BLT Organizational Behaviors
For BLT to be successful, everyone (Scouts, Parents, Adults, Committee Members, and Chartering Organization) involved with the troop needs to understand that BLT requires certain cultural values and organizational behaviors to be successful. Scouts are going to lead, scouts are going to make mistakes, and scouts are going to have out of the box or crazy ideas which in the adult world we call innovative thinking for never before done events. The troop needs to be open minded and be willing to support the scout’s as they explore the meaning of leadership and make the learning mistakes that will allow the scouts to learn leadership for themselves.
Understand that taking on a true BLT initiative means creating a BLT cultural where the scouts are front and center at every possible opportunity and the adults are truly in the background as advisors. Having adults truly step aside to let these young men cut their teeth on leadership, allowing them to make mistakes, is the hardest challenge of transforming the troop into a truly BLT culture.
One of the basic or core rules I used as Scoutmaster was that I would only step in or react if I saw a safety issue or a situation developing to an unsafe condition. However, if I saw a breakdown in team work or leadership, I would not jump in and take charge, I would work through the situation as an advisor providing some recommendations. After the event was over, I would then gather the scout leaders to reflect on the event to review and find out what was learned and what would be done differently in the future.
We were at a campout, dinner is over and it is now time to clean up. One of the senior scouts put a pinecone into a patrol cooking fire and it created a colorful flare-up. The younger scouts thought this was really cool so they quickly went off scavenging for pinecones with a big bag. At this point, you could observe that what was about to take place would be unsafe. I asked the SPL and another adult to join me and we quickly went to the patrol cooking fire. On the way over, I asked the adult leader to stand by the cooking fire and “do not” let anyone put anything into/onto the fire until I said it was ok.
Upon arrival at the cooking fire I saw that we had a minute or two before the scouts would arrive back to the cooking fire with their pinecones and the adult leader was at the cooking fire calmly redirecting anyone who was going to put anything into the cooking fire. I asked the SPL have APL with the help of the PQM, muster the patrol and have himself and the PL join me in a quick Mentoring session. In the Mentoring session I asked the PL what he saw happen, I shared what I saw happen and we came to consensus how we would proceed.
The PL went to the mustered patrol to explain what happened and the dangers of putting a bunch of pinecones into the fire. The PL then assigned cleanup duties. With the safety restored, the SPL, adult leader and I went on our way. Later that evening at the troop’s campfire, the SPL had the senior scout who originally put the pinecone in the fire, provide a five minute training on fire safety.
In the above example, there was an obvious safety issue about to occur. There was a three to four minute window before a small garbage bag of pinecones was going to be dumped onto a cooking fire. The adults had to intervene quickly and decisively. In the example above, you can see how we did this in a very controlled, efficient and effective manner. There was no shouting, yelling or making a big scene. The other patrols and adults in the troop were not disrupted.
** Perspective ** One reason for the quick response is that my behavior is to constantly observe, monitor and look out for the Chaos Factor to occur. Leading by example, I am constantly on the move, walking around camp, asking the scout leaders to share with me what they are observing and working with the senior scouts to improve their Vision Technique to keep the troop on schedule and on task. Would I like to be around the campfire socializing, you bet. However, if I am doing that, what type of example does that set for the senior scouts? My rule is not to be stationary in one spot for more the five minutes when at the campsite. After the scouts are in bed, then I’ll gather around the campfire and socialize.
For one of our troop meetings a PL was going to provide training to the troop on how to set up a tent. The PL worked with the SPL and was given 15 minutes. As part of our troop meeting planning, I checked in with the SPL to confirm he and his team had what they needed and were ready for the Troop meeting. The SPL said they were good and he had worked out the plan with the PL.
At the Troop Meeting, the PL’s tent training session went long for a total time of 30 minutes. The SPL and team took the Troop outside for their skills game. Upon getting outside the SPL and team realized that they did not have time for the planned skills game and had to improvise. The SPL put one of the ASPLs in charge to muster the troop. The SPL and the remaining ASPLs huddled up off to the side and quickly came together with a revised game plan for what to do. By the time the troop was mustered, the SPL and team had the revised game plan. The troop was instructed for what was going to happen in the next 15 mins before going inside.
The meeting was back on track and ran smoothly the rest of the evening. After the troop meeting, the SPL and I discussed what had happened. Why did training go long? We found that the PL was being asked many questions and lost track of time. We found that I as SM, had the SPL out of the room on another effort and we didn’t realize the PL was going over in time. What was really amazing was the effectiveness and team work executed by the senior patrol to recognize the situation, maintain control of the troop (+60 scouts) and get them focused onto new activities.
A month later at a committee meeting when this situation was discussed, I was asked: “Why didn’t you jump in and correct it?” I explained that this is an example where the scouts are learning first hand about leadership. The experience of realizing that the schedule was missed and having to think quick to come up with a new plan on the spot is a lesson learned which those scouts will remember for a very long time. No one was in danger, there was not a safety issue and the confidence in their ability to lead during real time situations will be the foundation of the leadership and team work the Troop will need to be successful and fun on future campout and outings. I further explained that if the adults would have jumped in, the senior scouts would not have had this experience and their training would be significantly less memorable or understood.
**Perspective** – When speaking about BLT What Is BLT, the “non-safety” example is what I would call allowing the scout leaders to fall down and skin their knees. There is some discomfort but the Troop provides a safe environment for Scouts to learn these leadership lessons such as time management. In my professional life, the scout’s handled the situation better than some adults who were learning the same lesson, 20 years later in their life with the cost being lost production, lost revenue and customer dissatisfaction. These scouts, 20 years from now, will be much further ahead and stronger in their leadership capabilities.