Helping your committee succeed goes beyond motivation and instilling confidence. There are a number of actions you should take to move your committee performance forward. These include delegation, empathy, enabling and recognition.
Practice effective delegation
The committee chair should think of himself or herself in much the same light as a circus ringmaster. I know this is going to draw snickers if you think of your committee as a bunch of clowns. I’m not talking about that! The circus ringmaster coordinates everyone else’s performance. You are not a lion tamer or high wire acrobat yourself, but you introduce and facilitate their talents. The ringmaster delegates those parts of the show to others who can do the job better. Likewise, you should always be thinking “Who is the best person to do this?” And it’s not yourself! Delegation should be the rule, not the exception. It’s just like working with the Scouts, when we say “Never do anything a boy can do”. Paraphrase that as “Never do anything another committee member can do.”
It may be helpful to balance delegation effort with results. If it’s a one-time-only task, such as reserving meeting rooms for the year, you might as well do it. But, if you have ongoing needs, such as reserving camps or issuing permission slips, find the best committee person to do it.
Delegation isn’t about reducing your own workload either. It’s about developing skills, talents and the potential for leadership in others. Delegate tasks that can develop skills in others, but keep in mind that someone else doesn’t necessarily have to do a task as well as you can do it – good enough is good enough. They’ll get better the more they handle the job, and who knows, they may find ways to do something better that you had never thought of.
Delegate vision before delegating tasks. It’s important for people to know why they are doing something and how it will benefit the troop as well as how to do it. Vision fuels fires; tasks are just one more thing to do
One thing you should never do, however, is to delegate core functions of the committee chair. It’s your job to conduct committee meetings, for instance, and to deal with the Scoutmaster and chartered organization representative.
Four delegation styles
You should, by now, be familiar with the EDGE method. It’s used by our boys in teaching skills to other Scouts. It’s used in training adult leaders too. The elements of EDGE are Explain, Demonstrate, Guide and Enable, taking the learner from no knowledge to competence in four progressive steps.
Delegation has a similar four-step progression:
- Telling – in which you make all the basic decisions about how the work is to be done. You describe the exact steps and expect the other person to perform them without thinking about them. This is actually not much different from doing it yourself.
- Discuss and Tell – You still maintain control of the process but you discuss options and reasoning with the other person, so they get an idea of why in addition to what.
- Discuss and allow – You discuss goals and methods with the other person, but you allow him or her to decide how to proceed.
- Allow – You turn over the complete task to the other person and ask what they need from you. This is the final step on the path to complete delegation, where you delegate the outcome and they decide how to do it.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. As committee chair, you should be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and realize what they may be going through in their job or position. Where appropriate, set clear expectations for what’s needed from them. Certainly trust them to do a good job. It’s the same as with youth leadership development – “Train’ em, trust ’em, let ’em lead!” You could also take an interest in their growth and development as a Scouter and how it fits into their personal lives.
See if you can answer the following questions from the other person’s perspective:
- Do I know what is expected of me?
- Do I have the resources I need to do the job properly?
- Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best?
- Have I been recognized for something done well?
- Does the committee chair care about me?
- Do I have opportunities for coaching and development in my position?
Get out of the way!
Once you have delegated the desired outcome, give the other person ownership. Provide the resources they need. If there’s something they need but they don’t know it, be sure to offer or provide it. Resources can range from money and equipment to contact information or past practices. Set a time limit if it’s not an ongoing task, then step back and let them do it. Avoid the temptation to give good people too much guidance, for if you make them into yourself, they’ll never have a chance to be better than you! It should be the goal of any leader to enable the people he or she leads to be the best they can possibly be, even if it’s better than yourself.
Recognize outstanding effort
People want to know they are making a difference and having an impact, especially on something that means so much to our children. While there is pride taken in a thing well done, it helps to have someone else hold up their work as outstanding.
- The five most important words to say to a volunteer: This succeeded because of you.
- The four most important words: I value your dedication.
- The three most important words: You did fantastic!
- The two most important words: Well done!
- The most important word: Thanks!
Another way to recognize volunteers is to encourage and recommend advanced learning opportunities. Encourage everyone to attend Roundtable each month. Your unit should budget to send key people to local and national level training courses such as those for unit advancement coordinators or advanced backcountry leadership. Don’t forget to mention Philmont Training Center and arrange a council invitation if someone is interested in attending. And all registered and trained Scouters should strongly consider attending Wood Badge training, one of the best ways to strengthen one’s commitment to Scouting.
And don’t forget to recommend your top Scouters for your council or district’s volunteer recognition award, sometimes known as the Trailblazer Award or Unit Award of Appreciation. Every registered adult should also be made aware of the Scouter’s Training Award and the steps needed to qualify. Scouters who also perform important service to youth at the district level can be nominated for the District Award of Merit. (While troops can nominate adults for membership in the Order of the Arrow, it is not appropriate as a means of recognition or reward, for OA membership serves an entirely different purpose.)
The next article in this series will deal with conflict management within your committee and unit.