Re: Distinguished Commissioner A
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU)
Fri, 29 Jul 1994 22:54:52 -0400
Probably the hardest job facing a Commissioner fresh from Wood Badge,
Commissioners' College or Commissioner training is to curb some of the
enthusiasm with common sense. Although its been 40 or so years since
Commissioners were supposed to ride herd on unit leaders, enthusiasm
sometimes produces a similar effect. Many of us at one time or another
fresh from the exhileration of training, etc., were ready to go
gang-busters and see that units got good Scouting. Now don't get me
wrong, enthusiams is a good thing, used properly.
The thing that we all have to remember is that the unit leader is there
year-round, answers the cranky calls from parents, deals with the tough
problems his Scouts have and still usually does a pretty good job of
bringing off a program. He/she is not looking for more advice from an
outsider a lot of the time, especially if the advice seems to make things
Sometimes the best approach for a new Commissioner to take is a little
more passive in appearance. The Commissioner can introduce himself by
telephone, relay new information, ask if there are any problems the unit
is having with District/Council where he can help take the load off the
leader, and gently suggest he/she will call back every so often to pass
information. After a few calls, the Unit Commissioner can usually work
his/her way into a visit. The first visit is critical. This is a time to
listen, to find things to compliment and then ask where he/she can be of
help before leaving. Similarly succeeding visits at first will need to be
more receiving than transmitting. After a while most unit leaders figure
out the Commissioner is really trying to be of help, not a threat, and a
potential resource. Once this happens the unit leader may initiate
requests for advice. Then the dialog begins. The bottom-line is that the
Unit Commissioner has to take the time to become accepted, accept himself
that everything is not going to be perfect in the unit, watch, compliment,
and be there. Translate enthusiasm into patience and a long term commitment.
Of course there's always the situation where something is so out of line
with BSA policy or dangerous that immediate action is necessary. In such
situations there's usually room for diplomacy, although it may not
immediately be welcome.
I meant to give my $.02 worth and ended giving a bit more. Oh well.
Might as well add another two bits.
Here's a tough one: You are an ADC. Your bright new Unit Commissioner,
Jumpin' Jim has spent months developing a degree of rapport with Ivan
"Independent Ivan" Doitmyway, the Scoutmaster of an old large troop. Jim
tells you that he's really becoming successful at hearing what goes on and
is a little more than distressed. At the last campout he heard that young
Scouts were severely hazed (covered with peanut butter and moss, scared by
costumed invaders in the camp, etc) and that the only activity besides
camping and cooking was dungeons and dragons, which started Friday and ran
through Sunday. None of the Scouts worked on ranks, unless their father
was an ASM or at the Campout. Jumpin' Jim can barely contain himself, he
thinks the SM should be fired, etc. Despite all of this, you know that
the troop produces three to five Eagle Scouts a year and has pretty steady
advancement overall. You also know that the SM has been through training
and has the Training Award, Scouter's Key and Scoutmaster's Award of Merit.
What do you do?
Caveat: the circumstances described above are entirely fictional and of my
own creation and not meant to replicate any actual circumstance. Just
thought it might be interesting to see your viewpoints.
Yours in Scouting, Michael F. Bowman, a/k/a Professor Beaver
Deputy District Commissioner Exploring, GW Dist., NCAC, BSA
Speaking only for myself, but with Scouting Spirit . . .
____ mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU ____
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City