Helping the committee go

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.

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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5 Replies to “Helping the committee go”

  1. “It also helps if you know…” This is a very good paragraph.

    I think that unit Committee Members should take training, but it is somewhat up the the Committee Chair to provide them with initial training and to know what he/she wants them to do. I totally agree that folks need to know what is expected, which is what I think that you are saying. It’s almost always true that things run smoother with a fully trained Committee Chair.

    I also totally agree with the part about letting people that know what they are doing alone, and let them take care of business. Good article.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Larry. I’ve found that the committee works better when everyone has taken committee training, as it helps them to understand everyone else’s job and where they fit in. It’s best for the entire committee (or as many as you can get) to attend training together, and in person rather than online. You could try to arrange with the district training team for your pack or troop to host the training and open it up to nearby units as well.

      If you are fortunate enough to have committee members who have taken Wood Badge, that’s even better. I mention it at every opportunity.

  2. Great article! Training will also go a long way toward reducing friction between a Committee Chair and a Scoutmaster. As each learns that they have a critical partnership instead of a rivalry for power/control, a lot more great things can and will happen. And if formal training is not available, Unit Commissioners ought to step in and provide the training at committee meetings.

    1. Very true! There should not be a rivalry or power struggle between the Scoutmaster/Cubmaster and the committee chair. The CC’s job is to select and support the unit leader, and they must work together to further the aims of Scouting. Any troop or pack where the adults quarrel or fight over power have lost sight of why they are there in the first place, and it needs to be remedied ASAP. Remember the first rule: “Scouting is about the Scouts. It is all about the Scouts.”

  3. Which all goes back to everyone knowing what their job is. Starting with the Patrol Leader, then the SPL, then the Scoutmaster, then the Committee Chair, and finally the COR/IH. Normally, that all starts either with the CC or SM. One of them needs to be trained and fully understand the program. From there, knowledge expands in waves throughout the unit.

    It is interesting to me that we focus so much energy on training adult leaders but we often neglect the most important position in the Troop, the Patrol Leader. Sure, lots of Troops have some sort of Troop Leadership Training, and national has improved TLT somewhat, but I don’t think that we are there yet.

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