A committee chair’s job would seem to need to entail many different areas of responsibility, but it can all be handled if you develop five important areas of competence. These, plus your understanding and knowledge of the Scouting program, can go a long way to helping you be effective and to provide support to your Scoutmaster and your committee.
- Problem solving and decision making – As Committee Chair, you need to be able to see the scope of any problem or situation that comes before the committee. Understanding how your system runs and how your people interact will allow you to see who is affected by a given situation, and who needs to take ownership in order to get it solved. Don’t think that you will solve all problems yourself! You also need to be able to make clear decisions based on the information at hand. When I get stuck, or a clear answer doesn’t appear, I like to make a pro/con checklist and rate each possible solution on its effectiveness. Usually one path becomes obvious. Decisions should be made based on facts and what fulfills our mission.
- Planning – Develop the ability to organize an event or activity, given the objective and resources available. Make sure your plans are realistic and involve the people who can make it happen. Use planning tools that are comfortable for you. If you like a project management computer program, by all means use it. Many of us are fine with paper and pencil. I keep a spiral notebook with all my committee notes in it. Of course, those people have to know what’s going on, so this leads into our third point:
- Communication – All the planning in the world is ineffective if it isn’t communicated to the people who can put the plan into action. As chair, you need to develop a failsafe method of communicating committee actions and decisions to those affected. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that since a subject was decided at a committee meeting, it will be acted on by the people involved. Make calls or send e-mails to follow up with those who are part of the plan. You shouldn’t need to ride herd on people – give them the responsibility and the parameters so they can implement, which leads to…
- Delegation – Loosen that iron grip on process! Your job as chair is facilitator. You cannot do it all yourself! If you could, why do you need a committee? The advantage of having others on the committee performing essential functions is that more people have understanding and ownership of the process. Besides, you can’t be the best person for every job. The first thing you should ask yourself when developing a task is who is the best person to make it happen. Your job is to see that the job gets done — to paraphrase Baden-Powell, don’t do it yourself!
- Conducting meetings – Develop your skills as a meeting facilitator. Plan and execute committee meetings so that they run efficiently, achieve objectives, and make best use of everyone’s time. I will have much more to say on this subject in future posts.
Keep these five skill areas in mind, practice continual improvement, and keep moving toward best functioning of your committee.