Anybody who has ever served as a Cub Scout volunteer gets it: We learned as much from the experience as the Scouts we served learned from us.
In a recent column for Psychology Today, Robert Evans Wilson Jr., an author, speaker, humorist and Eagle Scout based in Atlanta, Georgia, has done about as good a job of putting that experience into words as you’ll ever see.
Rob, it turns out, took over a pack that was struggling to get by due to a lack of adult leaders. However, instead of taking his son’s active Tiger den to another unit, he chose to stick it out, and in the process ended up becoming a better leader himself.
I encourage you to read the story in its entirety. It’s really great.
I’ve highlighted a few points that will serve Scout leaders well, no matter their situation.
Follow the program
That’s right: The best way to have a successful Scouting program is to follow the Scouting program!
“The Tiger den was quite active because the den leader … had us follow the recommendations of the official Tiger Cub guidebook,” Wilson writes. “The main pack, however, was doing little of the recommended activities.”
Right off the bat, Wilson hits on one of the most important elements of “Scout Leadership 101.”
You don’t have to do it alone
“The problem was a lack of leaders in the pack,” Wilson writes. “There was only one: the pack Cubmaster. It was easy to see that he was completely overwhelmed.”
Again, Wilson shows that he gets it. Being the leader of a Scouting unit is not meant to be a one-person job. That’s why there’s a committee and assistant leaders and every other volunteer position on down the line.
Recruiting new Scouts …
And how did he do it? By taking advantage of his local council’s resources, in particular, a recruitment film that had already proven to be successful, which he received permission to show at a school assembly.
“On the sign-up night, several parents came up to me saying, ‘My son emphatically told me that I had to bring him here tonight and sign him up for Cub Scouts.’ ” he writes. “We signed up 40 new Scouts that night.”
… and their parents
Wilson says he explained that he needed every parent to participate, but that his mission was to spread out the responsibilities so no individual parent would be overwhelmed.
“I was determined that this Cub Scout pack would be the most fun for the kids and their parents with lots of learning opportunities for all,” he writes.
Come up with a plan of succession
Wilson installed a system that would prevent future pack leaders from finding themselves in this situation again.
The results speak for themselves. Years later, Wilson says he ran into some Cub Scout families from his old pack selling popcorn in front of a grocery story. They told him the pack was now up to 200 Scouts.
And what did he learn from the experience for himself?
“I learned so much about leadership from working with volunteers,” Wilson writes. “You can’t boss them around because they will quit. You have to treat them with courtesy and respect. You must have empathy for their interests and desires, and you should encourage them to bring their strengths to the organization.
“When you do these things, you’ll have joyful people willing to give their all.”