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Getting Youth Leaders to Step up

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How do i get youth leaders to "take charge", and do somthing with their Leadership position? My PL looks to me for answers on little things, that he can answer himself. I need him and other youth leaders to relize that they need to think for themselves somtimes, how do i get them to think for themselves?



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It's not something that can change quickly, but the saying goes "Don't do anything for a scout he can do for himself". Once they learn you won't just give them the answer, they will start to take charge. Or they will fail, which ever is easier. Make sure failure is painful.



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Actually no it isn't. And that's because failure in scouting is in a controlled environment. You might be cold if you don't pack properly or forget the tents, you might get hungry if you didn't plan enough food or forgot to bring it, but you won't die on a weekend trip. As an adult and you are on your own without a SM looking out for ya, you could be in serious trouble.


One way to get them to do things on their own is to use something call the "Socratic Method." When the Pl asks you XYZ, you ask them, " How would you do it?" Then you ask them a few other questions like " How do you think it will work out," "do you see any problems doing that way," " do you think there is a better way,' etc. The key is to let them think it out, using their reasoning abilities.


And when they screw up, and it will happen, don't be angry at them. rather ask them questions on how they can do better next time.

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"Make sure failure is painful.... isnt that a lil harsh?"


I think the proper term would be controlled failure.

There's a point that failure must be experienced, but you must be careful to make that failure painful enough to learn from, but not so painful it destroys enthusiasm to continue. A patrol going hungry on a campout will be much smaller at the next meeting.


I always pack a few cans of cheap beef stew or some rather nasty freeze dried stuff in the truck. It ain't gourmet, but it fills.


Take for example meal planning.

Say the patrol doesn't pack enough, or screws up a meal. I let them figure out the problem and let them experience the consequences. But after they've debriefed the situation and understood the ramifications, I might say from the background that there might be some food I store in my truck for emergency situations. They weren't aware of it before, but now know Mr. Blansten is prepared.



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Yep, that part of the reason so many troops are adult lead. Part is they don't believe you can do it. And part is they don't want to see you fail. Therefore they run things for you and avoid either problems.


It is much easier to be in charge then to empower others. But, in order to empower others, you have to cut the apron strings.


You have to do similar so that the troop is not totally SPL led.


The responding to their questions with questions is a successful way. Including them on the planning and allowing them to help formulate it and thus buy into the changes and be as excited as you to get to the goal is another..


Also plan on them having successes as well as failures.. Compliment and be excited about their successes and comment on them so they do not over look it, even if it is small.. Positive reinforcement for successes while not making them feel bad for failure but just discussing how it can be improved next time.. This will slowly build their confidence and skills at leadership.

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//But after they've debriefed the situation and understood the ramifications, I might say from the background that there might be some food I store in my truck for emergency situations.//


Our guys borrowed food from other patrols or shopped on the way to camp. We did carry extra food, but that was a last resort for that one patrol that just could not figure it out. That never happened.


I can't remember a scout getting very upset about these things, infact they seem to take pride in getting themselves out of their problems. But they also knew that what was expected of them and that the adults weren't going to get mad about it. One patrol learned how to cook on a campfire after they forgot their stove. They enjoyed it so much that they only used a stove wheres fires werent permitted. I always enjoyed watching new scouts setting up tents in the dark while it rained. That one small experience gave them the confidence to take on the world. I heard many of them brag to their parents about it after the campout. Life should be an adventure, even in our struggles. The leadership experience should be the same.


What they didn't understand was the adults saw these situations as opportunities. The more they struggled, the more they learned. And the more they learned, the more they liked scouting. Many of our older scouts were a lot better at scouting than our adults.



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What I would do is during a PLC is to go over the expectations of a PL and other things like an expectation of having a fruit, vegi, and protein item at every meal on an outing. Having a clear set of expectations for them will help them know what they need to do and hopefully make it easier for them to break things down and get things done on their own.

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Here's where I differ a bit with the organizational structure taught in most troops of today.


The SM delegates to the SPL who in turn delegates to the PL who delegates to the patrol members.


I promote in my boys -- the PL is the ultimate authority/responsibility in the troop. The PL's run their mini-troops (patrols) as a SM would a traditional troop.


I as SM and my SPL always ask "what can I do to assist you in doing your job". Nowhere do we state we are going to do it for them.


The PL goes to the SPL only when he is faced with a problem resolution he may need assistance in, but the SPL is not just another member of his patrol that he delegates to.


Once the PL's realize that the sun rises and sets on their abilities to lead (or not lead as may be the case in the beginning), they will need to step up to make things function. Doing one's job means that functionality must be present. Sitting around waiting for the SPL to step in and take over is not on any PL job description I've ever read for a boy-led program. And if one abdicates one's responsibility long enough then the adults will step in and reverse everything the troop has accomplished along the lines of boy-led.


I always tell my boys, "I'd be happy to do this or that, but then I get to make up ALL the rules on how this troop is to be run." So far I haven't had anyone agree to this.



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All excellent advice.

I would add one thing, when your PLs start making decisions be very reluctant to over turn them.

There will be times your PLs make decisions that you might not think are the "Best" decisions, but if you overturn them without an extremely good reason they will again rely on you for all decisions.

My rule is that unless it's a safety issue or something way off base than I let the Scouts make the decisions. This is a tough one to get past the parents who always know a better way to do things.

Leadership is a tough skill to learn, seems like you understand it. Now you get to pass it on to your PLs. I'm sure you'll do a great job!

(This message has been edited by Eagle732)

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Sounds to me like you have a confidence problem. Your PL is afraid to make decisions.



Here's a trick I learned from my SM long ago. He used to say, "Don't come to me with problems until you're ready to propose a solution."



If it's something that you KNOW they can handle themselves, ask them, "what do you think should be done?" If he gives you a good answer, tell him to go do it.

If he gives you a bad answer tell him why it's a bad answer, give him some guidance,and tell him to get back to you when he's figured something better out.


If he says "I don't know", tell him to get back to you when he's thought of a solution.


Before too long he'll learn that you're not going to do his thinking for him. As his confidence builds, he'll stop bugging you with little things.

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A lot of times boys will not step up because it's not their job. PL is supposed to lead, everyone else sits on their hands.


Whoever has the patch does the work, everyone else sits on their hands.


If one sits on their hands long enough, an adult will take over.


If someone screws up, just sit on your hands, the adults will bail us out.


Don't know what to do, fumble around for a while and some adult will tell you what to do, oops, mentor and guide you into doing something.


All these things are symptoms of an adult led program as far as I'm concerned.


Until the boys have the authority they will never accept the responsibility. Heck, neither would I. Kids at that age aren't as stupid as we give them credit for. I don't assume my kids are not leaders or too stupid to take on adult level responsibilities.


Hmmm, lets see here now... if I sit quietly long enough someone else will get railroaded into the scout leadership position. If I'm sufficiently inadequate in the job, they won't ask me to do it again. Heck, we've all played these games, and it comes natural to kids to play games.


Getting youth to step up? I get an advertisement/pamphlet for a council activity at roundtable. I take it to the next troop meeting and after opening flags, I wave it in front of the boys and ask, "Who wants to take the lead on this?" If no one says anything I crumple it up and toss it in the garbage can. And yes, I have had boys retrieve the information out the garbage to see what it was and then have them follow up and do the activity. If they don't want to go, why waste energy trying to get them to go?


If a boy, any boy!, doesn't need to be a leader, says he wants to take lead, he gets the pamphlet and I promptly forget about it. There's no rules that says he has to have a patch or be of a certain rank. If he's TF and wants to organize summer camp, he can do it. I don't care. If the boys want to go bad enough, they will all gather up around the TF scout and figure out how to get themselves there without any training, directing, prompting, mentoring, coaching, etc. Did mom or dad show the kids how to work the X-Box? Heck no! They are capable of problem solving, following directions, and getting what they want. Give them the opportunity and get out of the way.


In the past 3 years, all camporees, klondikes, summer camp, canoe trips, popcorn sales, fundraisers, service projects, Eagle projects, winter outings, hikes, Jamboree etc. have been planned, organized, executed, by the boys in the troop. My ASM's are forbidden to do anything more than support them when asked and then respond only with suggestions as to what they might want to consider.


I don't wish to convey the idea that this is the only way to run a boy-led program, but with the lack of adults involved, it is easy to see that if anything gets done, it is done by the boys or it doesn't happen. The first year about 2/3'rds of the programs simply didn't happen. After a while they began to figure out how it worked and now we don't miss out on much of anything. Right now I have two boys working on two different activities that fall on the same weekend. It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.


Have the boys designed, organized and carried out activities other than those suggested by adults? Yep, they did a high adventure backpack outing last summer along with summer camp and Jamboree. As an adult I only worked on organizing the Jamboree because it was an adult led program. The only thing I did for summer camp was drive, pull the trailer, and sit around for the week and read books.


Youth will not step up for anything unless they have a vested interest in it and total permission to proceed (Authority). Well, make an opportunity for them and then get out of the way.


My boys have total authority in the projects they select to lead. No adult is involved to usurp that authority and with authority they will become comfortable with the responsibility that follows. Too often we give the boys responsibility without authority and then we sit around and mentor them into the results we wish for them to have. Until total authority is given over to them, they will never have the confidence level to do it. The reason why they make questionable and unsure decisions is because they are trying to guess what YOU want them to do. They already know what they want to do but they don't have the authority to make the call. This is called setting the boys up to fail. It is not leadership, it is trying to guess what the real leader wants because he/she isn't tell us outright. Fooling a boy into thinking he's leading through adult manipulation isn't true leadership anyway. Fooling a boy is really fooling oneself, because boys have this all figured out anyway.


My CC and Committee have given me carte-blanche authority as SM to run a boy-led program. I in turn have given carte-blanche authority to the boys to run it. To me that's what is meant by boy-led. We sink or swim on the merits of the boys and now after 3 years are pretty darn good at getting things done without any adult involvement.


Your mileage may vary,





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