Jack Welch, of General Electric fame, now writes a column much like my own for readers of Business Week. Recently he was asked how a company can keep its employees productive and loyal. His answer focused on three key ingredients: Keep it fun, keep it challenging, keep it rewarding. (Yup, he did say “fun”—I don’t make this stuff up!)
Now, let’s link this with a survey finding by the Dartnell Corporation about why most employees resign. Says Dartnell: When employees resign, they don’t leave companies, they leave supervisors.
For us in Scouting, there are huge lessons here. Whether we’re Den Leaders, Scoutmasters, District Chairs, Commissioners, Venturing or Sea Scout leaders, or members of a council’s professional staff, the “people” we need to keep coming back are the youth whom we’re all here to serve.
Fun, challenge, reward… Are we delivering these three key ingredients to our youth of all ages, every week, week after week? And how about our fellow volunteers? Are we providing the same for them as well?
I once knew a Scoutmaster whose nickname (given to him by the Scouts, of course) was “Mister Awful.” What would you guess his views on fun, challenge and reward might be? I knew a Den Leader who took pride in being “tough” on Cub Scout advancement. Tough…to what end? I’d always though the requirements are the requirements. I’ve heard, recently, of another Scoutmaster who makes up his own rules when it comes to advancement, like if you don’t complete a merit badge in 12 months you have to start all over again, and if you don’t put in service hours you don’t advance, not even from Tenderfoot to Second Class. Fun? Challenging? Rewarding? Somehow, I don’t think so. I knew a District Chair who, when asked by one of his own Vice-Chairs, “Can we please meet to discuss a problem I’m having?” responded with, “I think meetings are a waste of time.” Then he wondered why that Vice-Chair sorta checked out!
Fun, challenge, and reward. If this is what we adults need to keep at it, day after day, why would our own kids want or deserve any less?
When youth leave our units, or our fellow volunteers stop doing what they originally committed to, we’re often tempted to think, Well, they’ve just given up on Scouting. But have they? Are they really leaving Scouting? Or are they leaving us? Did we, as their “supervisors,” somehow forget that fun, challenge, and reward are the three key ingredients we need to deliver, and keep on delivering, each and every time?
Communications merit badge teaches Boy Scouts that 80% of what we communicate is non-verbal. It’s “body language,” as Julius Fast coined nearly four decades ago. When we walk into the Scout room or Den meeting with a hang-dog look, prepared to go through the motions, and we send the signal, loud and clear, that our only goal today is to get to the end of the meeting, do we actually think these keen youth don’t know what’s going on? Do we actually think they think they’re going to have a good time? Time for a hard look in the mirror, maybe?
Most Scouters get it right, and then some. I well remember a Scoutmaster who knew more knots than I ever knew existed. Every week he would tie a new one and wrap a Scoutmaster’s Minute around it. His Scouts could hardly wait to see what knot he’d tie, and what story he’d tell, each week. I knew a Den Leader who had a new game for “gathering time” every week and she never had a Cub late for a meeting—they didn’t want to miss the game! Another Del Leader had a special assignment of each of her Cubs each week—One led the opening, another brought the snacks, a third did a show-and-tell, a fourth…well, you get the idea. Every one of her boys felt special, and each had a special role to play in every meeting. Then there was the District Commissioner who made sure that every one of his Unit Commissioners had “talking time” at our monthly meetings, so we all had our moment in the sun. Did we duck our staff meetings? Hardly ever! And then there was a Patrol Leader who kept bite-sized candy bars in his pocket, and gave them to every patrol member who showed up in full uniform. Rarely did he leave with any unused candy still in his pocket! There was a Unit Commissioner who never visited one of his units empty-handed. Maybe it was a flyer about a new event, maybe it was something about a special training course coming up, or maybe it was a Scoutmaster Award of Merit that he’d worked behind the scenes to have happen. But it was always something, and he was always welcome at the units he served. And I especially remember the Scout Executive who could remember the name of every Scout and Scouter he’d ever met, and always greeted every one by their name—and got ‘em all right! Little things, perhaps, but it’s these little things, maybe, that make all the difference!
Fun, challenge, and reward. Pretty simple. Easy to remember. Sometimes tougher to deliver than we might think. But, that’s our job. We can do it. We just need to focus on it: Fun – Challenge – Reward.
Got a question? Send it to me atAskAndyBSA@yahoo.com.
(Please include your council name and home state)
(June 17, 2007 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2007)