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  • Unit Commissioners

    Hi all!

    A recurring theme I've seen in various threads is that Unit Commissioners are worthless and that they don't come around very often. Why do you think that is? Discuss


  • #2
    I think there is more than just one reason for that thinking. Some off the top of my head are - Unit Leaders that don't know what a Unit Commissioner is, what they're supposed to do and how they can help their units; Unit Leaders who have had bad experiences with Unit Commissioners that don't know the limits of their own role; Unit Commissioners stretched too thin trying to service more units than possible due to a lack of volunteers; Unit Commissioners too busy with other roles in their own units to be able to find the time to serve the units they are assigned.


    • #3
      I"m a SM and UC. I used to visit my units on a regular basis but of the three I got 1) Don't call us, we'll call you, 2) unit went defunct, and 3) on their email distribution. I keep track of them and interject help as needed. With them I have weekly contact, but not necessarily face to face.



      • #4
        As in many things, "it depends". Commissioners come in all types. Mostly, around here, they tend to be older, Scout experienced folks. Our area is no where near the one Commisher-to-three units ratio National recommends. Most of the Commishers I know are multi talented: they Commission, do OA stuff, are ASMs, teach U of S courses, do CSDC, lead Roundtable, teach IOLS, coach new units (used to be a Deputy Commissioner patch for that), recruit MBCounselors, AND make sure the units get rechartered. I do 4 units, all at the same CO, and am consulted at times and get invited to the B&G banquets, and spaghetti dinner fundraisers.
        I became a Commisher because of my Woodbadge tickets. Mostly, they had to do with Cub Scouts, but I was registered as a Boy Scout ASM, so my TGuide suggested I become a Commissioner, because as a Boy Scouter, I would not be allowed to do Cub Scout Tickets, and a Commissioner can do pretty much anything Scouty, so he said. So I said what's a Commissioner, and the rest, as they say is history.

        That said, the question is what's a Commisher supposed to do, and what should a Scout unit expect one to do? Other than help shepherd the recharter process, a good Commisher can offer ideas and advice but should mostly step back and watch the fun. I have always been welcome at any of my units meetings, and if I make a comment or pass on info (what? Scout accounts are bad?) I am at least listened to.

        I am often reminded of the joke where the coat and tie man comes up to the flood evacuees and says, "hello, I am from the Federal government and I'm here to help". Then he has to prove it.


        • #5
          My opinion from the cheap seats: a UC's usefulness depends on the unit's interest in external inputs, the SM's availability/ability to respond to external inputs, the UC's network of inputs, and the UC's awareness of his own boundary's. Those are a lot of factors beyond knocking on three doors every week, and a UC is only going to commit to where those things are in place. Districts with lots of units lakcking those factors are gonna have a hard time getting scouters to volunteer as UCs. If your unit is in such a district, unless you're failing, you won't see your UC much at all.


          • #6
            People who only show up when there is a problem soon become associated with problems. If a UC's role in recharter is to nag late units they won't be seen as a helping hand just nags. UC's could help themselves by contacting committee chairmen early, get the contact info for the person handling recharter and build a relationship with them. Hopefully, most units have experienced people doing recharter and a plan to train their replacements. But last year our four-year membership chmn was diagnosed with cancer right at the start of recharter. The CC was new and clueless. We recruited a new membership chmn about two weeks before the deadline. It would have sure been nice to have a go-to person familiar with the system to help.


            • #7
              2CD: You had a problem , alright. Maybe the CCh should delegate alittle? My home Troop has a dedicated (as in this is her whole job for the Troop) membership person. She keeps up with registration, training, stuff like that. Not the Advancement Chair. Our CCh is very capable, and keeps in touch with everyone, but HIS specialty is organizing summer camp.
              When Recharter comes around, half the work is already done. Ms MP cranks up the rechart website, types in the new access code and away she goes.
              They were still late with the finalities, but that was admitted to be the Council's problem, lost paperwork, new hires, bad arithmetic, etc.


              • #8
                2Cubdad, gotta remember it's a two-way street. UC's are often left out of the process until it's too late as well. As I mentioned, one of my units went defunct. They had a ton of adult leaders, many old-guard, no one wanted to step up as SM. I offered and was turned down because I was too much boy-led and this troop wasn't used to that. (See previous statement about a ton of adult leaders, many old guard...) With 30 years of experience and a pretty major bag of trick and even offering to take over as SM, needless to say they preferred to let the troop die than to do anything to save it. Ironically I started my new troop in the neighborhood adjacent to the south of their territory. It wasn't an either or issue, but when the unit went defunct, the district came to me and asked to start a new troop. So sometimes the UC's hands are tied and yes they are useless but not because they want to be.

                It is interesting to know that when I was removed as SM in my former troop, the DE had been on the job 3 months and a UC I had never in my life met with the committee to remove me, I would say that not only was the DE clueless, so was this novice UC. But they did have more experience than the CC who had been on the job for less than a month. That group did survive, they have at least a dozen boys, a SM and 6 ASM's plus a more than full committee. They now have more adults than boys in the unit and boy led is just a bad memory of days gone by.

                I'm sure there are a ton of very good UC's out there that because of the hassles they have to try and deal with just don''t have a snowball's chance in hell of doing anything for the Titanic situation facing them. It's unfortunate they get a bad rap for it.



                • #9
                  Many UC's aren't, and don't want to be UC's, they just want to feel like they're involved by being on a roster. Another issue we have is many UC's don't understand the job, they take the BSA training, and off they go. To gain understanding of the job a new UC needs to be paired with a seasoned ADC, or a fantastic UC, for several months.

                  The other part of this is getting to know your unit and charter org, establishing good relations, developing friendship, and gaining trust; without these you can't do the job. Every unit is different, with different needs, and will expect different things from you; it's not easy sorting all this out.

                  Being a UC is very rewarding, it's an important function, and one that can truly make a difference.


                  • #10

                    The original post is a generalization, but correct 80% of the time. Perhaps 20% of the time, the right unit and right unit commissioner are matched and a good relationship builds and the unit is better because of it. But ...

                    Volunteers with the right skills and personality are rare and already grabbed to staff one of the many other scouting positions. As such, they don't have the time to work an assigned unit even if they are a UC.

                    The result is that troops are either assigned a UC without the skills and personality needed or the unit is never visited by their UC.

                    I've been a leader in five units in 14 years. Still on good terms with all. Still a core leader in three of the units.

                    None of my units have EVER been visited by a unit commissioner.

                    A side note ... I always wonder how districts make the UC numbers. From what I've seen, there is some very very questionable record keeping involved. I won't say the specifics in our district, but IMHO it's fraudulent.


                    Given the 80% / 20% rule, unit commissioner program is a broken program that needs major redesign.

                    IMHO, what we really need are grandfatherly elder scouts who can coach new scout leaders or triage problem situations. They should be asked to step in for two or three or four months to advise as needed. And then, they are done.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by fred johnson View Post
                      The original post is a generalization.
                      Actually, I don't believe this is "generalization" as much as it's my stating a recurring theme I've noticed when reading posts on this forum.

                      Here's a breakdown of what I've read so far on this thread:

                      1. Unit leaders are ignorant of what a UC is/does.
                      2. Unit leaders have a preconceived notion of what a UC is/does based on a) a bad experience and/or b) the fact that the UC only tends to show up when there is conflict.
                      3. UCs are stretched too thin as is due to a) too many units to help or b) the fact they wear too many hats as it stands.
                      4. The Unit leaders might not be open to external advice/input.
                      5. UCs don't always quite understand their role.
                      6. UCs don't always want to be UCs and are pressured into taking that role.
                      7. UCs don't have the requisite skills for the job.

                      I know several unit commissioners in my area who exhibit all or some of the aforementioned traits/qualities. However, there are some awesome UCs here, too, and I think it's very unfair to label all UCs are useless/ineffective.

                      What I do like is that some here have suggested solutions for how to "fix" this way of thinking. When my time as SM comes to a close and I hand it over to someone else, I fully intend to volunteer as a UC in my area. In fact, I believe it's my duty to offer the knowledge I've learned to help the novice SM.


                      • #12
                        Awesome attitude. More scouters should feel like you do. The best thing would be to attend Commisioner training.


                        • #13
                          LeCastor ... You're right. Generalization infers small sample population. I should have said sterotype of 80% of the unit commissioners out there.

                          There are some good commissioners and some districts that run a good unit commissioner program. But for everyone, there are four (or I'd assert twice that number) that just do it beyond poorly. No visits. Reporting essentially fake visits.


                          What you described is what I'd like to see ... and what is really really needed. Assign a unit commissioner to a new cubmaster or new scoutmaster for a few months. It's called mentoring.

                          Add to it ... add a unit commissioner to a problem situation for a few months.

                          Don't make it a long standing relationship. People don't have time for that.

                          Make it a short term mentoring / problem solving relationship.
                          Last edited by fred johnson; 09-02-2014, 04:36 PM.


                          • #14
                            The UC program makes no sense in light of new technology. As described they are supposed to attend committee and unit meetings to observe and bring problems to the district committee and district commissioner to get solutions. At 6 visits a year that means that a problem occurs, they bring to two meetings, they work on it for a month then bring help at the next visit two months later. Alternatively unit leaders can email in and resolve the problem.


                            • #15
                              Unfortunately, UC comes in all shapes and sizes. Some do the job by visiting periodically, and helping where needed. Some are just a name. And I've known one who was extremely active with his units. He visited at least twice a month, and only got involved when problems arose by offering advice, counseling, and mentoring. Unfortunately the unit leaders have ignored his advice.

                              While technology is a useful tool, heck I used a unit's Facebook page to keep up with them and tried to help them out, sometimes the problems are too much for simple email, and a sit down meeting is needed. But as I have learned the hard way, sometimes folks do not want to change.