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Developing a Good SPL

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  • Developing a Good SPL

    OK so a troop has a weak SPL... how do you go about developing him into a strong SPL?

  • #2
    Step 1 - Tell him up front what his job is and what is expected of him. This does not mean handing him the official BSA position description. Really tell him what his job is in his troop. What he is supposed to do at each troop meeting and campout. How he should be delegating his authority to the other youth leaders. Get him trainined also, but don't skip this step in place of it.

    Step 2 - Let him do his job. When he does it well let him know immediately. When he fails, talk to him about it (but not in front of the whole group). Ask him why he failed and how he might do differently next time. Do not step in and do his job for him, but try to steer him away from the big failures that will spoil the fun and have a big negative impact on the program. Do not run the troop through him - calling him over when you want the group to do something. You and he must form a partnership.

    That's it. Do this and he will learn to trust you and delevelop into a good SPL. Also, these steps will not work if you as SM do not know what your job is and/or are not allowed to do it in your troop.


    • #3
      Perhaps this should be in a spawned thread, as your question is specific to developing an individual that is already in the position, and not just developing boys in general to be a good SPL.

      Developing a good SPL takes several years. Starts with learning to be a good follower. Then willingly taking responsibility for part of a patrol's needs, wheterh formal or informal (i.e. patrol QM, grubmaster, or just helping out with younger scouts for the sole reason that he notices that they need help). Then being a den chief or PL of a patrol. And taking a turn at a POR such as troop QM or scribe.
      All of these need to be positions and/or responsibilities where the boy steps up and does them of his own volition and enthusiasm, without being constantly pushed, cajoled, or harangued. (holding a position with minimal effort may meet BSA's requirement for advancement, but it does not provide for any skill development.)

      All of these things gives a boy experiences that he needs to be a good SPL. Without this base, turning a weak SPL into a strong SPL will be exceptionally challenging; perhaps try the "take care of your boys" advise, and repeat as necessary.(This message has been edited by venividi)


      • #4
        "weak" is pretty vague - he has some strengths and some weaknesses just like everyone. There needs to be specific skills that need improvement.
        "you" could be anyone - so I assume you mean the Scoutmaster.

        I think the SM owes every SPL a few hours of training right after he's elected and before he takes over, in addition to the Troop Leader Training session. This should include describing his duties, providing resources, and finding out his plan for the troop. The SM should also check with his parents to ensure they understand and support his extra responsibilities.

        If I had concerns about his ability to perform the job, I'd talk with him and ask him to come up with three things he does well as SPL and three things he'd like to work on to become the best SPL he can be. I'd already have a list of what I see as his good qualities so I can bolster his list.
        Prioritize the three things to work on and help him come up with a plan to improve the first one. Before every scouting activity, confirm that he has it in mind. After the activity, find out if he used the plan to improve or not.
        Be his biggest cheerleader, back his decisions, make sure the ASMs know the plan and are onboard.

        Or, give him a set of dumbbells. :-)


        • #5
          Developing a good SPL doesn't happen overnight. As previously mentioned, it takes years.

          It starts the day the scout visits the troop and wants to join. What example did the older scouts present to him? Were they welcoming, helpful, friendly, courteous...?

          It continues as the scout works his way up through the T-2-1 ranks. How does the other scouts in his patrol, as well as the troop treat him? What example are they setting? Are they working and teaching him?

          It also continues as he accepts more responsibility within his patrol. How well does he do the jobs he's assigned by the PL? If elected PL, how does he do? What type of example does the SPL, older scouts working on the troop level, and the rest of the PLC set for him? Is the SPL or others mentoring him? Is he learning from his mistakes?

          It culminates when he gets put into the troop level PORs, and most especially when he gets elected SPL. How is he doing workign with the PLs and younger scouts? What example is he setting?

          Training helps as it can goes into specifics of leadership. It also helps him to learn his weaknesses and how to improve.

          But the best way to develop is for him to look to the examples of the older scouts.


          • #6
            One suggestion that I have not seen so far, is to sit down with him, and help him evaluate his own strengths and weaknesses. (That is, ask him questions to think it out, not tell him what he's good and bad at)

            Once he has identified the areas he is weakest at, ask him to point out scouts who are good in those areas. Set aside some time for him to go to them for advice, and if at all possible, ask one or two to be ASPLs. A Good leader identifies his own weak spots, and surrounds himself with people who are strong in those areas.


            • #7
              It starts from before the scout in mind even becomes SPL. The scouts have to know the responsibilities and seriousness that comes with the job. If they do beforehand, they will have a better chance of being a strong leader. It also helps to have them take NYLT and sit down with some previous SPLs or really good strong leaders who may have not got the role, but who you believe did a fairly good job in leadership for whatever their PoR was. Finally, some scouts don't have the qualities of a good SPL, or they simply don't care about what it entitles. To avoid these candidates, before the election, make sure that a scout(previous SPL) explains the job to the scouts and a vital role in the troop. Ask questions to the candidates, and pick off the bad ones.

              To answer your question directly. If you have an SPL that's currently in office, you're going to have to let him learn from his mistakes. It's very rare to have a natural at the position, and I can guarantee you that the best SPLs are the ones who can see the mistake they made and apply a quick fix to it. If he really doesn't know what to do or doesn't want to be at the meeting(only doing the job for Eagle), then sit him down and talk about what can be fixed. Remember, DON'T DO HIS JOB FOR HIM.

              It can be hard, and doesn't happen overnight. It really begins years before the scout is elected.



              • #8
                I have never been a fan of elected officers in any organization.

                First of all, too many of them are elected because of popularity and everyone knows how well that works out.

                Then there are the magnificent managers who in many respects have many of the same skills of a bully.

                Then there are the boys who learn leadership from the ground up. The enter into the program and learn at as TF what the buddy system really means. When his buddy can't find his necker in the mess of his tent, he's there to help. When his buddy needs a partner to escort him to the latrine, he's there to help. When his buddy needs special assistance in being reminded to take his meds at camp, he's there to help.

                Then after a while, this boy begins the process of watching out for others besides his buddy. He takes on camp chores because someone needs to do it and he just does it. He makes sure everyone has what they need and if someone is short a plate at dinner, he shares his mess kit with them.

                Then he takes on PL and "officially" watches out for the whole patrol, making sure they all are in the game. Naturally he shares his leadership skills by emphasizing the buddy system amongst his boys.

                Eventually he is "promoted" into SPL because he is well aware of all the needs of the patrol, he can now focus his attention on helping the other PL's be successful.

                Yes, he starts looking out for his buddy, but eventually his skills develop that expands his focus and management awareness automatically. Everyone learns differently and by knowing his boys, he can adapt whatever it takes to make sure his boys get the education they need.

                This model may not be what BSA promotes, but after working with kids for 40+ years, it works for me, your mileage may vary.



                • #9
                  Making sure the troop knows what is expected of the SPL and the skills necessary to do a great job, as well as the affect on them if they ignore those skills and abilities in their selection process, is the start of making sure you don't have a weak SPL. The best proving ground is in the work put in to develop the entire PLC, and helping the ASPL actually take control of the leadership corps or pool of more senior scouts. Like everyone has been saying, the development of leaders is a process. Make sure opportunities for leadership are handed out to promising individuals throughout the year, particularly "one-time" events and activities. Cream rises to the top, and it becomes obvious to everyone else in the troop.


                  • #10
                    Another thought - have conferences with the patrol leaders and ask them how they can aid the SPL. If they are leading their patrols well, it makes the SPL's job easier. You don't describe the current troop environment. I have seen troops where PL's don't have control of their patrols during meetings and campouts, which makes the SPL's job tougher.


                    • #11
                      The hardest part for adults is to identify what defines a strong SPL. You will get many answers to that question here, but it is also personal with each adult or troop. What for you describes your strong SPL?

                      Then you need to understand that to learn something, you have to practice that something. So like in anything, to be strong, the scout needs to practice that action over and over. My SPLs while I was SM planned and led somewhere around 100 PLC level meetings in six months.

                      Most expectations for SPLs in most units are too high for the amount of practice the scouts get. Everyone here is right that the development of the SPL really starts the day the scout joins the troop. But many probably couldnt really pinpoint what it is they want those scouts to practice on their six year experience. So there really isn't much skill development for a mature SPL.

                      Our troop had a plan that took all scouts on a designed path that would teach them specific skills or habits along the way. But the skills were based from normal practice in the program, a lot of normal practice. Training does not develop skills, it only introduces them. So don't use training a measurable type of developoment. Practice is the only way to develop skills and habits. So dont expect more than your scout practices.

                      May I suggest you get the Patrol Leaders Handbook and SPL Handbook to help guide you to the kinds of habits and skills you might want your scouts to practice over and over. Those handbooks are a simple easy read and tend to help the scouts and adults plan a simple orderly process to their goals. Its one thing for adults to say do it this way or that, but its a lot easier for scouts to read it in the book with the adult only supporting by saying yes, try it that way and see how it goes.

                      Good question.

                      I love this scouting stuff.

                      (This message has been edited by eagledad)


                      • #12

                        Why do you need an SPL?


                        • #13
                          > Why do you need an SPL?

                          Good point. There is another thread on strengthening the Patrol Leader


                          • #14
                            A good SPL has experience.

                            In our troop, boys elect the ASPL, and after six months of being the understudy, they move up to SPL. Being a 12 month commitment, they experience the whole program year, and with luck, they have had ample time to grow into the job by the time they're the SPL..

                            Training? That's what the SPL does with his ASPL. They've been in their shoes, and training your replacement is a good learning experience on both sides.

                            So far, it works, and I've watched it for six years now...(This message has been edited by Eolesen)


                            • #15

                              So what your saying is your troop elects an SPL for 12 months and they know that the first 6 months is a learning period. After the 12 months they are out because another one is waiting in the wings. So you don't allow the Scouts to reelect their SPL. Why?

                              Seems like something an adult would construct not a 12 year old boy. Wouldn't that be against the idea that the Scouts can elect their own leader and can reelect them as many times as they would like?(This message has been edited by bnelon44)