What can go wrong:
1. No one shows up to a Patrol Meeting or planned event.
As a Patrol Leader one goal I set for myself was regular, separate Patrol Meetings. It was pretty challenging at first. There were times I couldn’t reach some of my Scouts on the phone or they didn’t have a way to get to the meeting, or I couldn’t find a time and date where everyone wasn’t busy.
It was really discouraging if I planned a meeting and everyone said they would make it but only one Scout showed up.
Has this happened to you? Are you afraid of it happening?
Good communication, planning, plenty of reminders, and sharing what you’re going to be doing like the awesome new games you’ve planned helps get things moving in the right direction. If you do a good job of these things Scouts are less likely to forget the meeting and, if you build their expectations they won’t want to miss it!
If only one or two Scouts show up, don’t be discouraged. Sometimes, stuff happens even though you do everything right. Be prepared by having a backup plan.
Have some backup Patrol games and activities you can do with just 2 or 3 guys. Don’t try to be all formal, relax and build friendships with the Scout(s) who showed up. Get to know each of the members of your Patrol.
At the end of the day, don’t consider it a failure if you have a really low attendance. Just have some stuff prepared and use the time to build friendship and rapport with those Scouts who did show up.
2. Scouts from other Patrols distract during meetings.
If chaos from other Patrols is happening around you, it’s really hard to stay focused.
When you’ve got the best Patrol in the Troop (something that is sure to happen if you put your mind to it!), Scouts whose Patrol isn’t doing anything will hang around with your Patrol. This can be distracting when you’re trying to do something with your Patrol.
Put some space between your Patrol and the others – ideally a special Patrol Corner where your Troop regularly meets; a separate room, corner, or unused hallway.
Tell Scouts who hang around that your Patrol is working on something important, and encourage them to go back and do something awesome with their own Patrol. Don’t let them join in with your Patrol. If they do, their own Patrol will never get better. Your encouragement and the contrast of your Patrol with their own can motivate them to make their Patrol better. This is how Scout Spirit can grow in a Troop.
Talk with the other Patrol Leader. Let him know they’ve got a Scout who is looking for something to do, and now is the his chance to build his Patrol and do something awesome.
If nothing else works, bring the problem up privately with the Senior Patrol Leader and ask that he take care of it.
3. Patrol Members are quitting or wanting to join another Patrol.
Your goal should be to have every Scout be a vital member of the team, and it’s discouraging if one want’s to quit. If it’s not a big deal to you, it should be!
Sometimes this is unavoidable; Scouts may have problems at home or school, their schedule is way too busy, or Scouting is just a little low on the priority list.
Some Scouts quit because they’re bored; they aren’t having any fun or accomplishing anything. This could be a sign something needs to change. Remember, it’s your responsibility as Patrol Leader to lead the Patrol in carrying out the best possible Scout program you can.
If Scouts show signs that they want to quit, talk with them and find out why. Try to get them to talk specifics, even if it criticism of you and the job you’re doing. Pinpoint the area where the Patrol is weak. Not doing enough activities? Not having a role for each individual Patrol Member? Not having a Patrol plan to work toward? Not making any rank advancement progress?
Encourage them to hang in for a little longer; tell them you need their help making the Patrol the best it can be. Tell them the Patrol is working toward some really exciting stuff that’s coming up. Then carry it out! Work hard to make the program better.
A few boys just won’t be willing to make the effort required to follow Scouting, and that’s not your fault.
You will succeed if you strive to learn what you can and continue to work on making your Patrol the best it can be!
4. Patrol Members won’t take you seriously.
It’s really frustrating when no one is listening to you or seems to take you seriously. I’ve been there. Some meetings, it felt like everything I’d say to my Patrol fell useless to the floor like so many Styrofoam packing peanuts!
What do you do when this happens to you?
First, you’ve got to earn the respect of your Patrol. How? – by being active; by serving them in whatever way you can; and by being confident, cheerful, and decisive in all circumstances. You’ve got to be willing to fill the shoes of a real leader no matter how hard it is or how inglorious.
It’s only by gaining the respect of your Patrol will they listen to you and pay attention to what you have to say.
Next, you’ve got to have contagious enthusiasm! When one person is super excited about something, that somehow seems to get passed around a group until everyone is excited. If you dryly lecture about Scouting, lecture about rank advancement, lecture about activities and games, then you shouldn’t be surprised when attention wanders. On the other hand, if you’re really excited about Scouting, if you’re pumped about a new game you want to try, if you’re stoked about having the whole Patrol learn and pass these rank advancements – then that will spread to the members of your Patrol.
Be enthusiastic! It’s contagious.
5. A Scout refuses to listen.
Sooner or later, you might have a Scout simply refuse to listen to you when you ask him to do something. This happened to me as a Patrol Leader a couple of times.
First thing you have to remember is to stay levelheaded. It’s tempting to get mad or frustrated, but that won’t help anything and just make you look weak as a leader. If you stay the mature one, there’s a good chance things will turn out okay with minimal drama.
Explain to the Scout why it is absolutely necessary that he helps out. Remind him that you are doing your best to make sure everyone has a fair load. Tell him firmly but politely that, as Patrol Leader, you have the authority to make this request and the responsibility to make sure it is carried out. The rest of the Patrol is counting on him, and you’re just trying to do what’s best for everyone.
If your explanations don’t succeed, you’ll have to bring this up to the Senior Patrol Leader and Scoutmaster as un-Scout like conduct, and let them decide what course of action is required.
6. You get voted out.
Sometime in the future, when the Patrol holds elections for Patrol Leader, you may get voted out of the position. If this happens, it is really tempting to be discouraged. You might be upset at the Scouts in the Patrol; you might wonder why they weren’t satisfied with your leadership.
It may seem like it’s over, but it really is at this point when you face the biggest test as a leader. You see, a leader doesn’t stop being one just because he doesn’t have a formal position of responsibility. Leadership is something you do because you care so much about your Patrol that you want them to succeed no matter what.
You’re biggest leadership isn’t giving orders or delegating tasks – it’s setting a standard by what you say and what you do. When spirits are down, are you snapping and complaining like everyone else? Or are you encouraging others and serving cheerfully even when you don’t feel like it? When everyone wants to give up, are you going to have the contagious enthusiasm to press on?
You can still be a leader, even though you aren’t Patrol Leader. It’s up to you! Are you the type of leader who only works hard when he can get the glory or are you the type of leader that does his best no matter what?