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SteveMM

Differences in Scoutmaster leadership styles

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1 hour ago, SteveMM said:

Thanks for all of the opinions, particularly those who tried to answer my question.  The new SM is a decent person who is trying to do things right, at least in his own eyes.  Shortly after taking over as SM, he began (and eventually completed) his Woodbadge.  He's basically all-in on Scouting, which I can respect.  His son is one of those kids that I call a "Super Scout," which basically means that Scouting is his only extra-curricular activity.  He never misses a merit badge weekend, campout, or training opportunity, and he has a ton of merit badges as a result.  One of the biggest problems I have with this SM is that he expects all of the boys to be like his son.  Not every kid's Scouting path is like that.  For some, Scouting is one of several activities that he loves.  I'm glad my son is getting his Eagle, but he was also just elected ASPL, so the pressure will continue for him to be at every outing and meeting.  That shouldn't be as big of a problem as it used to be, since he's backing away from the super-competitive travel soccer he's been doing for years.  I have noticed that the SM has been chummier with him since he's been coming to nearly every meeting this year, which isn't the way it should be. 

I think most everyone would agree that this is an unrealistic expectation to have for the Scouts in the program.

However, I wonder if it really is that much different from expectations for participation in high school sports or travel level sports.  If you're a Scoutmaster trying to build a really strong program, should you encourage Scouts to be more engaged and have a deeper committment?

To further the analogy.  You've got casual athletes and you've got really committed athletes.  There are different kinds of teams for different levels of engagement.  Should Scouting work the same way?

Not sure I know the answer to this one - just thought it was an interesting concept to discuss.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Both post are well said. I went into scoutmastering with the objective of AltadenaCraig's quote, "A leader is most effective when people barely know he exists". But, I found MattR's thoughts, "The best Scoutmaster is the one that does a great job motivating our kid". So, I believe both traits are equally important for a good Scoutmaster

I'll mention I don't think the two traits are mutually exclusive.  To be sure, the Lao Tzu quote isn't a license for Scoutmasters to abdicate their responsibilities to guide & mentor ... for me the quote is a reminder to work with the SPL in the background and not hog her spotlight (I'm now the Scoutmaster of our girls' troop).  If there's an issue with a scout beyond the scope of the PL/SPL I'll try to work with that scout more directly, but even less obtrusively.  Safety issues aside, of course, which require immediate intervention.  YIS -

- Craig

 

Edited by AltadenaCraig

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37 minutes ago, Rock Doc said:

The process is outlined here: https://troopleader.scouting.org/assistant-senior-patrol-leader/  Electing an ASPL prevents the SPL from selecting his choice of assistant. 

 

I have seen this work in a few troops because it puts ASPL in a training position. I personally like the idea, but my PLC at the time of my proposal didn' t see the need for change.

Most troops don't really use the ASPL very well, which leaves them with very little growth or skills development from the experience. But the troops that elect their ASPLs generally push them to work close or side-by-side with the SPL. We find a good SPL needs 4 to 6 months experience to become productive. A ASPL working along side with the SPL can step in with more experience and confidence and become productive in a shorter time. The other Troop positions like Quartermaster are select positions as well, so the ASPL can still have the responsibility of selecting the next generation of leaders.

Barry

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

I think most everyone would agree that this is an unrealistic expectation to have for the Scouts in the program.

However, I wonder if it really is that much different from expectations for participation in high school sports or travel level sports.  If you're a Scoutmaster trying to build a really strong program, should you encourage Scouts to be more engaged and have a deeper committment?

To further the analogy.  You've got casual athletes and you've got really committed athletes.  There are different kinds of teams for different levels of engagement.  Should Scouting work the same way?

Not sure I know the answer to this one - just thought it was an interesting concept to discuss.

I see your point and it makes a certain amount of sense, but...

1) On competitive high-end sports teams, the expectation is set from day one that you can't miss many practices or games, or else you simply won't play.  Is that how we want to run Scouting?

2) In this day of declining membership in Scouting, it seems to me that it's a bad tactic to tell tell kids that if they're involved in travel sports they are somehow lesser Scouts.  A lot of them will simply quit Scouting.  You know with most kids, sports will win that battle over time.  The better tactic, in my eyes, is to let the kid know that they'll get more out of Scouting if they're at more meetings, and to work with them to learn how to budget their time between the two activities.  My son managed to do it, so I know it can be done.

Edited to add: There actually was a time right around First Class that my son started talking about quitting Scouts because he had a hard time going to meetings during the spring and fall, plus soccer tournament weekends were always the same long weekends when the troop went on fun camping trips.  I told him quitting wasn't really an option right now, and reminded him that during winter and summer he went to nearly every meeting, and hadn't missed a summer or winter camp yet.  Yes, he missed some merit badge weekends and some other outings, but as a family we worked with him to strike a balance because he wanted to do both activities.  I know he's really glad that he didn't quit, particularly now that he's backing away from super-competitive soccer a bit and can devote more time to Scouting.

Edited by SteveMM

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9 minutes ago, AltadenaCraig said:

I'll mention I don't think the two traits are mutually exclusive.  To be sure, the Lao Tzu quote isn't a license for Scoutmasters to abdicate their responsibilities to guide & mentor ... for me the quote is a reminder to work with the SPL in the background and not hog her spotlight (I'm now the Scoutmaster of our girls' troop).  If there's an issue with a scout beyond the scope of the PL/SPL I'll try to work with that scout more directly, but even less obtrusively.  Safety issues aside, of course, which require immediate intervention.  YIS -

- Craig

 

Yes, of course. But it is easier to discuss the qualities of different traits in an exclusive manner.

Barry

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1 hour ago, SteveMM said:

I see your point and it makes a certain amount of sense, but...

1) On competitive high-end sports teams, the expectation is set from day one that you can't miss many practices or games, or else you simply won't play.  Is that how we want to run Scouting?

2) In this day of declining membership in Scouting, it seems to me that it's a bad tactic to tell tell kids that if they're involved in travel sports they are somehow lesser Scouts.  A lot of them will simply quit Scouting.  You know with most kids, sports will win that battle over time.  The better tactic, in my eyes, is to let the kid know that they'll get more out of Scouting if they're at more meetings, and to work with them to learn how to budget their time between the two activities.  My son managed to do it, so I know it can be done.

Edited to add: There actually was a time right around First Class that my son started talking about quitting Scouts because he had a hard time going to meetings during the spring and fall, plus soccer tournament weekends were always the same long weekends when the troop went on fun camping trips.  I told him quitting wasn't really an option right now, and reminded him that during winter and summer he went to nearly every meeting, and hadn't missed a summer or winter camp yet.  Yes, he missed some merit badge weekends and some other outings, but as a family we worked with him to strike a balance because he wanted to do both activities.  I know he's really glad that he didn't quit, particularly now that he's backing away from super-competitive soccer a bit and can devote more time to Scouting.

Changing expectations mid-stream is hard.  And, so yes, that adds a new stress to the process that is largely unfair. 

Imagineif your son had only been able to play rec. soccer - no high school or travel team soccer.  After a few years he's pretty good, but the challenge lessens.  Would he still have been as invested in it as he has with more competition?  My daughter is in both Girl Scouts & Ballet.  Girl Scouts hasn't really progressed challenge wise for her.  Ballet continues to get harder and harder.  The expectations on her as a dancer increase every year.  It's not unusualy for her to be at the dance studio 5 days a week.  She has no expectations of being a professional ballerina and so does this purely for the love of dance.  She's losing desire to be a Girl Scout.  Continues to focus on Ballet.

I get the line of thought that we need to be increasingly flexible to keep youth in Scouting.  But, I wonder if part of the answer of how to increase participation is to acutally increase the challenge and expectations on Scouts.  i.e., don't turn anyone away, but challenge those who emerge as leaders and take on responsibilty to get more involved and grow.  Sort of like a higher level coach might.  In return, the personal growth a Scout goes through would also presumably he higher.  More challenges to overcome, more leadership development to go through, etc...

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I've seen folks use the elected ASPL -> promoted SPL in some troops. It's not by the book, but not far from it either. A scout is friendly, so of course any assistant would be a buddy. But I've seen how in an immature troop the elected SPL -> appointed ASPL can turn vicious and become something the SM doesn't want to deal with ever again.

From the cheap seats, your SM's investment in your son at this time comes as no surprise. If you want the boys to run the program, you need to invest time in the boys who are there regularly. Often times, these are scouts who, from the outside looking in, don't deserve the attention. They aren't your high-functioning scholar athletes. On the contrary, they are often your trouble-makers and introverts. They really do need a lot of time and guidance to become well-rounded individuals.

It's a tough balance. Too much attention towards this lot, and your high-functioning scouts can feel neglected or taken for granted. This seems like what happened to your son.

Too little attention, and events don't get planned or they get planned badly or, worse, the moral shortcomings of the scouts drive the troop into the ground.

The really good news: because your son has learned what it means to be coached well, he will probably be able to give the SM constructive feedback and both of them will have a rewarding year.

P.S. - My kids were all soccer players. Still are to this day. It's a handy social skill ... if head injuries can be kept to a minimum. But, they also opted out of cup leagues for the sake of other activities like Scouting/Venturing.

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5 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

Changing expectations mid-stream is hard.  And, so yes, that adds a new stress to the process that is largely unfair. 

Imagineif your son had only been able to play rec. soccer - no high school or travel team soccer.  After a few years he's pretty good, but the challenge lessens.  Would he still have been as invested in it as he has with more competition?  My daughter is in both Girl Scouts & Ballet.  Girl Scouts hasn't really progressed challenge wise for her.  Ballet continues to get harder and harder.  The expectations on her as a dancer increase every year.  It's not unusualy for her to be at the dance studio 5 days a week.  She has no expectations of being a professional ballerina and so does this purely for the love of dance.  She's losing desire to be a Girl Scout.  Continues to focus on Ballet.

I get the line of thought that we need to be increasingly flexible to keep youth in Scouting.  But, I wonder if part of the answer of how to increase participation is to acutally increase the challenge and expectations on Scouts.  i.e., don't turn anyone away, but challenge those who emerge as leaders and take on responsibilty to get more involved and grow.  Sort of like a higher level coach might.  In return, the personal growth a Scout goes through would also presumably he higher.  More challenges to overcome, more leadership development to go through, etc...

These are all excellent points, but nothing will convince me that this has to be an either/or situation.  A lot of kids aren't getting into Scouting because schedules for travel sports are insane.  There are ways to manage the situation.  My son was told that if he went to as many meetings as possible, and always went to winter and summer camp, that he would get a lot out of Scouting.  That's exactly what's happened.  Yes, he disappeared for swaths of time in the fall and spring, but he stayed involved as often as possible during those sports seasons, skipped an occasional practice to go to Scouts, and even missed an occasional game for a bigger Scouting event like conclave.  It can be done, and my son is proof.

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1 hour ago, ParkMan said:

I think most everyone would agree that this is an unrealistic expectation to have for the Scouts in the program.

However, I wonder if it really is that much different from expectations for participation in high school sports or travel level sports.  If you're a Scoutmaster trying to build a really strong program, should you encourage Scouts to be more engaged and have a deeper commitment?

To further the analogy.  You've got casual athletes and you've got really committed athletes.  There are different kinds of teams for different levels of engagement.  Should Scouting work the same way?

Not sure I know the answer to this one - just thought it was an interesting concept to discuss.

The difference is that sports will bench you if you can't make the previous X number of practices.  Sports also hold competitions for who can make the team.  

I've almost never seen a scout denied a campout or activity because they could not make a meeting.  Scouting is to use positive encouragement, not negative restrictions.

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Just now, fred8033 said:

The difference is that sports will bench you if you can't make the previous X number of practices.  Sports also hold competitions for who can make the team.  

I've almost never seen a scout denied a campout or activity because they could not make a meeting.  Scouting is to use positive encouragement, not negative restrictions.

This is correct.  The issue I've had in our troop with the current SM is that at times he'll stop just barely short of berating kids (he's done it to my son and others) if they can't come to a Scout activity.  That's the exact opposite way of handling things.  If a Scout doesn't come to activities, they shouldn't be made to feel bad about it.  The only thing that should be done is to let the kid know that they won't get as much out of the experience if they're not there.  My son has missed a lot of Scouting activities, but he's stayed more active than some other kids in his troop, and worked hard to continue advancing.  He is going to be the first from his bridging group to earn Eagle.  Plus, the fact that he's just been elected to ASPL means he wants to use his experience to give back to the younger Scouts.

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1 hour ago, SteveMM said:

In our troop, the ASPL is elected, serves for six months, and then becomes the SPL.  At that time, an election is held for a new ASPL.  

When we came into our current troop, after crossing over from the affiliated pack, we found that this is what they do as well.  I was told that it was done to provide the troop with a more experienced SPL, as he had just spent 6 months as an understudy, stepping in whenever the SPL was missing.  I can see that way of viewing things, but have also seen the Scout who is elected ASPL for the first time, does nothing with it, and then becomes the SPL who really cannot not function on his own.  

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1 minute ago, MikeS72 said:

When we came into our current troop, after crossing over from the affiliated pack, we found that this is what they do as well.  I was told that it was done to provide the troop with a more experienced SPL, as he had just spent 6 months as an understudy, stepping in whenever the SPL was missing.  I can see that way of viewing things, but have also seen the Scout who is elected ASPL for the first time, does nothing with it, and then becomes the SPL who really cannot not function on his own.  

True, there has to be a process for giving the ASPL expectations for growth (method behind the madness, so to speak). That being said, some scouts just aren't good leaders and have to take responsibility for it. I'm warmed to the thought of replacing the ASPL instead of the SPL. 

I really like the idea of coaching the ASPL while the SPL goes solo with the brunt of responsibility. 

I know, I appear to be a cheerleader for elect ASPLs. But, many of the best run Boy Run Patrol Method troops I've observed used that method of selecting their leadership. The better ones have 1 year SPLs with 6 Month ASPLs. The method seems to bring stability to the program. As I said, I wanted to give it a try, but our well performingg PLC declined. 

Barry

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1 hour ago, AltadenaCraig said:

I'll mention I don't think the two traits are mutually exclusive.

Yeah, I had my butt kicked in private ;) (and, to repeat, I needed it)

14 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

But, I wonder if part of the answer of how to increase participation is to acutally increase the challenge and expectations on Scouts.  i.e., don't turn anyone away, but challenge those who emerge as leaders and take on responsibilty to get more involved and grow.  Sort of like a higher level coach might.  In return, the personal growth a Scout goes through would also presumably he higher.  More challenges to overcome, more leadership development to go through, etc...

In principal I really agree, but a challenge for one scout might look like an impossible wall to climb for another. One of the scouts on my recent trek said he wished he'd done a lot more high adventure trips, he now appreciates the challenge. He grew up. But previously he spent a lot of time finding excuses not to try. I'm not sure I was so different. Part of this is doing a better job of teaching scouts how to fail with grace. Some scouts have no problem with it. "Well huh, I just screwed up, time to try plan B." Most scouts, from peer pressure or whatever, are really afraid of screwing up.

And maybe this gets back to aims and methods. Failing with grace, learning to dust yourself off after falling, or whatever you want to call it, is a really good skill that promotes scouts to do rather than sit back and do nothing. But the BSA is afraid it will drive scouts away. That comes close to the aims of scouting. And maybe things like advancement can be used to teach that. For Scout just hand feed them and get them a rank as fast as possible. For Tenderfoot, use it to teach them the process of advancement and let them pick the dates. For Second class, a couple of failures at sign off is not a bad thing. For First Class, they should know it. Tell them ahead of time what the expectations are and follow through.

I bring this up because the lower ranks are done all at the same time and there's really not much difference between any of them. They should get harder and harder. I mean, I still don't understand why knife and axe skills are now in Tenderfoot. What tenderfoot scout can actually sharpen a dull knife? Or an axe for that matter. Most 11 year olds don't have the strength and fine motor skill to file an axe blade or take the nicks out of a beat up knife. And using an axe to split wood? They just aren't strong enough. Anyway, knife and axe skills seem rather difficult and yet they're in the Tenderfoot rank. So how is there growth and increasing challenge?

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31 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

That being said, some scouts just aren't good leaders and have to take responsibility for it.

Precisely.  You would hope that by the time they are elected ASPL the Scouts in the troop would be aware who has those innate leadership skills, and who does not, but that is not always the case.  In one situation it was readily apparent to me that this was the case, and it should have been dealt with early on.  It was not, and this particular SPL was constantly going to the SM asking what he should do, even something as simple as opening the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.  Kept hoping we would see some growth.  Not so much.

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4 minutes ago, MikeS72 said:

Precisely.  You would hope that by the time they are elected ASPL the Scouts in the troop would be aware who has those innate leadership skills, and who does not, but that is not always the case.  In one situation it was readily apparent to me that this was the case, and it should have been dealt with early on.  It was not, and this particular SPL was constantly going to the SM asking what he should do, even something as simple as opening the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.  Kept hoping we would see some growth.  Not so much.

Yes, but that is common in most all troops. It's not a flaw specific to electing the ASPL. 

You would surprised to learn that most (vast majority) of troops do not have a plan for developing leaders into higher positions like SPL. In fact, some adults call that adding to the requirements. Even the Handbooks don't really talk about it. But, the better performing troops have a suggested leadership development tree. It's only suggested, the scouts can try their own plan. Our minimum development tree is PL, Troop QM, ASPL and SPL. But I had one scout who during his third year showed me his plan to be the SPL in 18 months. I was impressed, but I wondered if he could pull it off skipping one of the responsibilities on the tree. I assumed if he had the initiative, he had the will. He did and was a really good SPL. The reason his plan was 18 months was because he was also on the swim team and couldn't put the time into the job during swim season. Did I say he earn top score on his ACT?

Barry

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