that will do training because they have to and I know Scouters that do training because they want to. They see value in adding to their skill sets in the bigger picture of how they deliver the promise of Scouting.
I also have seen this in our youth. Youth that seek more adventure and know that they must develop that knowledge base before they can execute certain skills and tasks. On the other hand, leadership is just a block to be signed on the way to Eagle Scout.
This concept of learning to lead yourself is nothing new. It has been taught for years by leadership guru’s and is a foundation of leadership development. It is a means of focusing on the leadership qualities that we need in order to be effective leaders. Think about what you want to see in a leader.
You want the leader to be Trustworthy. You want the leader to be reliable. You want the leader to be accountable. The leader should demonstrate integrity. Well, if those are the things that you want in a leader, you need to focus your learning, habits, and attitudes to becoming that person… that leader.
Like I said before, if you can not lead yourself, you can not lead other people.
So how do we learn to lead ourselves?
First. Find out who you are. What kind of leader are you? What habits do you currently have? What are your skill sets that contribute to your leadership?
These may be hard questions to answer. You may not like what you hear, either from yourself or others. Find a leader that you trust and appreciate. Ask them to assist you with these questions.
Second. Find out what skills you need to develop to be an effective leader. Make a list and a commitment to mastering those skills. Take extra training and opportunities to learn and practice those skills. Make changes in your habits and attitudes to get better at leadership and skills.
Third. Commit to be a life long learner. You need to always stay a couple of steps ahead of those you lead. Get out in front with learning, practicing, and sharpening your leadership skills. There is always something new and there are always way to improve. Perfection is a curious thing. It is something that can be seen, but moves farther away as you get closer. It forces us to get better. Shoot for perfection in leadership with the knowledge that I can not reach it, but the closer I get, the better I get.
Be patient but persistent. Stay focused on making yourself better and those that you lead will be better.
The first step in effective leadership is getting the leader right. That leader is you. Learn to lead yourself and you will be on your way to being an effective leader. Have a Great Scouting Day!
I have been giving this some thought lately, especially since becoming our Boy Scout Round table Commissioner. But Scouting is in the trenches. To use an overused cliché.
What I mean by that is this. Far to many units and unit leaders rely on the District and Council to make their program happen. I do not have a beef with our District or our Council, but it is fair to say that if I received nothing from them our Troop would still be fine.
Now, I understand that we need the Council and District, more so the Council to support Scouting in the area. We need the Council to maintain our wonderful camps and provide administrative services to us, but beyond that I don’t need the District or Council to provide my annual plan.
In a recent discussion I had with a couple Scouters that are knee-deep in the membership world of our Council and District we talked about why membership is dropping and why we (the Council and District) can not seem to build more Packs. Yes, I was talking Cub Scout stuff.
I dawned on me that the Council will never be able to build new Packs till they put their money where their mouth is and get into the trenches with.. yes… with local units. Scouting is in the trenches, in the community, not on a white board in an office.
We do not necessarily need more Packs, we need more strong Packs that can recruit. That will bring more Packs and more Scouts.
Now, on the other hand, there are unit leaders that are willing to just wait around for the District and Council to make that happen. They are satisfied waiting for Camporee or Webelos Woods to be their program. They are content with the idea that the Council will provide Merit Badge weekends or Fairs so their Scouts can put more on their sash. They are happy with the idea that Summer camp is a cookie cutter event and they never need to think out side of the box, but then wonder why their Scouts are bored and are leaving in droves.
Scouting is in the trenches, in the units. This is not an indictment on the Council or District. I am just saying that Units and Unit leaders need to know that Scouting is right where they are… not downtown at the Council office. Scouting is supposed to happen in the community, not from the Scout Executives office. Scouting is in the woods, youth led, and sustains itself through programs that are planned and executed at the Unit level.
Resources, administrative support, and fund-raising happens from above. We just do Scouting!
That is how Scouting will grow and prosper. Waiting on the Council or District is a bad practice and a sure-fire way to kill a unit.
In a world where membership numbers matter, this is where the rubber meets the road and Scouting Happens… In the trenches. On Monday nights at Troop meetings, in the living rooms of Den Leaders, at Pizza Parlors with Crew Presidents. Scouting happens in the trenches.
Don’t wait on the Council. Get out there and do Scouting where it matters. Have a Great Scouting Day!
At the end of every Troop meeting our Troop circles up, joins hands, and sings Scout Vespers followed by reciting the Scout Law. This has concluded our meetings for years and has become a great tradition in our Troop.
A couple of weeks ago a young Scout asked why we sing that particular song, since we are not really at a campfire. He thought it was odd that we say “as our campfire fades away” when we are in a meeting hall.
I explained to him, and then the Troop that we always have the spirit of the campfire in us. It is Scout Spirit. There is magic in every campfire and we carry that with us every day.
The campfire within us burns bright showing the world that we are Scouts.
And that is why we say the Scout Law after we sing the song. As the campfire fades we need to add more fuel to it to keep it burning. As we send the Scouts away from the meeting each week we rekindle in them their fire. We remind them that they have a fire burning in them and that they need to live that Scout Spirit using the Oath and Law as their Guide.
So we sing and remind one another of the fire inside each and every one of us.
This is a great tradition in our Troop. I hope your Troop has similar traditions that make Scouting not only fun but meaningful.
What are some of your Troop traditions?
Let us know.
Softly falls the light of day, As our campfire fades away. Silently each Scout should ask Have I done my daily task? Have I kept my honor bright? Can I guiltless sleep tonight? Have I done and have I dared Everything to be prepared?
Listen Lord, oh listen Lord, As I whisper soft and low. Bless my mom and Bless my dad, These are things that they should know. I will keep my honor Bright, The oath and law will be my guide. And mom and dad this you should know, Deep in my heart I love you so. Have a Great Scouting Day!
I have been receiving emails lately requesting information about leadership. I have been pretty heavy on the leadership subject matter as of late. New youth leaders in the Troop, a batch of great new Assistant Scoutmasters and the idea that we really need to focus our attention on leading and not just reacting to the things that seem to come up from time to time and executing the vision of our Troop.
One emailer asked where I get my information from. Simply put, lots and lots of training, learning, and developing those leadership skills, traits, and habits that I have seen and done that works. I was formally trained in leadership while in the Army. Attending every leadership development course from the Primary Leadership Development Course to graduating from the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. Over the course of my career in the Army I served in many direct leadership roles culminating as the Command Sergeant Major or an Infantry Battalion.
One thing that I know for sure is that Leadership is Leadership. Whether is it good or bad what you learn and how you apply it is what matters. Leadership in the Army has the same principles as leadership in a Boy Scout Troop. That is not to say that the missions are the same, nor are the styles. But the principles that are applied by the leaders are the same.
In Scouting, I have made it a point to learn and attend every course I can that would add to my leadership tool box. Understanding the vision and mission of the organization plays a great part in how we lead it. Wood Badge has played a major role in adding to my leadership tool box.
Another emailer asked if I could narrow down my leadership focus to some simple things that would be effective for him to teach to junior leaders.
Certainly. Again, over the course of a 21 year Army career and serving as a Scoutmaster for 10 years I have narrowed down how and what I teach to adults and youth alike. I think that we can get overwhelmed with leadership philosophy and technique, but at the end of the day, it is all about leading. How you do that effectively is what matters. I have distilled my leadership down to 5 things. Now, these five things have a multitude of sub tasks and sets, but essentially it [leadership] comes down to how we do these 5 things effectively.
1. Learn to lead yourself. You can not lead others until you learn to lead yourself. Establishing good habits, getting trained and understanding the institutional values are a part of learning to lead yourself. Developing in yourself a want of life long learning and a willingness to share that knowledge.
2. Focus on the little things. The little things make up the big things and when they are correct, the big things fall into place. Develop a critical eye and stay focused on those things that drive success. A leader must be willing to be critical and constructive. Letting the little things slide are a sure-fire way of killing the big things.
3. Model Expected Behavior. Set an example of what you want. Know what right looks like and be the model of it 100% of the time. This takes work and does not allow for lazy leaders. If you expect those you lead to act a certain way, model that way of acting. Modeling expected behavior is critical in leadership. As a young leader I hated and still do hate the mantra of “Do as I say, not as I do”. That is a leadership failure.
4. Communicate Effectively. The ability to communicate is paramount in leading. Written and verbal communication must be effective to lead effectively. Develop communication skills to be an effective leader.
5. Be a Servant Leader. Leaders are to serve first. The praise, glory, or rewards for a leader are in the success of those they lead. Servant Leaders put those that they lead ahead of themselves. Develop a heart to serve and you will be a great leader.
So those are the basic 5 principles that guide my leadership and the way that I lead and teach leadership.
I will elaborate on each of those five things in future posts. None of this is new or creative, they are things that leaders since the beginning of time have done. They are packaged this way by me because it is what I know works in leadership. I am certain that if you dug around the writing of authors like Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, Colin Powell, and others you will find these principles throughout. Like I said, Leadership is Leadership. From the US Army to the Disney Institute they all teach the basics of being an effective leader and when it comes down to it, it’s all really the same stuff, just different packaging.
That’s leadership according to me in a nut shell. Those 5 things work in effective leadership every time.
What are some of yours? Have a Great Scouting Day!