Module 14 – Scenario 5 Answers

What problem(s) do you see here?

1. This relationship is not open and will not foster good communications when and if a problem arises. To date our Unit Commissioner has not been able to gain the acceptance and trust of the Scoutmaster.

2. Similarly, if the UC here is not in a good working relationship as a partner and team member, it will be hard for him to communicate information from the District to the Troop and to provide the best opportunities to the Scouts in the Troop.

3. But in reality these are really more in the nature of challenges than real problems. This is something that can be approached in a more leisurely manner than most of the crisis type stuff we always seem to think is there to drive us. Relax and let the relationship grow.

What are the likely causes of this problem (these problems)?

1. Does the Scoutmaster understand what the UC’s role is?

2. Did the UC communicate to the SM that he is there to give advice? This may have sounded a little odd coming from a fellow that is much more junior in experience! It would have been better to stick to being there to pass information and to help in anyway the SM desires within reason.

3. Has the SM had previous bad experiences with a Unit Commissioner?

4. Has the SM ever had any experiences with a Unit Commissioner?

What can your Unit Commissioner do to improve his relationship?

1. Be patient and keep quiet except to pass on information or praise. This one is going to take time. Continue to give praise when appropriate, but don’t over do it. The SM will get a little suspicious of unearned praise. Stick to the basics until the relationship matures and the SM realizes that the UC is not there to muck up his Troop.

What facts does he/she need to get?

1. The UC needs to learn as much as possible about the Troop, but it will have to be gradual and indirect.

2. Check with the professional staff for past information on rechartering, training, attendance at camporees, advancement, etc.

3. When the SM is waxing proud, ask if they have old newsletters or a scrapbook you could look at.

4. Listen! If you are around a Troop meeting as the Scouts arrive or as they depart, find a place to stand just outside the door and listen to what they are saying. You’ll find out a lot more here than you expect. If they leave excited, great! On the other hand, if they leave complaining or making fun of the “dorky” Troop, you’ll get the picture as well.

What should he/she be looking for or evaluating?

1. Keep the big picture in mind. Are the three aims of Scouting being served?

2. Are the Scouts growing and having fun in the process?

3. Is attendance steady or falling off?

4. Is there a high turnover?

5. What is the average retention length? Do they quit after a year or so?

6. Are the Scouts advancing?

7. Do they have activities and frequently in the Outdoors?

8. How about uniforming?

9. A lot of things you can determine just by keeping an open ear and a watchful eye. Smile and enjoy.

What could have caused the Scoutmaster to become suspicious?

1. Boy, do I really have to answer that? Your guess is as good as mine, but it may well be that the Scoutmaster felt awkward having a youngster there to advise him on what he has been doing very well for nearly 30 years. And if the UC attempted to show any authority, the SM may have wondered why the UC was there.

What role should the Unit Commissioner have in such a unit?

1. See the above. Be all eyes and ears, smiles and praise. Pass on information and wait for trust to develop. When the relationship matures, you can move on to more, but for now its simply time to be patient.

If the Troop is running well and the Scoutmaster doing his job properly, what’s missing?

1. There may not be anything missing and this may well be a non-problem. My concern would be that if the relationship gets in the way of communication that the UC may not be able to pass on information about program opportunities via the SM to the unit and that as a result the Scouts may be cheated out of a lot of great fun and activities.

Any other observations?

1. The Unit Commissioner in this situation may have started out with extraordinary enthusiasm after going through training. Almost every training I’ve been to (Scouting and career) has breed some degree of enthusiasm to go back and make things better. In Scouting this is particularly true and I’ve seen many people really get excited at training only to get frustrated when old bad habits die hard.

2. In a perfect world, everyone would be excited to know what the newly trained person learned to take advantage of great new ideas. Not so in most places unfortunately. There’s always a lot of resistance to change from the outside. People normally want to feel things out a bit before making a change and to have a voice in the change, especially when they can’t understand (weren’t at training and wouldn’t go anyway) why dynamic Dan is running around with his hair on fire – after all things have worked fine the way they were. And much of their program probably was just fine at one time or another, but could always be improved.

3. Probably the greatest weakness in our training is that we can get so excited that they can’t wait to try out the newly learned ideas without helping them develop a strategy to sell the ideas.
Maybe the kindest thing would be for an old hand to temper the newly enthused Scouter with some words of wisdom about nudging change instead of charging into what could be a wall. Some of the things I’ve shared with those coming back from Wood Badge and other training course follow:

a. Remember that the people you are serving haven’t had the same great experience that you just had and won’t know what to make of your sudden change of outlook.

b. You’ve got to work a little smarter now and exercise one of the harder parts of leadership – selling ideas by effective communication – to get the group ready to follow suggested changes.

c. What really turned you on at training? Would the same sort of thing work in the unit or help change how people see things?

d. What kinds of communication were used effectively? Can you use these techniques to sell the ideas at home?

e. Pick and choose what you think is the most important thing to work on and focus your efforts on one or a few ideas at a time – don’t shotgun a hundred ideas.

f. Take time to build a consensus for change, if it is for the better.

g. Before you start to change something, be sure its needed. Sometimes we need to temper a desire for “perfection” with the need to have a program that delivers.

h. Involve others in your ideas – start with one or two and build.

i. Realize that others have pride in how they have been doing things and are probably hesitant to do anything that lessens that pride.

j. Ask how you can help others to discover ideas that they will then use or promote.

k. Remember to be patient.

l. Remember that nobody likes a know-it-all one-man/woman show.

m. Take time to observe and develop raport.

n. Take time to compliment and recognize those who are trying!

4. There probably are no really right answers, because so much depends on the people and their circumstances, but a little kindness and understanding always go a long way.

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