Green Bar Bill Hillcourt’s oft repeated encouragement to “Train em’ trust em’ and let them lead” remains the simple formula for building and maintaining confidence in youth leadership. Hillcourt’s formula has three active components
Training youth leaders need not be a protracted formal training event. Real-time, authentic and immediate on the job training (OJT) has proven to be an effective approach. OJT works best where there is an existing model of good youth leadership Absent this model it must be created by showing Scouts good youth leadership in action. Observing a Troop with strong youth leadership is ideal.
The training continues throughout the life of the Troop and Patrol, mostly in short bursts at the beginning and end of meetings or brief huddles on campouts. Well placed questions and modest observations probe actions and direction and help steer them towards confidence and success.
Trusting youth leaders, particularly new ones, is probably the most difficult achievement in the process. Sitting in the passenger seat while teaching a student driver isn’t easy. There are no brakes or steering wheel on that side of the car. Both new and long-tenured Scoutmasters report that they find keeping themselves from interfering is a continual challenge.
Trust is bottomless patience and undying confidence. When things fall apart Scoutmasters must summon an academy award performance that reassures youth leaders and restores their self confidence. Celebrate small victories and minimize any defeats.
Don’t give a Scout leadership responsibility and undermine it with continual interference, comment or what a friend of mine calls “the stink eye”. As aloof and disaffected as they may like to appear youth leaders are seeking your approval. They need an avuncular, friendly, understanding coach rather than a nitpicking hair-triggered dictator.
Their shortcomings may be many, their failures and oversights may be greater than their successes but so long as they are encouraged towards honest effort and imbued with confidence they will ultimately rise to the challenge.
Louisville Scoutmaster says
One can also use the troop level junior leader training program available from your local scout shop. I have helped our boys work through that program 3-4 times. It is pretty good. The Scoutmaster serves mainly to encourage discussion by asking questions.
Andy K says
I’m going to argue that TLT is useful if structured to achieve the right results.
I inherited a highly structured JLT/TLT process that was run by the adults. The adults would give presentations on leadership, planning, goals, delegation, communications, etc. The adults would run leadership games. The adults would pick a movie, then lecture the scouts on the leadership aspects found therein. As you can see: adults, adults, adults. As the scouts could see: snore, snooze, snore.
I’ve slowly replaced parts, ending (so far) with less structure and more scouts. The key result of TLT that I now require are a set of goals from each scout approved by the (new) SPL. We do six – two “personal” goals, two “position” goals, and two “troop/patrol” goals. The personal goals are usually measured in merit badges completed (typically two) and miles hiked. The position goals relate to the leadership position the scout holds, and the troop/patrol goals usually relate to organizing an outing. This gives the scouts good practice at setting reasonable, achievable goals for themselves, and it gives the SPL something that serves as a shared agreement for successful leadership. If the scout said he would organize an advancement outing for the young guys patrol, then the SPL can ask if he did or didn’t do it (and solicit any extenuating circumstances). Both scouts can tell pretty quickly if they met their goals or not.
I balance the pain of goal-writing with fun. We do a sleep-over in the church basement and they guys watch a movie that their SPL has chosen (subject to scoutmaster approval). We feed them pizza and popcorn and they have a grand time getting to know one another. The adults still participate, but I continue to work on getting scouts to talk to scouts, so each time the scouts see fewer adult faces. My current goal is to ramp up the scout-training-scout proportion.
Most of us have been to the Corporate America version of leadership training, sensitivity training, and so on. It is just as bad – or worse – for the scouts. As a friend said, “If it’s not for the boys, it’s for the birds.” So the challenge is to restructure TLT to be useful for the scouts.