Scoutmaster Musings - Choosing Adult Leaders

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Scoutmaster Musings

Choosing Adult Leaders
How does your troop or pack acquire good, qualified adult leaders?
Every unit needs a Scoutmaster/Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Rep, and Committee Chair plus two more committee members in order to actually be a BSA unit. As scouts join and leave the unit, their parents come and go with them, causing a continual overturn of adult volunteers. In some cases, usually the Scoutmaster, an adult may stay in a position for years or decades but this is rare and its merits are debatable. Bringing in new volunteers and energy once in awhile usually helps a program. The challenge can be in identifying and recruiting quality adults.

When a volunteer announces that he will be leaving, three things are likely to happen:
  1. The other volunteers make efforts to keep him around for just one more year - for as many years as he keeps saying 'ok'.
  2. The other volunteers make a list of everyone that might do the job and then ask, beg, plead with them until one breaks down and says 'ok'.
  3. The other volunteers cross their fingers and hope the parent of a new boy joining will be naive enough to be talked into doing the job.

None of these actions put the best qualified person in the role. I know from experience. When our troop's Scoutmaster announced he would be stepping down, the troop did #1 and then #2. I broke down and said 'ok' before they got to #3.

A more thought-out, planned process should be used to prepare for the inevitable need for replacing volunteers. We need to follow the Boy Scout motto and "Be Prepared". Since we know new volunteers will be needed periodically, we can have a plan ready to get them.

Use Selecting Quality Leaders from the BSA for a process and sample presentation. There is also a video of the same name available from the BSA. These are quite formal steps to select leaders and are more for recruiting someone that is outside the unit. A more common situation will be to recruit someone that is already involved in the unit.

When looking for an adult leader, search for someone with these traits:
Being prepared to replace volunteers in key roles really means to have a succession plan in place - our troop now has this. The Scoutmaster may have told you he will fill the role for the next 5 years, but he may get transfered next month. A successor needs to be identified for the role, just in case. The successor should not be picked directly by the current volunteer, but by a selection team, to ensure someone with the desired traits is chosen. With a succession plan ready, there will be no scramble to fill a vacated role because the replacement is already on the sidelines.

Now, the question of recruiting new volunteers still exists - how do we recruit someone to be the replacement waiting on the sidelines? I've found it is much easier to find someone willing to 'start learning the ropes' than it is to 'jump in with both feet'.
Use the same general process outlined in the Selecting Quality Leaders brochure, but use it with people that have already become part of your unit.
Whichever volunteer is chosen, he will have some strengths and some weaknesses. I, for example, am quite experienced and knowledgable about outdoors and wilderness, but I have to work hard to avoid being overly critical of scouts that don't follow through with things they commit to doing and I have to be more light-hearted and less analytical.

A few things that I believe should be considered very heavily in a Scoutmaster candidate, and in my book would most likely disqualify the candidate, but not by BSA requirements:
Those are just things that would affect my personal recommendation for someone. My family chose to join the troop we did because 3 of those were demonstrated at other troops when my oldest son was looking at troops to join.

One last thing: it is much easier to identify replacements if there is a relationship in place with all adults involved in the troop or pack. Some parents drop off their scout and pick him up 90 minutes later. That isn't what Scouting is about and it makes it nearly impossible to know how that adult might be able to, and want to, contribute to the program.
Offer and promote opportunities for parents to get to know you and the other parents. Have a parent party in February and in September so they can socialize, meet and welcome new parents, hear from the Cubmaster/Scoutmaster what has been accomplished the past 6 months, what is coming up in the next 6 months, and discuss needs of the troop or pack. We've found these gatherings to be very useful in getting to know parents and lining up recruits for future positions.

Scout On
Posted: 10:23 12-06-2007 274
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