My son had just graduated from Cubs and gone onto Scouts when I was introduced to his new Scout Troop during a camping trip at Pawtucaway State Park in New Hampshire. I volunteered to assist with a weekend outing and thought it would be a great experience, spend time with my son and meet the troop he just joined. I was not expecting that I would learn some valuable leadership skills that would impact how I manage my business today.
Soon after we arrived, I was told by the parental leaders to set my tent up over in this flat area by some Birch trees. My son will set-up camp with the other scouts on top of a hill, a few hundred yards away. I asked if I should help my son out and they said, “he will be fine, the other kids will show him what he needs to do to get set-up”. So, reluctantly I proceeded to pitch my tent and get organized while my nine-year old trudged up the steep hill with all his gear to the other site.
After a few hours of conversing with some of the parents, I broke away and climbed the challenging hill to see how my son was doing. He was in the middle of cleaning and peeling some potatoes that was assigned to him and was getting ready to help cook dinner. He had his tent pitched, his sleeping gear all set-up and was very quick to point out to me that he was fine, and that I should join the other parents. I was quite amazed to see this since when I wasn’t even sure he knew how to make a bed, let alone peel a potato. So, I worked my way down the hill to the other parents.
A little while later I asked the parents during our dinner what the plans were that night. I was surprised to find out that we would just be doing our own thing and the kids were left on their own. They all knew how to chop wood, build a fire, make dinner, wash the dishes, clean-up and safely shut down the site for the night. I asked should we not go up make sure everything is okay, to which they replied with a slight chuckle, “they will call us if they need help, but they rarely do”. I said I was very impressed how responsible and knowledgeable the kids all were to which the Head Scout Master stated “When we took over the troop a few years ago, we all decided we would invest a lot of time into the kids, so that they would become self-sufficient. This was the only way they could truly learn how to camp. The investment really paid off. Now when we arrive, we really don’t have to do anything. They know what to do and we only help if there is an emergency. Today it is at a point, we have taught the older experienced scouts how to train the new scouts. The troop essentially runs itself with only some minor guidance.”
After the weekend was over, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to spend more time with my son, but I did however learn a very valuable life lesson as a leader. Invest time into your employees! Mentor them, train them, share your experiences, give them the tools they need to do their job and the dividends will be exponential. If you must stop your business and run up that hill every time there is a problem that needs to be resolved, then you are choking your business and doing your employees a disservice. Empower them, let them show you how to get the job done and you will be amazed with the results you will achieve. A business cannot grow and be healthy if the leaders at the top make all the decisions and do all the work. It demotivates your employees, your customers will feel it and it will affect your bottom line.
Today when we go camping as a family, my 19-year old son shows me a lot of tricks and techniques that I would have never known, including how to cook an 18-pound turkey in a tinfoil oven.
President of DATRON Dynamics, Inc.