Commissioner Training Notes - A Commissioner's Priorities

Know Your Units—Our No. 1 Priority
  • It's important to understand the chartered organization(s) you work with. You should know the COR and chartered organization head,and help understand Scouting's chartered organization concept.
  • Get to know the direct contact leaders and the unit committee members. Be a friend and be willing to serve them. Units won't open up to you until they understand how much you care.
  • You need to understand the unit's environment. What are its history, education and income level, neighborhood, etc.? How do these affect its program?
  • Don't be one-sided. Not only do you represent the district to the unit, you must also represent the unit back to the district!
Prioritize Unit Needs
  • ". . .[C]ommissioners must concentrate their Scouting time helping with specific unit needs and helping each unit become more effective with its program and operation." (Commissioner Fieldbook For Unit Service, 2010 printing, p24)
  • "Good commissioners . . . establish priority units. Priority units receive their most careful attention." (ibid)
  • "Keep a running list of needs, problems, and desirable improvements for each of your units. Highlight the most urgent needs and problems. Most people's time is limited, so concentrate your energies on the unit needs you have highlighted." (ibid)
Beware the Hazard of Diversion
  • "Because of the many programs and activities of Scouting, unit commissioners might find themselves promoting projects, carrying messages, acting as judges, running FOS campaigns, etc. While all these activities are unquestionably important, they are not the primary responsibilities of unit commissioners." (ibid)
  • Don't be afraid to say 'no' to scouting requests that will take you away from Commissioner Service.
Typical Priority Unit Needs
  • These are like the "Hurry Cases" in first aid. Units suffering from these problems need help urgently!
    1. "Unit Not Meeting. ("Stopped breathing") A unit that has stopped meeting is in serious trouble. You must move quickly to salvage the remaining leadership and membership" (ibid p29)
    2. "Unit with No Leader. ("No heartbeat") If the unit leader has quit or leaves for any reason, see that the leader is replaced quickly." (ibid p29)
    3. "Unit with No Committee. ("Choking") A unit leader with little or no adult help might not survive very long or the unit program weakens and youth get cheated out of the great opportunities of Scouting. If the committee is not working, get in touch with the chartered organization representative and explain the importance of having" (ibid p30)"
    4. "Unit with No New Members. ("Severe bleeding") Units should register new members yearround. If no new members are added and there are plenty of youth in the area, find out why the unit is not growing." (ibid p30)
    5. "Unit Conflict with the Chartered Organization. ("Poisoning by mouth") Misunderstandings sometimes occur, and they can threaten the life of a unit if left unresolved. You may need to play a neutral role; be a mediator. Help unit leaders realize that the unit belongs to the chartered organization. Help leaders of the chartered organization realize they have some responsibility for the success of the unit. Work toward bringing unit and chartered organization leaders together to talk and build some consensus about the unit. Help them get better acquainted and recognize their mutual objectives. (ibid p30)"
    6. "New Unit Leader Lacks Orientation or Training. ("Blue baby") Give the new leader preliminary information about the unit. Learn as much as you can about the new leader. Provide some basic printed materials to get him or her started. Review basic program literature.
      Have all new leaders exchange their names and contact information. Explain what other people in the unit do: The chartered organization representative represents the chartered organization, the unit committee supports the unit program and helps with administration, and assistant leaders help the leader with unit operation." (ibid p30)
    7. "Unit with Weak Leadership. ("Comatose") In almost every case, a problem unit stems from weak leadership that must be either strengthened or replaced. Remember that the unit belongs to the chartered organization, and you must not remove leaders. You do have the responsibility, though, to see that the Scouts receive a good program. Therefore, it's your duty to impress upon the chartered organization representa­tive and unit committee the importance of providing strong leadership for their Scouting unit. (ibid p30)
Steps in Solving A Problem
  • Identify the problem. — What's wrong?
  • Decide if it is a problem. — Is it really a problem, or did you catch things at a bad time?
  • Discuss the problem with the ADC. — Figure out what can be done for the unit/unit leader.
  • Is assistance needed from the district committee? — If the problem is beyond your ability to solve, what resources to you need to pull in?
  • Decide whether you will handle it alone or with the ADC. — If you need help, what role should the ADC have in bringing in other resources?
  • Decide who is to handle the problem. — If you need to pull in an expert, will he or she 'take over'? What role will the unit leaders play?
  • Plan your actions. — Make SMART goals and make sure to measure them.
  • Plan your alternatives. — Your first attempt might not work. What else are you going to have in reserve?
  • Put the plan into action. — Now that you've talked things through and made a plan, it's time to act!
  • Evaluate. — If you don't know what you were trying to do, you won't know if you suceeded. Keep records, you might find that you need these ideas again for another unit.
The Journey To Excellence Performance Award
This program replaces the Centennial Quality Unit Award, and applies to Units, Districts, and larger scouting organizations. The key points of the program are:
  • Each unit makes an annual committment, ideally at the end of the preceeding year but no later than February of the current year. This commitment is signed by the Unit Commissioner as a representative of the council.
  • In Q4 of the year, the unit determines if they have met their commitment and has the Unit Commissioner sign off on the form if they have. One copy is turned in to the district, another is turned in to the council office, and the final copy is kept by the unit.
  • There are unit level and personal recognition devices (streamers, plaques, and patches) which should be presented by the Unit Commissioner.
A Unit Commissioner is responsible to:
  • Understand the criteria, forms, and procedures for your assigned units
  • Brief the COR, committee, and leaders of the units you serve
  • Work with each unit you serve to qualify for the award. This should take place throughout the year.
  • Guide each unit through the annual review and ensure that they complete a commitment for next year.
  • Provide the appropriate recognition for each unit's achievement. Provide encouragement throughout the year as well.
  • Work closely with your ADC, District Commissioner, and/or District Executive to help the district strengthen the units you're assigned to.

Wood Badge - Back to Gilwell

Wood Badge (www.woodbadge.org) was a highlight of my adult scouting life.  It's been a couple of years since I went through the course (Go Bob Whites!), but with several friends attending Wood Badge this year, I've been reminded of what a great experience is was.

In honor of James Levao (our new OA Chapter Advisor) and many others, I thought I'd take on a couple of new tickets.
  1. Over the next year, I will complete my "Bachelors of Commissioner Science" to set a good example for the Unit Commissioners in my district, gain a deeper understanding of Commissioner Service, and be better able to serve in my new role as District Commissioner.  The timing has been really bad for me to attend Commissioner College the last several years ... no more excuses.
  2. During the next year, I will engage the ADCs and Unit Commissioners in my District with frequent blog posts (at least 8), monthly email newsletters (at least 9), and quarterly District Commissioner Staff Meetings (at least 3 — other monthly staff meetings will be at the sub-district level).
I plan on reporting on these tickets here, just to keep myself honest.  Are you a first time Wood Badge attendee?  If so, what are some of your tickets?  If not, would you like to set (and share) a goal or two for yourself and recapture some of that Wood Badge magic?


What is a Unit Commissioner

Unit Commissioners are the core of commissioner service. They are the link between a unit and the district. Each Unit Commissioner is assigned three units in his or her district, which he or she is expected to visit regularly (ideally monthly, the national standard is bi-monthly). These visits might be to a unit meeting or camping trip, one on one with the unit leader, or with the unit committee. They should be tracked using the Unit Visitation Tracking System.

Feedback from the units visited should be brought back to the District or Sub-District Commissioner Staff Meeting each month. This meeting will also provide information and announcements that can be taken to units in upcoming visits. In the Rock Canyon District, we will also be sending out a monthly email with additional information. These emails (along with a companion email aimed at the ADCs) will also be posted/archived at this blog.

Unit Commissioners are BSA volunteers, and are required to get the same training other volunteers need:  Youth Protection, This is Scouting, Unit Commissioner Fast Start, and Basic Training.  The first three courses are available at myscouting.org. Additional Training is available through Commissioner College; Commissioner Conferences; and Council, District, or Sub-District Commissioner Staff Meetings.

If you have any questions or comments about Unit Commissioners, feel free to post them in comments here.


ADC Letter 20 May 2011

We've got a lot of things going on in the district, and I wanted to send out a quick email to all of our ADCs to keep you all abreast of them.  Would you be interested in a monthly (or so) email with information about upcoming district events, scouting resources, and the like?

Jun 4th is National Trails Day.  We're inviting our units to participate with the Pleasant Grove Ranger District.  They are hosting an event in Orem.  The plan is to meet at the Orem Dry Canyon parking lot at 9:00 AM, and going to work on the Boneville Shoreline Trail.

Our district is hosting a National Youth Leadership Training course the week of Aug 1-6.  This is an excellent program for 12-13 year old young men.  The course covers leadership and training styles, communications, and conflict resolution.  Participants will be able to bring these skills back to their home units, and eventually take them out on their missions.  This is a great opportunity to help grow some leadership skills among the young men in your stake.  Online registration is here.

The district will hold it's annual business/rechartering meeting in August.  We invite all CORs, Commissioners, and District Committee Members to attend.  There are a number of open positions in the committee (including a Unit Commissioner for our two non-LDS units). If you have any recommendations, please send me names, interests, and contact information.  I'll see that it gets to the nominating committee.

There's a new Commissioner Award of Excellence available from the National BSA office.  The requirements are in the current Commissioner Newsletter.  We'll talk more about this at the next ADC meeting.