Shortly after I became a Patrol Leader my Patrol was enthusiastic, but we quickly discovered that we all had different ideas of what and how we should do things as a Patrol. There were many arguments and disagreements between us.
Later on, when I became a Senior Patrol Leader, I saw the same pattern repeat itself with two new Patrols in the Troop. They started out enthusiastically, but soon the clashes of personality began!
I think this is probably a pretty common story. When a Patrol is formed, everything seems great… until they start to really work together, disagreements arise, and everyone gets frustrated.
At this stage it’s easy to give up. But don’t!
Every group of Scouts has to go through some pretty predictable stages as they become a real Patrol. Some of the stages are difficult (especially early on), but each is important.
Think of it like growing a garden. You have to prepare the ground, plant the seeds, and tend the plants as they grow before you can harvest the results. Things have to happen in the right order; you can’t plant the seeds first and then prepare the ground!
The stages your Patrol goes through are all important, you can’t skip ahead. I’ve tried; it just doesn’t work! My Patrol had to go through the same stages that yours will.
It was challenging and even discouraging at times, but those challenges were really important!
My patrol all got a ton out of Scouting that we never would’ve if we hadn’t gone through these stages. Some were really tough, but looking back now I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
The first stage a team goes through starts when the members are first introduced. This is generally a high note. Scouts are excited about working together and the awesome adventures they can have. This stage is called:
Have you studied catalysts in chemistry class? Catalysts enable chemical reactions between other substances where they wouldn’t otherwise happen. In a patrol at this stage the Patrol Leader is the catalyst.
When a Patrol starts out,Scouts won’t know the strengths and weaknesses of the others or how they personally fit into the group.
This stage will go as smooth as possible if you, the Patrol Leader, are intentional about getting to know every Scout. You should talk to each one of the members and get an idea of their personalities. What are their strengths? What do they like? Arrange for activities that help everyone get to know everyone else. Try playing games that involve members working and talking with each other.
By communicating clearly and having a good plan prepared you’ll soon progress to the next stage:
When your Patrol is put in challenging circumstances together with all of the different personalities, likes and dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses there will be conflict.
There might be big disagreements between you and the Patrol and between the Patrol members themselves. Don’t worry, you will make it past this stage, it’s something you should expect!
As leader, there are several things you can do to get through this stage as quick and painlessly as possible.
Don’t try to avoid conflicts because there are differences that need to be worked through. Instead of running away from clashes work out solutions and compromises. Yeah, it’s not easy, but that’s part of your job as Patrol Leader.
Activities that require Patrol members rely upon each other (like camping trips) are a great way to make this happen. Out in the middle of nowhere without any of the comforts of civilization Scouts have to rely on each other. This builds mutual respect and a spirit of service.
Some conflicts arise when Scouts are unsure of their roles and what is expected of them. This is why giving each Scout a specific responsibility and letting them carry it out in they way they see best is important. Be thorough in communicating what needs to be done and how important everyone is to the patrol’s success!
When conflicts arise, it’s a fragile time for the Patrol. Keep the common ground you share as Scouts on the front of everyone’s mind. Appeal to the high standard you’re all working for and everyone’s desire to improve and succeed! You’re there together for this purpose!
Keep your patrol together – if you constantly change members the Patrol will be forever stuck in the forming or conflict stages.
Don’t give up!
Sure, some Scouts are really hard to get along with. But with time and dedication, things will get better! Soon you will start to see your Scouts are:
When you start to get past the conflict stage, it’s one of the most exciting times for your Patrol.
The patrol is starting to develop “esprit de corps” or team spirit. Everyone knows each other pretty well by now and are settling into their roles and responsibilities.
Start moving on from the basics and attempt more ambitious activities. Plan your own Patrol Hikes and Patrol Service Projects. Come up with an adventurous Patrol Operations Plan.
As you refine the different responsibilities of each Scout, add even more ways they can assist the Patrol. Make sure every member always has a vital role in the Patrol.
Consider spending time refining the symbols of your Patrol. Even if you already have a Patrol flag, maybe it is time to make a better one? Get everyone in on the design and crafting of it. Do you have a Patrol book? What about a Patrol call or secret signature?
As you continue to work together you’ll soon be:
Performing and Maintaining
Believe it or not, your Patrol can work together like a fine-tuned racing engine – all the pieces perfectly executing their task.
To an outsider, it may appear as if you can read each other’s minds as you quickly set up a perfect campsite or flawlessly build a pioneering tower.
But you’re just a Patrol – a real Patrol! And that’s something you can be very proud of!
These things don’t happen by magic. There will still be disagreements and problems, but the relationships you’ve established will help resolve them quickly.
As new Scouts join your Patrol, it is your duty to assimilate them into the team. There will always be mini-versions of the different stages, but they will be much easier to deal with.
Each stage of KICKOFF – CONFLICT – COMING TOGETHER – PERFORMING AND MAINTAINING are important and you can’t really skip any of them.
As your Patrol gets older and you pass along what you’ve learned to younger Scouts and new Patrol Leaders, they will have to go through a lot of what you did. But it will be so much easier with your experience behind them!
If you’re a Patrol Leader and you’re reading this right now, you’ve got a huge advantage! Use what you’ve learned to build your Patrol into a solid, invincible team!
Sam Harley says
ever hear of the stages of team development—forming, storming, norming, performing……use Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops……send your youth leaders to NYLT
Enoch Heise says
Thanks for the comment, Sam! This article is indeed based upon how the theory of Tuckman’s stages of group development apply to a Scout Patrol. Same principles, but a little more hands-on than what I remember from NYLT.