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Read a thread from a decade ago. It was called "How To Fire a Scoutmaster". The responses were...interesting.

Many questioned the loyalty of the poster, who came to the forum seeking advice. A quick tour of the forum (I'm new here, but not to Scouting) shows me that the situation that particular ASM faced isn't, unfortunately, uncommon. I've learned that there are bad situations. Sometimes things don't work out. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made. Nothing always runs as planned, or as hoped, despite good intentions.

I'm among a group of volunteers, ASMs, with a troop. I joined two years ago when my son became a Scout. I spent the first year observing. I've tried to work within the system after that. I had positive conversations with the SM. I learned that there was no Troop Committee, and that was fine by the SM. I learned that the efforts and suggestions that I made, or that any of the other ASMs made, were unwelcome. It didn't matter that these suggestions were well-considered and well-presented and in line with Scouting BSA policy. Or that they addressed problems that the SM agreed should be addressed. I learned that ASMs working together were "conspiring" and that failing to plan was the plan. I learned that it's the boys' fault that they failed to lead when leadership opportunity was denied to them, and it was the boys' fault that so few went on the last-minute trip that they had no role in choosing or planning.

After a particularly ugly incident over the summer, the COR reached out. He said he considered me to be the future of the troop's leadership. The SM agrees that his tenure should be winding down. He asked if I would accept the role. He said he would restart the committee and the troop would begin to move forward, towards the inevitable change.

Then...nothing happened. The ensuing year was the predicted unplanned nightmare. Last minute plans made. Existing plans changed. Outings cancelled. Very little program. The committee wasn't formed until May. The one man band acting as SM/CC/Treasurer is unclear about or unwilling to discuss the troop's finances. Maybe he'll stay in charge until the next calendar year. Maybe longer. Nobody is happy. Not the COR or the CC. Not the more involved/aware parents. Certainly not the boys, whom we seem to have trouble retaining. 

I guess I'm writing to all those respondents from the first thread. Sometimes things are bad. Sometimes leaders make it about themselves and not about the boys. Sometimes it's my way or the highway instead of a team effort by committed volunteers, and the volunteers get fed up. Sometimes good people don't act because it's hard to do something that will undoubtedly hurt or insult somebody who has been around for a long time. And sometimes you have to seek a way to change things because it's the right thing to do, even if it's uncomfortable and hard. We should be supporting people who are dealing with these issues. It's not easy. Few of us are out to wreck anybody, and certainly not the people seeking help from their peers on an internet forum.

Kids get 7 years to get the most out of what Scouting can offer them. That's all. Two years of abject dysfunction is a big chunk of that. If the program is about the kids, and it is, we can't allow chaos and dysfunction to reign for too long when normal redress fails.

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Posted (edited)

@BlueTrails_Vet Welcome to Scouter dot com.

I see two issues here. The first is training. I see people who don’t understand the Outdoors, Patrol, and Adult Association methods. I also see people who do not understand the aims of scouting.  The second is the chartered partner apparently does not understand its duties under the franchise agreement (charter).

Basically, you have three choices...

Do nothing, or what little you can without rocking the boat

Attempt to be an agent of change, with the possible consequence you are told you’re no longer welcome. 

Quietly exit the side door after finding a unit which runs properly.

it all depends on how much baloney you want to eat on the trail.  In the meantime, regardless, take as much BSA training as you can. Know what right looks like. 

I wish you well.

Edited by John-in-KC

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Posted (edited)

Hey John-in-KC!

Man...I have to get out there for BBQ some time.

Anyway. After listening for a year I tried to be an agent of change.In the process, I met with friends who are SMs or ASMs now to ask about best practices. I met on several occasions with our SM to discuss ideas. I drew up plans to present. Organizational things. Advancement things. Program things. After apparently initial positive response, including a promise to meet and discuss these things with the core ASM group, nothing happened. None of it. The annual "planning" meeting was a bust. None of it was discussed. The SPL wasn't even invited. It was announced that our annual plan would be, basically, to wing it.

After that, the aforementioned incident. Some really bad attitude demonstrated towards well-meaning ASMs who had put in a bunch of extra effort. The COR was witness. I was asked about being the future leader. I chose to ride the year out making as few waves as possible as a means of helping what I was told was an inevitable transition. 

Now I'm at the third part. I told the COR that I'd be leaving at the end of the school year. The CC will also be leaving (he also has a boy in the troop). At least two other ASMs will be leaving. It's a death spiral. We don't understand the COR's lack of urgency, except that I think resolving these issues feels less urgent if you don't have a child in the troop.

Best case, the existing SM realizes that the troop is disintegrating and that it'd be best for the troop he loves to step aside. Nobody wants to force him out, though everybody sees that as an option. It's a very difficult situation.

FYI: Along with other ASMs, I have done the ASM/SM training. I'm also Committee trained now. Those of us who have been seeking change are only asking that the troop do a better job adhering to the actual Scouting program. 

Edited by BlueTrails_Vet

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Few CORs have much involvement or understanding of the troop, so the lack of urgency doesn't surprise me.  

I have been in similar situations,  and there is no easy or clean solution. Good luck. 

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one option - Tell the SM you want to throw a retirement party for him - next month, Tell him how much you appreciate his time with the boys and invite all alum scouts that are still around and make sure it happens. Call a committee meeting 2 weeks prior and dont invite him, make plans and start the new role after month +1 day.

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Some do not know when to leave the dance.  The have "always" been the SM of unit 1234.  It is their identity.  Sadly they may not see ship sinking around them.  Not sure how many active Scout you may have.  There does, at least on paper, need to be some committee members.  They are the ones that choose the leaders.  Sometimes they are active in that, sometime not so much.

As was noted you have some choices.  Yours seems really down to a couple.

1) Get the committee to appoint a new SM and that is that.  

2) Move on to a new opportunity.

If you cannot get #1 done, then #2 is the only option.  Unless you plan to stay for another year hoping for change.

The COR would appoint the CC but would likely have zero or less knowledge of the how of the troop function

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Hi @BlueTrails_Vet,

Pardon in advnace the long winded reply...

Working with the Scoutmaster

When I've been in similar situations, I find I have the most success by recognizing that the current SCoutmaster is going to do what he/she is going to do.  I've been able to make the most change by figuring out what the Scoutmaster cares about and what he/she doesn't.  I'm generally able to get most of what I want accomplished done by letting him/her do his thing but getting his blessing for me to work on things he/sje doesn't care about.

An example.  In our troop, I often felt that the Scoutmaster was focused on seeing that we had good monthly trips.  He wasn't terribly focused on getting Scouts to plan trips or getting trips planned well enough ahead to get decent turnout.  I was the CC and so had a decent amount of authority to push things.  I tried a variety of things to force him to change - nothing worked.  I was frustrated, he was frustrated.   After a while I realized that he didn't care about planning trips and wasn't spending a lot of time thinking about turnout.  He just wanted to go camping with the Scouts.  So, I went out and found a volunteer who would support the Scoutmaster on organizing trips.  The Scoutmaster still got to do what he cared about - inspire the locations and go camping with the Scouts.  This ASM could fill in the gaps.  He worked with the SPL to have an annual planning meeting, he worked with the SPL to capture the calendar.  He worked with the SPL to get things planned.  SM was happy, Scouts were more involved, and a volunteer had a great role.  A win win.

Back when I was an Asst. Cubmaster, we had a Cubmaster who loved to be in control.  He & I didn't quite see eye to eye on what we thought should happen.  After a while, I happened to be drinking a beer with him and realized that he & I had different visions for the pack.  I was about quality of program.  He just wanted to see Scouts have fun and do cool things.  So, I found it worked great if I let him focus on big picture "fun".  I took care of signups, I took care of plans.  Along the way, I had HUGE influence on what we did in the pack.  I was able to take the the pack from being a pretty laid back pack to a pretty disciplined group.  We had calendars, plans, programs, etc.  But, the Cubmaster still got to focus on what he though was important - seeing the boys have fun.  Along the way the Cubmaster & I became great friends and talked constantly.  After a couple of years he decided to pass the torch and he wanted me to take over.  We had a very calm, orderly transition.  It was great.

So, I have two recommendations on working with the Scoutmaster.

1) Focus less on changing the troop.  Instead, focus more on getting the troop to be better at doing what it's doing.  Fill in those gaps that the Scoutmaster isn't doing.  Find his care abouts and figure out what you can do around those to impact the change you want.  In the process make the Scoutmaster successful so that he recognizes you as a partner, not a competitor.

2) Drink some beer with the Scoutmaster.  Become friends, get to know him.  

Best of luck!!!

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Yeah. Drank the beers. Tried to make incremental, even inconsequential changes. Tried to make the plans. Tried. Tried. Tried. And, not just me. But several ASMs, each working independently before we all realized that we'd been doing the same thing; working towards the same goals. 

It's an issue of control. The SM is an autocrat. He has been the SM, the CC, the committee itself. All of it. He doesn't want input. And despite the fact that he's aware of the many issues facing the troop, he doesn't want to change anything. Not really.

And so that's the issue. How to move on from the situation smoothly. The choices are binary: realize the there can be no smooth transition within the troop and transition ugly, or move on to a new troop. Neither option is great. 

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Welcome to the forums.

Smoothly?

Smooth would have been the COR walking into the troop meeting and saying "Congratulations, Mr. @BlueTrails_Vet, starting today, you are the SM. Mr. Former SM may submit an application for unit scouter reserve.

Next best thing, if you ASMs are all that: find a new CO where you can be SM under a COR with some spine.

If this is such a big deal to you, take action next week. Stop wasting time.

It really is that simple.

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Based on what your saying, this guy is not conforming to the program leadership protocols.  People who try to create their own program in lieu of what the BSA mandates should be not wearing the uniform.  I would call your district scout exec and district commissioner about the whole key 3 issue.  The SE should have the courage to have a conversation with both the CO and SM.

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A few notes on that response:

I'm aware of how smoothly it *could* go, except that the COR is determined to be diplomatic and the SM is recalcitrant. I'm all for diplomacy, but when the majority of the ASMs who show up every week leave at the end of the year go, it'll decimate this troop and nobody really wants that to happen either.

And it's only a big deal to me because each Scout gets seven years. Mine has four left. It's not about me at all except that as a parent I'm responsible for doing the right thing by him.

I'm not wasting time. I'm doing what I'm in a position to do. I've been urging the folks who are in a position to do something to act with urgency to solve a problem they say they'll solve. But I can't *make* them take the necessary steps. 

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Posted (edited)

Leave. This will go from being a passion to being day job WORK. 

We do this because we love it.  If it’s unlovable, don’t let it suck the juices out of you. 

Edited by John-in-KC
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This is one reason it is so important for Units to have good Unit Commissioners and those UC's to have a good relationship with the SM, the CC, and the COR (and ideally the IH as well).  Assisting with difficult leadership changes is one of the things the BSA places on the commissioner service. This could have been resolved quickly over a cup of coffee.  Either the SM realizes he is the one who needs to change or its "thank you for your service." This shouldn't be a slow process because scout turnover happens too quickly.  

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@mds3d, good Unit Commissioners ... for some leaders, that's a contradiction in terms. I bet that's the cases with this SM. He is taking advantage of indecisive leadership on the COR's part. I'm betting a good UC won't even waste the coffee on this one.

I have seen this in other venues. But unlike those, the fixed tenure of the youth comes to the fore.

If you and your ASMs are "all that", start talking to a new CO ASAP. Let the COR know that he either makes his move next week our you all will make yours.

Your DE will be tickled pink about the prospect of starting a new unit.

There are a lot of downsides to actually moving. Money will be left behind. So will gear. The new CO might not understand scouting the way your current one does. Five years from now, the boys might want to all merge back together. (Happened with our troop.)  But, those are minor things relative to waiting indefinitely for someone to address an urgent problem.

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13 hours ago, BlueTrails_Vet said:

The choices are binary: realize the there can be no smooth transition within the troop and transition ugly, or move on to a new troop. Neither option is great. 

 

11 hours ago, qwazse said:

If this is such a big deal to you, take action next week. Stop wasting time.

It really is that simple.

I'm with @qwazse on this.  By your own acknowledgement, you've done everything you can think of.  You're at decision time.

Figure out some concrete steps that will result in either you becoming Scoutmaster or leaving.

 

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