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NJ_Bald Eagle

Youth Leadership Accountabilty ?

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This big ole gorilla of youth leader accountability continues to rear it's ugly head so I seek the wisdom of the board on a situation I will guarantee is not unique to our humble troop. Thanks for your patience in reading, assuming you actually make it to the end. To set the stage: New SM comes from an HR background and is trying to implement criteria/standards to assure scouts are aware of their leadership roles and what is expected of them. So far, responses come from two ASM having different opinions and a former SM.


The new Scoutmaster is asking the SPL and ASPL to work together with ASMs and the SM to make certain that scouts have accomplished their leadership requirements before scheduling them for scoutmaster conferences. We need to make sure these scouts have made meaningful contributions before they are signed off. So SM is asking our SPL and ASPLs to ask a candidate for Star or Life what they have done as a leader before scheduling them for a scoutmaster conference. If there are any questions, please ask the scout to talk to any ASM or to the SM. If a scout has not done anything meaningful they are not ready for a scoutmaster conference and should be coached on what to do.


One ASM responded: We have to be careful that we are not unintentionally adding additional requirements to the various ranks for advancement. The only "leadership" requirement is that of holding a leadership position for a specific period of time. The requirement does not say that they have to do anything "meaningful" while they hold that position NOR does it require that a scout

do any other kind of "meaningful" leadership activities. If a scout has held a leadership position for the required amount of time (regardless of what they have done or not done) they have fulfilled the requirement. This has been upheld at the various scout levels beyond a troop.


If a scout is not performing in their leadership position - it is up to the scoutmaster to have a scoutmaster conference with them and counsel them regarding their performance. It is not the responsibility of the SPL or Assistant SPL to check on the whether a scout is performing in their leadership position.


The former SM responded that he also struggled significantly with this issue as Scoutmaster and felt he failed due to overwhelming & constant complaining and opposition by certain parents. The parents were the problem, not the scouts. The scouts were (and are) willing to do what is required in a leadership position with a little direction; it is the parents inserting what THEY think they can get away with and have their son get the rank advancement anyway. The aims and spirit of scouting continue to be distorted. If a scout is not expected to demonstrate leadership in a leadership role/position then why have them? The only recourse is for the Scoutmaster to remove the scout from the position . . . try it . . . and see what kind of threats, acusations and action you get from the parents, even when the reason is very clear!


Unfortunately, leadership in a scout position is inherently subjective and some parents use this as an excuse to have their son do as little as possible and still obtain the rank advancement.


Another ASM responded-- The implementation of the requirements is very subjective, but the subjectivity works both ways, from the scouts perspective as well as the scoutmasters.


The scouts and scoutmasters all have different capabilities, attitudes, goals and expectations of what they want from the program.


Humans are subjective, we can't change that, but if a troop (or a society)is to function, there must be accountability. The different parts of the troop must function together, individuals can't do as they please when it comes to the collective group, or we everyone suffer.


If a particular scout is perceived as not performing his leadership role, I suggest obtaining a consenus from other scoutmasters and possibly scout leaders and scouts. That can reduce the subjectivity and allow appropriate measures to be implemented.


Setling for mediocraty provides a dis-service to all.

Meaningful is good, doing time is useless.


So, if you read through this whole post, what's your view on the matter?

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First, Adult Association is a Method of Scouting. I think it's reasonable to expect the Scoutmaster to be hands-on in mentorship of his charges, particularly those in PORs.


There are plenty of BSA materials out there which describe what a Scout is expected to do in his POR. To me, the bottom line is... POR performance expectations must begin before the Scout is ever selected/elected.


If you've not told the youth what the job looks like before they decide to go for it, shame on a Troops adult leadership.


If you've not told the parents what the job looks like before they permit their child to go for it, shame on a Troops adult leadership.


If you don't provide necessary training as the young man steps into the job (including technical skills he may not yet have), shame on a Troops adult leadership. (Yes that training may well come from another youth... that's ok).


If the SM, ASMs and committee people with "technical" folios are not observing constantly, giving praise as appropriate, and encouraging where needed, shame on a Troops adult leadership.


If the SPL and ASPL are not out there, planning and coordinating together with the PLC, and if they are not giving peer thanks for work being done, shame on them and the Troops adult leadership.


Communicate. Constantly. Both Ways. Listen. Listen more than talk. Observe.


If the adults and the youth leadership care about the next cycle as well as their current cycle, a Troop will have constant cross-talk which helps get things done, young men will grow, and the Troop should never encounter the bad news situation the current ACP&P puts SMs in when time is up.


Set the bar higher than "patch wearing equals POR completion."


My thoughts.

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Just so we aren't arguing semantics, the Advancement requirements are for the scout to "serve actively" for a specific time period. I don't know if meaningful and "serve actively" mean the same thing, but I will be using the phrase "serve Actively". I believe as the troop officers, the SPL and ASPL should indeed have a role in the process of how active a scout is working at his Position of Responsibility. The SPL/ASPL should know if the Quartermaster(s) have the gear packed, available in good shape, etc. The SPL/ASPL should know if when requested the Instructors are giving good instructions. My only caution is that this is not done once every 4 or six months. This should be a monthly duty/ Waiting until the 5.5 month mark to tell a scout he wont be getting his 6 months POR credit is a disservice to him and the troop. The Scoutmaster may be the one to determine if the POR was done, but input from the youth leaders certainly would help.

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True, all of the above.


But here's part of the rub.

Often in the adult world we expect a new hire to walk in the door and be productive immediately.

Occasionally in certain positions we have 30, 60, 90 day "orientation" periods where we "train" the new hire or "expose them to the working environment".

I even had a position once where I was briefed that I would not be assigned to a team until I had been indoctrinated for a six month period - I was running a team in that organization in just under sixty days but that's just an aside.


We are taking youth who may have never been responsible to anyone (including their parents) to do anything and asking them to work in what may be fairly simple to very complex positions(depending on your troops size, history and expectations) and be effective.


For me, where my troop is now, with the (lack of) examples these youth have seen, I just expect growth in the position. I don't think a Scout should leave a position with the same or fewer skills then they came into the position with. I don't yet think my Scouts know what functioning youth leadership looks like yet; although the SPL was magnificent at our most recent Troop meeting - much more of that and I'm going to have to raise the bar on the next guy who had the opportunity to see his example. Big keys definitely include TLT and ongoing communication, and getting the parents to help the Troop but stay out of the boys way.


As to criteria standards for POR's: Only if they are widely publicized, clear, metric based, and KNOWN to the SCOUT PRIOR to his election to the position. They also shouldn't be changed mid-term for the Scout currently in a POR. And of course once you start using them you MUST enforce them or you are just creating another way to weaken the program. It's fairly easy to create a new initiative - it is usually very hard to make it work.


One bite at a time....

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The Scout & SM should have a sit down to discuss what the expectations of the leadership position are. Like my esteemed colleague posted, the term is "serve actively" and doing nothing is not "serving actively".


And yes this can be very subjective. Not all Scout should be expected to lead the same way. What should be expected is all Scouts to do their best with the abilities & talents they have.


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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I beleive Yoda said it best, or Mr Miyagi, I get confused


There is no try, only do or do not


Cub Scouts ask that you do your best, in Boy Scouts you do, or don't

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I do not know what training the three leaders have completed or how much experience they each have, but they are a little right on the topic and a lot astray.


The requirement referred to by the ist ASM in your story does not exist.


Nor is there a requirement that a scout make a meaningful contribution. That is far to subjective for a measurement.


The troop level junior leader training gives you a very easy tool. During the training course each scout gets a wallet card that has his office's general duties on one side, and on the other the scout can write three goals for his term. These do not have to be "meaningful", but they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to his position and have a specifc time for accomplishment.


Where I think the troop leadership is missing the big picture is that purpose of the junior leadership positions is not the goal of scouting it is a Method of scouting. Youth leadership is a tool used in the scouting program to help develop citizenship and mental and emotional fitness, so that we can affect the mission of scouting which is to help young people make ethical choices based on the Oath and Law.


Just putting scouts in leadership positions and then waiting to hear from others how they did is not what adult scout leadership is about.


If the goal of your leadership team is to follow amd deliver a strong scouting program then I would make the following recommendations.


1. Take or revisit Scoutmaster Leader Specific Trainingg.

2. Use the troop level junior leader training course and the leadership wallet cards that are included.

3. Have the adult leaders take an active role in coaching and mentoring the junior leaders throughout their tenure in office.

4. Regularly review the scout's activity and their progress toward their three goals that they set for their term in office.

5. Be prepared to reinforce good leadership skills as displayed by the scout or to counsel the scout back on track so that they learn and retain the skills of leadership, and can apply them to their next leadership opportunity.



(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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Yah NJ Bald Eagle, your troop is by no means unique, eh?


If we are goin' to build boys' character using the Scouting Methods, then "serve" and "actively" have to be real. I wouldn't get to overboard with settin' up an HR office for da lads, but certainly havin' expectations and coachin' 'em is a good thing. In Scoutin', whether it's tying a knot or being Quartermaster, we work with kids to improve as long as it takes, but we only sign off when they can really tie the knot or really have served actively. The example we set for other boys when we give a boy an award is important, eh? If da message is "you can skate by" or "your parents can argue and get you whatever you want" then we won't be successful at teachin' character.


One of the things that's really hard is that National's gotten sick of those parents too, eh? So they've gone hands-off and taken a stance that they're only going to use objective (aka "easily defensible legally") standards to evaluate an appeal. So "be active in your troop" has become "be registered". Serve actively in a position of responsibility has become "hold a title and not get kicked out". So the guidance they've been givin' is opposite to the way most of us do Scoutin'. They'd prefer yeh remove the kid before the time period because that's objective.


Yeh have to figure out how yeh negotiate that difference in your unit. I think you as a troop should do what you think makes sense for really teachin' the boys, and what is consistent with the mission and character of your Chartered Organization. Remember, you work for da Chartered Organization, not the BSA. Coach 'em, mentor 'em, help them grow. A boy learns, a boy is evaluated, and a boy is reviewed before he is awarded... those are da steps to BSA advancement. Learning and a successful evaluation are part of the requirements if you want 'em to be.


As for dealin' with truly obstreperous parents, being a member of your troop is a privilege, not a right. An invitation to the door can work wonders. Protect the environment for the good kids and families who want to use the program to help their kids grow in character and citizenship. Don't let it be hijacked by resume-enhancers.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Thanks for all of your valued comments. I particularly like the idea of advising (even going so far as having them sign off) parents so they are aware of what their son is committing to before he is elected to his POR. We currently do have a form with the expected responsibilityies and duties for each youth POR. Is this legit to do, BSA wise? We would not want to be creating a new requirement or else the sky will truly fall


Is it me or does every individual have his or her own interpretation of "serve actively"?


and.... ASM 1 just came back and responded "Here's what it all boils down to: If a scout is in a leadership position for the required time period he has fulfilled the requirement. Period - no ifs ands or buts. You cannot hold a scout back if after he has fulfilled all the other requirements and held the leadership position for the required time. That is indisputable - and troops that have done this in the past have had their decisions overturned at higher levels when the scout has appealed."


ASM1 further added "The only real role the Troop Committee should be playing in this is evaluating the program. If a scout makes it all the way to a rank BOR without doing anything it means that the program is not working in the troop. Then the Committee should be holding the scoutmaster accountable. Not the scout."


All for the greater good (wwe hope), turns out that everyone certainly has an opinion to voice... what's yours?



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I violently agree with your last paragraph.


In the meantime, hay-foot, straw-foot, every day :) ... and your Troop will get there.


I also like what you said about this being the first time they've ever held fundamental responsibility.

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NJ_Bald Eagle,

As one poster above suggested use the POR cards in the TLT Troop Leadership Training) syllabus(probably available at your Scout Shop) for defensible requirements.


Thanks John...(This message has been edited by Gunny2862)

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NJ. check the following:




especially where it says:


"Question: For the Star, Life, and Eagle Scout ranks, how is "Be active in your troop and patrol" defined?


Answer: A Scout is considered to be active in his unit if:


He is registered in his unit (registration fees are current).

He has not been dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons.

He is engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (Scoutmaster conference, informs the Scout of upcoming unit activities, through personal contact, and so on).


The unit leaders are responsible for maintaining contact with the Scout on a regular basis. The Scout is not required to attend any certain percentage of activities or outings. However, unit leaders must ensure that he is fulfilling the obligations of his assigned leadership position. If he is not, then they should remove the Scout from that position.


I know we are talking about serving actively in a position of responsibility, but in the interest of full disclosure I copied the entire answer. It is the last two sentences that is the cruz of the matter I beleive. It clearly indicatesif the boy is not fulfiling his reponsibilities, he is to be removed from the position. That is the telling line, if he is not doing the job, then the BSA is encouraging you to "fire" him, he doesnt get to be called Quartermaster if he doesnt do the job.


Now the sticky part. Beavah thinks (and if I am wrong, Beavah, I apologize but I think I have this down)if the boy takes 4 months to get the hang of the job, then it really isnt fair to the rest of the guys who picked it up after the Scoutmaster orientation meeting to sign them all off at 6 months so Beavah thinks that the boy should stay in the Quartermaster position for another well, say 4 months, so all scouts are treated the same and the troop has functioning quartermasters.


The issue becomes, if the scout stays 6 months in the position, one could argue that since he has been in the POR he has completed his time and shouldnt have to spend any more time there. If the scoutmaster conferences have been documented chroniculing the scoutmaster's efforts to bring the youth up to acceptable performance, there is no problem with continuing the POR for another 4 months. If you dont do anything, then you may have a problem.


Your ASM1 is not entirely correct, just holding a space on a sheet of paper does not a Quartermaster make, he has to serve actively. That has to be determined upfront and the scout has to do it. if he doesnt, then he doesnt get credit, and your documentation will hold up to any appeal that is made.


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Great Post Gunny.


A unit learns a lot about performance accountability when they have retarded or handicap scouts in the unit. How to apply equal accountability with unequal abilities quickly challenges adults with equal expectations of all scouts. Scouting is about growth and each boy grows differently. Scouts should be mentored as individuals.




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ASM #1 should be thanked for his input, but unless he gets trained or retrained and shows he actually understands the Leadership Development Method and the Advancement Program his opinions should not be given credibility. His opinions are not in keeping with the policies or Methods of the BSA Boy Scout Program.


Serve actively is explained in the Boy Scout handbook. BE CAREFUL! "Actively serve in a leadership position", and "be active in your patrol or troop" are two different requirememnt.


Bear in mind that not all scouts have the same resources of time, and a good adult leader will realize that each scout's level of activity will vary.


It would be very difficult to say that a scout who got his job done was not active.


(This message has been edited by Bob White)(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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So "be active in your troop" has become "be registered". Serve actively in a position of responsibility has become "hold a title and not get kicked out". So the guidance they've been givin' is opposite to the way most of us do Scoutin'. They'd prefer yeh remove the kid before the time period because that's objective.


That, in my opinion is a grossly dishonest mis-characterization of the rank requirement. And yet we hear it frequently from lots of folks that dont like the BSA statements on serving in a position. What rarely gets mentioned is that the SCOUTMASTER is charged with training the boy to be successful in his position of responsibility. If the SM sits on his fanny for 6 months and then tells the boy he did a lousy job, he (SM) has not done his job. The boy may have done a poor job in the position, but the time for the SM to address the boys struggle is as it is occurring. What BSA would prefer is that Scoutmasters actually do their job and train and mentor boys to fulfill the responsibilities of the positions; NOT kick them out.


The BSA clarification on this is to make it clear that the SM cannot let a boy wander through his term of office and then declare he failed and must start over. The rank requirement is NOT NOT NOT simply be registered and hold a title.

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