What are you asking your committee?

committee_at_table_200There are two basic definitions of the term committee. One, a legal definition, refers to someone who has been placed in the charge of another person by reason of insanity. While Scouting can sometimes drive us to the brink, or so it seems, the more common definition describes a group of people assembled to perform a specific function. In our context, that function is the management of our unit.

A unit committee is typically a collaborative body, which works together to solve the problems associated with supporting the unit’s program. The committee chair is the chief facilitator, whose mission is to provide or arrange for the resources needed by the rest of the committee members so they can more effectively do their jobs. Sometimes this is in material form, obtaining money or things, but usually it’s non-material, such as establishing connections between the committee and other entities (such as the chartered organization, the council or community resources).

Since the committee needs to work together and are dependent on each other for many things, the committee chair should strive to discover what needs to be done to advance the work of the committee from the members themselves. One way to do this is to regularly ask for and obtain feedback from committee members, and the best time is usually during the monthly committee meeting.

Entrepeneur David Hassell wrote recently about the ten things the leader of a workgroup or team should ask his members each week. The questions cover a broad range, from asking about victories and sticking points to evaluating the leader’s effectiveness. If we meet each week it’s usually a stand-up meeting but at our monthly committee meetings, we can ask some of these questions of our committee members. Here are some ideas formed from Hassell’s article:

  • What are the “wins” this month? Did something finally come together? Maybe the equipment coordinator finished checking and repairing tents or stoves. Maybe the fundraising coordinator wrapped up a successful popcorn sale. These are things your committee can tell the others about and be recognized for their dedication.
  • Are you stuck on anything? Just as things go well, they can also get stuck and might need some help from others to get going again. I wrote about “getting stuck” and how to get going again a while ago, and this is a time when the collaborative efforts of the committee can help move an off-track project forward.
  • What’s one way we can improve or innovate? Our functions are usually fairly well defined, but there may be some ways to tweak things to improve the process. For instance, you could establish a practice where the membership coordinator checks in with the advancement coordinator to ensure that everyone’s properly registered before advancements are recorded, or the equipment coordinator could work with the treasurer to figure out how to fund needed high adventure equipment.
  • Did you catch someone else doing a good job? People love to get a pat on the back for a job well done, so encourage committee members to report the good things they’ve noticed others doing. It’s a way to help everyone tune in to the various parts that others play in the committee’s success.
  • What can the chairperson do better? We don’t always like giving or receiving a critique but it’s a useful way to improve your own leadership. Ask members to be candid about what can be done better, and be sure to take any comments with an attitude of helpfulness. Remember, we’re all working for the boys and everything we can do to improve our performance results in a better experience for those we serve.

Hassell suggests a number of topics that pertain primarily to a business relationship, but even though we’re all volunteers, we can still glean some helpful practices from them.

Asking the right questions, and encouraging others to be thoughtful in their answers, can be the best way to move forward. It harnesses the power of collaboration, which one-way directives simply can’t do. Try some of these ideas with your committee soon.

Image by David Castillo / Freedigitalphotos.net


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