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!
One 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!
This weekend was spent rekindling the fire of the Order of the Arrow in me. I attended our Lodges annual gathering called Rendezvous. Our Lodge hosts three major events each year. The Native American Arts and Ceremonies Seminar, The Rendezvous of the Order, and The Leadership Development Conference. We also participate in the Section Conclave and many service projects throughout the year as well and four Ordeal weekends and a Vigil Induction annually. So, needless to say we have an active Lodge with ample opportunities to be an active member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend, I have to be honest, I was not entirely looking forward to. I did not attend last years Rendezvous because I am finding it harder and harder to tolerate some of the behavior that we have seen at some, not all, OA events. I suppose that I have an expectation that “honor society” means something and clearly that is not the case to some Scouts and their leaders.
Being elected into the Order of the Arrow is supposed to have some special meaning. Our Lodge Advisor said it best last night at the Banquet dinner when he summed up membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Journey, much like the journey Dorthy took in the Wizard of Oz. They (the principle parts of the the Wizard of Oz) sought a Brain, Courage and a Heart. We too in the Order of the Arrow seek Wisdom in the Scout Oath and Law, We strive to be Courageous in doing the right thing, and a Heart for service. And Dorthy.. she is the model of a Servant Leader, putting the other three needs above her own desire to go home. It is a Journey to constantly seek the path that leads us to be bound in that brotherhood that cheerfully serves.
And here is the problem I have been having and I guess this is a universal issue within me that expects more out of those that we trust are “worthy”. Whether that is a Scout that has earned his Eagle Award or a Scout that has been elected into the Order of the Arrow. I expect them to live that code that we promise. In addition to the Scout Oath and Law, the Obligation of the Order of the Arrow are tremendous guides for our lives. It is that yellow brick road that leads us to a life that is worthy of being called good.
I understand the need for membership and so I understand that there will be Scouts that will take time to mature into young men that we can trust to live the obligation. I get that. But where is the coaching and mentoring that get them on the path to doing right? This is my issue. When I see Scouts that are disrespectful, unkind, selfish, and run from service, I wonder how and why they are members of the OA. Or better yet, who is teaching them or not teaching them the expected behaviors that come with being a Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend I attended for a few reasons. First I was asked to do some service. We cleaned out and sorted, repacked and labeled the bins in the Wood Badge trailer. Since I was the last Assistant Scoutmaster for support and physical arrangements I had a great interest in helping out those future staffers, making their jobs a bit easier. Second, I was asked to attend the Banquet Saturday night as I was “officially” being called to the Vigil Honor along with the rest of this years Vigil Candidates. I’ll get right back to that.
The third reason was that we are trying to get the OA members of our Troop fired up again about the OA and rekindle their fire in ceremonies. So I talked it up to the members in my Troop and a group of them decided to attend. Being a good example, I knew that I needed to be there also to demonstrate that I care about the OA and their membership in it.
And finally, I knew that a bunch of my Scouter friends from around the Council would be there and to be honest, I wanted to hang out with them. It’s always a great time sharing stories and catching up.
Back to number two. The Vigil Call out.
Throughout the day on Saturday many of my friends and other members of the Lodge approached me with congratulations on being elected to the Vigil Honor. Folks that I have not seen in ages and some that at other times have never given me the time of day, but the thing that mattered was their genuine attitude about what the Vigil Honor means to them. They all shared a little something about what the honor has meant in their lives, not sharing anything about the induction, but what that simple little triangle of arrows on their sash has meant as they apply living what I gathered as the gifts they received from membership in this organization. I kept thinking last night about this trip down the yellow brick road and that, even though I don’t know what is to come in the Vigil induction, I feel like it is that point in the journey when you finally meet the great and powerful Oz and much is reveled . This journey from Ordeal member to Brotherhood has taken me on a trip to find the arrow. That spirit of Cheerful service and living the Oath and Law fully in our daily lives… above and beyond that of just being a Scout. To truly understand being selfless and applying that attitude every day. One does not need the Order of the Arrow for this, but in the context of Scouting is a great life lesson that when demonstrated by those that have been selected to the highest Honor brings great credit to Scouting, this organization that we believe in and love.
I was looking through some of my collection of Scouting literature and found a small booklet that was distributed back in 1968 to new members of the Order of the Arrow. It is a basic run down of what the OA is, gives the Legend of the Lenni Lenape and discusses the membership Honors of the Order. There is a sentence in the paragraph about the Vigil Honor that I feel sums up my attitude about those Scouts that fail to live up to the expectation of membership. The converse I suppose can be found in this statement, “…members of our Order who give outstanding or distinguished service, or who by unusual devotion to Scouting…” Unusual devotion to Scouting, maybe that is why I don’t get some of the behavior or attitudes. I have an unusual devotion to Scouting. Yep… I love Scouting that is a fact and I constantly try to tell Scouting’s Story. The Vigil Honor is calling me to do just that… I think.
I’m going to go with that for now anyway.
I am firm bound in Brotherhood. Have a Great Scouting Day!
Yesterday I was listening to some talk radio and over the course of the day the recurring theme of child raising came up. I heard a fantastic quote on one of the programs that I thought needed to be shared here.
“We are not raising our children to be good children, we are raising them to be good adults.”
Yes, we are. I think that much too often we focus on keeping our kids children and not looking to the future and what kind of adults they are going to be.
There is a balance there. A balance between keeping our kids in a safety bubble and letting them run wild. Finding the middle ground and ensuring we teach them the right skills to negotiate life is where we will develop them to be those good adults that we wish them to be.
It is for this reason that we focus on Citizenship, Character, and Fitness in Scouting and not cranking out Eagle Scouts. While there are certain rewards for earning the rank of Eagle Scout is far more important that we see in our Scouts that development of Character. An Eagle Scout without Character does himself and Scouting a disservice.
I am not sure when things went wrong and I certainly do not want to sound like those folks did when we were growing up, you know… walking to School in the snow up hill.. both ways… Life was not rough when I grew up, and life is no rougher now. The difference was in our parents then I think. We stayed out till the street lights came on, we played outside all the time, bumps and bruises were part of life. Now we did have a lot less distractions then. We did not have 700 channels on TV, there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones, and once you mastered Pong on the Atari it was time to get back outside.
Our parents may have worried about us, but knew that we would be home when it was time to come home, or when we got hungry.. which ever came first.
I think our parents understood balance. They understood that we needed to have quiet time and we needed to have loud time. We did not sit in time out… we got spanked and it was over. We learned lessons and moved on.
Fighting and making up was a part of being friends. No drama, just growing up.
Our bikes were made of parts and I don’t think you could find two of the same color. We made tree forts and fell out of them more times than I can count. But my mom did not put me in a bubble and make every bad thing in the world disappear.
Balance. We can place our sons in a bubble and protect them, or we can let them learn about the world by living in it. I prefer living, knowing boundaries, and getting out there in life’s great adventure. That is how we raised our kids and they all turned out to be good adults.
We are not raising children to be children, we have enough adults in the world that act that way. This is why we have adults in the world that still wait for a hand out. That is why we have adults that are immature and live for the drama of a teenager. Just look at Facebook at what adults do on it.
We need to raise our young men to be men.
Finding a good balance and watching them develop.
Thoughts? Have a Great Scouting Day!
Back in 2009 I had an email exchange with a “Concerned Eagle Scout” about Friends of Scouting. As this month in our Council we are in full swing with our FOS campaign, I thought I would blow the dust off of this post and share it with you again. My thoughts are the same on the issue and Concerned Eagle Scout helped me demonstrate that where there is a will, there is a way.
What are your thoughts on Friends of Scouting?
Here is the post from 2009. Have a Great Scouting Day!
Mr. “Concerned Eagle Scout” has concerns about justifying FOS dollars.
And I can appreciate “Concerned Eagle Scouts”concerns. His biggest issue seems to be the cost of Scouting. Well.. let me share his email with you. And yeah… I moderated it.. took out some stuff that really did not add to the argument. And my comments are embedded in his email. My comments are in Bold text.
I have a real problem with FOS or what it should be called is SMJ (Save My Job). I and many others in our town have a real issue contributing funds to council when everything and I mean everything for scouting has become so expensive. OK CES (Concerned Eagle Scout), here is where you start in the wrong direction.
Everything in Scouting is getting expensive because things are expensive. But you do know that the Scout Shop (uniforms and supplies) are not part of your council and receive NO dollars from FOS. Salaries, benefits, and materials for running the Councils day-to-day operation is where the money goes.
We run a very effective program for our cub scouts and we do it all with the money we raise through popcorn. Like JC states, we have families in our pack that are experiencing financial hardship with the current economic situation. Welcome to the club.. things are tough all over. So don’t support FOS.. and watch your Scouting programs go away. How can we as scouts expect or even think of asking these families to put out more money when their having problems meeting their own financial needs. Well… how can I expect it.. I love Scouting. I can afford 42 cents a day for FOS.. heck a Scout is thrifty right. I collect cans and recycle them for FOS. You mean to tell me, you can’t do that? You mentioned running of the camps and the staff that supports them; how can I or any scout leader expect a family in financial hardship to pay $300 for camp (yes it costs that much in our council to send a boy to day camp)? Again, if that is the cost of doing business in your Council.. which seems a bit steep to me.. then that is the cost of doing business. Sell more popcorn.. have a car wash, participate in the candy sales and hold a Garage sale. Thrifty. Explain to me so that I can explain to my scouts and their parents why they should give to FOS when the top officers of scouting make over 140K annually. What Council are you in? I know that there is no one in your council that makes that much. Maybe at the National level, but then again… none of your FOS money goes to National. That’s almost double the annual household income for some of our scout families. Explain it to me Jerry so that I can justify it to my scouts and their parents. It’s this simple. don’t support it and you will have no Scouting. If your families are making 70,000 a year. Then you are doing better than most. So I would suggest you act like an Eagle Scout and remember your obligation you took to Scouting. Be Thrifty and Helpful and figure out a way to raise the funds. Families in our area make much less than what you have suggested and we keep our Council vibrant and healthy. Rather than make a bunch of excuses and whine… figure out a way that you can support Scouting. We have become very creative. Bake sales, car washes, dinners, etc. I’ve asked my local council for an explanation and they can’t or won’t give me an explanation, they just want the money. I do not think you are being intellectually honest here. Every Council brochure that I have looked at (via the internet etc) disclose where the money goes and how your dollar benefits the Council. If local councils want money to support the program and pay their paychecks, then they need to get the funds from corporations.You have heard about the FOS Community program right? They get money from your local corporations. That is what a lot of your DE’s time is spent doing. Oh and about 85 cents of every dollar from FOS goes to programs.. not paychecks. Endowments, and other funds are used for paychecks. At least in our Council, I can’t imagine your Council being to different. In my eyes and the eyes of other in our pack, families give enough to support scouting. I think you need to open your eyes a little wider and see the program for what it really is not as a target. I know times are tough, but that is no excuse for Scouting to suffer.
We all budget our time, energy and money. As we sit at our dinning room tables and work out our families monthly budget we cut what is not important and spend on what is. FOS is one of those items that we are not willing to cut because we see, directly, the value of our dollar.
We see that Scouting does good things… not just for my two sons, but for all the Scouts in my Troop. So I can assume that it is doing good in every unit.
I justify giving to FOS because I see the camps that we go to… in fact we camping at one of our Councils 18 fully paid properties this weekend. That can’t happen without FOS.
I look beyond emotion and look at real numbers. I can understand where you are coming from… really I can, but I think if you all took the time and penciled it out.. you could easily justify to your Packs families the benefits of making contributions to FOS. I am not sure where you get your numbers and information from, my guess is it is probably from another disgruntled Scouters. But my friend, you are an Eagle Scout. Somewhere along the way people paid and you benefited from this program. Give back. That simple.
Just my thoughts…. Thanks for your thoughts.I hope that my comments do not come across as smug or unfriendly. It is a simple fact that no matter what, we need to do what we need to do to keep Scouting alive and well, if that means we give to FOS..then that is what we need to do. Call it something else…it still pays for Scouting.
Concerned Eagle Scout, I am not beating you up, I am calling you to learn more and really look at the dollars. It pencils out.. I promise you.