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TAHAWK

A blast from the past - Leading by Walking Away

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40 minutes ago, TAHAWK said:

By Larry Geiger on January 25, 2012 in Scoutmastership,The Patrol System

Adult leaders often say things like;
“I don’t override the boys decisions at all. ”
“I asked them what they wanted to do.”
“This was their decision.”

What most of us fail to recognize is that many of these ‘boy led’ decisions were probably coerced, at least in part, by the presence of adults when they were discussed.

It’s not that the adults shined bright lights in their eyes or twisted their arms behind their backs – it is much more subtle than that.

When adults are present youth leadership – the Scouting way-  is not happening.

Say what? You mean when I am in the room listening and not talking I am somehow affecting the outcome of their decision making process?

Yes! So I want to suggest that you lead by walking away. Let Me explain:

When adults are listening, watching or talking Scouts are instinctively looking for the assent and approval of the adults. This is a result what they do at School and at home; listen to adults and seek their approval.

So even if you say absolutely nothing at all your presence is somewhat coercive. It’s not that you are a bad person or anything – it’s just the way things are.

So if we are not supposed to be around and not supposed to talk to them and not supposed to watch what they are doing, how do we do our jobs as adult leaders?

Excellent question.

We use very specific, scheduled, regular, and commonly understood opportunities to interact with youth leadership. Otherwise we leave them alone; alone enough that sometimes we cannot see them or hear them.

I have found that one good opportunity to exercise this concept is when patrols go grocery shopping. The Scouts create a menu,  estimate how much money they need, schedule a time and place, their parents drop them off and leave them to shop. No adult leaders or parents accompany them into the store. They work totally autonomously until they exit the store after successfully shopping and paying.

Are you comfortable with doing something like that? What do you think would happen if you did?

No adult is assigning, watching, checking, offering oversight or any other means of interference or intervention. Drop them off at the door and pick them up when they exit the store. Only the patrol leader works with his guys to get it done.

A patrol leader given this opportunity is leading; if adults are present he is looking for their approval. In my experience his is true of all Scouts up to around age sixteen or so.

Here’s a few of the times when adults and youth leaders talk with one another:

1. Occasional reflections with a senior patrol leader or patrol leader after a Scout meeting.

2. Scoutmaster Conferences.

3. Scoutmaster senior patrol leader two-minute chat before a patrol leader’s council.

4. Scoutmaster’s minute.

5. Troop Leadership Training. This is the Scoutmaster’s show. [BSA says the SPL should help lead the training .]

6. When a senior patrol leader or patrol leader walks over and asks the Scoutmaster a specific question or asks for help. [Note: "senior patrol leader" vs "Scoutmaster.  How about "Senior Patrol Leader"?]

Here’s times when you should refrain from interacting with youth leadership:

1. During patrol and troop meetings.

2. During patrol leader’s councils. [Even if they ask a question?]

3. During campouts.

4. During the troop annual planning conference.

5. During summer camp at meals/around the picnic table during the day/etc.

6. During patrol shopping trips.

7. During patrol and troop activities when a Scout is in charge.

I cannot overemphasize how important it is to realize that when adults are physically present Scouts are looking for approval – not leading. Think about this, think about it a lot;

When adults are physically present Scouts are looking for approval – not leading.

Start observing how this happens and change the way you do things; I’d be interested to hear the results!

 

Thanks for sharing this.  I think it is well said.

Given recent G2SS decisions this is more difficult to accomplish.  What does it take for youth & adults to develop a working relationship such that it becomes possible for the adults to still be present and achieve the same results?  If adults make it clear to the Scouts that the Scouts are really in charge or certain decisions does that then provide the starting point for a more capable youth leadership team?

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2. During patrol leader’s councils.

So perhaps I meet with members of PLC before their meeting to plant seeds of ideas for outings and activities? Our Scouts have no idea of some opportunities we have around here.

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3 hours ago, ParkMan said:

Thanks for sharing this.  I think it is well said.

Given recent G2SS decisions this is more difficult to accomplish.  What does it take for youth & adults to develop a working relationship such that it becomes possible for the adults to still be present and achieve the same results?  If adults make it clear to the Scouts that the Scouts are really in charge or certain decisions does that then provide the starting point for a more capable youth leadership team?

The people in the safety bubble focus on their topic, which is not program.  This is the age of the lawsuit and BSA is a prime target.  However, we may die off in total safety.  The safest mode would be no activities whatsoever.

I was told that I was to help the Bell System function, not just say "no."  We had over 1,000,000 employees and almost 90,000 motor vehicles out in the public, so risk has an issue.  My boss, the General Counsel, reminded me regularly that there was a business to run.

A compromise would be to have the two adult "supervisors" located out of sight of the Scouts at all "activities."  BP would approve were he with us.

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1 hour ago, TAHAWK said:

The people in the safety bubble focus on their topic, which is not program.  This is the age of the lawsuit and BSA is a prime target.  However, we may die off in total safety.  The safest mode would be no activities whatsoever.

I was told that I was to help the Bell System function, not just say "no."  We had over 1,000,000 employees and almost 90,000 motor vehicles out in the public, so risk has an issue.  My boss, the General Counsel, reminded me regularly that there was a business to run.

A compromise would be to have the two adult "supervisors" located out of sight of the Scouts at all "activities."  BP would approve were he with us.

I don't disagree with any of what you just said.  Just not sure what I can do with it.

As a local volunteer, I have three choices:

  1. ignore the rules and run a program like in the old days
  2. follow the rules, but try to find solutions to the obstacles they present.
  3. blindly follow the rules, decide I can't do what I want, and run a crappy program

I like choice two.  So while I agree with your premise (and most often others on this forum) I find myself saying "yeah, these new rules are a pain, but how can I make them work."

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This topic came up after a recent PLC.  My son just crossed over to the Troop this spring and I was asked to be SM.  After refusing multiple times I reluctantly accepted.   The first PLC meeting three adults were present (CC, a very experienced ASM and me).   We sat at a table next to the scouts. 
 

After the meeting, I mentioned that I thought in general the scouts were very quiet.  In addition, the one topic they talked about, asking for a change in electronic policy, their idea was shot down the the CC immediately.  They asked me for some clarification and I had to correct some errors the CC made in his argument.

I talked with the CC after the meeting and suggested we sit in a far off area, out of ear shot.  The SPL can come over if needed, but in general we would come over for the last 10 mins to close out any discussions.  The CC didn’t agree and that ended the conversation.

Your point that scouts act differently when adults are around is 100% correct.  I remember as a youth this is true and can see it as a new SM.  Unfortunately, some adult leaders who claim units are youth led are afraid of actually allowing a youth led unit.  

 

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