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Boy Scouts of America and Leadership Coaching


The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness talks with Dennis St. Jean, Assistant Director Professional Development Division, Boy Scouts of America, Irving, Texas.

CMOE: Having recently attended one of your leadership conferences I walked away with a totally different view of Boy Scouts of America. Can you tell us about your organization?

Dennis: Our intent is to have the volunteers in the community, and the youth, receive the recognition. As a result most people think of us as a volunteer organization and don’t know that we have 3,500 full time commissioned professional staff working in 326 local Boy Scout Councils. Our Staff Leaders work with our first level professional, Unit Serving Executives.

CMOE: What is the role of a Unit Serving Executive?

Dennis: They are the workhorses of our organization, responsible for fund raising, recruiting volunteers, recruiting new members, and starting new scouting units. They work directly with the volunteers and their efforts determine our success in meeting our Mission and Goals.

CMOE: So the Staff Leaders manage the Unit Servicing Executives?

Dennis: They do more than manage, they lead and develop. Even though we are a not-for-profit organization, we operate like a business. Since our staff salaries are the biggest line item in our budget, we must maximize the contribution of our people. We believe that maximization is more acute for the Scouts. Every dollar spent has to be raised. It is absolutely imperative that the Staff Leader sharpens the skills of those reporting to them and constantly develops them to become even better.

CMOE: What role does leadership coaching skills play in achieving this goal?

Dennis: Our Operational Management System (OMS), like many other performance management systems, has four phases: Clearly communicating expectations, Providing feedback on barriers and needed development, Coaching to improve, and Rewards based upon performance.

CMOE: Are your Staff Leaders good coaches?

Dennis: They are good people and we assumed that leadership coaching behaviors were natural. Our feedback from some of our highly rated people who left, and current valued employees, told us that both the quality and quantity of coaching was lacking. They were not receiving enough coaching, feedback/direction, and the coaching was either not effective or focused only on barriers, not on developmental plans. Even when discussing barriers there was not enough emphasis on “why” and “how to improve.”

CMOE: Then the Professional Development Division got involved?

Dennis: Only because our Chief Executive Officer after a number of focus group sessions with new Unit Serving Executives, recognized that our organization hadn’t provided the tools or process to be a good coach. Our projected growth and increased competition for attracting and retaining top caliber people further spotlighted this. Then we were asked to get involved.

CMOE: What has been your experience with the CMOE’s Leadership Coaching Workshop and Coaching Model?

Dennis: We know this gives them the tools to implement the Coaching function of our OMS and be more effective in their day to day interaction with the professional staff.

CMOE: Can you give us some examples of the Coaching Model working?

Dennis: Two come to mind. A Field Director attended the workshop two weeks prior to the quarterly reviews. He called back to relate how well they had gone and that they exceeded his expectations for a positive performance feedback and development session. The second was a Staff Leader who used the model in a corrective discussion. She called me to report that with this tool, the results were more positive than she had ever expected and that the employee was making some real progress. There are many more examples but these two are the most recent.

CMOE: Any other thoughts you would like to share?

Dennis: As a not-for-profit organization we are excited about helping our leaders become even better coaches. This will help them maximize the contribution of our employees and volunteers and better enable us to achieve our Mission.

About the Author

To learn more about Leadership Coaching and CMOE’s experience with organizations around the world please visit CMOE or contact one of our Regional Managers at (801) 569-3444


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