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 volunteers in community, and youth, receive 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 role of a Unit Serving Executive?
Dennis: They are workhorses of our organization, responsible for fund raising, recruiting volunteers, recruiting new members, and starting new scouting units. They work directly with volunteers and their efforts determine our success in meeting our Mission and Goals.
CMOE: So Staff Leaders manage 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 biggest line item in our budget, we must maximize contribution of our people. We believe that maximization is more acute for Scouts. Every dollar spent has to be raised. It is absolutely imperative that Staff Leader sharpens 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 quality and quantity of coaching was lacking. They were not receiving enough coaching, feedback/direction, and 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.”