In our May-June issue, Scouter W.F. wrote that in all the troops he’s been associated with, enthusiasm and attendance at patrol leaders’ council meetings were poor. Realizing teen-agers lead busy lives, W.F. asked how we can ensure they participate in troop program planning.
When a PLC starts a downward spiral, it can usually be traced to a lack of both training and empowerment.
Training is one of the never-ending needs in Scouting. Each young leader should receive a detailed list of tasks geared to both his position and abilities. He also needs to understand that because he is a member of the troop leadership, his ability to function affects every member of the troop.
The lack of empowerment is the other impediment to an effective and enthusiastic PLC. Well-meaning adults who won’t stand aside and let the Scouts do the Scouting can short-circuit the PLC’s ability to develop and demonstrate leadership.
Yes, it’s easier for us big folks to do things. And yes, we often see how something could be done faster, smarter, and more efficiently. But remember this: In a Scout’s eyes, how well organized and carefully executed an event was is not as important as the fact that he can say, “Look what we did!”
District Training Committee Member D.E.
Attendance at our patrol leaders’ council meetings is over 90 percent each month. Our program builds responsibility, and the Scouts like running it themselves. The young leaders want to be at PLC meetings because they know they have a say in what’s going on.
Basically they’re in control, with the necessary adult supervision. And sometimes it’s best to let them falter and fail. They’ll learn from the experience.
After troop elections and appointments each September, we follow up with a troop junior leader training weekend. After that they should know how to start on any job in the troop’s junior leadership.
The patrol leaders’ council meets for about an hour and a half the second Tuesday of every month. (Our Venture patrol and troop committee meet at the same time.) The senior patrol leader leads the PLC in program planning for at least two months ahead, but the members vote on everything.
The troop’s adult leaders could do the same things in less time, but whose troop is it?
The patrol leaders’ council should always meet monthly, with the senior patrol leader, not the Scoutmaster or another adult, in charge. The Scoutmaster should have a few minutes at the end for a few comments only.
The senior patrol leader gives instructions to the patrol leaders about coming events. The group also discusses topics for future outings, decides on menus, establishes rules, and conducts other troop business.
This should be the only occasion that a patrol leader can get certain information. (If the same kind of information is also announced at troop meetings, patrol leaders will believe it doesn’t matter if they miss a PLC meeting.)
Special PLC meetings can also be held at other times, such as when there is important new information for the troop, or when an upcoming event or outing requires more meetings.
Remember that 11-year-olds retain only a limited amount of information. For an important event like a weekend camp-out, give the patrol leaders just enough information at each PLC meeting to get them to the next meeting, then the next, and so on.
Council Boy Scout Training Chairman B.S.
Our troop meetings start at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. The patrol leaders’ council used to meet on the second Tuesday night, but the boys often forgot and the parents complained about them having to attend an extra meeting during that week.
Then we scheduled the meetings for 6 on the second Wednesday, one hour before the troop meeting. The Scoutmaster brought pizza so the boys and leaders could have dinner while conducting business.
Attendance improved. It seems there’s nothing like food to help boys remember a meeting!
Troop Committee Member S.D.
Our patrol leaders’ council meets once a month to plan the following month’s troop meeting. It also meets for about 25 minutes after each troop meeting to check on materials that will be needed for the next troop meeting and make detailed plans to assure everything will be ready on time.
The junior leaders also make sure they have a backup plan for any unexpected difficulty that might occur. We stress the “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” theory.
District Commissioner L.B.
My solution was to hold patrol leaders’ council meetings at a buffet-style, all-you-can-eat-for-$4 pizza restaurant. I let the junior leaders eat pizza (paid for by the troop) and socialize for about half an hour before getting down to business, after which they could (and did) eat more pizza.
(The pizza parlor doesn’t seem to mind that it’s not making much money off our troop. The manager recently challenged the leaders to see how much pizza they could eat. A new plate is required each time you return to the buffet, and our record so far is 107 plates – a stack four and a half feet tall.)
PLC meetings are now one of the troop’s most popular events. And the troop runs better, as the young leaders accomplish a lot during their work on the council.
Lynn Haven, Fla.
Chances are W.F.’s junior leaders don’t attend meetings because they see it as a waste of time or don’t grasp the responsibility placed on them by their peers. A well-run PLC doesn’t just happen; it is the result of a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
Here are some steps to help put the junior leaders back on track:
- Focus on Program Planning: Mapping out the details of the troop’s annual program should form the bulk of the PLC’s business.
- Provide Training: A troop junior leader training session is essential.
- Identify Goals: The Scoutmaster and the junior leaders should discuss their goals for the troop. Without specific goals, they will not be motivated to perform their duties.
- Give Direction: A day or two before a PLC meeting, the Scoutmaster and senior patrol leader should review the things that need to be accomplished.
- Share Leadership: Help the senior patrol leader understand and utilize the “sharing leadership” style. Otherwise, the other leaders may see him as a dictator and attendance will wane.
- Let the Boys Do It: Adult leaders should not sit at the table with the patrol leaders’ council and should refrain from contributing unless asked by the senior patrol leader.
- Follow-up: The Scoutmaster should meet with the senior patrol leader after the meeting to discuss the proceedings.
WHAT SHOULD BE MESSAGE OF FRIENDS OF SCOUTING?
I’m involved in the “Friends of Scouting” fund-raising campaign. What message do you give to unit leaders and parents when asking for their FOS support, and how do you get the leaders to support that message? My question pertains to the content of the message, not the style and format of the presentation.
Responses will appear in Scouting’s November-December issue.