Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Top 3 Tips for New Leaders

So you've signed on to be a Girl Scout leader? Thank you, congrats, great! Now what?

Whether you stepped forward enthusiastically or reluctantly, that first year can be daunting. Well, I come to you from the future to tell you it will all work out, and the year will go by so fast, you won't even remember what you were worried about. That said, here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out:

1) Reach out. Take the training that's offered. Some of it will be good, some will be underwhelming - but either way, it gives you a chance to connect with other leaders. Attend service unit meetings regularly. Many Girl Scout councils offer a resource center, where leaders can check out books, videos and equipment - see if there's one in your area and take advantage of it. Visit online boards and discussion forums. (My favorite is Leader/Guider Cyber Council.) Seek out more experienced leaders and pick their brains.

2) Set goals. Badges, Journeys, field trips, camping, Council activities, service projects, workshops, cookies ... there's so many opportunities available to Girl Scouts that you're probably wondering how you'll fit it all in this first year. Let me just tell you - you won't. (That's why you have plenty more years ahead.) Start with a few goals to keep you focused. Think about what you want the girls to have learned or accomplished by the end of the year and work backward from there. For Daisies, maybe it's as simple as learning the Promise and Law, participating in a service project and earning X petals. You'll probably do much more throughout your year, but goals keep you on track. This year, our combined Junior/Cadette troop is focusing on key outdoor skills, as well as badges aimed at basic life skills (i.e. Independence, Budgeting).

3) Focus on what's important - the girls. When you hear of leaders burning out, it's usually as a result of their own unrealistic agenda, parental drama, Council or service unit politics, co-leader troubles, feelings of being unappreciated or paperwork - it's rarely because of the girls. At the end of the day, if the girls are learning, growing and having fun, then you're doing your job as a leader. Stay focused on the girls, try to minimize the "other stuff," and you'll be way ahead of the game.

To all the veteran leaders out there, what other tips would you add?


  1. Take lots of photos so that you can step back and really look at all of the amazing things your girls have done throughout the year. It will likely be overwhelming the first year, but at that last awards ceremony if you take the time to reflect, you will be able to see the difference all of your hard work has made. It's easy to get caught up in the minutia of planning, collecting permission slips, registering people, etc. Remember to breathe.

    1. That's a really great point. I'm horrible about remembering to take photos as meetings and events, and it's one of the things I regret the most. When I do look back at the photos from previous years, it always amazes me how far we've come. (And yes, breathing is good!)