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Identify potential Scout leaders with the Oreo Test

Wondering whether that parent on the other side of the meeting room would make a good Cub Scout, Boy Scout or Venturing leader?

Try the Oreo Test. I think it’s brilliant. Here’s how it works … 

The Oreo Test

Pre-Step: Check with other Scouters

Speak with the Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, etc. and see who they may think would be a great help or asset to the pack or troop. Then, get your game face on …

Step 1: Make your approach

Walk up to a person who shows interest in helping out. Chit-chat with them. You learn a lot about people in a simple conversation (micro-twitches and all).

Step 2: Get them laughing

Gget them laughing about some of the fun anecdotes of Scouting. (One hour a week and all)

Step 3: Ask them to do a simple favor

After a little chit-chat, ask them to do a simple favor. Ask them if next week they would bring in a pack of Oreo cookies to share as a snack (for the kids, for a leaders’ meeting, etc.).

Step 4: Let the test begin

So why this simple task? 100 percent of the prospective leaders in our pack and troop have been asked to bring in Oreo cookies. They look at you puzzled and you politely say, “See you next week.”

By now you are probably wondering why Oreo cookies, right?

Step 5: See what they bring next week

oreo-emptyEmpty-Handed: If they come back next week without them … they will probably have an excuse. You have no use for excuses. You only need solutions.

We all work, go to school, have disabilities, have sick kids, etc. Adapt, overcome, find a way … just like all the other dedicated adults in the pack that on top of life remember the craft, or the Scoutmaster who stays two hours after the meeting helping Scouts and he/she still has to get up for work at 4 or 5 a.m.

oreo-snackSnack-size Oreos: If they come back with the snack-size pack, they did what was asked, but the bare minimum. Bare minimum does not equal good leader quality.

Who wants to work with folks who do the bare minimum? It’s only a matter of time that their work ethic will be dipping into less than the bare minimum, and the program will suffer which means the boys will suffer.

oreo-regularRegular Oreos: If they come back with a thing of Oreo cookies that is the normal pack … they have followed directions, met the challenge and sacrificed $3.50 of their own money and time shopping to get it.

They might just be worth the leader conversation.

oreo-doubleDouble Stuf: If they come back with Double Stuf, now we are talking potential. They exceeded expectations. They get the leader conversation that night. Usually these folks walk in with a smile holding them up.

You get a laugh, they get a laugh, we all get a cookie! Stephen Covey would be proud with the Win-Win-Win!

oreo-nutterNutter Butters: If they show up with Nutter Butters, I’ll make them a Scoutmaster or Cubmaster only if they were paying attention to the anecdotes from Step 2.

Always make two jokes during Step 2: 1.) It’s not a campout without burnt pork butt involved (Scouts burning bacon) and 2.) It’s not a campout without Nutter Butters. I don’t really know why the second, but they always make the backpack trips.

oreo-noshowNo-Shows: More than not, the folks never show up again. They self-eliminate the time you have to spend with them as a leader and more than not, the folks who come back the next week with Oreo cookies bring more than one pack … which is the final test.

oreo-lotsEnough for Everyone: If they bring back cookies to you, who cares… If they thought it through to make sure each and every boy in the pack or troop has a cookie, their heart is in the right place from the word go.

Surround myself with leadership who has their heart in the game for the boys. The boys come first. Always.

Step 6: Analysis

See, a simple test of Oreo cookies gets you quality leaders who have the right heart, stay the longest in the organization, attract like-minded others, parents and Scouts.

Who would have thought all that from a cookie? End of the day … it doesn’t matter if you are “Dad Eagle, Super Scout” … or a brand-new single mom. Just bring in Oreo cookies next week, and let’s see where this goes.

Plus, you can see the entire room smile that next week when someone walks in with Oreo cookies because no one but the leaders ever know why, and the kids will eat anything chocolate! So, win-win … again!


Feature Oreo photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by mihoda; Empty pockets photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by danielmoyle

20 Comments on Identify potential Scout leaders with the Oreo Test

  1. Don Schmidt // June 2, 2015 at 2:43 pm // Reply

    Our Troop like spray cheese on their Oreos ™.

  2. Robert Bardsley // June 2, 2015 at 2:51 pm // Reply

    By using this test your unit would then have a hard time qualifying for the ScoutStrong Healthy Unit Award which you highlighted in your April 12 post.

    (Some of us do actually read and remember your posts!)

    Thanks Bryan for keeping us informed.

  3. MN Bear Leader // June 2, 2015 at 3:57 pm // Reply

    I think kids get exposed to plenty of opportunities for eating cookies and other sweets. If scouting is serious about the healthy kids aspect it is time to walk the walk. Just had a training event and right after covering health one of the trainers decided it was a perfect time to bust out the candy and dump on all the tables.

    It was also joked about several times that a good factor for picking a troop when crossing over is how big the leaders’ bellies are. If they don’t have one they must not eat good at camp outs.

    • Lighten up, McScrooge!

      • MN Bear Leader // June 3, 2015 at 4:32 pm // Reply

        Yeah as a former fatty I suppose I have become a scrooge when it comes to junk food. I was happy to see in the new den leader guides that they recommended sticking to fruit and vegetables for regular meetings, saving cookies and sweets for special occasions. Then you get articles like this re-posted that pretty much ignore the new recommendations encouraging the opposite.

    • Ok, then…carrots:

      No carrots = excuse
      mini carrots = bare minimum
      regular carrots = followed directions, met the challenge
      carrots with dip = Dude!
      Those round cut carrots with the cool serrated pattern = style points

  4. AidanTheLifeScout // June 2, 2015 at 4:26 pm // Reply

    Where’s our Tuesday Talkback? Leads to some great, albeit fiery, discussions.

    • It’s not about the calories. It’s about attitudes.

  5. Brian must be on vacation. Resurrect the good past posts. Oreo Test from February 2014 (see line under title. Still worthy of consideration (ScoutStrong not withstanding!)

    • Not only “worthy of consideration” but a tip/tool that needs to be re-posted AT LEAST once a year.
      I missed this on the first pass.
      I do something like this in sales to eliminate the tire-kickers from the actual prospects. The biggest waste of time is not mistakes but the tire-kickers.
      And if they don’t do something simple (bring cookies) to demonstrate that they want to be involved in some way, their children will disappear from the Troop as well.
      One year we scrounged and provided uniforms and manuals for the Scouts that didn’t have the “resources” to afford them. Within six months two-thirds of them had dropped out of the Troop.
      Wasted time, wasted resources, and a massive source of disappointment and frustration for us as leaders.
      Thank you, Bryan, for this wonderful tip as to teaching leadership.

      • I agree as far as adults go, but scouts isn’t just for the kids who have families who want to participate. It is a program that is designed to build character and skills in boys and young men. Sometimes the boys who want and need scouts don’t have parents who will make good volunteers. Should we dismiss them simply because they don’t pass the “test”?

        • Jesse,

          I also agree with you.

          Remember we KEPT the third of the Scouts whose parents continued to bring them.

          We also tried to make those parents feel like they were having as much fun being a Scout Parent as their sons were in being Scouts.

          But where our Troop was located, 70% of the parents lived in apartments and most of them were single parents or parents who had full time, and “lower income”, jobs.

          See my Rules for Being a Scoutmaster:

          http://www.induceddyslexia.com/rulesforscoutmaster.htm

          And Rules for Being a Scout Parent:

          http://www.induceddyslexia.com/funasparent.htm

          Of the Scouts who made it past the first year in the Troop, about a third of them went on to become Eagles. We were NOT an “Eagle Mill” Troop, but rather a Troop that made Scouting Fun and Educational.

          And the Adults had fun, too.

        • Cookies are NOT a “high stakes test” but a low stakes task that indicates intention and understanding of resources.

          And it is not a one-time pass/fail.

          You keep asking parents to come to the meetings and have fun and participate until they realize that they don’t want to have fun, but rather view Scouting as a “drive by” source of baby-sitting for an hour or two.

          Not only do the parents learn from our “good example of leadership” but the Scouts learn from their parents good example of parenting.

          Our society tends to think that children (and Scouts) learn from what we tell them rather than what we do as role-models. That “good example of parenting” is the number one concept we tried to impart to the parents. It is also the number one thing we try to impart to the Scouts.

          The FAILURE of BSA National (and the continual drop in Scout enrollment) has been because of the emphasis on teaching Scout how to be Scouts rather than teaching parents how to be parents. It’s the reason why Scout funding has emphasized the “easy target” of Big Donors rather than maximizing the participation of parents and “little donors.” Big Donors let you have “drive by funding” so that you don’t have to deal with parents who need to have you explain parenting, or might question the Authority of Scout Leadership.

          But that’s just my opinion.

        • Cookies are NOT a “high stakes test” but a low stakes task that indicates intention and understanding of resources.

          And it is not a one-time pass/fail.

          You keep asking parents to come to the meetings and have fun and participate until they realize that they don’t want to have fun, but rather view Scouting as a “drive by” source of baby-sitting for an hour or two.

          Not only do the parents learn from our “good example of leadership” but the Scouts learn from their parents good example of parenting.

          Our society tends to think that children (and Scouts) learn from what we tell them rather than what we do as role-models. That “good example of parenting” is the number one concept we tried to impart to the parents. It is also the number one thing we try to impart to the Scouts.

          The FAILURE of BSA National (and the continual drop in Scout enrollment) has been because of the emphasis on teaching Scout how to be Scouts rather than teaching parents how to be parents. It’s the reason why Scout funding has emphasized the “easy target” of Big Donors rather than maximizing the participation of parents and “little donors.” Big Donors let you have “drive by funding” so that you don’t have to deal with parents who need to have you explain parenting, or might question the Authority of Scout Leadership.

          But that’s just my opinion.

  6. I’m not really a fan of high stakes “tests” where we make a final judgement based on a single action. This sort of test often bears out false results. The best way to judge who will be a good leader is to set a good example of leadership. Arrive a few minutes early to every event; see who is there. Ask quietly for help when you need it; see who pitches in. Leaders are always the last ones to leave; see who is still there when you are packing up. Most importantly, recognize the potential of each scout and parent and try to find ways that they can use their strengths to contribute. Often that means taking a step back. Maybe even making an excuse for why you aren’t able to do something and asking someone else to step up and fill the leadership role for that event. The mistake I have seen made more often than not, and have made myself from time to time, is judging another person’s efforts based on ones own, rigid expectations. Sometimes there are many good ways to get the job done and each way has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you told me to bring Oreos so the boys could have a snack, and I brought fruit, or pretzels instead, it might not be because I didn’t listen, it might be because I think there there is a better snacking option. Same thing if I brought mini Oreos. It might not be that I’m cheap (or as the scout law says “thrifty”, but because I don’t think excessive amounts of sugar are good. You might judge me for judging, but then we are both in the same boat, aren’t we.

    Leadership isn’t a game to be played, or a skill to be tested with a high-stakes task, but a journey where we all make mistakes, and learn from them. With every success or failure we are learning about ourselves and each other. So ask a new leader to help out, see how he or she does, but don’t write the person off just because he didn’t complete the task the way you expected or the way you would have done it. Help him learn and grow from every experience. Be a guide, not a judge.

    I enjoy the other scouters in the district where my troop is chartered for this very reason. They are an encouraging bunch, almost always have good advice, and rarely judge my mistakes, but rather encourage me to be better.

  7. I can see a problem if you are talking to a person that never does the grocery shopping. They will say to their spouse, grab some “Oreo Cookies for the next Scout meeting”. Then you might want to apply the test to their spouse.

    I always tell people, Scouting doesn’t sign up boys, it signs up families. When you recruit a leader you are getting a package. The spouse can be either a plus or a minus and when you apply the test you are evaluating both. And whether the spouse is a plus or minus can depend on the persons leadership style and qualities.

    Regarding the healthy attitude, to be healthy the leaders must look out for the Scouts health and eat the Oreos themselves. (just kidding) It would be easy to substitute any of many healthy snacks. In fact a prospective leader that suggested a healthier snack and followed through would be a good prospect.

  8. I always asked them to bring the large bargain brand cookies that only cost about $2.00 and has enough for everyone one. And I comment that most adults would prefer chips and salsa. It they bring both they are definitely leader potential.

  9. Brian, I really enjoyed this post! As I read through the list, I couldn’t help but remember leaders who have worked with through my years in scouting. If I had heard of this test sooner, I think I could have avoided some serious disappointments, but it also brought back memories of some amazing leaders I’ve worked with. I am totally going to use this :) I mean, it wouldn’t have to be Oreos, even…with food allergies, and all…but the test is a simple measure of willingness. Loved it! Thanks 😀

    • Scouter Dude // August 23, 2015 at 5:06 pm // Reply

      Bryan,

      I too enjoyed this post. Did you write it? I’d like to use it but give proper credit to the author.

  10. I loved this analogy its simple and does sound true I’ going to try it!!

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