Earlier this summer, I was interviewing a veteran Boy Scout leader and asked him his secret for working with the youth leaders in his troop. His answer was simple: “I treat them like the 20-somethings they’re becoming.”
In other words, he understands that people’s performance rises or falls with our expectations, something that has been demonstrated in countless classroom and workplace studies. It’s an old concept, by the way. Nineteenth-century writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has been quoted (perhaps erroneously) as saying, “If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.”
That approach, sometimes called the rule of expectations, applies to all our interactions with Scouts–with one caveat. If your expectations are too high, both you and your Scouts are likely to be disappointed. So don’t treat your 11-year-olds like the 20-somethings they will someday be; treat them like the teenagers they are becoming now.
When you set the right expectations, your “I think you can” will become your Scouts’ “I thought I could.”