Resolve to Give Up Yo-Yo Management



Of all the relationships in Scouting, perhaps the most important one is the relationship between a Scoutmaster and his or her senior patrol leader. When you’re a Scoutmaster, much of your management energy needs to go toward working with your SPL, usually with the goal of making him more self-sufficient and less dependent on you and other adult leaders.

Some Scoutmasters rely on a technique I call “yo-yo management.” The Scoutmaster is the yo-yo operator, while the SPL is the round doohickey at the other end of the string. The Scoutmaster gives the SPL a little string (freedom), then jerks him back just when he makes his first mistake. The resulting whiplash makes the SPL less likely than ever to try to be self-sufficient, and the dream of a youth-led troop remains just that: a dream.

A better approach, I think, is “shadow management.” When you get a new SPL, tell him you’re going to stick to him as close as a shadow at high noon. His challenge is to lengthen his shadow. As he makes bigger and better decisions, you gradually move farther into the background so that the shadow between you increases.

If he slips up, you may have to move closer again. But do so smoothly so you don’t give him shadow whiplash!


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