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Changing a Troop's Culture, Balancing Boy-led versus Adult-led

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Well being out of work has given me a lot of time to think about my son's troop. Most of you know that the troop has had issues in leadership, specifically an SM with health issues trying to get the troop organized and going with little weekly help from other leaders because most of the ASMs are also Cub Leaders and the troop and pack meet on the same nite. So it's been intersting. SM, in trying to get things up to speed has done more adult lead than youth led.


I've worked some with the Dec-May SPL and a bit with the May-Dec SPL to try and get things more youth led, and more intersting than "lectures"  Some of that has been me and other adults talking about skills, but on a few occasions we had a Scout do it. My personal favorite was the 11y.o. Tenderfoot who has more backpacking miles than I do doing a class on Backpacking class.Those going to Philmont next year didn't take him seriously at first. They know better now.



Anyway the challenges with the troop really hit me when we had a Webelos visit the troop and I talked to him afterwards. He told me that it didn't seem like a real Boy Scout troop with lack of uniforms, lack of patrol spirit, etc, but just like a camping club.  And in thinking about it, he's right.


I'm going to talk to my friend who is suppose to take over as SM as soon as he can find a replacement CM.  I really don't think will have the time committment to be SM since A) he will be a newlywed again and B) Stepson will be a Tiger. if he's agreeable, I may take over as SM once I am out of this imobilizer and I can be active again.


If this happens, there are things I want changed that may upset some of the "older" Scouts. I want them to take on more responibility instead of just goofing off. I want patrol spirit. I want uniforms. I want them to be proud to be Scouts.


BUT I do not want to take over and run the troop and be a dictator.


Any advice?






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Had a chance to talk to to my friend, and  he's good with me becoming SM,  now it's time to talk to the CC/COR

Here we go again, no prisoners.   ALL adults have a vision, especially stosh who beats his vision over our heads over and over. What is at issue is how the scouts reach the adult vision. I don't agr

two weeks ago, I had this out with my troop committee, who were upset that as Scoutmaster, I wasn't "leading the boys" (sitting in the troop meeting, teaching basic scouting skills, leading the game,

Send a few upstart 12-14 year olds to NYLT. You've got to play the long game. I've been in a similar situation (but as an ASM, which increases the difficulty.) 

Sending those Scouts to the training, where they will be taught by older Scouts, gives them a feel for how the program should be. Assuming the NYLT staff does it's job, they'll come back with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. 

I gave up trying to win over the 16-17 year old's when we started the transition a few years back. They are generally going to be comfortable with how things are and won't want to change. 

Cultural changes are very difficult, even where you are in the position of SM and have the CC on board. 

Each Troops culture is different, so it's hard to give you a step by step list. 

For my Troop I realized the need when we couldn't retain older Scouts. The leadership and ownership the Patrol method gives is the key to their retention. We had always sent Scouts to NYLT, our adults just weren't letting them do anything with it. Coaching them is key, but let the SPL's and PL's develop a vision and pitch that to the other Scouts. 

Like the stages of team development, don't get discouraged when stuff goes sideways. Some weeks I leave the meetings energized and jazzed up, others like last night, I wonder if we're ever going to get it. 

I hope my ramblings have something useful contained within. 

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First of all you need to read the book "The Peter Principle".  :)


Everyone rises to their lowest level of incompetence.


However, one can beat the system through what the author suggests as Creative Incompetence.  I use it all the time on the boys.  They know the game I'm playing and appreciate it in many circumstances.  The boys will follow those they think can expertly lead the best.  Usually that is easily seen as anyone over 18 and drives a car.    However, here we have a SM who is struggling to get out of his immobilizer when that is the #1 most perfect time to be SM.  "Hey boys, we gotta get this weekend planned and I can't do it alone,  need some help over here."  You are creatively incompetent and you need the boys to rely on for getting things done.


"Hey, John and Jimmy, I need some meals planned for the weekend and can you line up a crew to do the shopping?"


"Hey, QM, everything ready for the weekend?  I'd be a lot more comfortable if you gave it the once over just to ease my concerns."


"Hey, Scribe, has everyone who's going paid up for the weekend?"


Etc.... :)


The last thing you want them to do is get you a cup of coffee because they will figure out really quick the little game you're playing.


Yes, you're providing directive leadership at this point, but it is how the process will shift to a competent SPL away from the "Incompetent" SM.  


Eventually the only question the SM will ask is to the SPL when he asks, "Do the boys have everything covered?"  The day may even come when the SM can correctly assume that will be a positive answer and doesn't even need to ask.  At that point the troop belongs to the boys and the esprit-de-corps will begin to set in on its own.

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I agree with @@Sentinel947 for both the NYLT comment and the fact that sometimes you have to give up on beating your head against the wall with the older ones.  When I first came in the first time, the old SM had done things certain ways and the older scouts were used to that.  When I came in and had gone to training, I tried to get my older boys to be more leaders and they really didn't want that.  I found that the kids that were in early high school and middle school were the kids that were buying into it more.  They liked the idea that they could be leaders and plan things themselves, while the older kids just thought it was more work.


Thankfully, when I came back the older scouts saw how the troop operated before and are more willing to be leaders (for the most part).  The younger scouts 8th grade and below had never seen this and were excited that they could make decisions about the troop ("you mean we can canoe again next summer if we want?") 


The other thing I would be careful of @Eagle4A-1 is that you don't step on toes of the existing leaders.  The last thing you want is a fight on your hands with adult leaders, you'll be challenged enough with the boys!  :p

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How are the Patrols currently set up?  Aged based? or Mixed Age?

Who made the calendar for the year?  Committee or PLC?

Do the meetings follow the Troop Meeting Plan?  Who plans the meetings?  Who runs the meetings?

What does the SM & ASMs do during the meetings?  What do the other adults do?



Objectively grade the Troop on each of the methods.

Formulate a long term plan to get to where you want to be. 

-decide what your priorities are.  You can't change everything at once.

Talk with the CC & your ASMs to share your plan.


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Yep, with older scouts, step away from the "we are a youth-led movement" lectures.


It's more like: "Hey, any chance you all can cook something really awesome to show 'em how it's done?"

Or spread the map out on the table and say "Okay, where can we take these guys that they'll enjoy?"

And "That little guy was just talking big about <insert adventure here>. Any chance you can show him how it's done?"

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We sent someone this summer who just finished 7th grade and I think is still 12 (or was at the time).


Wish we could. I have several young guys (under 13) that would make great PLs and would benefit greatly from NYLT. Unfortunately our council has set an age limit of 13.

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That's unfortunate that there are so many adult rules that hold back competent boys and postpone their leadership development according to adult.  It's real interesting to note that when one starts a new troop from scratch and have only Webelos cross-overs, the boy-led leadership out of necessity doesn't need to follow these adult rules.  As a matter of fact, my most promising scout was just recruited away from the troop because of his boy-led leadership skills.  He's 12 years old.  So now we're focusing in on leadership training for the remainder of the boys.  We may fold because of lack of numbers, but we aren't going to fold because of lack of leadership.


By the time my boys reach 13 and get to go to NYLT historically they come back letting everyone to follow that it's a waste of time and money. 

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NYLT is out for at least 2016 as the only ones olde enough to go are Philmont bound.


A litte info about the troop.  3 patrols. Olders Scouts, 13-14 years, 3 First Class, 1  Second class,and  3 Scouts

                                                            Patrol of 12-13 yos who have been in at least a year if not longer and are  probably the best run. 1 Tenderfoot, rest Scout.


NSP All Scout


Scouts did the annual planning. 3 activities "pushed" by the adults. January is a lockin with either ILS-T or First Aid Review, in addition to climbing ( Scouts have said don't mess with their climbing )


Council Camporee and District Camporee are the other 2 adult pushed events. And with the ringamarole the district camporee is making the Scouts do, there is talk among the adults of seeingif the Scouts even want to do it.


BUT that is my #1 change. Right now the annual plan is calendar year, not school year. So the first 6 months we don't have many conflicts.  HOWEVER fall tends to have a lot of them Last year we postponed one camp out because only 4 Scouts could go do to school extracurricuals.


We are not using the troop meeting plans and that is one thing I want to change. Prior to me switching over from CS to BS, the SM did the bulk of the instructing. Whenever i could, I've tried to get the youth to do the instructing. SPL was out of town when we started workingon backpacking, left no instructions, so I got the Tenderfoot NSP member who has more miles on his feet than I do . OK Dad helped a bit too. Dad brought his toys as well to let the  Philmont bound feel how a week-10 day trek will feel, and also to answer questions the Scout couldn't answer, which wasn't much.


We haven't had a lot of adults helping out until recently. Most are doing doble duty with Cubs.


More later

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Formulate a long term plan to get to where you want to be. 



This one line points me back again to my thought that what BSA needs in one program, clearly and very simply defined....


It's not where you or me wants it to be.... isn't it where it should be?


It really seems like we all tend to lean to the same ideal for this..... but yet there are so many different variation on the theme, and it seems to me that it should not be this way.

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