The game of Scouting that we play is indeed a game. We hope that our boys are having fun, and one of the best ways to have fun is to play a game. William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt was the first to describe Scouting as a game with a purpose.
Most games we play have winning as the desired outcome. In order to determine a winner, a metric is needed: the score. Indeed, virtually every game – from sports to darts to cards – has a means of scoring the outcome. The football coach Vince Lombardi was the one who famously pondered:
If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep the score?
The boys playing the game enjoy keeping track of how they’re doing, whether they are playing a sports contest, engaged in a robotics or debate competition, or playing the game of Scouting. We do actually have ways to keep score through the method of advancement, where our Scouts can track their progress toward their ranks, check off advancement requirements and collect merit badges.
But Scouting has many other methods besides advancement, so the final score in terms of belt loops, checkmarks or bits of cloth isn’t what determines the winners and losers. Our mentality is not “whoever makes it to Eagle first wins”, nor do we evaluate a Scout on the number of merit badges he earns. Every young person who participates in Scouting can be a winner because of the positive values he or she experiences through the program. There are no losers.
Sometimes, though, adults don’t embrace these unique qualities that separate Scouting from other activities. They think it’s a competition, just like a baseball game. They think they’re accountable for having a “winning” team. They find shortcomings and feel it’s their job to eliminate them. They think it’s sometimes necessary to penalize Scouts for some made-up reason if they don’t meet up to our misunderstood expectations. The widespread familiarity with organized sports and its winner-take-all mentality probably accounts for this.
Scouting is a different kind of game. It’s a game where the scoreboard doesn’t matter and where success has a different metric than who scores more points. This thinking isn’t unique to Scouting, however; you’re increasingly likely to encounter it in the workplace as well. Leadership author Dan Rockwell frequently writes that servant leaders should be concerned with people and process and less focussed on results, believing that when the right people have the resources they need, along with guidance and direction, positive results will ensue. In an article this past week, Rockwell urges us to ignore the scoreboard and put our focus on process rather than results – just exactly what we do to develop youth in Scouting. In doing so, results are by-products of the process.
Rockwell gives us some concepts that we can apply in Scouting:
- Invest in developing yourself, so you can develop others. By learning about the way Scouting coaches and encourages youth, rather than directing and managing them, you can be a better Scouter and not only develop our Scouts, but help encourage other Scouters to do the same.
- Invest yourself in talent. Encourage other adults to take a role in our mission. Encourage your youth leaders through your example and counsel. You may not have a lot of choice in the talent level of the people you work with, but you can identify their potential and help them realize it – one of the unique rewards of Scouting.
- Invest in the process. Play to win, but ignore the scoreboard. Our methods encourage continual progress, but the relentless pursuit of a winning score isn’t the main aim. All are winners when they play the game of Scouting. (If you’ve completed Wood Badge, you’ll remember a game about winning, and hopefully took away some lessons from it.)
The Rockwell article contains a couple good audio clips of interviews with Jon Gordon, author of One Word that will Change your Life, who reminds us that anyone who isn’t committed to do their best shouldn’t be part of our team, and who tells us about the success of a company that puts its mission first and enjoys success on the “scoreboard” as a by-product.
When we put our mission first, ignore the scoreboard, and concentrate on the process of Scouting, we can’t help but have positive results.
Image: phanlop88 / freedigitalphotos.net