As a committee chair, what do you think your biggest challenges are? Conducting the monthly committee meetings? Keeping track of finances and advancement? Helping out at pack meetings or troop campouts?
These are all challenges faced by committee chairs, but there’s one challenge common to all of us: Keeping our committee members feeling useful and appreciated.
If there’s one thing we all crave, it’s to be wanted, needed and appreciated, especially in something we care about, like Scouting. The job of the committee chair is not only to keep the mechanism of the troop committee operating but to make sure the wheels are greased and running smoothly. Those “wheels,” the committee members, need you to guide them so they’ll know and understand what’s expected of them.
In an article in the American Express Open Forum for small businesses, author James Clear reminds us that the number one frustration employees face is the expectation of having to do something that they aren’t trained to do. In a business scenario, this translates to being unable to earn a living; in a volunteer organization like Scouting, it lessens our ability to make an impact and fulfill the aims and methods.
One answer to this frustration is to make sure sure your committee members not only know what their expectations are, but for you to give them the tools to do their jobs. BSA training, such as Troop Committee Challenge, advancement and board of review training and outdoor skills, is a good start, but they don’t paint the whole picture. A detailed job description isn’t always necessary either, but at least an outline of the position’s responsibilities, in writing, sets the ground rules.
It also helps if you know and understand what each position entails. Clear points out that employees without direction get the feeling that the boss doesn’t really know how to do the job they’re expected to do, and is just pushing down the dirty work. You don’t want to micromanage your people; rather, you specify the outcome, but have a clear understanding of the work needed to get there. If someone has their own way of doing something, you shouldn’t interfere as long as the results are achieved. For example, our troop treasurer, in his day job, is a finance guy for a large corporation. Since I’m not in finance, I don’t feel I should try to specify just how the books are kept and which reports to generate. The goals are mutually understood, but the process is his.
Finally, Clear reminds us that personally coaching and training our people shows them that we care. In the business world, you cannot expect to hold someone accountable for their performance unless you give them the tools and skills to do their job. Don’t just send your committee members to training; go along with them, even if you’ve already taken the course (a little refresher is always beneficial). Make it a point to try to talk to each of your committee members personally at least once a month and find out how things are going and ask what is needed of you. The Scoutmaster is doing this with the troop’s youth leaders; you should do the same with the committee.
Everything said applies regardless of program: the Cub pack committee chair may have a smaller committee, but should be no less dedicated to the success of the team, and while most Venturing crew adults have been around the block a time or two, it’s still no time to assume that everyone can get along without, at the least, someone watching their back and ready to give a hand.