Tricky meeting - long
John Conley (iti@FRONTIERNET.NET)
Fri, 21 Nov 1997 14:38:55 -0800
Well, I had my tricky meeting last night. Enough of you asked for a
report that I think it warrents some bandwidth.
First of all, I received a great many responses; so many that time
prevents me from thanking each of you individually. Please let this
public and heartfelt "thank you" suffice. Thanks to all of you who
couldn't really offer any advice, but offered your support, thoughts,
and even prayers. Each message was appreciated. Thanks to all of you
who *were* able to offer advice. Even the few messages I disagreed with
helped clarify my thinking. Several of you obviously invested a lot of
thought and time in trying to help. This speaks volumes for the great
folks on this list. Without slighting anyone else, I especially want
to mention that Mike Bowman sent me a great primer on conflict
I hope most of you never need it, but if you do, and you ask nicely,
I'll bet he would share it. Neil Lupton even thanked me for putting
myself through this. That was much appreciated, Neil.
I had to leave some information out of my original post, as I will with
this one (I can only post so much, for cryin' out loud!), but let me
respond to a couple of common themes: YES, I got both sides of the
and YES, my DE has been in contact with the institution head,
as is his job.
By the way, as most of you pointed out, one of the essential issues
here was who has the authority to fire the scoutmaster. I believed
from the start, and your messages have reinforced this opinion, that
ONLY the chartered organization has this authority (on the unit level),
although many delegate it. In rare circumstances BSA can remove a
leader, but none of those unfortunate circumstances have any bearing
on this case. (And I hope that I haven't just started a whole new
OK, my report:
As most of you mentioned, this was an UGLY situation. Nothing I could
do or say could make it not ugly. Given that, things went well.
The DE was able to talk to the COR and get her to attend the meeting,
which would have been very helpful if it had come right down to
"firing" somebody. Fortunately, it didn't come to that, and no blood
was actually spilt, so I guess I rate the meeting a qualified success.
When we finally got to the issue for which I was there, I introduced
myself to the committee members who didn't know a district
commissioner from a head of lettuce, explained my role, and in general
tried to make myself non-threatening.
I told them we all had the same goal, to deliver a quality Scouting
program, and this made us already 95% in agreement; a pretty good
starting point. Now we just had to see if we could iron out that
With some difficulty, tempers were kept in check, and everybody got a
chance to lay out their feelings. I managed to keep people pretty much
on subject, and out of the past. As it turned out, the committee hadn't
shared their frustrations with the scoutmaster until this point, and the
scoutmaster had frustrations of his own that nobody knew about. I think
probably the details aren't important for the list. (I did gently chide
them for going to their last resort first.)
I think that toward the end, each side was actually hearing some of
the other's concerns. At least they have agreed to try to work
The committee is going to try to be more supportive of the program, and
the scoutmaster is going to try to be a little less possessive of "his"
troop, and let the committee do their jobs. The committee is going to
TRAINING the week after Thanksgiving!
My parting thoughts to them were, "I know successful troops with less
dedicated people than you have here. You have the people to be success-
ful if you can work together."
I'm afraid that some of the problems with this troop are fairly basic
personality conflicts, and that they still have a tough time ahead, but
it's a start.
So, do I have any pearls of wisdom to help the next person facing some-
thing like this? Not many, to be honest, just as most of you couldn't
offer me too much besides sympathy. I guess a few might be:
-Act quickly. If this had festered much longer, I don't think the out-
come could have been this good.
-Bone up on those basic counseling skills like listening. There's no
substitute for them.
-Don't take ownership of the problem. You're there to try to help them
solve *their* problem. (You need to sleep at night too, after all).
-Try to find out as much as you can about each side's basic motivations
before going into the situation. What underlies the emotion?
A final thought: One committee member stormed out of the room in a huff
when she was offended. At first I felt that this was a failure on my
part. On reflection, I tend to think that it was just rude. I don't
have a son in the unit, you asked me here to help you solve a problem
largely of your own making, and you walk out on me when things get
uncomfortable? As long as her son stays in scouting somewhere, I don't
care if she comes back or not. Maybe I'll feel differently after
I hope this is in some way helpful to someone out there. Thanks again
for all of your responses; you guys are a great resource.
Arrowhead District Commissioner
Finger Lakes Council (NY)
*Better to build boys than mend men*
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City