Every week, the Food Network runs a show called Restaurant Impossible. In the show, chef Robert Irvine makes a whirlwind two-day visit to a failing restaurant to try to determine why it’s failing and to take corrective action. His designers fix the decor while he fixes not only the kitchen and the menu, but more importantly, the staff and owners as well.
A recent episode had Chef Robert and his crew at a steakhouse which has been losing money for several years. In going over the books, he notices financial discrepancies that could be the result of mismanagement or, worse, theft. Interviewing the owners, he tries to lead them to the answers to their money difficulties, since he only knows what’s on paper, and the owners know, or should know, what’s actually happening.
The only way to get to the bottom of the issue is to try to find out what’s really going on. When the owners are taken aback by what Chef Robert is saying he found, he replies “My job is just to ask questions.” The owners eventually see that through the questions Robert is asking, they are being led to the answers – whether they like them or not.
As adult leaders in Scouting, we often find ourselves in the same situation with the boys. Something just isn’t working right. A troop meeting is getting out of hand, a patrol’s meal is taking too long to prepare, or a hike has taken a wrong turn and the boys are starting to get lost. You could just jump in and tell them they’re on the wrong trail, or the water isn’t hot enough to boil the spaghetti, but should you? If you sense that they are starting to struggle, a few well-thought questions are the way to do it. “Have you checked the map?” or “Why do you think things got out of hand?” make the boys think about what they are doing, think the process through, and come up with their own solutions to the problem.
Chef Robert and his crew are gone after two days, and he has to instill changes in leadership that will last a long time. The only way to do this is through fostering self-discovery. While we’re around for more than just two days and have the opportunity to make regular nudges in direction, we still need to teach the boys by leading them to discover for themselves how to do things.