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Commissioner role

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I think there are far too many stories and complaints about poor commissioner service or lack of commissioner service to be dismissed as the commissioners just not doing it right.  Certainly there are always performance issues; but if so many dedicated, experienced volunteer Scouters are having trouble making the commissioner program work as intended, then it is fair to conclude that it is at least in part a systemic problem with how the program is designed.

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5 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

I think there are far too many stories and complaints about poor commissioner service or lack of commissioner service to be dismissed as the commissioners just not doing it right.  Certainly there are always performance issues; but if so many dedicated, experienced volunteer Scouters are having trouble making the commissioner program work as intended, then it is fair to conclude that it is at least in part a systemic problem with how the program is designed.

Or, it's possible that that most UCs are unobtrusive and helpful to the point that their good deeds never make it on the Internet.

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I suspect also that UC end up spending time on troubled units, but troubled units are kinda by definition the units that are going to be hardest to help. 

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11 minutes ago, qwazse said:

Or, it's possible that that most UCs are unobtrusive and helpful to the point that their good deeds never make it on the Internet.

Not.

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9 minutes ago, qwazse said:

Or, it's possible that that most UCs are unobtrusive and helpful to the point that their good deeds never make it on the Internet.

Oh, I think that most UCs ARE unobtrusive and helpful and do (or seek to do) good deeds.  The real problem is that there aren't anywhere near enough of them.  The single biggest complaint from units about commissioners is that they never see one.  

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Here is a statement of the theory:

 

"The Unit Commissioner's Role

A commissioner plays several roles, including friend, representative, unit "doctor," teacher, and counselor.

The commissioner is a friend of the unit. Of all their roles, this one is the most important. It springs from the attitude, "I care, I am here to help,what can I do for you?" Caring is the ingredient that makes commissioner service successful. He or she is an advocate of unit needs. A commissioner who makes himself known and accepted now will be called on in future times of trouble.

The commissioner is a representative. The average unit leader is totally occupied in working with kids. Some have little if any contact with the Boy Scouts of America other than a commissioner's visit to their meeting. To them, the commissioner may be the BSA. The commissioner helps represent the ideals, the principles, and the policies of the Scouting movement.

The commissioner is a unit "doctor." In their role as "doctor," they know that prevention is better than a cure, so they try to see that their units make good "health practices" a way of life. When problems arise, and they will even in the best unit, they act quickly. They observe symptoms, diagnose the real ailment, prescribe a remedy, and follow up on the patient.

The commissioner is a teacher. As a commissioner, they will have a wonderful opportunity to participate in the growth of unit leaders by sharing knowledge with them. They teach not just in an academic environment, but where it counts most—as an immediate response to a need to know. That is the best adult learning situation since the lesson is instantly reinforced by practical application of the new knowledge.

The commissioner is a counselor. As a Scouting counselor, they will help units solve their own problems. Counseling is the best role when unit leaders don't recognize a problem and where solutions are not clear-cut. Everyone needs counseling from time to time, even experienced leaders."

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1 hour ago, TAHAWK said:

Here is a statement of the theory:

 

"The Unit Commissioner's Role

A commissioner plays several roles, including friend, representative, unit "doctor," teacher, and counselor.

The commissioner is a friend of the unit. Of all their roles, this one is the most important. It springs from the attitude, "I care, I am here to help,what can I do for you?" Caring is the ingredient that makes commissioner service successful. He or she is an advocate of unit needs. A commissioner who makes himself known and accepted now will be called on in future times of trouble.

The commissioner is a representative. The average unit leader is totally occupied in working with kids. Some have little if any contact with the Boy Scouts of America other than a commissioner's visit to their meeting. To them, the commissioner may be the BSA. The commissioner helps represent the ideals, the principles, and the policies of the Scouting movement.

The commissioner is a unit "doctor." In their role as "doctor," they know that prevention is better than a cure, so they try to see that their units make good "health practices" a way of life. When problems arise, and they will even in the best unit, they act quickly. They observe symptoms, diagnose the real ailment, prescribe a remedy, and follow up on the patient.

The commissioner is a teacher. As a commissioner, they will have a wonderful opportunity to participate in the growth of unit leaders by sharing knowledge with them. They teach not just in an academic environment, but where it counts most—as an immediate response to a need to know. That is the best adult learning situation since the lesson is instantly reinforced by practical application of the new knowledge.

The commissioner is a counselor. As a Scouting counselor, they will help units solve their own problems. Counseling is the best role when unit leaders don't recognize a problem and where solutions are not clear-cut. Everyone needs counseling from time to time, even experienced leaders."

Tahawk, this is great and sums up the commissioner role to the letter.  The challenge is finding men and women who are willing to roll their sleeves up and do their best to fulfill these duties.  Usually scouters who have these qualities would rather work at unit level where they can really make a difference.

Edited by desertrat77
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1 hour ago, desertrat77 said:

I've worked for DCs who were great leaders.  They provided the correct sight picture, training, encouragement for UCs.  Actively recruited UCs.  Yet were constantly stymied because they were always short UCs, or those that were on the rolls as usually fit in one or more of theses categories . . .

I've seen pretty much the same thing over 20+ years as a UC and Roundtable Commissioner.  And how do these less effective UCs get on the commissioner roster in the first place?  In my experience, there are three main causes:

  • The District Commissioner is getting a lot of pressure from the Area Commissioner and the Council Commissioner to recruit more UCs, but can't find enough good candidates, so out of frustration signs up any warm body to meet the quota.
  • The District Commissioner talks good Scouters into signing on as new UCs, but those Scouters are already involved in a lot of things and this new job is low on their priority list.
  • UCs who used to be good at it have had changes in their lives and interests, and are burnt out or have lost interest or have become too busy with other things.

What is needed in a capable unit commissioner?  @TAHAWK posted the roles of a unit commissioner:  friend, representative, doctor, teacher, counselor.  For an average of three units for each UC.  While (for most UCs) doing other Scouting jobs.  So that is a unit visit or other substantive contact with each unit every month. There is the training:  position-specific training and annual Commissioner College or equivalent training event.  There is the monthly District Commissioner meeting and (ideally) Roundtable.  And there are the mandatory administrative aspects of the UC job:  recording all contacts with each unit in Commissioner Tools, completing Detailed Assessments for all units at least once a year, persuading the unit to use and turn in Journey to Excellence scorecards, and of course, assisting the unit with annual rechartering.  The bottom line is that to do the unit commissioner job as designed requires a UC to devote a significant amount of time to it.  And you need one person willing and able to do that for (ideally) every three units in the district.

Edited by dkurtenbach
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So in looking at the design of the commissioner program, I would ask a few questions to start:

  1. Does every unit need the same level of attention and the same frequency of contact? 
    • If not, why doesn't the program design reflect variable levels of commissioner attention -- which would allow for fewer UCs?
       
  2. Wouldn't it be better for both the unit and the district to have multiple unit leaders and multiple district leaders who know each other rather than the district providing just one point of contact?
    • Roundtables, camporees, training, and other district activities provide opportunities for many contacts and conversations between unit Scouters and district staff.
    • Unit Scouters can find district staff that they are comfortable talking to and working with instead of having a UC assigned to the unit who they may not hit it off with.
       
  3. Is the District Commissioner making use of the information about each unit that is already available via My.Scouting and other reports?
    • Information already available includes:  unit roster; year-to-year membership changes; adult leader training status; advancement reports; and unit attendance at Roundtable, district events and activities, and summer camps.
    • Regular review of that information by the District Commissioner or ADCs would allow them to identify various areas of concern and proactively assign the right people for follow-up with the unit -- without the need for a UC.
       
  4.  Why should the district be responsible for recruiting manpower to monitor and report on the condition of a unit when the unit already has manpower and is in the best position to know its own condition?
    • Each unit could identify a unit Scouter (such as the Committee Chair, an ASM, or the COR) who could serve as the liaison to the district, know who to contact with questions and problems, understand the various indicators of unit health, conduct unit self-assessments, and periodically report to the district on the unit's condition.
    • The district staff could focus on providing proactive assistance such as more frequent training and better Roundtables, addressing non-routine questions and concerns, and responding to serious unit problems.

 

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We need a way to measure or gauge scout-led, older scout enthusiasm, and things closer to the fundamentals. Not sure how but it would make a lot of things easier for everyone to see issues. Scouts, Scouters, Parents, District. Who is doing the cooking (and buying the food)? Who is deciding on the events and how well are they attended? I don't even know how to do that so I'm afraid metrics can get out of hand, kind of like uniform inspections. If it were part of the regular program, say start, stop, continue, and the troop regularly did this then it would be easier to find.  We talked about this once before and I had said it's too subjective. I think a few people came up with good rebuttals. Rather than giving units a canned script, have the units work with the district to write one?

The reason I don't want to be a UC is tracking things like advancement is just not interesting to me as I don't see the benefit. Figure out how to make it useful and I'd consider helping out.

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A good UC/unit relationship requires openness on both sides. I wasn’t a UC, but I helped a few with my more specific expertises. Every SM has a different personality as well as an idealistic perspective of working towards their vision.

I remember when our UC advised me not to go from 1 month PLC meetings to weekly PLC meetings. He didn’t have a good reason other than he had never seen it before. I didn’t take his advise.

I was asked to help a new SM work toward a more patrol method program. One of my suggestions was let the scouts run the PLC meetings. He couldn’t believe scouts under 14 had the maturity plan meetings and campouts, so he didn’t accept my advice.

Both troops in those examples were the fastest growing troops in the district topping out around 100 scouts. Just how hard do You think district is going to push the SMs when their unit is one of the five largest troops in the district?

Our troop had the best and most experienced UC in the district and our families became good friends. He was a very successful SM with a Silver Beaver, but we didn’t agree on everything. Just like with patrols, sometimes you have to let the unit live with bad decisions long enough to find the humility to listen and change. From my experience of working with Scoutmasters, humility is hard to come-by.:unsure:

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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