Setting Expectations with the new SPL

I don’t know how it works with other troops, but with the scouts having to juggle school, scouts, sports, girls, etc there never seems to be enough time to plan and train for positions or upcoming events.  Communication is a real challenge as a Scoutmaster with the Youth Leaders, because many times they don’t understand what it means to communicate, especially when it comes to reciprocating communication.  So I’m still searching for a good way to accomplish this effectively, and while I know that there isn’t going to be a one size fits all method, I am trying to come up with a basic structure for implementing communication, particularly with the Senior Patrol Leader.

So far, the structure that I have in place for when an SPL begins his term is a welcome letter, followed by an expectations meeting, followed by training.  The Welcome Letter is my first shot at setting expectations, to make sure the SPL knows what he is getting himself into.  The Expectations Meeting follows up with the letter to emphasize his duties and responsibilities as dictated by the Scout Handbook, the SPL Handbook and those set particularly by our troop.  The training is begins with Intro to Troop Leadership Skills, but continues on weekly and at campouts with leadership skills, administrative skills and Rose, Thorn and Buds after every activity.  So here’s the Welcome Letter:

New Senior Patrol Leader,

Welcome to leadership, I’m proud of you, wanting to take on the responsibility and leadership of the troop and I wanted to let you know how I can help you.

First of all, know that this is to be a boy run troop.  That means that the Patrol Leader’s Council, which you will lead, will have the authority to decide on the direction, functions and activities of the troop all within the framework provided by the Boy Scouts of America, Deltona Alliance Church and the Troop Committee.  This means, that within the rules and goals of the troop, you guys decide on the details.

As the Scoutmaster, my job is to help and advise you.  Utilize me as you see fit, but realize I will rarely offer help or suggestions unless you ask for them, because I want this to be YOUR troop.  But as you and your leaders plan, develop and implement the program and you if you need me to help provide instructors or materials or resources, please let me know.  Many times, I’ll advise you on how to obtain them yourselves but, as needed or my ASMs or I will fill roles as directed by you and your team.

One of the responsibilities that I have, that I must be proactive on, is to ensure that you are trained.  I will use the EDGE method to achieve this.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be explaining what is expected of you, starting with this letter and continuing on in our first training meeting where we will go over your responsibilities and then on to the Troop Leadership training.  Also, I’ll expect to meet with you weekly, preferably on the phone, to continue this training and to check in.

The first few weeks, and your first PLC, I’ll probably be more visible, and will demonstrate how to run a meeting with you.  I’ll get you some meeting plans and discuss the reasons behind them and will work with you to adjust and change them so that they are how you want them.

After that, I’ll help guide you as you check in with me each week to discuss your plans for the upcoming meetings and activities.

By the end of your term, I’ll expect you to run this troop without me looking over your shoulder at all, check ins will be solely to let me know what my role needs to be at the meetings to support you and your team.

Now that we have begun the process, my first piece of unsolicited advice to you is to start assembling your team.  You are going to need ASPLs to help you organize and manage the troop leadership positions.  Start organizing who you’d like as ASPLs in your mind and communicate with me why they would be good in those positions.  The troop organization rules say that I have to approve your selections before they are final, I won’t overstep your selection, but I do want to establish communication with you before you make it official.  I would also advise that you allow your ASPLs help you pick your troop leadership positions, as they are the ones that will be dealing with them the most.

My last (hopefully) piece of unsolicited advice is to start thinking about what you want to achieve during your term.  Most SPLs begin their term thinking in terms of what you want the troop to do, but I’m going to try to steer you to think about what the Patrols are going to do.  The Patrol is the lifeblood of the troop and as they succeed, so does the troop.  There are many ways to determine if a patrol is succeeding, but the most effective way that I’ve seen is by earning the National Honor Patrol Award.  Please consider making this part of your vision for the term, to help the Patrols earn this award, I think you’ll find great success by doing this.  It will help you build direction for the troop as a whole by getting each of the patrols engaged individually and will have benchmarks and goals that are both realistic and achievable as well as clearly defined.

Also, it is never too early to start communicating with your team.  Figure out the best way to communicate with your ASPLs and Patrol Leaders and start setting expectations for the next 6 months and what you want from them.  This letter is my first attempt to communicate with you, over the next few weeks we’ll figure out if email or phone or in person meetings are the best way for us to get together on the same page.   I look forward to your thoughts on this.

Yours in Scouting,

Scoutmaster

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