Re: Fw: Another problem with the council
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Wed, 19 Nov 1997 22:43:50 -0500
You sound pretty steamed and upset. When we get really involved with our
Scouts, it is easy to get pretty intense and sensitive when things
don't go right, especially if it effects the boys. Sometimes it is easy
to allow things to get too personal. And the next thing you know there's
a little anger and perhaps bad feelings towards another Scouter.
Most of us that have been doing this for awhile probably have been there
and have the T-shirt. But it isn't the sort of T-shirt you really want
When things get to such a point, it is best to step back and get some
distance and perspective in an effort to really understand the situation.
By asking for folks to react, you have taken the first step in this
direction by instinct. And that is a good thing.
Now what exactly happened? Your Scout Executive was willing to help out
and said he would help with shirts. Great! You have a good Scout
Executive who wants to help.
Next thing you know, you have a handful of shorts instead from your DE
and a different interpretation. Ooops. Somewhere communication broke
down. Now I don't know about you, but I've never seen an organization
whether private, business, charitable, or governmental that didn't have
this problem regularly. Have you ever seen the Hailey's Comet skit at a
training session - the one where a message that makes sense gets funnier
and funnier as it is miscommunicated more and more from one person to
another until it bears no resemblance to the original communication?
Happens all the time and we in Scouting use this example, because we have
this problem so often whether as professionals or volunteers.
What happened in your situation? We don't know, but it could have gone
SE to Field Director at a meeting: Troop X needs some shirts for the
boys and I promised some help with uniforms. We usually have some extras
around, we can use whatever is available. See what you can do about it.
Make sure the DE understands that we try to help out units that have real
need situations so that he is aware of this and also that he knows that
we don't do this for every unit.
Field Director to Senior District Exec or District Director: The boss
wants to help the kids in Troop X with some uniform parts from whatever
we have available. See what you can do about it. Make sure the DE
understands that we usually don't do this.
District Director/Senior DE to DE: The boss says you are to gather up
whatever uniform parts you can find around the office and give them Troop X.
It usually isn't our policy to uniform Troops, so this is an exception.
Now that the communication has been reinterpreted a few times, it gets a
final reinterpretation going your way.
There may have been a few steps more/less in the line, but the idea is
the same. It is easy to get things turned around and not because someone
is trying to do wrong or screwing up big time. It is because people are
prone to normal human behavior and despite good intentions make small
errors that get compounded.
Now the question is what can you do that is constructive to help out the
situation. First off, I'd write to the Scout Executive and thank him for
the shorts. Heck, who's to turn down anything that would help. Let him
know you appreciate what you got - it is after a gift even if you didn't
like the delivery. In the same letter ask for his wise counsel on how to
help the unit with shirts or any ideas he has.
No doubt he'll catch the drift and do what he can to fix the situation
and perhaps communications will improve. The good news is that you
showed appreciation and kindness in responding, no finger pointing was
needed and no anger had to be used. The SE will figure out that
communications broke down and at the same time see it as a
non-threatening situation where he doesn't have to deal with angry people
(setting up a polarized us-them situation) and instead can focus on where
the problem happened. If shirts are around, he probably will help you
get them. If not, then your request for advice may prompt him to give you
some extra help or ideas or even prompt him to get a donor - something
that wouldn't happen in a confrontation.
And if you are a bit mischievious, you might even have the Scouts wear
their shorts with sweatshirts and take a picture of them in "uniform"
against a background of snow - all happy grins. ;-) You know that a
picture is worth a thousand words.
I guess what I'm driving at is to remember that human frailty being what
it is, mistakes (and lots of 'em) are going to happen including in
Scouting. People are going to be far from perfect. If we set our
expectations a little lower knowing these frailities, then when things
come out right we are all the happier and when they don't not nearly so
frustrated. In the end we end up having a better time of it and enjoy it
more when we don't expect perfection and work with what we have to get
the most out of it. I once worked with a Navy Captain that explained
to me that the only way to determine success in managing people was to
look at it this way: Most people can only deliver 50 to 75% of what we
think of as perfection. If 50, 65, or 75% is their best, then our goal
is to get 100% of that 50, 65, or 75% While you are at it, remember that
you also won't reach 100% of perfection. So when you get somebody to do
about 75% of the 75% they are capable of doing, you are succeeding. And
when you reach this point both you and the other person need to stretch
to even better, but both of you will have to stretch. Don't stop and
rest, just keep going.
I think the Captain had a point worth remembering. People will always
fall short of perfection, but we have to try to get the most out of what
we are capable of doing and accept that things aren't always perfect. It
is a process that never ends. Yeah, your guys need to do a little
better, we all do.
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
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