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  • Leader Challenges

    I have been following these threads for quite a while, and use many of the ideas to help guide my recommendations and directions as a Scoutmaster and Cubmaster (rather busy in my current community). I want to thank all of you for your input to these, though I have been a silent beneficiary of your wisdom.

    Sorry for the long note, but lately, I have been facing a rather difficult problem as a Scoutmaster; our Committee has been trying to run the priorities and plans of the Troop. We have a brand new Committee Chair who has accepted the role out of a sense of obligation (the previous moved and no one stepped up to fill the position) with no experience, and the rest of the Committee has followed suit. I have put up with being "invited" to Committee meetings for the first 15 minutes, and then sent to the Troop meeting to "watch the boys." To rectify this situation, the Scoutmasters have convinced the PLC to meet on a separate night from the Committee (who insisted on meeting on the previous PLC nights). Recently, the Committee has planned a fund-raiser (without a developed budget or Council support) to occur on the same weekend as one of our Campouts, and one of the Committee Members has decided to hold his sons back to support the fundraiser (the only Scouts staying behind for this reason) in lieu of full participation in the campout.
    Though the Scoutmasters have encouraged the Committee to sit through at least the on-line training, they still have not done so. I am now torn between supporting the Scouts (with the flaws and conflicts of the Committee) or just cutting my ties and focusing my attention on the Cub Scout Pack. I "drew a line in the sand" of the PLC annual planning conference (24 May) for the Committee to reassess their support to the Scouts (versus the Scouts supporting the Committee) and the Committee being trained, for my participation as a Scoutmaster (currently, the only trained, experienced adult leader for the Troop). I don't want to leave the boys, but I don't feel as if every meeting (virtually every day/ interaction with the Committee) should be a challenge to support the Scouts and the BSA program.
    I am currently discussing with a Committee member why it is not acceptable for his sons (grub masters) to arrive late (the next morning) to a camp out, in support of a Committee Fundraiser (the same Committee Member to whom I explained just two weeks ago how Scouting is about teaching skills and not awarding badges and why we don't give merit badge lessons or pair Scouts up with Merit Badge Counselors during Troop Meetings). I have spoken to our Unit Commissioner, but have not seen too much movement (or I may just be too impatient). Here is the message I sent to the Committee Member:


    Mr XXX,






    I am not sure you realize this, but your Scouts are the only ones staying behind in support of this Committee fundraiser (as far as I know). As the Scoutmaster of this Troop, your Scouts not participating in the entire campout versus support of a Committee fundraiser is not congruent with the methods of Scouting. Mstr YYYY is staying behind for his induction into the National Junior Honor Society; however, Mstrs XXXX will miss the set up and initiation of the campout (including the responsibilities of grubmaster) for an activity the Patrol Leader Council did not support and for which the Committee obligated the Scouts of the Troop.






    Though we support the participation of Scouts in all possible activities, thought and priority must be given to the methods of Scouting which include Leadership (“Boy Led, Boy run”), the outdoors, and the Patrol Method. None of these have been exhibited in the Committee’s unilateral decision of fund-raising in lieu of an outdoor, international Camporee.






    Your Scout has volunteered (or has been volunteered) as a grubmaster, which demonstrates a quality of selfless service to his fellow Scouts. However, proper follow-through includes full participation in the activity and in the Patrol Leader Council planned event(placed on the annual calendar last June).






    While our Troop fully supports Scout development in organizations outside Scouting (National Honor Society, Junior ROTC, 4H, Religious Youth Organizations, sporting events, to name a few), missing an integral piece of the program (outdoor development) to raise funds, an activity neither planned nor budgeted by the PLC (nor approved or sanctioned by our Council), should take back-seat to conflicting Scouting activities. Your son’s role as grubmaster makes him an even more integral piece in the entire outdoor and Patrol Method experience.





    Scoutmasters with our Troop will not deny Scouts the opportunity, as much as in their power, the opportunity to participate in activities; but priority will be given to Scouts who participate from start to finish in the Scouting events. In this case, your Scouts have registered for the International Camporee, so they will participate for the entire time for which they are present. I only ask that your Scouts, in the future, participate from beginning to end in these type activities (outdoor activities, planned by the PLC), especially in so far as they support the Mission and Methods (fund-raising outside the PLC NOT being in any of these) of the Boy Scouts of America.







    Yours in Scouting,



    Richard



    Scoutmaster, Troop ZZZ



    Please, does anyone have ideas how to help me maintain sanity in dealing with a Committee like this (I love the Scouts, just don't like the challenges of the Committee)?? Thank you,

    Richard

  • #2
    @SW, sounds like it is time for a talk with the committee. There should never be events that cannibalize each other. Sometimes this is not avoidable but with good planning I suspect most of the time it is.I think we all struggle with sports and school conflicting with Scouts, but it is insane for the troop to cannibalize it's own program.

    We had a similar instance two weeks back. There was a training program on the calendar for months. A Merit Badge college was the same weekend. Lastly, a church member who is also on the TC asked us to support something at the church. When this last item came up we discussed in the TC and I advised them that we may not get that many takers for the last event given the long-planned events that were already on the calendar. They went forward with staffing it knowing it would be a pathetic turn out. Lesson Learned: The TC needs to give their planning dates to the PLC in advance of the annual PLC planning meeting.

    As far as being at the TC meeting, I feel your pain. Many of my PLC have parents on the TC which always meets at the same time. I have changed the PLC meeting times (and dates) on several occassions only to have the TCC change the TC time to correspond. And yet, I get talked down to when I cannot make those meetings. Go figure. I eventually convinced the TC that I need to be at both in order for the unit to stay healthy and coordinated. I used the cannibalization of events as evidence. They eventually (grudgingly) agreed.

    Comment


    • #3
      Somewhere in the far corners of my mind there's a small voice asking, "Why have a Boy Scout troop if it isn't for the boys?" If the committee feels they are a troop booster club, fine, but remember the program is for the boys.

      I have found the biggest pain in any troop behind parental politics is committee politics.

      Stosh

      Comment


      • #4
        Mozartbrau and Stosh, thank you for the guidance and advice. I have to agree with both your points of view. Though the Scouts in question attended the campout, the leaders continue to deal with parental involvement and Committee insistence. After being told the "supporters" (parents) didn't appreciate a meal plan and the Committee Chair requesting a Scoutmaster Conference for his son prior to a Board of Review, I found it time to find another calling in this field (I will remain involved in the Cub Scout program in our community). The individual "appointed" as Scoutmaster (he found out after my decision to pursue a different path) is a good friend and I will continue to help him with the Troop (though behind the scenes). I will run ILST this weekend, but then my frustrations with the Troop will come to an end (hopefully). My wife finally became fed up with my frustrations and complaints to her and told me it was time to find a better way to spend my time.

        I have spoken with both the Unit Commissioner and the District Commission and have found someone willing to accept the role as Committee Chair (more dedicated to the Troop and Scouts). Hopefully she will be able to make a difference (especially for the incoming Scoutmaster). This is a wonderful program for our young men and I plan to continue to support it; however, I don't have the energy to fight a Committee along with trying to develop their sons. Again, thanks for your input and I look forward to continued wisdom from these threads. Take Care,
        Richard

        Comment


        • #5
          This decision would be easy for me. I'd leave the troop and focus all of my energy on the cub scout Pack. But that's me...I like the cub scouts a lot more, so unless you feel the same way, don't decide on that basis alone. By the way, WELCOME to the forums!

          The committee needs to do the training. That will help some. But after many years of operating with a weak committee (and sometimes effectively no committee), I'd like to have this problem, for a little while anyway.

          I agree with regard to the conflicting schedules. Seems like the committee, if they were really supportive of the unit, would naturally avoid such conflicts. Anyway, good luck, and remember....the cubs are (in my opinion) a lot more fun and a lot less trouble.

          Edit to add: Plus as cubmaster it's only one hour per month! LOL
          Last edited by packsaddle; 05-24-2013, 03:24 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Give the e-mail thing a rest. E-mail is for announcements, not for discussion.

            The Scoutmaster should have a very limited role at both the committee, and on the PLC, so I don't see how scheduling the two meetings congruently would be a problem. Unless you haven't confessed to insisting on being there for everything.

            Give some trust to your committee. Figure out if the campout or the fundraiser weekend can be switched. Make sure future scheduled events are agreed upon by both groups. And accept the things you can't change.

            Comment


            • #7
              I see one of the roles of the Scoutmaster as the conduit between the PLC and the Committee. The PLC plans (with guidance/ sanity check from the Scoutmaster), and the Committee resources the plan (again, the SM provides the plan to the Committee). For this reason, I see a need for the SM to attend both meetings. When both meetings occurred simultaneously, we had the issue of each group planning the same activity for the same organization, and the Committee usually took over, leaving the Scouts to learn, if they don't plan, the parents will take over and do it for them. Instead of if they don't plan properly, the activity won't occur how they want.

              The PLC is now held the week before on a non-Scout night, and their are no scheduled Troop activities the evening of the Committee Meeting. This works out well as we encourage the Patrols to meet on these nights, and the SPL and ASPL are available to help, if the PLs wish.

              I used to have my SPL provide the plan to the Committee, but after a few months of him dealing with the Committee inquisition (who do you have as drivers, have you put out the permission slips, have you collected the money, etc) as opposed to the Committee understanding and fulfilling their role, I decided it was better he not experience this issue and I started discussing with the Committee what the Scouts should be doing vs what the Committee should resource (again, the lack of training piece).

              Comment


              • #8
                Richard, It sounds like you made the right choice. (Listening to the Mrs. is generally the right choice.) If you're coming home grumbling about adults instead of talking up kids, it's a bad sign.

                Regarding the SPL and the committee, one of the better ways to deal with the planning issue is to have him fill out a tour plan and highlight the stuff he needs from adults. (Review of the meal plan is NOT one of those things! I had a CC try to do that "for" my crew, and I shut her down quickly. Fortunately her husband called on his Wood Badge experience and backed me up.) That's sort of why I don't like the online system. It deprives the youth of doing the work. Still, the way the CC should have handled it, was "Thanks for the info, let us know how we can help you." or "We'll assign one adult to make sure your paperwork for this will pass muster with Council HQ. Who would you prefer?" But, this is one of the problems of a lack of training: the group thinks every detail is everyone's responsibility.

                There's a lot you can do behind the scenes. One of them is nudging your troop's best adults to training. The other, as a Pack leader, is go directly to the SPL and SM to request den chiefs. I'm sure you'll think of others.

                Comment


                • #9
                  A couple things, probably more of long-term than what you need, but....

                  First, invite the new CC out for a cup of coffee. You need to build a relationship with him. Running the troop very much needs to be a partnership between the two of you. You're model needs to be that you to are a tag-team, with him focusing on the adults and you on the boys. If he, and the rest of the committee, think they are the board of directors and you are management, or that they can do their "thing" independent of the troop program, it's not going to work. You two sit down and figure out what your goals are for the troop. What do you want the program to look like in a year? Five years? What are your interests? High Adventure? Community service? Making sure everyone makes Eagle? Being more patrol focused? When you have a common goal in mind, how to get there becomes much easier.

                  Secondly, the two of you have to communicate that to the committee. A few years ago we had a slug of new parents joint the committee Something we did was to contact the district training chairman and set up an old-fashioned "Troop Committee Challenge" training session. Used to be, troop committees all took training together. The focus of the training is for everyone to learn their jobs and those of the other committee members. Training together has the benefit of getting folks to put a face with the position and to have conversations about how they can work together.

                  The district trainer and I worked together to include in the training the "local variations" of troop operations. From a strictly bureaucratic standpoint, for example, our "advancement committee" is really a whole lot of folks who take different parts of the job -- MB coordinator, BOR coordinator, records, etc. On the other hand, "outings" really isn't a committee function at all, but is handled by the ASMs. It's not by the book, but fits our people and resources. But more than organization, the training gave us (okay, mostly me) the opportunity to talk about the troop culture and the vision for how the troop operated. By the way, one of your "local variations" needs to be that the SM is involved in and contributes to all committee meetings! (Admittedly, this takes the right trainer -- one who sees the big picture and understand his job is to help you develop your troop leaders. If the trainer is a pedantic, by the book, follow-the-syllabus-or-the-ghost-of-James-West-will-strike-me-dead sort, it won't work. Shop around.)

                  This is basic leadership. One of the most important leadership traits it to communicate your vision for the organization. Standing on the hill with the flag and saying, "over here." Right now, your committee is new, unstructured and really has no idea of where it is going or how to get there. The adults are defaulting to what they know from business and everyday life -- let's take the shortest, most efficient route to getting the job done. But that's not Scouting. Scouting usually takes the scenic route. Sure, adults setting up merit badge classes and running all the boys through is the most efficient and productive, but our purpose is not efficiency. Rather, we teach boys to make their own arrangements and developing the self-confidence and ambition to call an adult and ask for an appointment. Having the committee schedule and run the fundraiser may have been the easiest way to make money, but it short circuited a number of program elements, not to mention the campout.

                  You need to become the unit leader in a very real sense. You need to be the guy on the hill with the flag. That means you need to be better trained than anyone in the troop and have a better understand and solid grasp of the program. That way, when the committee lays another egg like the fundraiser, you can very matter-of-factly explain why it's a bad idea. Not because that's your personal opinion or it doesn't work with your schedule, but specifically, point-by-point, why it's bad Scouting.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks to all of you. I have always in the past (either as a SM or CM) enjoyed a good relationship with the CC, where we would stand together on issues (there were places where we didn't agree, but talked through them and developed a solution beneficial to the Scouts and the Troop/ Pack). The Pack CM and I currently enjoy the same cooperative relationship (I happen to serve as the CC for the Pack .. I know two different models, but both should be based on cooperation between the SM/ CM and the CC).
                    In this case, this wasn't happening; as TwoCubDad put it so well, the Committee was running the Troop as a Board of Directors. The DC and UC have both contacted the CC and they are now looking at a time to schedule training. Hopefully this will help the new SM.
                    This is a very small community (one Troop, one Pack ... next closest is over an hr away) and I still seeand interact with the Scouts and am still friends with the ASMs (also new, like the Committee) and continue to talk to them. I also enforced the Den Chief role last year, and intend to continue requesting the Boy Scout involvement in the Pack next year (for the Den Leaders/ CM who request them).
                    I also intend to maintain an active, parent role in the Troop, as long as my son wants to stay with the Troop and they are not stepping on the Scouts' development too much. At that point, we'll look at making the long weekly trek.
                    This experience is a good learning lesson regarding interaction, education, and training with the parents and the Committee, utilizing District resources (as much as the Committee is willing to experience), and timing of replacements. Admittedly, I fell short in not sitting with the outgoing and incoming CC, together, to discuss the way ahead for the Troop or to sit with the new CC upon his arrival (I was gone for 3 1/2 months immediately following the transition). The CC operated how he was used to in a military realm, and by the time we had the opportunity to sit and talk, he had already established procedures which made him feel more comfortable than trusting Scouts to plan and execute.
                    I read in another thread about parents are encouraged to join the Committee "at large" for their sons' first year in Scouting, and then may be asked to move up to fill a specific role on the Committee. This may be something worth looking into (in addition to training) and discussing with the Troop so the parent observes how the different functions interact and the parent understands how taking the "scenic route" and how exercising the methods of scouting actually work to develop the Scouts, and provides great antecdotes along the way.

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