Learning Management, Motivation and Leadership…at Camp

I spent the last week volunteering at camp. Not just any camp, but the Boy Scouts of America's National Youth Leadership Training program, locally called Grey Wolf.

This week-long course provides the participant an opportunity to live, work, and play in a large model-troop environment. A Grey Wolf troop is led by the Senior Patrol Leader, and each patrol (of which the participants are members) has a Troop Guide to provide counseling and mentoring. Adult leadership is present and visible, but the troop is run by a well-trained youth staff, who have all previously completed the same Grey Wolf experience.

When I was a youth, I attended this camp and served on staff for several years. When the opportunity arose to come back and serve as an adult staff member, I was excited at the opportunity to give back. As noted above, in Scouting a troop is boy-led. This meant that as an adult leader, I had to learn and use different techniques for getting things done. These skills can work as well in the workplace as they do in the camp environment.

Gaining buy-in. Except in emergency situations, it wasn't my place to dictate from on-high what the Senior Patrol Leader or other youth staff should be doing. In the workplace not being the "boss" doesn't mean you can't lead. "Being the true boss is not about letting people have your way. It’s about getting the group to move forward, hopefully with the best solution. A powerful way to get buy-in from people is to involve them in the decision."

Using the EDGE. Participants are taught that effective leaders Explain, Demonstrate, Guide and Enable to help a group get things done. I used this same skill set with everything from leading a song to tying knots or delivering a presentation. Imagine a situation where you have a skill you want to share with a new co-worker--or with your supervisor. Explaining how to do it is only somewhat effective, demonstrating it helps more. Guiding them through actually doing it builds on the first two steps, and finally you can step back and enable them to do it on their own.

"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."

Aristotle (384 - 322 b.c.)
Ancient Greek Philosopher

Stepping back. Often I had to simply step back and let things play out. We posted quotations around the camp that reminded me of this:

  • "An individual step in character training is to put responsibility on the individual." - Sir Robert Baden-Powell.
  • "Let each man do his best." - William Shakespeare, Henry IV, 1548.
  • "We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery." - Samuel Smiles

Everyone at Grey Wolf learned and grew last week. And three more groups of scouts and staff will be doing the same as the summer carries on, bringing their new found knowledge and skills back to their troops, schools, workplaces and communities to, in the words of UST's mission, "advance the common good." And after this week, I know one thing for sure:

"Ancora imparo"
"I am still learning"

A favorite saying of Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564)
Florentine Sculptor, Artist, Architect and Poet