Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Expected and Unexpected

Troop Meeting #2

Troop 40072 had it’s second meeting last week. With notes from last meeting and great suggestions from other Girl Scout volunteers, I planned my second meeting.


  • Since they like the snack and kept snacking last time, I arranged to have it outside so we could clean it up and move on to our next activity, after it was put away.
  • We chatted and caught up while snacking.
  • The girls liked the outdoor activity, sensing the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the outdoors. There was lots of giggling.
  • They were thrilled to get their Girls Guide to Girl Scouting.
  • The three Daisies read with my high school assistant, Aisling. They liked working with her.
  • They seem to be forming a group already. One of our girls is very quiet, still learning English with Chinese as her mother tongue. When I asked her a question and she didn’t answer, a few girls said, “She doesn’t talk much.” And her friend said, “She’ll explain it to me and I can tell you.” Her friend went on to translate.
  • The girls were very insightful about our outdoor activity. One said: “The ground smells like fall; it’s different than how summer smells. Now it’s fall and you can tell.”
  • It was so nice to have another pair of hands! Aisling was a Girl Scout and the girls know her from school. Our littlest Daisy was sitting in her lap within minutes of starting.
  • The girls all have different ideas about what badges they want to do.
  • The Juniors did not want to help the Daisies. They wanted to help the Brownies.
  • Some parents arrived early and the meeting broke up — sort of — early as a result. It was a kind of chaotic departure.

What I’m wondering: How do you manage badge selection with 14 girls in different age groups?


I’m not always good at asking for help. Are you like me? It’s easier to give than to receive–more familiar, anyway, or, if truth be told, simply more controllable. On the receiving end there is no telling what you’ll get.  Because if I do, in fact, ask for help, what I want is something that looks and feels like help to me. I guess I’m picky that way.

This is on my mind because we’ve started using new software on my job and so I’ve been asking for more help than usual; me and 1,000 other people. So here are two things I’ve learned from being on the receiving end that I want to remember when I’m on the giving end:

1. Acknowledge the cry for help. The person who needs help first of all needs to be validated in their request.  Don’t gloss over the concern or confusion with a cheerleader, company-line response.  Give space for the frustration or confusion. Don’t take it personally. Remember that being heard is an empowering experience.

2. Answer the question. This implies that you are listening to the person who is asking, whether or not you have heard the same question one hundred times.  Where, exactly, is the gap in their understanding? Resist the urge to jump right to the “fix,” without hearing the entire scenario. If you aren’t paying close attention to where they are stuck, and how they got there, then it’s likely your answer won’t be clear. Too much information is disempowering, even if it’s true. What you have to say can seem “above” the person, meaning it is so confusing that they assume an expert is needed, which they are not, and so they aren’t motivated to engage in finding a solution. Or your words can seem “below” them, as in not important or relevant, so they are not motivated to find the connection between your input and their problem.

Especially in the case of questions that don’t have easy answers, we need to offer help that supports the other person in their learning process. Believe in them while you toss out the life preserver. It’s only a matter of time until that ring will come your way.

Step Forward

Margaret Wheatley, in her book Turning to One Another, provides a definition of leadership that is so straightforward and simple. She says,

“In working with many people in very different cultures, I’ve learned to define leadership differently than most. A leader is anyone willing to help, anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to influence that situation… everywhere in the world, no matter the economic or social circumstances, people can step forward to try and make a small difference.”

A leader is anyone willing to help. If that is all it takes, then there is no reason you and I can’t be leaders. Wheatley has four simple steps in the process: see something that needs to change, step forward, try, and envision a small difference.

Seeing something that needs to change isn’t too difficult. I usually have an opinion about what needs to be different! But recently I read this quote, which really made me stop and think:

The heights charm us but the steps do not; with the mountains in our view we love to walk the plains. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

I can envision making a difference, but am I stepping up? Am I leading?

I think it’s important to focus on the “small difference” that I can make. I am more likely to see every starving African child, which is overwhelming, than take action in my own town. But Wheatley simply says, step forward. Just try. Envision a small difference. Seems like I’ve heard that somewhere before… maybe in It’s Your World- Change It!

Tell me your story of stepping up. What did you try and how did it go? Did the experience help you encourage another woman or girl who saw a need, but was still walking the plains?

Act Now 2012

Last week, I went to the Girl Scouts Act Now 2012 Conference, focused on strategies for increasing membership. The organization wants to grow by 1 million volunteers in five years! Wow!

I heard some great things. I had fun! Most helpful to me– 10 Essential Elements for Creating the Girl Scout Experience. Based on research with nine troops, 10 elements  are essential to the quality of the girls’ experiences in Girl Scouting.  It reminded me why I wanted to do this in the first place. Take a look!

1. Families welcomed – when families understand how our commitment to girls helps them be leaders in their daily lives and in the world, girls have richer, more meaningful experiences in GS.

2. Belonging to a big sisterhood – getting girls excited about belonging and looking forward to the fun and impactful opportunities that await them may help retain them down the road.

3. Leadership development – is the core of the GSLE

4. Community engagement – through journeys, girls explore opportunities to change their communities and make a difference in the world

5. Skill building – choosing and earning at least one skill-building badge helps girls gain confidence in their ability to use their new-found knowledge

6. Expanding world view – by taking a trip, meeting an expert, or exploring in some other way, a girl’s world of ideas, people, and places expands

7. Ceremony and tradition – celebrating and honoring how girls have learned and grown in GS helps to point them toward new adventures

8. Adult support – especially in the use of the three processes (Girl-Led, Learning By Doing, and Cooperative Learning), volunteers can make the GSLE come alive for girls

9. Earning and learning – by participating in product sales, girls have the opportunity to “earn and learn” five skills (goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics)

10. Experience progression – share the exciting opportunities girls will have if they stay with Girl Scouts

Tell Me: For experienced GS leaders: Have you found these elements in your work with Girl Scouts? For new volunteers: Are you hoping to develop these elements in your troop?

Resources: How do you include these elements in your troop? GSUSA has created toolkits for Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors, available at:

The Hall of Fears

I think everyone is born with some instinctive fear–of falling, of the dark, of speaking in public, and/or of the words “Some Assembly Required.” I’m personally afraid of big machinery–pipes, cranks, dials and grease. Big wheels and fan belts. Maybe it was all the hydraulic equipment my engineering father showed us when we were young (read “family vacation”). At least I’m old enough now to say “no” to tours and museums that involve big machines and not apologize for it.

Louisa May Alcott is famous for saying “I’m not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” I’ve been driving a car for 36 years, but I’m still afraid to drive in a blinding rain storm- the kind where the wipers on the highest speed don’t keep the windshield clear, and you’re lucky to see the red taillights of the car right in front of you on the highway. But I get her point. I’d probably say “I don’t mind being afraid, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Feeling fear is just a part of life.

Probably the more debilitating fears are the irrational ones that keep us from living our fullest lives. We all have some of those, right? I found this great exercise in a book called Life is a Verb by Patti Digh.  Try this: create your own Hall of Fears (picture something at the state fair, without an exorbitant entrance fee). Set the kitchen timer for three minutes and write down everything you can think of that creeps you out. Things you avoid. Things that are scary. Keep going until you hear the timer “ding.” Next read over the list and notice which fears actually keep you safe, and which ones keep you small. Circle the ones that inhibit you, that keep you from doing something you’d really like to do. For the most part, fear is actually a learned behavior, so think about how and where you learned the fears that you’ve circled. Finally, pick one fear and spend just five minutes writing a short children’s story about unlearning that fear. How would you teach a child not to be controlled by that fear?

That will give you something to stew about for the rest of the day. I’m sure Louisa May Alcott would agree that application is always the hardest part.

The Good, the Bad, and the Snack: My First Troop Meeting

Troop 40072’s First Meeting

My troop met for the first time yesterday. Troop 40072 consists of 13 girls, from Kindergarten through 5th grade, Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors.

The Good

  • They were so excited to be Girl Scouts!
  • We learned the Girl Scout Promise, handshake, sign, and quiet sign — they caught on so quickly.
  • They shared what they wanted out of their Girl Scout experience: arts and crafts, trips, exploring outdoors, camping, and helping children in Africa to name just a few.
  • We voted on sashes — instead of vests — for our troop.
  • As a short Discover activity, the girls wrote and shared about things that make them happy and things that make them sad.
  • They liked the Friendship Circle.
The Bad
  • We had a bigger group than I expected and the person who was going to assist couldn’t make it.
  • We needed a bigger room.
  • The Daisies needed more help. When I went to help them, the Juniors seemed to get bored, walking around the room.
  • I didn’t leave enough time for clean-up!
  • My younger daughter didn’t think she squeezed the hand of the person next to her, yet the Friendship Circle continued to go, resulting in tears in the car on the way home. Total meltdown.
The Snack
  • They kept eating snacks the whole time and I only scheduled five minutes for it. They were really hungry right after school!
  • Then, there were lots of Clementine peels to clean up and not enough time to do so (see clean up note above).
Notes to Self
  • Get someone to help! For certain!
  • Allow more time for snacks.
  • Allow more time for clean up.
  • Split up group into age groups with an adult for each.
  • Find a bigger room.

Tell Me: How was your first troop meeting? Do you have meeting tips to share?


Leading Means Going First

“Everything in Girl Scouting is based on the Girl Scout Promise and Law. The Girl Scout Law includes many of the principles and values common to most faiths. Thus, while a secular organization, Girl Scouts has, since the movement began, encouraged girls to take spiritual journeys via their faiths’ religious recognitions.”

If you’ve ever looked into the “My Promise, My Faith” pin on the GSUSA website, you’ve seen that text above in the introduction to the recognition process. To earn the pin, a girl must make connections between her faith and the Girl Scout Promise and Law. As a leader or mentor you might wonder how to bring that connection process into a conversation, a meeting or, for that matter, your own life.

Faith is a major organizing principle in our lives; it is the source from which we derive meaning and inform our major life choices. Faith doesn’t require a religious belief system, although it often does. You might explain your view in terms of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Zen, Indigenous or Earth Based Religions, Humanism, New Age Spirituality, a General Ethic of Care, etc. There are many ways to explore the essential questions of life.

The first step in guiding a girl to answer her own questions is to have invested in the answer to your own. And to connect your beliefs to Girl Scouting–Your Promise and Your Faith–is a learning experience that is well worth the time of quiet reflection that is required. Unfortunately, you won’t get a pin, but your ability to lead will be enhanced by the fact that you’re guiding a girl in a process you have experienced yourself.

Here is a suggestion: start with the Girl Scout Promise, and think through what each line means in your own words, and in your daily life. Print out the attached worksheet to get started. And please share what you learned making connections.