Monday, November 22, 2010


I got a call just before I went to bed on Wednesday night asking if I would fill in at the Venturing round table on Thursday. With such short notice I tried to think of something that wouldn't require much preparation. What I thought of was the Venturing Leadership Skills Course. Since I taught it to my young men in June and still had everything I needed, I thought it would be appropriate. Besides, I think it teaches some principles with which every leader should be familiar.

The first module is about Vision. The idea is that before a leader can lead effectively, he has to know where he is going. I've been wondering how many of our local Venturing leaders have a vision for what they want their crew to be. And if they have, how many of them have shared that vision with their young men?

The module begins with a question: "What is the nuts and bolts of leadership?"

It is answered with a quote by Thomas J. Peters and Nancy Austin: "Vision is the nuts and bolts of leadership. You have to know where you're going. To be able to state it clearly and concisely. And you have to care about it passionately. That all adds up to vision."

Then the course has a couple more quotes, which are discussed:
"The essence of leadership is a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet." -- Theodore Hesburgh

"Consider what impacts you at the gut level. What makes you makes you cry? What makes you dream? What gives you energy?" -- John C. Maxwell.

When I taught it, I added a quote from President Thomas S. Monson that has really impacted me and helped guide my leadership. I thought it would be especially important for other Venturing leaders:
"The leaders who have the most influence are usually those who set hearts afire with devotion to the truth, who make obedience to duty seem the essence of manhood, who transform some ordinary routine occurrence so that it becomes a vista where we see the person we aspire to be." (His entire talk is found here.)

After discussing these quotes and how they relate to vision and leadership, we watch a few video clips from various movies, paying attention to the vision expressed by different leaders. We watched clips from the movies Dead Poets Society, Mr. Holland's Opus, and Gettysburg.

Following the videos there is more discussion, including the idea that a vision is based on a foundation of clearly defined values. Different leaders valued different things, but each of those respective values were the basis for the vision each of the leaders had. It was those values that helped formulate the vision.

In the VLSC, it brings up the Venturing Oath and Code as the values on which a Venturing crew should base their vision. The young men are then challenged to develop a crew vision statement, followed by personal vision statements.

We didn't do this part at round table but had more of a discussion about what our vision ought to be for our young men. I shared a bit of my vision that the Venturing program would become the pinnacle in the Scouting experience for my young men; that the younger boys would look up at what their older brothers were doing and say "I can't wait to get into Venturing." I shared my vision that the Venturing Silver award would one day become just as prestigious as the Eagle Scout award. (We've got a long way to go there in our local unit.)

I also shared what I thought was a pretty good vision statement for any LDS venturing crew--the purposes of the Aaronic priesthood:

To help each young man:
  • Become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live its teachings.
  • Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices.
  • Give meaningful service.
  • Prepare and live worthily to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances.
  • Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission.
  • Obtain as much education as possible.
  • Prepare to become a worthy husband and father.
  • Give proper respect to women, girls, and children.

I hope that what I shared was helpful to some of the other Venturing leaders. I know that, for me, it made a difference to be able to think about what I was trying to do in terms of a vision statement. I have tried to share that vision with my young men and I believe it has made a difference there. I hope that a few more leaders can catch the vision of what Venturing (and Scouting in general) can be for their young men. And I hope they share that with their young men.

"Vision is everything for a leader. It is utterly indispensable. Why? Because vision leads the leader. It paints the target. It sparks and fuels the fire within. It is also the fire lighter for others who follow that leader."
--John C. Maxwell.
The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Me? Really?

I've recently started following the blog for Scouting Magazine. Each week they've been having a Name That Council contest, in which they post a council shoulder patch with the name erased. Scouts and Scouters are welcome to submit guesses about which council it belongs to. A drawing is then held from all the correct answers and the winner gets the council shoulder patch to add to their collection. For some reason, I started entering.

So far I've correctly identified the last four council shoulder patches but have been unlucky in the drawing. Until today, that is. I checked the blog today and found my name listed as the winner of the contest. I couldn't believe it. I never win contests.

I guess I now have to figure out what to do with a council shoulder patch from the Milwaukee County Council. Perhaps I'll start a collection.

Just don't ask me what my secret is in identifying the patches. If I tell, there might be more correct answers and I won't win any more. And what good is a collection with only one patch?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Scouting for Food

Like almost everyone else, we had our Scouting for Food drive this past weekend. We were able to collect 584 lbs. of food for our local food bank.

We went around on Wednesday evening and delivered bags to the houses in our ward. The cub scouts helped us out by going around earlier in the day. On Saturday morning we went around to pick them up. We only had one young man show up to help. Apparently there were a lot of other things going on that day. At least he wore his uniform without being specifically asked or reminded. (Now if only we could get a few patches sewed on. And a neckerchief.)

After we dropped off all our food, and I took our Scout home, I noticed a house with a bag sitting on the porch. I decided to go around again to see if anyone else got their donation out late and ended up getting another 20 lbs. of food.

I got talking with another Venturing leader later that day who reported they were able to collect 997 lbs of food. I don't know if our unit has ever collected quite that much, but I do know we got over100 lbs more last spring.

So, what is the secret to getting lots of donations? This other Venturing leader said they went out Saturday morning and knocked on doors, asking for donations, saying they would be back an hour later to pick them up. He was convinced this approach worked better. But we tried it that way last fall and I'm not sure I liked it. It seemed to take a very long time and we ended up with about the same as we got this year. Last spring we tried delivering the bags on Wednesday and picking them up on Saturday morning, and we ended up with 100 lbs. more food than the previous outing. But this time it just didn't work.

That's not to say that I'm not pleased with what we were able to contribute, I just wish we could have done a little more.