I recently started reading a book called A Scout Leader’s Guide to Youth Leadership Training: Working the Patrol Method. It is by Rob Faris, Ted Knight, Harry Wimbrough, and Joseph Durel – all Eagle Scouts.
I am really impressed with this book. Training youth leaders and really implementing the patrol method are things which our troop continues to struggle with.
Note: This book was written before the transition from Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA, so some of the terminology might be outdated. The information is just as valid as the day it was written though.
The book is well organized and practical. Some of the things I like about the format is that it includes “leadership yarns”. These are stories used to illustrate the concepts. These make the book very readable. They are interspersed in the sections, providing concrete examples of how the concepts are applied or not applied in typical Scouts BSA Troops.
There are also a good number of quotes from Baden-Powell, which is a big plus. While the world has changed a lot since his time, his original theories are still relevant to modern troops.
The introduction gives a basic overview of what is being presented, but also provides some other interesting nuggets of information. It emphasizes that in many cases adults are doing too much of the “doing” in our troops. This book emphasizes that while that might lead to an efficient, well run troop, that is not really what the Scouts BSA program is all about.
In the introduction and throughout the book, the authors return over and over again to the point that the purpose of adults in a troop is not to make sure plans are carried out efficiently. The purpose of the adults is to train our youth leaders. I think that is why I am so enthusiastic about this book. We have a great troop, but getting the adults to step back and not carry everything out for the youth is difficult.
And to be honest, I have to admit that I probably intervene more than I should from time to time. Usually this is just for expediency. It is so much easier just to do it myself sometimes. But this book is a good reminder to step back and remember what we are trying to do.
Section 1: Understanding and Telling “The Why”
Section 1 is about communicating to the youth why we are doing things via the patrol method. Youth leaders should understand the purpose of Scouting. They in turn, should communicate the reasoning to the younger members. I think this is a really good point. This section has some good leadership yarns about the importance of communication. It also offers some practical examples about how to work this into the troop program through the Scoutmaster Conference or Board of Review.
The only thing I wish is that it had more about how to get the parents to understand the patrol method and why we are using it. It doesn’t do any good to have a handful of adults who understand the program and are trying to really fully implement the patrol method, but then to have other adults step in and try to do things more efficiently by doing things themselves. Hopefully there will be more about this later in the book.
Section 2: The “Why of Scout Leadership Training”
This section is basically a history of Baden-Powell and his experiment at Brownsea Island. I was familiar with the story of the origins of Scouting, but not in this detail. So I really enjoyed reading this section and learning more. Understanding the history of Scouting helps you realize why the patrol method is a pillar of the program.
Section 3: The Patrol Method: A Scoutmaster’s Perspective
This section goes into detail about why the power and control which Scouts receive through the patrol method are important. It also gives some insight into why modern youth are not used to this type of responsiblity. I was very happy to find that it also gave some tips on communicating to parents the importance of the patrol method and the expectations of the Scouts BSA program. Finally, it includes a very nice Patrol Leader’s Pledge and a list of Patrol Members Rights and Responsibilites. Very helpful!
Section 4: The Patrol Method – Building the Team
This section goes into detail about how a patrol goes from just being a group of guys to a unit which works together. It gives a lot of real world examples which would make great Scoutmaster minutes and would capture the youth leaders attention during training sessions.
Mentioned in this section are “forming”, “storming”, “norming”, and “performing” which describe how teamwork develops. When JD came home from NYLT, this was one of the concepts he mentioned. The book gives a good explanation of the process and how it can be encouraged or disrupted.
Also in this section is advice about teaching leaders to utilize the individual strengths of the members of their patrol. Dealing with difficult Scouts – which can be very problematic – is also touched upon.
Section 5: Striving for Excellence – Doing Your Best
Section 5 is really brief. It almost seemed like an intermission in the book. Basically, it is a group of stories about motivating youth to do their personal best. The authors emphasize that what is the best effort might vary from Scout to Scout, but we should always encourage them to really get them to reach beyond what is natural or easy.
Section 6 – Caring Leadership
This section discusses how there must be a selflessness in leadership. Leaders must focus on teamwork and Scouting ideals. The concept of servant leadership is discussed.
The “leadership yarns” in this section make excellent Scoutmaster minutes.
Section 7 – Planning: How to Facilitate Without Taking Over
As implied by the title, this section aims to show adults how to mentor the youth leadership without being a driving force. This is important to the Scouts BSA program. If the adults become overly involved in the details of planning, the troop is not truly boy led. So this section focuses on how to give the youth the tools and knowledge they need to do the planning without the adults taking over.
The “leadership yarns” in this section would be excellent “Committee Chair minutes” for adults involved in the troop. ?
Section 8 – Shared Leadership
This section described some different types of leaders and the pitfalls they encounter. There was Mr. Do It All, Mr. Fix It, The Big Boss, and others. There is some discussion of how these different styles can correct what they are doing to move toward effective leadership. So I really recommend this section.
Section 9 – Techniques That Support the Patrol Method
This section really gets to the heart of the matter. It ties the patrol method in with other Boy Scout methods, including the uniform and advancement. It also discusses ideas like leading by example and working as a team. The leadership yarns in this section would be really helpful if you are doing a leadership seminar to train the youth leaders in your troop. There is a lot of good solid information in this section.
Section 10 – Create Your Own Personal Legacy of Leadership
This section is only a few pages long. It basically gives encouragement to use the ideas presented in the book. By training others to lead, we can leave a lasting imprint on a unit which will benefit the troop long after we are gone.
I remember that a few short years ago we were trying to figure out if we would have five registered youth to put on the charter. Now we have several times that, with about 15 being really active. We have to keep thinking long term. It would be a shame if we invested all of this time and energy in to the troop and it just dwindled away again after we have moved on. I do agree that having strong youth leadership is the way to keep the unit thriving.
Epilogue and Appendix
The epilogue is BP’s last letter to scouts. It is worth reading. In the appendix you will find a basic outline for troop leadership training. It is a good start for troops who do not already have a troop leadership training program in place. It is designed for a weekend program.
Of all of the things at the end of the book, I found the section “Difficulties in Working the Patrol Method” the most interesting. Sometimes in our troop there is resistance to implementing one aspect of the patrol method or another, often from the parents. “It would be easier if we just …” or “We can’t do it that way because …”. This last bit of the book is a reminder that no matter what the reasons we are not fully implementing the patrol method, the troop – and therefore the youth – would be better served if we made the effort.
If you are interested in this book but you don’t have a copy yet, it is available on Amazon. If you have read the book and have some thoughts on it, feel free to comment below.