Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s bestselling book The One Minute Manager concentrates on brief, focused management through goal setting, encouragement and correction. One minute methods work well for Scoutmasters: (adapted from an essay by Winston R. Davis, author of Men of Schiff)
There was a bright young man looking for a really good Scoutmaster.
He wanted to work for one. He wanted to become one.
He found some who said: “I keep my boys in line! If you let up on them, they just get in trouble. We make ’em shape up!” Their troops were usually impressive: good uniforming, behavior and skills. But the boys in their troops didn’t seem to be having much fun. The only ones having a good time were just like their Scoutmasters. They said: “We know how to make these kids behave. We don’t let ’em get away with a thing!”
There were others he found who were easygoing and likable, friendly and quiet. Many said, “Oh, life is too short to hassle these kids. I let them pretty much decide what they want to do. That’s the patrol method. They know what they need.” The boys in their Troops didn’t appear doing anything that was in their Scout books. Hardly any complete uniforms. Lots of goofing around and having a great time. Troop activities were noisy and looked like fun, but not everybody could participate. Younger boys seemed confused and unable to get any help.
The young man wasn’t happy with what he had seen.
He knew a good Scoutmaster would run his troop so that the boys would have a good time and learn some things. There wouldn’t be a lot of time wasted on noisy confusion. They could get right down to the business of doing exciting and interesting things. Scouts would earn a lot of badges, win a lot of contests and have fun doing it.
He began hearing wonderful things about a Scoutmaster who lived not far from him; he found the One-Minute Scoutmaster.
The OMSM believes that boys who feel good about themselves do good things. He knows that “Goals begin behavior; consequences maintain behavior.” For that reason, he uses one-minute goal setting, one minute praising and one minute reprimands.
Scout-age boys thrive on the one minute concept: they are not fond of too much abstract thinking, lengthy goal making or evaluation.
They know when they mess up, and expect to be corrected, but they can do without a lecture. They like goals that are succinct, understandable, reachable and measurable. If they don’t buy into the goals, they won’t be too excited about making them happen.
Naturally there will be mistakes. The one minute reprimand is only given for a significant mistake. It is short, unemotional, specific. It emphasizes that the leader realizes the boy is a good person capable of better things. The behavior is criticized, not the boy.
The OMSM actively looks for opportunities to make one minute praisings. As with the reprimand, a boy is told specifically what it was that he did to earn the praise, and how really good that makes the OMSM feel. Both praising and reprimanding are “up close and personal,” looking the boy directly in the eye.
The young man attends one of the OMSM’s Troop meetings. He finds lots of boys in Scout uniform engaged in some fun preopening activities. There are adults around, but they don’t seem to be involved in the action.
A sharp-looking sixteen year old introduces himself as Rob, the Senior Patrol Leader. “So, you’ve met the Old Man,” he says.
“Yeah, the One-Minute Scoutmaster. That’s a lotta bunk, isn’t it?”
“No way,” Rob replies. “Everybody thinks that at first, though!”
“Well,” responds the young man, “I guess you guys will have to prove it. What happens when the adults take charge of the meeting?”
“They don’t, the patrol leaders and I, along with some of the other guys run the meeting. Except in emergencies the adults never step in unless we ask or for one-minute praisings. He’ll have a time at the end of the meeting to leave the guys with a final thought. It’s . . . ”
“Don’t tell me it’s a One-Minute Scoutmaster’s Minute!”
“You got it! He never takes more than about ninety seconds to speak his piece. He says if you can’t say it in two or three minutes, you haven’t thought enough about what you want to say,” was the boy’s reply.
“Yeah, but he must have a lot to say to the boy leaders after the meeting, right?” the young man suggested.
“Not really,” Rob said. “There is a Patrol Leader’s Council meeting after every meeting. A short one. But we do almost all the talking. We review the meeting, note any foul-ups and check plans for the next meeting or activity. The Old Man only talks if he needs to give a One-Minute praising.”
“Aha!” said the young man. “Or, no doubt, a One-Minute reprimand?”
“Those happen only in private. He never reprimands us in front of each other because it makes you feel humiliated and resentful. The only reason for the reprimand is to get us to behave differently in the future. He only criticizes the thing we did and not us and, since the reprimand ends with a praising . . . ”
“Just a minute. He reprimands and praises you? How does that work?”
The young man saw he still had a long way to go. ” After he finishes telling you exactly what you did wrong, and how it makes him feel, and giving you a moment to feel how it feels, he tells you what a great guy you are and how much he likes you, and you know it’s over.” Rob’s admiration for the man showed in his face. “I only wish we could get the Old Man to teach all our teachers to do the same thing. A lot of them use what he calls the ‘gunny sack’ approach. They save up a lot of frustration–and boy do they get a lot of frustration–until they have enough to fill a sack! Then they just dump it all over everybody. The guilty and the innocent get punished or yelled at all together.
The young man was still puzzled. “Okay, let’s go back a minute. If you guys do everything without the SM’s guidance, how do you know what to do at meetings and activities?”
“I thought you’d want to know that.” Rob grinned. “It’s really simple. We know because we all sit down together and plan everything. We mostly come up with the program plan, but he provides the materials and some suggestions. But everybody has to agree on what we’re going to do, and everything we agree to gets written down. Everybody keeps a copy so that there’s no doubt later of who agreed to do what.
It takes a lot of work for us, but we get to do what we want to do, not what a bunch of adults think we should.”
“But you don’t get to do just anything do you?”
“Definitely not! Whatever we do we have to convince the Old Man that it could be done without compromising health and safety standards, is consistent with the goals we have set and that it was what the boys in the troop wanted and not just us.”
Rob looked thoughtful. “I don’t think there’s any idea we couldn’t at least talk about. And when the talking was over, we would know whether it was a good idea and exactly why it was or wasn’t.”
These methods will go a long way towards maintaining a dynamic, happy Troop.