THE ONE-MINUTE SCOUTMASTER
By Winston R. Davis
With Apologies to Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
Once there was a bright young man who was looking for a really good
He wanted to work for one. He wanted to become one.
His search took him all over the world: to small villages and great capitals.
He met with rich aristocrats and poor men who worked with their hands and
backs. He wasn't happy with what he found.
He found some Scoutmasters who said: "I keep my boys in line! If you let up on them, they just get in trouble. We make 'em shape up!"
Their troops were usually impressive. Great uniforming. Good behavior.
Scouts could really pass tests and win contests. But the boys in their troops didn't seem to be having much fun. In fact, he wondered why they were there. Some got lots of badges. Some didn't. But the only ones having a good time were just like their Scoutmasters. They said: "We know how to make these kids behave. We don't let 'em get away with a thing!"
There were others he found who seemed like really nice guys. Most were
easygoing and likeable, friendly and quiet. Many said, "Oh, life is too
short to hassle these kids. I let them pretty much decide what they want to do. That's the patrol method. They know what they need."
But their troops didn't look too impressive, and the boys in them didn't
appear doing anything that was in their Scout books. Hardly any complete
uniforms. Lots of goofing around and having a great time. Troop activities were noisy and looked like fun, but not everybody could participate. Younger boys seemed confused and unable to get any help. Meals were really bad on campouts and if it rained, they got wet. Nobody could build a fire, except the Scoutmaster. There weren't a lot of boys in those troops, either.
The young man was tired, and very discouraged. He wasn't happy with what he had seen. A good Scoutmaster, he thought, would run his troop so that the boys would have a good time and learn a lot too. There wouldn't be a lot of time wasted on noisy confusion. They could get right down to the business of doing exciting and interesting things. Scouts would earn a lot of badges and win a lot of contests, but they would have fun doing it.
At last, he began hearing wonderful things about a Scoutmaster who lived not far from him. This man was greatly loved by his boys and they were renowned for their skills and abilities. The young man wondered if the man would share his secrets with him. He decided to call the famous Scoutmaster.
The man said, yes, he would be glad to spend some time with the young man.
When he was asked when he was available, he said, "I can see you any evening except Wednesday." The young man made an appointment for the following Monday night, but he wondered about this Scoutmaster who had so much free time. How could he be doing all the wonderful things the young man heard about?
The appointed evening arrived and the young man rang a doorbell in a nice,
middle-class neighborhood. He was invited in and introduced to an
average-looking man of early middle age with a friendly smile and a firm
"What can I do for you?" he asked the young man. "Well, I'd like to ask you some questions about the way you run your Scout Troop," was the reply. "Fine. Fire away," said the Scoutmaster.
The story will sound familiar to millions who have read The One-Minute
Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. If you're one of those who
hasn't read it, get a copy right away. It takes an hour or less to read and is well worth the 10 bucks it costs. As Scouters, we may or may not be captains of industry, but we are leaders of lots of creative young minds. Usually, our success depends on management skills learned elsewhere, or leadership skills found in the various excellent training programs offered by the BSA. But, while these programs offer excellent methods of managing businesses and Scout units (and believe me, there is no method apart from the patrol method), people skills are hard to come by and subtle of nature. We don't have the time to become educational psychologists.
The simple concepts of One-Minute Managing work just as well with adolescent boys as they do with adults in the corporate world. Maybe better! Let me get on with my tale. I'm going to assume you have read Blanchard and Johnson, and that you know, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story." If you haven't read it yet, you will!
As you no doubt realize by now, the young man in my adventure has just walked into the lair of the One-Minute Scoutmaster. The gentleman is about to share his knowledge and wisdom with our visitor, but not directly. No, he will send our young man to see various troop members, adult leaders and committee persons who will enlighten the student on the ways of the One . . . Well, you know how it goes.
The OMSM, as we will familiarly call him, believes that boys who feel good
about themselves do good things. He knows that "Goals begin behavior;
consequences maintain behavior." For that reason, he uses one-minute goal
setting, one minute praising and one minute reprimands. The one minute
concept is great for Scout-age boys. Boys are not into abstract thinking and lengthy goal making or evaluation. They know when they mess up, and expect to be corrected, but they can do without a lengthy lecture. They don't mind goals as long they are succinct, understandable, reachable and measurable. The OMSM knows that in human endeavors, 80% of the good comes from 20% of the goals. He therefore skips the other 80 and works on the 20 that really produce. He sets brief, written goals with every Scout.
The Scouts are part of the process: if they don't buy into the goals, they
won't be too excited about making them happen. Of course, some Scouts need two sets of goals. Boy leaders have goals for themselves and for their patrols or troop. All are short, though. That's the key. What are the goals? Anything worth while, but only the producing 20%. The boys will have advancement goals, personal goals, recruiting goals and competition goals.
Of course, boys being boys, and human, means that there will be mistakes.
That's where one minute reprimands come in. The reprimand is never a "chewing out." It is only given for a significant mistake. It is short, deals with what, specifically, the boy has done and how, exactly, it makes the OMSM feel: angry, disappointed, frustrated. The recipient will know that the leader realizes the boy is capable of better things and that he is an okay person. The behavior is criticized, not the boy.
On the other hand, the OMSM specifically looks for opportunities to hand out a one minute praising. Tries to catch 'em doing something right and praise them on the spot. The OMSM stays on top of things and hands out praisings liberally. As with the reprimand, a boy gets told specifically what it was that he did to earn the praise, and how really good that makes the SM feel. Both praising and reprimanding are "up close and personal," looking the boy directly in the eye. The OMSM always closes either with a handshake or a touch on the arm, to emphasize his personal concern. What a great feeling to get personal praisings! What a rotten feeling to be reprimanded when you know it's fair and deserved! What an incentive for boys to do good and get the praisings!
Time and space will not permit us to wander through the full saga of the young man's visit with the OMSM and his troop. It may be instructive to take a quick look at his visit to a typical (!) troop meeting. It takes place, of course, on a Wednesday evening.
The young man arrives at a church hall and finds lots of boys in Scout uniform engaged in some fun preopening activities. There are adults around, but they don't seem to be involved in the action. A sharp-looking sixteen year old introduces himself as Rob, the Senior Patrol Leader. "So, you've met the Old Man," he says.
"Yeah, the One-Minute Scoutmaster. That's a lotta bunk, isn't it?"
"No way," Rob replies. "Everybody thinks that at first, though!"
"Well," responds the young man, "I guess you guys will have to prove it. What happens when the adults take charge of the meeting?"
"They don't," is the answer. "The patrol leaders and I, along with some of the other guys run the meeting. Our SM never steps in, except in emergencies and, of course, for one-minute praisings. He'll have a time at the end of the meeting to leave the guys with a final thought. It's . . . "
"Don't tell me it's a One-Minute Scoutmaster's Minute!"
"You got it! He never takes more than about ninety seconds to speak his
piece. He says if you can't say it in two or three minutes, you haven't
thought enough about what you want to say," was the boy's reply.
"Yeah, but he must have a lot to say to the boy leaders after the meeting,
right?" the young man suggested.
"Not really," Rob said. "There is a Patrol Leader's Council meeting after
every meeting. A short one. But we do almost all the talking. We review the meeting, note any foul-ups and check plans for the next meeting or activity. The Old Man only talks if he needs to give a One-Minute praising."
"Aha!" said the young man. "Or, no doubt, a One-Minute reprimand?"
"Wrong again, sir!" came the response. "Those happen only in private. He
never reprimands us in front of each other. He says reprimanding in public doesn't work, because it makes you feel humiliated and resentful. He says the only reason for the reprimand is to get us to behave differently in the future. If we feel angry about it, we may want to do something else wrong just for spite. This way, we feel lousy because we made him feel lousy, and since he tells us exactly what it was we did to make him feel like that, and since he only criticizes the thing we did and not us . . . "
"You don't have any reason to feel resentful or humiliated and you just want to avoid doing the same thing in the future!" The young man was getting the hang of it now.
"Right you are! And, since the reprimand ends with a praising . . . "
"Just a minute. He reprimands and praises you? How does that work?" The
young man saw he still had a long way to go.
"Simple. After he finishes telling you exactly what you did wrong, and how it makes him feel, and giving you a moment to feel how it feels, he tells you what a great guy you are and how much he likes you, and you know it's over." Rob's admiration for the man showed in his face. "I only wish we could get the Old Man to teach all our teachers to do the same thing. A lot of them use what he calls the 'gunny sack' approach. They save up a lot of frustration--and boy do they get a lot of frustration--until they have enough to fill a sack! Then they just dump it all over everybody. The guilty and the innocent get punished or yelled at all together. Just doesn't make as much sense as the Old Man's way. He says that 'goals begin behavior and consequences maintain behavior'."
The young man was still puzzled. "Okay, let's go back a minute. If you guys do everything without the SM's guidance, how do you know what to do at meetings and activities?"
"I thought you'd want to know that." Rob grinned. "It's really simple. We know because we all sit down together and plan everything. We mostly come up with the program plan, but he provides the materials and some suggestions. But everybody has to agree on what we're going to do, and everything we agree to gets written down. Everybody keeps a copy so that there's no doubt later of who agreed to do what. It takes a lot of work for us, but we get to do what us kids want to do, not what a bunch of adults think we should."
"But you don't get to do just anything you want to? I mean, you couldn't
decide to have a 'polar bear swim' in January in a hole cut in the ice!"
"Definitely not! Our adult leaders hate cold water, and they'd have to be
lifeguards. Seriously, I suppose we couldn't do that. But I will say the Old Man would be willing to discuss an idea like that with us. I know he would make us convince him that it could be done without compromising health and safety standards! He would also want assurance that it was what the boys in the troop wanted and not just us." Rob looked thoughtful. "I don't think there's any idea we couldn't at least talk about. And when the talking was over, we would know whether it was a good idea and exactly why it was or wasn't. We wouldn't feel stupid about bringing it up, either. Well, maybe if wanted to rob a bank or buy some drugs, we might. But any one of us would go to him with any idea we thought was reasonable."
The young man was convinced he was really on to something. He could see that here was a man whose troop ran by the patrol method. There was order and discipline, but there was fun and incentive. Boys were there because they enjoyed it. The boy leaders ran their troop under the guidance of the OMSM. There truly can be results and concern for people, in this case, kids.
What a great method! What a dynamic troop. What great kids. How could it be that nobody knew about this? He decided to ask the OMSM.
"I'm glad you asked me that," said the OMSM. "Some people do know about the One-Minute methods, but not enough. And I ask of you the same thing I ask of everyone I talk to about One-Minute Scoutmastering. Just share these ideas with someone else. Please! Tell other people who share your interest in Scouting about being a One-Minute Scoutmaster. Some will see the advantage of it and use it themselves. Some won't. But that's all right, because you'll have told them about it. Maybe someday you will decide to become a One-Minute Scoutmaster yourself. Whether you do or don't, if you use these methods with the people you deal with every day, you will find they work everywhere. Just remember, goals begin behavior; consequences maintain behavior."
Not surprisingly, the young man found himself volunteering to help the OMSM. And so, inevitably, after a few years, the young man became a One-Minute Scoutmaster himself. In time, he trained numbers of others who, like him, sought a better way to be a leader.