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Plan for culture change as new cubmaster


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#1 Tiger Foot

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 08:50 AM

Hello everyone, I've gotten wonderful advice here in the past and I'm hoping I can get your thoughts and advice again. I'm sorry for the length of this post. I've tried to briefly lay out the current situation, and what I'd like to try and do, but if you need more details, I'll provide them.

The background:
-I'm serving as ACM, Wolf Den Leader, and Lion Guide.

-Our Charter Org and COR are very hands off. They sign applications and ask us if we are raking up the leaves at the American Legion each fall, and that's about it. We enjoy lots of freedom.

-Our CC is our former cubmaster. We all love him. Very personable, and committed to making sure the boys have a good program. That's his oft stated goal, above all else. He wants me to take over as cubmaster, so much so that he and his wife took my wife and I out for coffee to make his pitch again last night, after several lengthy phone calls with me.

-We have become largely a 'drop and run' pack. Not much help from parents outside those who are currently serving as den leaders. This has placed way too much workload on those den leaders and stress is high. Pack size doubled this year adding to the stress. Changing this drop and run culture is a priority in my opinion.

-Current Cubmaster is a mess. Has big plans and makes unilateral decisions without making sure we have the financial resources and manpower to accomplish what he has committed us to. I've spent a lot of time this year putting out fires and cleaning up messes, and it's why I'm serving in multiple roles (though I've been able to delegate much of wolves and lions to helpers). He has a problem working with women. He has played fast and lose with finances, and no one knows what the state of the budget is. He has an acrimonious relationship with council, though I don't know if this is actually just scapegoating on his part. He keeps information close until the last minute. He makes a decision, commits us, and then dumps it in are lap a month later to figure out now that time has run out. There are other issues as well. On the plus side, he is good at planning and carrying out large, one time type events, but these are usually because he's created an emergency... Like a car wash to raise money so we can buy awards before the next pack meeting.

-These issues finally came to a head this week as we tried to finalize plans for pinewood derby. For months he's been telling us everything is covered. But it's not. Initially he told us a single girls out troop was joining us (10-12 girls scouts). Somehow, that number ballooned to 62 girls, a few more than our entire pack. We don't have enough hours in the day to conduct that many races. As the other leaders and I started making changes to try and accommodate this bombshell, he lost it. He posted his resignation in which he blamed me specifically for not helping, and other leaders generally, and called out a female leader for helping him reach his decision to resign. The CC stepped in and called a meeting.

-At the meeting I lost my temper (very unscoutlike I'm afraid). I took him to task for his scapegoating and blame shifting, how his leadership style and decision making prevents us from helping, and his authoritarian style in general. Everything I said was on point and accurate, but I shouldn't have yelled it. I have since apologized to everyone generally (at the end of the meeting) and to each person individually, including the current cubmaster.

-Me: I'm also a mess at this point. I can't continue like this, it's causing friction at home, and it's not the experience we want for our boys. I am fairly confident I could make changes and improve things at this pack, but I'm equally confident I could restart the pack in our town, and the old cubmaster and assistant cubmaster would be willing to mentor and guide my wife and I through the process. Our current CC would also help us if we choose to do so, though he really wants us to stay. Restarting a smaller pack has a lot of appeal to me. I'm confident I could do either, or even start a different youth organization, though I'm still working through what would be best for my family, and how I can best serve my community at large.

Current Situation:
Current cubmaster has rescinded his resignation and wants to stay on till next February. I'm not okay with this. Several den leaders feel the same, not sure about all of them though.

What the committee chair told me last night is that he would like to gently facilitate the current cubmaster stepping down at crossover. At that point I would take over. We discussed some of the high level changes I would like to try and make and he was very supportive and thinks the other leaders will be as well. He understands we will likely experience a drop in enrollment as a result of the changes I'd like and possibly lose some leaders too. And that changing culture pack wide will probably take several years.

And while I think this decision is ultimately his (Charter Org will support whatever he does) I really don't want him to just announce and install me as the new cubmaster... Instead, I'd like to present an outline of my plan to the other leaders and get their buy in before taking the position. It makes no sense to me (to be put in charge) if I want to go right and the rest of the team wants to go left. To do what I think should be done requires their help and collaboration. If we aren't on the same page, it will be another year of grinding frustration... Just a different type. I don't want that for myself, and I don't want to cause it for anyone else. The CC thinks this is a good idea as well. If they aren't on board, I will happily move on to plan B, C, or D and step aside with no ill will.

My Plan Outline:

1. Create an 'Every Parent Helps' culture. The resources I've seen posted here are great. I'll use them to set this expectation with new scout families coming into the pack, and to get more parents to step up. I know I'll experience some pushback and will lose some folks. But den leaders are burning out. This is a top priority.

2. The Journey To Excellence scorecard drives everything we do. I don't mean we'll actually win ribbons and patches and stuff... But that we focus on those areas. And by focusing intensely on those areas, we start to rebuild the pack and set it up for future success. We may be smaller, we may not have big events (we're not pulling them off successfully anyway right now), but we'll deliver a good quality program again with people who enjoy doing it.

3. KISMIF becomes are watchword, our benchmark for all decisions for the foreseeable future. If it's not going to be fun for scouts, families, and leaders, we don't do it. If it's not simple enough to hand off to a few parents, or to convince a few parents they can put it together, we don't do it. If we can't get parents to sign up for cleanup duty after a B&G banquet, we don't do it.

4. Everything we do decide to do gets simplified and systematized... Notes, contacts, money spent, ideas, after action reports... It all goes in a binder or file for the next year, so new folks aren't starting from scratch again. I guess the pack used to do this, but it's been lost to the sands of time or something. Each event this year has been a scramble making it so much harder than it had to be to pull off.


If you've read this dissertation, you have my eternal thanks. I have to flesh this out still (how am I go into do what I'm going to do), but I've got goals and a vision I think I can execute. And if no one else wants to work towards my goals and vision, I'm at a place where I can step aside or walk away without any hard feelings or ill will towards anyone.

So... Am I crazy?

I think this can work. I've got new leaders ready to go for tigers next year, and I've gotten a few parents to step into committee roles that have been vacant too long, so it's not all bad news. But I'm trying not fooling myself about how much work this will actually be.
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#2 Back Pack

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 09:06 AM

If you lay things out for the pack as well and you've done here, and they don't understand and buy in, then I don't know what else you could do.

Clearly you belong in the role. Good luck.

Edited by Back Pack, 02 March 2017 - 09:07 AM.

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#3 bbender

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 09:41 AM

My Plan Outline:

3. KISMIF becomes are watchword, our benchmark for all decisions for the foreseeable future. If it's not going to be fun for scouts, families, and leaders, we don't do it. If it's not simple enough to hand off to a few parents, or to convince a few parents they can put it together, we don't do it. If we can't get parents to sign up for cleanup duty after a B&G banquet, we don't do it.
 

 

Whether I posted it here or just on Scouts-L, I've long decried the fact that KISMIF seems to be given lip service, while KICMEH (Keep It Complicated, Make Everything Hard), pronounced "Kick Me", becomes the way the program is handed down to be run. 

 

To that end, because I'm always concerned when I witness how hard it is to get leaders, but then I get more concerned when I hear the District Exec or Pack Leader or Commissioner (or BSA materials) say to a new recruit that dens meet every week, packs meet once a month, plus you have a pack planning meeting and an activity and don't forget roundtable and take time for training and prepare for your weekly meetings plus pack meeting ... whew, that's a lot for your new den leader ... I've put together two pieces to help re-think what we ask leaders to do.  

 

See this "Lighten Leader Loads" piece at http://www.southfult...g.com/node/3596, mostly focused on the Den Leader.  That if you increase the ratio of fun to activities (meetings), you're better off than having more meetings that are less fun.  PDF with images is here.  

 

The more radical idea -- but one whose time may be here -- is this "Why Pack Meetings?" piece at http://www.southfult...g.com/node/3597, which asks: if Pack Meetings are boring and hard to put on successfully, why are we doing them?  Or "why are pack meetings still a thing?"   PDF with images including Dilbert is here.  

 

Now, for those who have just awesome bang up well done Cub Scouting's Got Talent! standing ovation Pack Meetings ... good on ya!   Keep it up.  

 

But ... if it is easier and funner to go fun places and do fun things ... do that!

 

My $0.02.  YMMV.


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#4 Tiger Foot

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 10:19 AM

Thank you bbender, I've been gobbling up your 50 ways to lure a leader and the other resources I've found on your site since Monday.

And that's what I mean, using B&G banquet as an example... If we can't get VIP guests because no one wants to ask, if we can't organize a potluck, if no one wants to head up decorations, and all the other things we've tried to do in the past... Then let's not KICMEH. Let's not pile it on the leaders to accomplish.

Maybe instead we do a simpler party. A birthday cake and awards. Maybe some skits from each den and games.

And if we can't do that, maybe we just do awards. Thanks so much for sharing, I'll keep reading!
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#5 qwazse

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 10:22 AM

... So... Am I crazy? ...

After getting directions from everyone associated with our troop (who wasn't in venturing and had not taken training, nor really talked to the youth in my crew) about how I should manage as an advisor (as opposed to how the Venturing Leadership Manual directed), I went to my council's venturing committee for advice and asked, "Am I right, or am I crazy?"

One seasoned advisor replied, "You're probably are crazy, but you're also right." :p

 

You have a script. There's a link to it here http://www.scouting....rResources.aspx. The .pdf on that page is designed for new leaders. Print it or ask your DE if he/she has copies pre-printed, and circulate it. It references The Cub Scout Leader's Guide. Waste no more breath writing your own outlines. Tell anyone who cares, "We operate by the book. Here's the book." Proceed.

 

The CC trusts you. He also respects the current CM. Get over it. You can ask for an immediate transition, but if you don't get one, suck it up. Yes, your pack may go through a wad of cash. Yes, you might have 8 dozen girl-scouts swamping your PWD. There might be 12 more months of fiascos. Bide your time, study the manuals. Learn to respectfully disagree.


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#6 Tiger Foot

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 11:57 AM

Thanks Qwazse. When I first became I den leader, I took all the available online training. I don't think it would hurt me at all to go through it again. And I'll pick up a copy of the leaders guide next week.
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#7 Tiger Foot

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 11:58 AM

Thanks for the encouraging words Back Pack.
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#8 Cubmaster Pete

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 07:49 PM

It's ok to be crazy, and right. Most of us are.

 

I went through something similar recently.  Cubmaster did, well, nothing. Figurehead in name only. I'm not sure who was running things honestly.

 

But it sounds like you have the boys and the unit's best interests at heart. And sometimes that's all you need. Those are some of the best qualities that a leader needs. 

 

As quazse mentioned, there is a script to this show. Use it. It helps tremendously. The BSA didn't spend $$$ on program materials for something that is not tested and does not work. And if you have not taken the CM training online, do it. 


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#9 Hedgehog

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Posted 02 March 2017 - 08:38 PM

My Plan Outline:

1. Create an 'Every Parent Helps' culture. The resources I've seen posted here are great. I'll use them to set this expectation with new scout families coming into the pack, and to get more parents to step up. I know I'll experience some pushback and will lose some folks. But den leaders are burning out. This is a top priority.

2. The Journey To Excellence scorecard drives everything we do. I don't mean we'll actually win ribbons and patches and stuff... But that we focus on those areas. And by focusing intensely on those areas, we start to rebuild the pack and set it up for future success. We may be smaller, we may not have big events (we're not pulling them off successfully anyway right now), but we'll deliver a good quality program again with people who enjoy doing it.

3. KISMIF becomes are watchword, our benchmark for all decisions for the foreseeable future. If it's not going to be fun for scouts, families, and leaders, we don't do it. If it's not simple enough to hand off to a few parents, or to convince a few parents they can put it together, we don't do it. If we can't get parents to sign up for cleanup duty after a B&G banquet, we don't do it.

4. Everything we do decide to do gets simplified and systematized... Notes, contacts, money spent, ideas, after action reports... It all goes in a binder or file for the next year, so new folks aren't starting from scratch again. I guess the pack used to do this, but it's been lost to the sands of time or something. Each event this year has been a scramble making it so much harder than it had to be to pull off.

 

 

1.  Shoot for an "Every Parent Helps" culture but ASK certain people to do specific tasks.  If you ask a group, you ask nobody.  Very few parents will say no if you ask them to do a specific task.  "Denise, can you call a couple of caters and get estimates for Blue and Gold?"  "Bob, can you get a couple of guys together to set up the Pinewood Derby Track."  "Alice, can you make the trip to the Scout Shop to pick up awards onece a month?"

 

2.  Ignore JTE.  Design a program that is fun and easy and that works.

 

3.  Do keep it simple and make it fun -- but think about what that means.  Assign groups of parents WITH THEIR SCOUTS to tasks "Bears do set up" "Wolves do clean-up."  We had each den be responsible for cooking the food and set-up at an outing (Wolves for Fall Campout, Webelos 1 for Pancake Breakfast, Webelos II for B&G and Bears for Summer Campout.  That avoids asking for volunteers.  Also, don't be afraid to do some stuff yourself -- I got really good at making runs to Sams or Costco to get the food for the Campouts.

 

4.  Simplify.  Yes.  After action reports? That doesn't sound simple.  I had the outline for the year on two pages with phone numbers and everything else needed to run the program.

 

Our program (for a Pack of around 50) was as follows on a budget of $125 per Scout (including all awards):

 

September* - First Meeting of the Year.  We hired entertainment including the Snake Guy, the Science Guy, the Knight Guys, the Animal Guy, etc.  The adults had a separate meeting in two groups - returning families and new families.  The Den leader for the Tigers usually stepped up at that first meeting.

 

October - Fall Barbeque and Campout (Friday night into Saturday Morning)

 

November* - Service project in decorating lunch bags for local soup kitchen, popcorn awards and watching It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

 

December* - Pancake Breakfast followed by Den skits, scout jokes and a scout talent show.  Pinewood Derby cars handed out.

 

January - Winter Cabin Camping (additional charge for Scouts and Adults)

 

February* - Pinewood Derby Beauty Contest (Friday night) and Race (Saturday)

 

March* - Blue and Gold Banquet - Catered with Cake Baking Contest

 

April* - Model Rocket Handout at Meeting with Launch later in the month

 

May - No Meeting Because of Marching in Memorial Day Parade

 

June* - Spring / Summer Campout*

 

July - Campout at local baseball stadium on Scout Night (additional charge)

 

August - Scout Family trip to nearby (1 hour drive) amusement park with discount tickets (additional charge)

 

July / August - Individual Scouts attend Cub Scout day camp (additional charge)

 

*  Awards Given Out at Meetings

 

We did it with a Cubmaster (and my wife), a group of Den Leaders, two Awards Chairpeople (they alternated picking up awards) and a Treasurer.


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#10 CalicoPenn

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 10:49 AM

Something else you should do that's not really programming related.  From what you wrote, it appears the Cubmaster has control of the finances.  That should be a Committee/Treasurer responsibility - I'd suggest that you give that responsibility to the Committee.


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#11 Tiger Foot

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 01:05 PM

Thanks Cubmaster Pete. I initially took all the online courses, I'm going to retake them to ensure I have a thorough understanding of how things should work, and pickup the book Qwazse listed.

No sense reinventing the wheel!

I didn't see any trainer for the pack trainer position... I think a pack trainer could/would be a good asset for a pack trying to regroup and rebuild.
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#12 Tiger Foot

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 01:26 PM

Thanks for all the info Hedgehog!

After Action Report does sound tedious... I meant that after we finish an event we just need to jot down some final thoughts. What went right, what didn't, any ideas for next year. Otherwise a year goes by and then everyone is scratching their heads trying to remember at thing we were going to do. I just didn't know what to call it.

And with JTE, I just want to focus on those areas. I was thinking the categories provided a good roadmap... trained leaders, an actual budget, a committee that meets and plans. I don't care so much about reaching the levels or filling out that spreadsheet. I thought it just pointed to some of the things I need to focus on first.

I'm already working on #1... another den leader and I approached a good candidate for treasurer and she's agreed. The current CM does the group ask and gets frustrated when no one replies to his increasingly desperate pleas. But he won't try it my way... asking 1 on 1 is so much more successful. And I've asked all the Den Leaders to give me two names of parents they think would be willing to more so I can start planting seeds. Hearing you and bbender both emphasize this gives me a boost in confidence.

And I love #3. This is so brilliantly simple I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it! We assign potluck categories by Den, why not duties for those parents too! I'm such a dope, lol.

Your plan looks awesome. I think I'm gonna steal the whole thing and suggest it for next year.

Thank you so so so much!
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#13 Tiger Foot

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 01:36 PM

CalicoPenn, that's mostly correct... his wife and daughter were kinda sorta doing it. He decided to provide the option for paying dues monthly (another unilateral, un-communicated decision) and now we know we have folks who are behind, but they also did not keep/give receipts for the dues they did collect, so... it's a pickle. He also decided he wanted to put Scout account balances online, but we stopped that one before it got very far.

I'm really, really glad the woman we tapped agreed. She is meeting with the former treasurer tonight I think to start getting a handle on it.

Edited by Tiger Foot, 03 March 2017 - 01:36 PM.

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#14 Eagledad

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 01:50 PM

Boy, you are asking a lot. I have written a lot about this very subject for over 20 years and I wish we could pull the archives. I will be brief. By the way, our pack averaged around 120 cubs. 

 

We did two approaches to bringing the parents back to the pack meetings. We made the meeting shorter than an hour (typically 55 minutes), and we made it fun for the adults as well as the scouts and their siblings. That takes some practice and some good planning, but you will find fun meetings for the whole family go very fast. And our scouts and their sibling were warn out from all the yelling, cheering, jumping and standing. Learn how to do audience participation for just about everything.

 

We fixed den leader burnout by NOT letting them do anything else accept den meetings. Now, the program itself beats up den leaders (another discussion), but a start is not letting them lead, plan or assist any activity other than den meetings. Parents do the rest. If you can't find parents to do the other activities, then don't do the activity.

 

Best way to find volunteers for ANYTHING is to ask personally. It's harder for them to say no, and they do feel some sense of honor that you are asking personally. Start by finding an assistant for the Den leaders. Then move down to Pinewood, B&G and other monthly pack activities. 

 

Do your annual planning in July so that the committee has time to find and recruit all their activities leaders by the end of September. Then have the CC ask for an activity update from the activities leader at each months committee meeting.

 

Keep the pack activities simple and fun. They should be intended to help give the Den leaders a break, and fun for the whole family (so the parents want to come). Remember, each activity should be planned by a parent volunteer and helpers who were recruited personally. 

 

OK, that's a quick guide, which is rare for me. 

 

Barry


Edited by Eagledad, 03 March 2017 - 02:10 PM.

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#15 Tiger Foot

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 02:09 PM

That's fantastic advice Eagledad. Right now Den leaders are doing everything. We are are exhausted. My wife and I were saying the same thing this morning so I'm glad to see you say it and confirm our thoughts.

The sad thing is, we really don't even do actual pack meetings like you all are describing. Dens all meet in the same building, same time each week, and we wind up having a mini pack meeting each week... which is really just the CM rambling for about 20 to 30 minutes of the hour we all meet. It's no wonder we've morphed into a drop and run pack. Even with my prodding, the most I've even reigned him in by is maybe 10-15 minutes. Pack meetings (party, family fun night?) have to be during pack time, if we have parent volunteers to run it. Dens need to get their Den meeting time back, and Den leaders get to be Den leaders again.

Thanks for distilling 20 years of wisdom for me!
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#16 Tiger Foot

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 02:17 PM

I can't thank you all enough. I was feeling pretty beat down when I posted this. Not at all sure I wanted to take this on, ready to move on.

It's so nice to be able to get objective, outside, helpful and encouraging advice and experience. Thank you.
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