Monday, November 17, 2008

Scoutmaster Mike: After NLS, New Commitments and Goals

My son and I had a cool experience this past weekend. We had a chance to go and participate in an Order of the Arrow training event called the National Leadership Seminar. This is a unique program in that all of the presenters are youth, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. Needless to say, this is an impressive bunch of young men, many of them coming from as far away as Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, and one trainer originally hailing from Hawaii (though going to school in Nevada). What also made this a special weekend for my son and the other boys was the fact that one of the trainers was the 2008 National Chief.

National Leadership Seminar is an opportunity for Arrowmen to go and get this training, and then apply it to the daily lives of the members of their Troops and Lodges. Much like Wood Badge, it is a course that has both a classroom and a practical requirement. Each participant, at the end of the course, gets a certificate of completion and a pin (a triangle with a fleur-de-lis in the middle). Upon leaving the course, the participant commits to completing three goals that will help them put the leadership skills that they have learned into practice. They have ninety days in which to do this. Once they have completed the three goals that they set, and have received the Lodge Chief or Lodge Advisor’s signature signifying completion, they send their completed “contracts” in to the Western Region Advisor and then in return receive the National Leadership Seminar patch, where the pin received earlier goes in the center of. They can then wear this patch on their uniform to signify that they have completed all requirements (much the way Wood Badgers wear their beads)..

From arrival on Friday evening to dismissal after lunch on Sunday, the weekend course timeline was full, and focused on the areas that allow youth and adult participants to see how leadership is focused on three areas. These three areas radiate out from one key element, Trust. The NLS program takes the idea of the “trust triangle”: at the center, and then uses three concept areas to build out and develop the rest of the triangle; The concepts are to BE (specifically, “BE COMMITTED TO”), DO, and KNOW.

Every time I participate in these trainings, I am able to come away with something new to think about. Having spent the better part of a decade and a half as a trained scout leader, one might think this would all be old hat, yet at each stage of my time as a leader, there are unique challenges that develop year after year, and interestingly enough, it seems that going to these events allow me a chance to see old issues through a new lens.

As I was thinking about three aspects of my own leadership, I was struck with three areas I could immediately apply these skills. The first area was a DO item, and it revolved around Communication. Right now, I am one of the few people in the Lodge that knows how to build regalia and maintain/restore pieces that our Lodge uses (I’m not the only one, by any means, but I have become one of the main go-to guys for doing this type of work, mainly because I enjoy doing it). I realized that, should I become incapacitated (wow, that sounds harsh, let’s just say unavailable) there would be a lack of people in the lodge that could do what I currently do. To that end, I’ve decided to make a guide and have some training and craft days where I can show the boys and some additional adults what it would take to make the items and actually do the work of restoration should it be needed.

My second requirement also has to do with the Dance Team that I advise for and which my son is the chairman for. We came to a realization this weekend that our Lodge Chief had scheduled an event that would showcase the Dance Team, the work we have done, the pictures we have accumulated, and perform demonstrations of what we do. It would be a big public relations event and generate a lot of publicity for the Lodge. It sounded terrific… until I heard the day it was to happen; December 6th. That’s when I’ll be away for Staff Development for the Spring Wood badge course. As I explained this, I saw the crestfallen look on our chief’s face… he realized they couldn’t do the event. It became very clear that too much of the knowledge and operations of this team is centralized in mine and my son’s hands. Without us, the Lodge cannot present a program. Not a good situation to be in. Therefore, I will be applying the KNOW/Guiding principal and the DO/Mobilize principal to identify additional adult and youth members to pass on the knowledge of how we set up, present and explain the role of the dance team to others in the Lodge and in the greater Council. This way, it’s not so critical if I or my son can’t be there. We can pass off the materials needed to another adult and youth member, and they will be able to make the presentations.

My last skill to be applied will be in an interesting new area that is just starting to take shape. We have two Wards up in San Francisco that have a small number of young men. These young men and their leaders want to extend the scouting program to these boys, but they are too few in number to realistically have their own dedicated Troop. One of the ideas that was floated (and I agreed to help with) was to set these boys and a few adult leaders up as a satellite Patrol of Troop 250. These boys and their leaders would come to the home base in San Bruno once a month, meet with and interact with the rest of the boys in the Troop, and then during the other three weeks each month meet in San Francisco and work on the same program and program ideas that we are working on. This is going to require the BE element referred to as “Developing Yourself and Your Team”. The challenge will be that I will have to accept that I will only be charting the course and asking for updates from these leaders as regards these boys. Effectively, I will have to trust that they will execute the program that we all help define together, and then have them communicate regularly with me to see that we are all advancing and developing the program together at the same pace. This will require me to put my trust in others in a way that I am honestly not used to doing, and this one may be the biggest challenge for me yet.

Thus with new purpose, I have some new goals to accomplish… and I have 90 days to do them in. Wish me luck :).

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