At different times in our Scouting careers, we all set out to seek advice from others. The receipt of guidance has been described as the passive consumption of wisdom – a great way to tap into the experiences and learning’s of others.
To that end, the advisor will be drawing on experiences that you may not yet have had, but will also be delivering the advice in a way that enables you to digest it and potentially act upon it. That’s perhaps less of a learnt behavior and more a question of intuitive skill.
In the same manner that we as scouters seek to provide an age appropriate ‘safety net’ around our young charges, one of the pleasures of being involved in Scouting is that there is a vast bank of expertise and support available.
At a formal level, a programme scouter usually has a team leader to look to (in theirishscouters group we still call these people ‘section leaders’ – very retro). Programme scouters can also look to the Group Leader who in turn can often get solid advice from the Group Council and indeed the County Commissioner.
County personnel have each other and a Provincial support team and so the chain of support goes on, right the way through the organizational chart.
Informally, a former leader, a friend in another group, a mentor from a training course can all become rich sources of advice and support, helping you to navigate through the many complex issues and relationships that present themselves in a scouting setting over time.
But what sort of advice?
At one end of the scale, you may be interested in some thoughts on how to improve your ability to run great games in the scout meeting. At the other, a difficult and fraught relationship with another scouter may be destabilizing the group and you are in need of some discreet support to manage the situation in an equitable and sensitive manner.
Different situations will require a different sort of advisor. The person who can help you put together a winning fundraising campaign for a den renovation may not be the same person you need to advise on how to frame a difficult conversation with a scouter colleague.
Think about this
Bear in mind that no matter what the topic, it’s worth being honest with yourself. Do you want someone to merely agree with your pre-formed viewpoint? Alternatively are you genuinely open to receiving whatever advice is going to be on offer? Do you have an open mind around acting on this advice?
If you think you already have the answer to your problem and are merely looking for confirmation, consider not asking for advice in the first instance. To do so may create tension with the intended advisor who may see themselves being treated merely as a box-ticking exercise. If you plan to seek advice, be open to it in whatever form it might take.
The wrong advisor
A like-minded person is often the less suitable option when it comes to seeking advice, particularly on a potentially contentious issue. What you will receive will be advice from someone who thinks like you – is that really what you need?
Give consideration to seeking advice from someone whom you know has a skillset relevant to the problem you are facing and who is likely to offer you a different perspective.
Acting on good advice
A common error we all make is to undervalue or even dismiss advice that we receive. This is a widely observed problem in business, so it’s likely that Scouting is also not immune. We all have a tendency to value our own views more highly than the views of others, even when we lack the expertise that an advisor clearly does not.
This in part is because we understand our own logic, but may not have fully understood the rational behind the advice we have been offered.
Bringing it to life
In the final analysis of any situation, we as leaders need to make a decision. Advice is valuable and sometimes seeking it from a few sources provides the nuanced conclusion we need to take the correct course of action.
A good advisor is someone we can turn to again and again. Over time, a bank of advisors can be built up to offer support in different situations and tackling different challenges. The end result is usually a better, more rounded style of leadership for the recipient and better thought out decisions for more positive outcomes.