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Junior Leader Training -- White Stag Leadership Development

Creating Teams That Win

Successful teams are based on a number of essential group member behaviors. One of the key to a group's success is its size. In White Stag's origins in Scouting in 1958, we learned much from the founder of Scouting, Robert Baden-Powell. In 1920, he wrote:

The formation of the boys into Patrols of from six to eight and training them as separate units each under its own responsible leader is the key to a good Troop. [1]

How you know your team is NOT working

Individual attendance is spotty or inconsistent. Meetings are irregularly held and sometimes consist of extended periods of games or goofing off interspersed with something resembling a meeting. There's no youth in charge, but perhaps a single individual who tries to rally the group into doing something constructive. The adults are frequently telling the youth what to do, or are disciplining youth who are out of line. Teams are organized haphazardly, by age group, or without consideration to a mix of senior and junior members. The older youth are inadequately prepared to train the younger members. The older youth have not attended any junior leader training in more thana couple of years. The adults leaders have not attended adult leader training.

We have borrowed heavily on Baden-Powell's playbook, because he found something intrinsically true to youth. They love to form gangs, or groups with a common affinity and interest. This team of teams, led by youth, is the "patrol method."

What the Patrol Method is

The patrol method is working when the adult acts as a guide, mentor, and counselor to the youth, helping them by word and example to lead one another, to influence one another, to encourage competition and excitement so that the boys grow as a group and as individuals.

In 1920, Baden-Powel consolidated notes he had assembled on the training of boys through Scouting and published them as Aids to Scoutmastership. He wrote,

The Patrol System

The Patrol System is the one essential feature in which Scout training differs from that of all other organisations, and where the System is properly applied, it is absolutely bound to bring success. It cannot help itself!

The formation of the boys into Patrols of from six to eight and training them as separate units each under its own responsible leader is the key to a good Troop.

The Patrol is the unit of Scouting always, whether for work or for play, for discipline or for duty.  An invaluable step in character training is to put responsibility on to the individual. This is immediately gained in appointing a Patrol Leader to responsible command of his Patrol. It is up to him to take hold of and to develop the qualities of each boy in his Patrol. It sounds a big order, but in practice it works. Then, through emulation and competition between Patrols, you produce a Patrol spirit which is eminently satisfactory, since it raises the tone among the boys and develops a higher standard of efficiency all round. Each boy in the Patrol realises that he is in himself a responsible unit and that the honour of his group depends in some degree on his own ability in playing the game.(2)

Enthusiasm is contageous

In teams that are working, you see enthusiasm among the youth—and adults. If the youth are enthusiastic, they care which team they belong to. (Just try to switch them to another team!) They have yells, their meetings start on time, and everyone is excited about being there. Uniforming, if part of the group, is consistent and neat. There is pride in belonging. Participation is consistent and high.

We foster team committment by encouraging a high-spirited experience. We reward teams for coming up with a team flag and yell, and many gatherings are preceding by a feverish competition where each time loudly proclaims what makes them unique.

When you come right down to it, team spirit and the small team method are joined at the hip. The team method does not work without the invigorating tonic of team spirit. As Baden-Powell pointed out, the way to create team spirit is through "emulation and competition."

The adult leaders' most important job is to create an environment that fosters youth's natural desire to compete and in the process, better themselves.

^(1) Baden-Powell, Robert. Aids to Scoutmastership. A Guidebook for Scoutmasters on the Theory of Scout Training. 1920. The complete text of this book can be found on the [New Browser Window] PineTreeWeb. Also found in selections from The Scouter, edited by Lord Somers, Baden-Powell's Outlook. London: C. Arthur Pearson Ltd., 1941.

(2)^ ibid. pp 22-14.