Your “open door” policy

weareopen_200Committee chairs have a lot of people who either report to them or who they serve in one way or another. The Scoutmaster or Cubmaster, the various coordinators on the committee, the chartered organization representative and the unit commissioner all require open channels of communication with the committee chair in order for everything to work smoothly. This includes parents of Scouts as well.

You should therefore strive to be accessible and available to listen to, learn from, and offer assistance to pretty much everyone who has anything to do with your troop or pack.

But how can you do this? You need to formulate and follow your own “open door” policy, so that you can do your part to ensure that you have a successful unit. Such a policy can take on several dimensions, as discussed in an article in Ken Blanchard’s Leader Chat blog. The author of the article, Dick Ruhe, describes the problems and the perils, as well as the precautions, when dealing with others from a manager’s perspective. Ruhe begins by describing situations in which an open door policy really isn’t that open, and offers advice to those in leadership positions.

Here are some of the solutions offered in the article:

  • Keep an open mind when listening to someone. Don’t automatically try to figure out what’s wrong, or why what they’re proposing can’t be done. In Scouting we do have rules about what can be done and what’s appropriate, but we have plenty of latitude within the program. Start thinking with a blank slate and try to pull out the main idea behind what’s being discussed. And even if you immediately see what’s wrong in what’s being discussed, or can think of ways to improve on what they’re saying, hold your thoughts and see if your colleague can see it for himself. Nobody likes being second-guessed, and there is a benefit in keeping your thoughts to yourself, at least for now.
  • Don’t be a know-it-all. There’s nothing more annoying than talking to someone who keeps trying to one-up you with information. Your job as chair is to know the generalities without being bogged down with specifics or details. You don’t need to review each and every advancement item or bank transaction – that’s why you have people to do it. Give them the authority to do their jobs and the ownership of the information and action; you can always review if necessary, but not dictate. Guide them in the right direction just as we would with the boys – not by telling, but asking pertinent questions and offering advice only when other techniques aren’t successful.
  • Expect excellence. We are all working for one thing – the success of our Scouts – and we want to do our best just like they do. You should do your best job of leading (and by “leading” I mean supporting) your committee, and expect them to do their best in their jobs, whether it’s coordinating a camping trip, running a den program or serving on a board of review. If they need a nudge, give them a gentle reminder. If they’re missing something, provide it or show them the right direction.

Any organization works best when there is open communication. As chair, you need to foster that communication by being willing to listen without being overbearing, and being supporting without being “helpful” in the wrong ways.

Image courtesy of Artur84 /

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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