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I appreciate the advice from this forum. It has been helpful to me to get a variety of opinions and experiences. Three years ago I was unhappy with the troop my sons were in - no uniforms, no regular meetings, no trailer, few campouts. I investigated a troop that had all these things and a scoumtaster at the head for over 30 years. This scoutmaster decided to retire and I casually mentioned that if they could not find anyone I would not mind taking the job. I was not interviewed by the committee or even told I was the new SM - just announced at the end of one of the meetings - a complete surprise.

Move ahead two years. The old scoumaster put on an ASM patch, but still seems to control the troop. All the ASM's and parents are used to him and have worked with him for years. It seems to be a big family except that I feel left out and seem to get little respect from adults or scouts. I have tried to implement new ideas, but many of these adults meet for breakfast once a week and go to each others homes for troop projects. I have never been invited. I have attended Woodbadge and want to get more involved with OA. I also want to work on the Hornaday award and this means projects. The old SM runs the tower training for the council and many of his old scouts help him. I have attended several of these, but still feel that I am not a part of it. I will not attend anymore of these and will go out of council if necessary to get certified. The yearly training meeting seems to be a rehash of things he has always done. Some of these things I am not interested in. Does a SM have to attend everything? He has the troop checkbook and keeps the trailer at his house inspite of me buying a new truck to haul it. He keeps his 12 passenger van and hauls scouts to campouts. He writes the weekly newsletter. He recharters. He keeps up with rank on software. Tonight one of the ASM's told me that it is ok that they do all the work. I have looked at my duties as a SM and it seems that I am doing what I need to do, except for one thing - being in control of the troop.

I just do not know what to do - I try to always be courteous and respectful, but they seem to take over everything and control everything. I am not sure I can be successful as long as the old SM shows up and everyone runs to him for everything. I was a drill sergeant in the army and know full well how to be aggressive and assertive, but is this the place to be this way? Should I continue to go with the flow or step down? I really love the job and I love scouting. It seems to be an impossible task to take over this troop under the circumstances. Thanks in advance for your advice and suggesions.

Maybe I am making too much of this. Maybe I am not doing enough.



Robert Davis

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Don't get too aggressive, otherwise you could make a bad situation worse. Did you ever bring this to anybody else's decision? They might be unaware or never think their actions leave you out. How much has the current situation affected the boys' programme? How does the interference impact the troop, aside from the feeling of isolation?

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Everything you mentioned is how the other adult leaders treat you. How do the scouts treat you?


Most of the things you describe are the functions of a well-run committee, so go with it. Do the Scoutmaster conferences. Do the Scoutmaster minute. Insist on youth led/PLC activities and proper Boards of Review by Committee Members, not ASMs. Do the things a Scoutmaster is supposed to do, not the things most Scoutmasters end up doing because of a lack of parental/committee support.

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We had a drill sargent type for a SM and the kids and adults loved him.. But, that was because he could be hard to enforce when needed, but everyone knew he was a big marshmallow.. It would be strange to change personalities overnight, but a little drill sarge now and then, isn't a bad thing.


I too wonder about the boys, is the old SM still SM or are you?


If the boys have not accepted you as their new SM, I guess I myself would sit down with the old SM and ask if he had second thoughts about stepping down. If that is the case, I probably would ask if he wanted the position back (seeing he already had it) and you could become a capable ASM.. If though he did have his reason for stepping down, then explain to him how his actions are not allowing you to be the SM, as everyone is still following his lead.. Try to work out with him some events that he could refrain from going to. Ask him if he could direct some of the people who go to him, to you instead with a friendly "You should ask the SM about it."..


Our old SM's would do things that made sure the new one would get to pick up the reins. Sometimes they would step away from the meetings and events for a few months then come back.



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And I thought I had it tough letting go. :)


How are the scouts treating you? If they see you as SM, you are good. If they don't talk to the former SM.


Gotta remember, after 30 years, he has a lot of relationships with scouts and their families. Those relationships do take time to build.

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I would invite the Old SM out for a cup of coffee and talk to him.


Be honest with him, no one can fault you for that. Let him know your concern and take on whats going on....


Ask him to take a month or two off from scouting.......


30 years is a HUGE tenure, while it should be respected, He should also allow you to make it your troop and not his.......


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I agree with Fehler; you should focus on doing the job of the SM, none of which involves handling the checkbook (which really should be done by the troop treasurer, a committee member), rechartering (should be done by the CC or another committee member), keeping the advancement records (can be done by anyone but often is done by a committee member), and some of the other things. Anyone can store the troop trailer or drive Scouts to camping trips. A newsletter (weekly? really? That's actually pretty impressive) can be done by anyone, though actually I would think the Troop Scribe (a Scout) should be doing the bulk of the writing.


It occurs to me that maybe your former SM should have the position of CC instead of being an ASM. Even then, he should be delegating some of the things he does to other committee members.


As for your own role, maybe you should sit down with the Scoutmaster's Handbook and make sure you are clear on what it is a Scoutmaster should be doing (and not doing.) If after doing so, you are convinced that the former SM is infringing on your role in an unacceptable manner, THEN it is time to sit down with "Mister Everything" and have a talk.

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rldavis, I have one more thought (or set of thoughts) on this: Do you think the boys are getting a good Scouting program in your troop? Is there a good program of outdoor activities? Are troop meetings productive, in terms of instruction, building Scout skills, having fun, etc.? Are the boys happy? Do they stay with the troop, or do you have a revolving door? Do they have the opportunity to advance at their own pace? Do they have meaningful leadership positions and positions of responsibility? (Add your own questions here.) In other words, how is the troop working out FOR THE BOYS? If it is working out well for them, in my opinion the issue of "who does what" among the adults becomes somewhat secondary.

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Yah, what NJCubScouter said!


rldavis, I think yeh were a touch naive in believin' that it was OK to come in to a well-established and successful unit and just take over as SM in the way you seem to be thinkin' of the job. That's the sort of thing that would only happen in your old unit or a similar struggling unit.


So what happened is you volunteered to be SM thinkin' you'd be the guy in charge, and they gave yeh the Scoutmaster patch thinkin' you were an interested helper who had time to fill a support role that took a lot of time and was a bit of a thankless job.


What we have here is a failure to communicate. ;) But I reckon yeh have to eat most of the responsibility for that, eh?


Reality is that for most healthy, long-standin' troops yeh can find one or more long-term fellows who really are at the center of things. Doesn't matter what title they hold, they're the core of the group. As a new fellow, it's goin' to take yeh a while to break into that group as a full member. Scoutin' is fun for adults, and adults in Scoutin' should enjoy each other's company. It's perfectly natural that a lot of stuff gets decided among friends over breakfast.


So the question is how important is it for you to "take over this troop"? If the troop is runnin' OK for the boys and you love the job, can yeh just continue with that? Yeh would have to re-think the way yeh view things, and view Scouting as more of a collaborative team effort among breakfast buddies than a military-hierarchy sort of thing. Go to breakfast. Invite the gang over to your place occasionally. Follow their lead and learn the ropes and be a contributing member who happens to wear the SM patch for this round. Make it a fun things friends do to support their boys.


Or do yeh really have a need for "being in control of the troop?" If your personal need is to be in control, then I reckon this position and this unit is not the right one for you. Might still be a great troop for your son, in which case I think yeh step back and go find some other hobby or activity to be in control of. I'm not bein' negative or judgmental, eh? Folks who like to be in control and have ownership of stuff are important for organizations and often make great leaders. So go find a different organization that needs yeh for who you are and let your son enjoy his troop on his own terms with your support.




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What everybody has said. Here are my thoughts:


Who does the Scoutmaster Minute at the end of the meetings or CoH?

Who does the SPL go to for advice/instruction?

If the old SM does all the things you mention, it is definitely time to spread the responsibilties out. No one needs/should do everything the old SM is said to be doing. "Advancement Chair", "Troop Treasurer", "Transportation Coordinator" are all good roles for new folks to take on.

You still need his knowledge and experience. You still need his imprimatur. You still need his good counsel. But HE needs to admit his time to step down. Somebody (CC, trusted friend, one of the ASMs) needs to become sensitive to your postion, and act as an intermediary. It would be hard for you to make him aware of this, but not impossible. How close do you feel toward him?.


Talk to the Troop Committee Chair, and At the next CoH , arrange for a Special Presentation, a plaque, patch, certificate, marking the passing of the reins/torch/flag, award the OSM the SM Emeritus Patch (yes, there is such a thing). Make sure he knows he has been appreciated and then YOU have a little ceremony acknowledging your new status as the SM. Grasp the Troop flag pole, recite the Scout Promise, Scoutmaster version (ask your UC). All this is very appropriate and would serve to make clear who is what. The CC can have no way to not agree with this, and the Committee should be the ones handling it.


Good Scouting to you.

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Most of the advise here is on how to adapt rather than change what's going on, and I'll guess I'll add to it.


It is differently OK for you to go our of council or participate on different council committee's than your predecessor. That way, when you get together you can compare notes. There are a lot of niches to fill in OA. Find one. Fill it. Look out for the boys in your troop who might benefit from being an OA rep or even lodge chief. Support them.


Don't assume that it's because of the old guard that your ideas are falling flat. Ask adults open-ended questions like "What was wrong with that idea I had?", "Do you think it is worth keeping that goal?", "How would you make it work?"


No, you don't have to attend everything. Our troop rotates leaders who go to roundtables. Some ASM's are much better suited to supervise activities, let 'em. If I were you, I would focus on getting the older boys to reflect on their career. By that I mean asking them to lead a training activity (ILST, maybe) or leadership retreat or cracker barrel where you as an SM subtly ask about leadership styles and where they see the adults in their lives fitting in. You don't even have to stick around for the end of the conversation! The goal is just to get them to think about their role models before they leave the troop.


Only pull out the Drill Instructor card if the boys are asking to look sharper on the parade field. Or if they booked a trip for Philmont but aren't pulling off the conditioning hikes.


Finally, just because this guy was SM for 30 years, doesn't mean you have to be. Start looking for your replacement. It may take a couple of years before the right adult comes forward.

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Its kind of hard to really see your situation because I think a lot of it is based from the emotions of what you want as a SM and what you are getting. Let me just say that old scoutmasters hanging around a little too close is common. You are certainly not the first. That being said, it really is your move on how you want to go forward. The other folks are happy with the present situation because nobody is forcing them to accept something different.


As a SM, I had a very strong presence in our troop as do most Scoutmasters in most successful troops. The SM replacing me recognized his challenge and asked me out to lunch about three months before he took over. He knew two years before that he was the next SM and Im sure he was concerned that my presence would prevent him from being the kind of SM he want to be. He told me at the lunch that I was a tough act to follow, and he felt he needed some space to develop confidence to be a good SM. He politely asked me to step away from the troop meetings for six months so he could get his feet planted as SM of our troop. I think what he asked took great courage.


You have a choice, either get used to the way things are and not be frustrated by them, or confront those things that are frustrating you and find a resolution. Personally I think a good SM must be ambitious and bold because no matter how the troop performs or what the scouts get from the program, the SM will be held responsible. Lets face it, the SM is the gatekeeper of the vision for the program. If the SM isnt the gatekeeper or protector of the vision, then who is? The job requires a somewhat aggressive person. However I also feel the SM must be the MOST humble person in the room. The SM sets the example of doing what is right for the scouts. The SM must have the presence of being noble for protecting the scouts from all other outside interference. A good SM will admit when they are wrong. In fact a good SM will admit they are wrong more than they are right. Thats OK because a ship requires many corrections to reach its destination.


If you are to contribute to the program and you want to be the SM, you need to shape it so that the program fits your style. But if you are unwilling to do that without confronting those interferences that are holding your vision back, maybe you arent right for the job.


At the same time your previous SM sounds like a pretty good guy. He sounds like a valuable resource and partner for the program, but at least for right now, not as ASM. I imagine that if you approach him frankly with the respect he deserves, he will not only agree with you, but help you as best as he can.


As I said, your situation isnt new, but you will have to figure out if you are willing to do what it takes to make the changes so that you can be the SM you think you can be. If not, than you need to except the situation for what it is and serve with a happy heart.


I wish luck on your decision, Scoutmastering is extremely challenging and extremely rewarding.


I love this scouting stuff.




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Who is the Committee Chair?


As unit leader, you should be signing the recharter. Are you? Do you have a copy of it? It should describe who at least occupies critical positions such as Institutional Head, Chartered Organization Rep and Committee Chair.


Are there monthly Committee Meetings to plan adult support of the unit, and if so who chairs them and effectively runs them?


Unless you gain the support of the old SM, I doubt you are going to win out on many reforms, or win respect for your position as SM. So having the frank & candid conversation over coffee is worth having, in my view.


Either he is willing to give you support in the things you need as SM, or you are probably best handing the position back. A fight is probably futile.


My council has a small shrine to a Scoutmaster who served for 51 continuous years. Your retired SM is really just a young pup.



Frankly, monopolizing all the leadership/power positions in the troop is

unwise. The smart unit leader disperses such responsibilities as widely as possible.





(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

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"Three years ago I was unhappy with the troop my sons were in - no uniforms, no regular meetings, no trailer, few campouts."

I would be especially concerned about the "no trailer" thing. How does anyone expect scouts to camp without a trailer full of stuff? ;)


I'd like to get rid of both our trailers, the big chuck boxes and the dozen and a half 9 pound tents and go with only the gear they can carry on their backs.

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Any time the new guy follows a long term legacy it's going to be a struggle. If that legacy hangs around it's going to be a nightmare.


With that bad news under your belt, you have a couple of options. 1) Keep the paper SM title and go along with the way things are or 2) stir the pot that will make it a ton lot easier for the person following you. Lay it out honestly, fairly, and in a non-agressive tone. "With all due respect, this is how we are going to do it now that we have a new SM." Assign duties to the ASM (former SM) to keep him busy and out of your hair. Work directly with the boys and develop them as you see fit. Never lose your temper! The calmer you remain the harder it is to have the situation escalate into a full blow conflict. Consult with your ASM's. "I'm thinking about moving the boys to be more involved in (fill in the blank) what do you guys thing?" If you do have push back from the former SM, at least it won't be in front of the boys. Pick your battles, keep them small and away from the boys. If you get the old SM as an ally, the war is over.


Either things will smooth out or it will polarize the leadership. If it polarizes the leadership, at least the new SM will have you to back him/her up. Remember you started out: "Three years ago I was unhappy with the troop my sons were in..."? Has it gotten worse? Has it improved? It looked like you had no place to go but up. Has it? Only you can evaluate the progress. Are you happier today with your son's troop than you were yesterday? If not the suggestion to find a new SM might be in order. Explain to the Committee why you would be stepping down and hope they will take those issues into consideration with the new SM so as to avoid the long term legacy affecting a succession of SM's until the old SM is out of the picture.


Stosh(This message has been edited by jblake47)

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