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ParkMan

Who manages the ASMs in your troop?

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Hi all,

 

I'm the CC of a troop of about 70 boys.  I've been struggling to wrap my head around a problem we've got.

 

Our Scoutmaster has been in his role about 25 years.  He's a friendly guy and always willing to go camping.

 

He's generally not terribly interested in developing his ASMs.  If a really active ASM shows up and starts filling a role, the SM seems content to let him/her have at it. But, for the majority of ASMs who signed up, but are waiting for something to do - he doesn't seem terribly interested in cultivating that.  Most show up for a while, but then stop bothering to come.  They are really just another parent at the meeting.

 

The SM constantly says he needs more help and is willing to let all kinds of things slide by.  Last year, I nudged him to try to work with the boys to get patrols to work.  He said "find me adults to advise the patrols".  I did just that.  The patrols lasted for about 2-3 months before the fell apart.  The SM never really leveraged the ASMs we provided for him.

 

I really don't want to micromanage him, but he seems dis-interested in leading the program.  He wants to be the SM, but not lead the ASMs.  I keep thinking that we need an ASM program, but the SM really doesn't seem interested in that.

 

I'm about ready to resign as CC over the frustration from this.

 
I'm curious what other troops do - does the SM manage the ASMs?  Someone else?

 

Anyone ever been down a road like this and have a solution that worked?

 

 

Thanks!

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Managing ASMs ... Herding cats. Pretty much the same thing. But to answer your question ...

 

When I became an ASM of the troop I grew up in, the MC's were removed from daily workings of the troop, so it was the SM or nobody. He might let you know what he expected of you, he might not. That was okay. You basically let him know what you were up to, and that was it. Usually, that meant looking for odd jobs here and there and talking to the occasional homesick scout. (There was no advising patrols, that whole notion would have been laughable.)

 

Son #1's first SM, his wife managed us, inasmuch as she could. Getting us to hustle with paperwork and forms, etc. The ASM's were of two types: the pantheon of former SM's and us new dads. We did our own thing, and sometimes the boys would come over and ask us how it's done.

 

SM's wife became my co-advisor (at the time the SM was moving into the "pantheon"). I actually thought we were a pretty good team, but we also had some high functioning youth.

 

Second SM was more of a manager and asked for a lot of help, which got the poor man a heap of conflict. Half the ASM's wanted to have more time at the helm. He was the first one to ask each of us to "advise" a patrol. (Which I did by telling the PL where I'd be making coffee should he have any questions.)

 

Third SM (son #2's) was more like a partner than any of the other guys. Not sure who managed who. But by then, I learned to run interference for the guy. On the flip side, patrols didn't really hold together.

 

Current SM delegates a lot. But, the CC is also in the mix. (I guess me and the 3rd SM are now in that pantheon.) The crossover dads are stepping up. I admire this group of boys. There is a little bit more patrol pride. But the rift between the older scouts who merged from our troop and the younger scouts who out-vote them never quite healed. A lot of my time as crew advisor has been spent nudging these guys to mentor more ... which works about half the time.

 

So there you are. If there's a lesson to be learned, I guess it's that the grass ain't greener. My best advice, get as many of these guys to roundtable and other training. That's where you as a CC have the most clout.

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First, is his management style having a negative impact on the youth in the troop? If so, you need to address it. But if the youth are having a good scouting experience (boy led, advancing, camping etc.) then don't upset the apple cart because he has a style of management that may be unorthodox.

 

If you think the troop is suffering, then.......

 

The SM is responsible for managing the ASM's.

 

However, you as CC, the SM reports to you.

If the troop is suffering you are responsible for making a change.

That change may mean sitting down and talking with the SM about what the troop needs and its goals. You may need to help in developing a plan to reach those goals.

 

It could be that after 25 years, you need a change in the SM. Perhaps the SM will see that on his own, perhaps you need to suggest it. Or you may even need to force it.

 

Three things:

  1. No job in scouting, NO JOB, is a lifetime appointment. Not the CC or the SM or anyone else.
  2. The troop, how it functions, everything about it, is for the boys, not the adults. If there is a negative impact on the youth then whatever is causing that issue needs to be addressed.
  3. If you have a good program for the youth, that is what matters, not the style of management (as long as it follows BSA poicy). Don't tinker with a good troop just because some disagree with the SM's style

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I view the SM corps as a model of the patrol method in an ideal world. The SM is the patrol leader and through his leadership is an example for the other PLs. Each ASM has a specific duty just like in a patrol. Many of us lament the lack of Patrol Method; how many have the SM and ASM modeling it at meetings, outings etc... The boys will mimic lack of leadership. As Scouters it is necessary we act, organize, communicate, lead, etc... in a manner no less than what we expect of the Scouts. Not just as individuals, but with our structure and methods. I would argue this also extends to the Troop Committee, it also should be "using the patrol method" in its format and operations. Be what we want the boys to be, Do what we want the boys to do, Say what we want the boys to say... in all areas.

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The SM constantly says he needs more help and is willing to let all kinds of things slide by.  Last year, I nudged him to try to work with the boys to get patrols to work.  He said "find me adults to advise the patrols".  I did just that.  The patrols lasted for about 2-3 months before the fell apart.  The SM never really leveraged the ASMs we provided for him.

I don't think the issue is making use of or developing the ASMs. The SM doesn't really care about the idea of patrols. You found ASMs for him. Did he work with the ASMs to show them how to advise the patrols? Or did he just say go advise the patrols.

 

I don't think developing the ASMs is the first step in getting the patrol method working. It's important but I'd think the first step is defining how the troop is going to work with patrols, with patrol leaders, with regular PLC meetings, with an SPL.

 

If the SM has been around or 25 years and there are no patrols then there won't be patrols.

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If the SM has been around or 25 years and there are no patrols then there won't be patrols.

Yep, gotta agree. A zebra with spots can't change to stripes. I've seen a SM and ASM equal side-by-side as a team working the same plan for the same goal. But the SM is still given respect for the final word. Good or bad, the SM is the gatekeeper of the vision and program, even it appears there is no vision and no program.

 

If change is really wanted, the troop needs a new SM.

 

Barry

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I run the patrol method of a boy-led troop.  I spend most of my time keeping adults out of the boys' way.  With that being said, I have 2 ASM's right now.  1 deals with advancement records and paperwork.  He hands me a report of what advancement needs to be done for all the scouts and I SMC with the PL to help him if he wants to know this information. 2 deals with Popcorn Sales, fundraisers and keeping the books, registrations for summer camp, etc.  Both know their jobs and we all stay in our own lanes.

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ASM's and patrol method are two different issues.  You don't need ASM's to make the patrol method work.  In fact, too many ASM's subverts the patrol method and the troop.  ASMs often feel entitled and look for opportunities to show their value.  Often this is in conflict with the scoutmaster and the patrol method.   

 

The simple fact is you don't need many adults to take a troop camping.  You need drivers, but not camping adults.  A small troop of 20 camping needs one SM and one ASM or parent camping.  Over 20 scouts, a 3rd camping adult is nice.  Over 45 scouts, maybe a 4th adult.  

 

As for the original post, there is enough good advise already.  People often complain and ask for help, but then don't welcome help and often don't really want to change.  They really just want sympathy and people impressed with how hard the job is that they are doing.  I suspect that's your case.  

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We use the patrol method.  The SM is the PL of the ASM.  There is an unofficial APL among the ASM.  The APL/ASM is announced as the Acting SM for events where the SM cannot attend.  Each ASM is allocated a patrol to monitor for a year.  During annual SM/ASM meeting, roles are redistributed as needed.

 

New ASMs are assigned a mentor ASM, so often patrols will have two ASMs assigned to them.  During events, the SM will request various ASMs to take on specific tasks: oversee this hike, collect paperwork, etc.  Some ASMs are clearly the go-to person for certain stuff.  One fella is an EMT so first aid issues get run by him.  One fella works with the troop quartermaster so fields questions about equipment, troop trailer, etc.  Some ASMs are knots, some are orientation, etc.   Fortunate to have a core of about 5 ASM with good depth and breath of all T-1st skills.  

 

ASMs eat as a patrol with a designated person to select menus, buy food and lead the cooking.  All others members pitch as needed.  All ASM help with dishwashing, general cleanup, etc. 

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I don't see any reference to the Chartered Organization Representative in this discussion.  It might be easier and more productive to help guide and train your COR.  Here's a link to the COR guidebook (it's rather short and easy reading):  http://scoutingwire.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Chartered-Organization-Representative-Guidebook.pdf

 

To be sure, working with your COR to attract and train your leaders is right in line with the COR's responsibility.  Moreover, developing a good relationship with the COR will undoubtedly give you leverage with the Scoutmaster.  Together, you and the COR can work with the SM to either get him on-board or work out a transition come next re-chartering time.  Bottom line:  it's the COR's responsibility to:

 

approve all adult leaders and committee members, or he or she may delegate this task. This approval occurs once at the time of initial recruitment; again each year at the time of charter renewal; and whenever adult leaders change registered positions, such as from committee member to den leader (p.6)

 

Together, you, the SM, and the COR form the "Key 3" of the unit's leadership.  If you and the COR are aligned on goals and objectives, you'll have a much easier time getting the SM to come along.  Let the COR know your feelings and intentions should things remain unchanged.  If your COR has any intention of promoting a sustainable program, he/she will get the hint.  Good luck! -

- Craig

Edited by AltadenaCraig

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For my money an ASM that needs the SM to direct him is not worth much. An ASM should take his training and then dive in to the program to see where he can help. He can and should ask the SM where help is needed but shouldn't wait around to be directed.

 

For example, if I am a canoeing expert I might ask the SM when the canoe trip is. I might take the time to put together a proposal for the PLC (through the SM of course) for a cool trip, with plans to teach canoeing skills during troop meetings. I might work with the Instructors to train them first, then have them train the troop. I'd look up outfitters and other special vendors, maybe arrange a few guest speakers.

 

But I wouldn't wait for an SM to direct me to do anything. A good ASM is self motivated and a self starter. They don't wait to be directed. Who needs someone like that? That's not helping or helpful.

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I aim for a SM/ASM meeting 2x a year.  During these meetings, I discuss - vision, boy-led Troop ladder (where we are on it & how to move further), upcoming campouts, any Troop behavior issues, prospective ASMs, etc.  

 

This gives us a chance to make sure everyone is on the same page.  During the 1st one, the ASMs asked for defined responsibilities.  

 

Communication is key.

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I used to read and listen to a lot of stuff over at scoutmastercg.com

 

   sidetrack .... but does anyone happen to know if Clarke is ok?  I haven't heard anything new published in a while....

 

Anyway, he had a few podcasts and maybe some blog posts that talked about how there really isn't need for a lot of ASM's.  His perspective was that all communications should be with SM, and if he was unavailable then the ASM would be his surrogate but the ASM was only to repeat what the SM said...nothing more.  Maybe 2 ASM's was all...and one of those would be the "#2" sort of in grooming to take SM eventually.

     Now this is how I remembered it, so it could be off a bit

 

At first I thought this sounded very odd and off putting even....but I do admit I see some logic in it.

 

Anyway, it might be worth it to you, to do a little digging around over there for podcasts and posts re. the roles of ASM's.

 

I went ahaed and did a little digging.  here's one to get you started.  not sure if this is the one I'm remembering or not.  Think ha had a few things on the topic...

http://scoutmastercg.com/podcast-284-assistant-scoutmasters/

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I used to read and listen to a lot of stuff over at scoutmastercg.com

 

   sidetrack .... but does anyone happen to know if Clarke is ok?  I haven't heard anything new published in a while....

 

Anyway, he had a few podcasts and maybe some blog posts that talked about how there really isn't need for a lot of ASM's.  His perspective was that all communications should be with SM, and if he was unavailable then the ASM would be his surrogate but the ASM was only to repeat what the SM said...nothing more.  Maybe 2 ASM's was all...and one of those would be the "#2" sort of in grooming to take SM eventually.

     Now this is how I remembered it, so it could be off a bit

 

At first I thought this sounded very odd and off putting even....but I do admit I see some logic in it.

 

Anyway, it might be worth it to you, to do a little digging around over there for podcasts and posts re. the roles of ASM's.

 

I went ahaed and did a little digging.  here's one to get you started.  not sure if this is the one I'm remembering or not.  Think ha had a few things on the topic...

http://scoutmastercg.com/podcast-284-assistant-scoutmasters/

As an ASM, I was never managed.  I did what needed to be done, and that was it.  It was more of a team effort than a hierarchical one.  

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Thanks for all the responses here.  I was off on a business trip and away for a few days.  Back to Scouting!

 

Perhaps a few follow-up thoughts, questions, or points of confusion on my part.

 

I may have mis-used the phrase "manage".  I work in a business world, so that's a phrase that comes to mind.  But, I do guess the better term might be lead.  I'm assuming someone needs to provide leadership and direction to those folks.  I suppose with clear roles and responsibilities - then perhaps the SM doesn't need to provide much leadership and direction.  But, that's not us.  What I see in my troop is that the SM does most everything.  There's a few named ASMs.  But, by and large the SM takes on most other program functions.  The SM Corps is generally not very structured.  If the SM was keeping up with everything, that's fine by me. He's the captain of the ship, he decides how to sail it.  I fully support that concept.  But, when he's not keeping up with the program responsibilities and actively saying "find me someone", then what?  

 

As I write this, I think you all really answered my question - even if I used the wrong term and maybe the wrong question.  It's the SM's job to lead the ASMs.  If he's not doing it, then it's probably because he doesn't find those functions all the important.  We've offered time and again to help, but since he never really accepts the help, then he perhaps really isn't that interested in it . I suppose I could try to come up with a scheme to make it work, but in reality - if the SM doesn't think those functions are important enough to do them, then it's probably a futile effort to try to make those happen.

 

I think some of you asked the million dollar question.  Is the program the SM is running beneficial/harmful to the scouts.  That's a really tough question.  On the one hand.  We have an active program.  The SM camps a lot, regularly throws leadership opportunities to the scouts a lot, and is a generally a good person.  On the flip side, camping participation is low and troop meetings adult led and lightly planned.  Our boy lead approach is basically - SM leads the scouts to most of their decisions. When the scouts are in charge, the SM not only leaves them alone, but pretty well lets them sink or swim.  EDGE is pretty much "Explain and let's see what happens".  The annual planning meeting doesn't really happen.  Patrols, don't really happen.  A health number of boys leave because the troop meetings are most often announcements, some activity, game.  Most scout PORs are poorly done because either the patrol functions are non-existent or the troop positions are not very structured.  In terms of youth positions - the SPL is VERY busy.  Scouts leading events are kind of busy.  Other youth PORs don't do much.  Camping trips never have enough participation that there is any kind of cohesion from trip to trip.  Yet, advancement is good.  

 

As CC, I struggle.  If someone asked me if do we have a good program that is boy-led, I'd have to say no.  As the parent of a scout, I think it could be a LOT more fun and challenging.  In fact, my son is not enthused by any of it.  Yet, there is about 30-40% of the troop that attends troop meetings once or twice a month and attends camping trips a few times a year.  The committee adults do a good job of organizing advancement such that boys that make first class can generally get to Eagle if they stick around.  Boys that make it past a few years have a good relationship with the SM.  So - is it a rewarding scouting experience - I suppose.  Do I think it resembles the promise of the BSA - not really.  Should I force a SM change - not sure.  Am I ready to force a SM change - I don't think so.

 

Again - my appreciation for the replies.  This helped level set me.

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