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.