Scouters sometimes get impatient with the way things are working. We’re frustrated that committee members aren’t getting things done. Youth leaders are clumsy and inept and we don’t fully grasp that this is the process of leadership in the learning stages.
It’s not an uncommon problem. It happens all the time in business, school and our daily lives.
Leadership consultant Dan Rockwell, author of Leadership Freak, wrote last week about avoiding the dangers of impatience and still achieving results. He offers a number of strategies for evaluating when patience is the best approach.
We should be aware of our moods and actions and be prepared to take a wait-and-see approach with our fellow Scouters, but especially with the Scouts. What may appear to be incompetence is actually the Scouts learning to lead and manage for themselves. Nothing is accomplished if adults step in and start pushing them around or, worse, doing things they should be doing.
Rockwell tells us that patience is grounded in trust that others will rise to the occasion, lets others struggle (for in struggle there is character-building), remains quiet under the stress of the chaos that often accompanies youth trying to lead, and provides time for improvement.
Most importantly, patience shows respect for the process – in contrast to obtaining results.
Rockwell suggests we show patience in a number of situations:
- When progress is satisfactory and ongoing – as is often the case with youth leadership. It won’t be perfect the first time a new senior patrol leader leads a troop meeting. It may not be perfect the last time either – but the aim is for there to be progress all along.
- When new responsibilities are assumed – as when new youth leaders take charge. Even if you conduct some form of training shortly after elections and appointments take place, development in their positions is an on-the-job progression. A single day of training isn’t going to suddenly make them into competent leaders.
- When others are frustrated with failure – especially your fellow Scouters and parents who may not understand that Scouting isn’t about having perfect campouts or smoothly-run meetings, but that the learning process is paramount. Outings and meetings are the means by which Scouts learn to lead and follow, to work together to accomplish a goal.
Working with youth (and sometimes other adults) can be an exercise in frustration unless you have a clear picture of just what we are trying to accomplish and who we are serving. Step back, have patience, and celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small.
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