As a Troop Leader
or Leader in Training for Dog Scouts of America, you are helping
promote our mission on a local level, which is very important to
us. You are very much appreciated, and the work you do is very critical.
It is very important that you know how much you ARE appreciated,
because volunteer work is often taken for granted, and
that in itself leads to burnout. I have included a few tips here,
to help you as a leader to avoid burnout. I hope you find it helpful.
If you have anything to add, please let me know. Thanks again!
I am offering these tips, assuming that you have already read all
of the other information available to you, to help in the Leadership
Training process (Helpful hints for leaders in training, Leader
Outline, Leadership styles, etc.).
GET HELP! Not the psychiactric kind...
Having a co-leader and division
of labor is a really good idea. If you become ill,
overextended, burned out, or incapacitated for a period of time,
you will have confidence that things can go on as usual. Knowing
that you are the only glue that holds something together is very
stressful. Everything falls on your shoulders. This is no fun. Those
of us with leadership qualities enjoy knowing that we are helping
people be all they can be, but sometimes you tire of
being the mommy. This job is rewarding, but has its
ups and downs. A co-leader can help you cope with some of the down
side of the job. Two heads often work better than one, and if you
can have a co-leader, or someone youre grooming for the job,
you can feel more free to take some needed time off, or whatever.
There may come a time when you actually have to move from the area
or something, and your disappearance could lead to the folding of
the troop if you dont have an understudy ready
to take on the responsibility.
Dont be afraid to delegate responsibilities.
With all that having a troop entails, it can easily be broken up
into various categories. Fundraising, Outings, Continuing Education,
and Community Service are four categories that leap into my mind.
Maybe there are actually one or more of these things that your troop
doesnt actually engage in. Thats fine. And thats
easier. But, you may find that peoples reasons for wanting
to join a troop vary, and some people may be very gung-ho
about the outings, and others very passionate about fundraising.
Using their enthusiasm for their favorite aspect of troop membership
by placing them in charge of all or some of those duties will take
a great load off you. Have someone ELSE in charge of finding a fun
place to go hiking each month. Have someone ELSE find a new source
for an educational presentation or project to work on. Have someone
else be the contact person for Community Service activities, or
the newsletter editor, or secretary, or whatever else you can delegate.
Remember why you wanted a troop in the
first place. Do what you are the best at. I had someone
bring home a very important fact to me at our first Dog Scout Camp
of 2001. The camper pointed out that Lonnie is a very good
director and dog trainer, but her strenghs dont lie in hotel
management or food service! After I hired someone else to
be the full time food service staff, and an administrative assistant,
the camps ran so much more smoothly for the rest of the summer.
I was less stressed, and the campers had a much better experience
because Lonnie wasnt trying to do it ALL. Do what you are
good at, and find someone else to take care of the other things.
There WILL be someone who is good at those other things, and they
will surely offer their help if it means the smoother operation
of their troop functions. No matter how talented you are, you cant
do it ALL, and you shouldnt try to. If youre like me,
you feel that if you want it done right, the best way is to do it
yourself. However, if you will just let go, and allow
someone else the opportunity, you may be pleasantly surprised--I
know I was!
Troops require TEAMWORK! Maintain
that theme. If you start out thinking that youre the only
one who knows what direction youre going, then you will always
just have a group of followers, and you will always be the
mommy. Get your members involved, and help them to accept
responsibility. You will be amazed at the benefits you will receive.
When we started assigning clean-up details at camp, we thought we
might get whining from the campers. Instead, we had people tell
us how much they actually loved that aspect of camp, and what a
great TEAM building exercise it was! The more responsibility
you give, the less noses youll end up having to wipe!
Keep a good attitude. Nothing is insurmountable.
If youre having trouble, you can always turn to me or the
other leaders for advice or help. Remember my golden rule: People
Vary. Dont let personalities get in the way. You will always
come across whiners, complainers, or other poisonous
people. Remember that they own their own problems. Dont let
them rain on your parade. Most of us are women, and God knows we
have our ups and downs. We tend to go from, Wow, this is great!
to I dont want to do this any more! in one second
flat. Dont let a setback or two make you decide to throw out
the baby with the bathwater. Settle down, count to ten, relax, do
some deep breathing, remember that people vary, and then move on.
Perhaps you are overly stressed because you are not taking full
advantage of suggestion #1 (Get help!).
Re-examine your priorities. Are
there things youre doing that you could do without? Are you
doing TOO MUCH? Maybe you should just focus on the most important
things. If there are other things you wish to do, too, see #1 (get
help!). Remember that as a troop leader, there are very FEW requirements
made of you from national headquarters. You can do as much or as
little as you desire. I personally choose to run my own troop rather
loosely. I have two very fun outings each year, and a couple of
FUNdraisers, and we do some community education. I am the epitome
of sloth and selfishness. If its not FUN, I dont want
to do it. I dont ask you to have a minimum of so many fundraisers,
outings, meetings or anything. I dont require monthly reports,
monthly meetings, or any kind of official documentation to run your
troop on a day-to-day level. If you are going above and beyond
the call of duty, I suggest you re-read suggestion #1 (get help!),
or read on (learn to say no).
to say, no. This goes along with re-examining
your priorities, above. Some of us just keep taking on additional
responsibilities, and filling up our days with work. You find it
hard to say no to that person who wants free help, or to the garden
club, who wants you to run for secretary, or the school who wants
you to head up the PTA. My own urge to please everyone makes me
want to say YES now, and figure out how Im going to do it
later. I often
wish later that I had said NO when the opportunity presented itself.
I have had to make a resolve not to accept Judging assignments for
4 months out of the year. When people call, I feel bad, because
I dont have a previous committment on the calendar NOW, but
I know that if I accept the assignment, I will be sorry later, because
November through March is sledding season, and I know I will be
wanting to be at races or practice sessions during any or all of
those weekends. Ive also had to say no to good things, like
vacations in the carribean and being on television, because I just
couldnt make the committment.
advantage of outside help. If you are finding
that your troop needs more than you are capable of providing to
them, dont be afraid to refer them to an outside source. If
you see that your average troop member needs more extensive training,
for example, that is not something that you are required to provide
as the troop leader. You can always refer the members to a training
class in your area, where they can get the help they need. They
should not join your troop with the idea that you are going to provide
free training classes for them. An occassional educational meeting
which covers important concepts like leave it!, skill-building
games or indirect access exercises is one thing. In-depth training
is quite another. Dont be afraid to refer a member to a good
local training facility. If there is no good training facility in
the area, and you end up being forced to offer a class yourself
to cover the necessary items to help your troop members learn how
to positively train their dogs to do the things necessary to be
good dog scouts, you can do that OUTSIDE of your job description
as troop leader, and charge a fee for your services.
Dont whine about it.
Whining isnt constructive. If you whine and complain to other
people, you will depress them, or possibly cause them to join you
in having a feeling of unhappiness (misery loves company). Discontent
can spread like a bad disease. Please dont start a Woe
is me club. If you talk to me about it, I would be happy to
listen to your woes, but am I really in a position to change anything?
I make very few demands of my leaders. Remember, you
are free to do as much or as little as you choose. You might think
about WHO you need to talk to, that will actually bring about change.
If your troop members are putting too much pressure on you, then
THEY are the ones you need to complain to (or make your feelings
known to). You need to speak to the people who are able to affect
a change in the situation. Are you putting too many demands on yourself?
Better see #1 (get help!), or learn to say no.
Dont lose the vision!
Keep sight of the long term goal.
Remember, you are changing the world. You are spreading the concept
of responsible dog ownership and touching many peoples lives.
You are making the world a better place for future generations.
You are helping people to engage in activities which will magnify
their bond with their dog. You are creating responsible dog owners.
You are helping keep dogs as valued members of the family, and not
as something to be discarded at the first sign of problems. You
are reducing the number of unwanted dogs in the country, by making
them WANTED, VALUED family members, who have more freedom to accompany
their owners because of their good behavior and their owners
committment to responsibility.
Feel GOOD about yourself! You are important. If you werent
here, doing what you do, the world would be different. Think of
all the lives youve touched. Remember the ripple effect.
You may think
that what you do is small potatoes, but those ripples go out and
continue to have an effect on people and the world. If this doesnt
make you feel important, it should. You are important to me. And
you are important to a lot of other people, even the ones that dont
tell you so.
Take it one step at a time.
Pace yourself. We cant change the world in a day. But, be
certain, we ARE changing the world. One step at a time. Dont
overload yourself trying to do it all right now. If
youre like me, you want to DO IT ALL, and you want it done
yesterday! This cant always happen. Just keep telling yourself
that youre doing the best you can. Take it easy. Just do what
you can do. If you take on too much, and become overloaded, you
will be subject to burnout, you may decide to pack it all in, and
then we wouldnt have you at ALL!