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What the Boy Scouts Taught Me About Associations

Posted by Jay Dziwlik, MBA, CAE on Jan 4, 2017 12:00:00 PM


For seven years, my two sons and I have been involved with the Boy Scouts of America. When I joined I was not a camper and was looking for a way to share experiences with my boys as they grew into men. From hundreds of camp nights, fire by friction and sleeping on a frozen lake to both boys earning the highest rank of Eagle Scout and me becoming a scoutmaster, we have learned a lot about life. For me, it has also provided leadership lessons I take back to my own association.

“Be Prepared” is the motto of the scouts and it should be the slogan for association staff. How many times have you been asked for some information or historical data in a meeting for members to make some key decision? Associations should be “looking around the corner,” getting ready for what is or what might be coming. Preparing scouts and staff to handle change and plan well is a life skill that will serve them well.

I Promise to Do My Best” is the first part of the scout oath. This is a very interesting concept when you consider what everybody’s best is. Are we really doing our best? I look at some simple tasks like report-making and it often was a “just get it done” mentality versus doing my best. I wonder what our associations would look like if we thought about this while on the phones, preparing for meetings, attending continuing education courses, developing membership value statements, etc. Take a look at what you do and really think about if it your best or just your mediocre.

“Do a Good Turn Daily” is the scouting slogan. In an age and environment where civility, kindness and courtesy seemed to have disappeared, this slogan reminds us to think of others before ourselves. One of my coworkers is constantly telling us, “We are the membership department.” She reminds us that everyone is part of taking care of members and that it impacts membership. I wonder what would happen if we started “doing a good turn daily” for our members? What would that look like? What extra mile could you go? What value added could we include or personal touch? I like to remind scouts that you don’t have to stop at one good deed; you can do many good turns and we all should.

Character and leadership are developed. Scouting is not just about being outdoors or the uniforms or service projects; it is really about growing up and developing character and leadership. In our association, this should be part of our mission as well. Regardless of the industry or membership type, we should be cultivating good character and encouraging leadership. It should be part of the culture. Teach it, remind individuals of it, reward it, ask about it and aim for it.

Scouting has been good for me and my family. I think it could also be good for your association.

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Topics: Leadership, Associations

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