CEO: March 2013 Archives

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Recently I was at a Girl Scout CEO meeting; I was talking to Anna Marie Chavez, the GSUSA CEO.   Anna Marie is energetic, enthusiastic and filled with new ideas and initiatives, exactly what we want for an organization that is charged with moving at "girl speed."   

We were talking about television.   She has been trying to interest television networks in creating a program about Girl Scouts.   This would dramatically increase our visibility, highlight the many fantastic activities Girl Scouts participate in, and showcase the community service Girl Scouts provide.   I asked if she had seen the new National Geographic program, "Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout".   I had seen the second program, where the Boy Scouts performed as empathetic, responsible young men, who were winning against the adults.   As we discussed it, I told her I would do some quick research about our girls and what they enjoy.

The question of the week has to do with what your daughter likes to watch on television.

The question is: What are your daughter's top 3 television programs?

The second question is: What are YOUR top 3 television programs?

And finally, if Girl Scouts had a television program, what should it be called? 

While I was at the meeting I thought of some program titles that I thought would be appealing.   What are yours?

Pleas send your top 3 television programs to communicatons@girlscoutssa.org.   We will compile the information and let you know the results.   Help us find out what appeals to your daughter, so we can move at "girl speed", too.

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My previous work was in higher education where one of my responsibilities was student discipline.   This taught me a lot about human nature.  After a number of years, I concluded that students just want what they want.   They don't care about the rules or the equity of a situation; they just want what they want.   Sometimes it is an impulse issue.   Other times it is what they perceived as an entitlement issue, I did this, so you owe me.  

As I grew older and handled more parents with these cases, I found that most people (not simply college kids) just want what they want.   Student discipline was an emotionally charged area, because the stakes were always high.   We kicked students out of college for continual infractions of rules, when sometimes the root issue was alcohol, or over indulgence by parents that continued into college with negative, socially unacceptable behaviors.

As I handled these cases, I was also stunned that students and their parents would shriek, threaten, insult, and defend in an effort to change the outcome.   Most of the time there was plenty of evidence, repeated infractions, lots of discussion with professional staff, yet the student continued with the problematic behavior.   More than once I asked a parent how insulting me would get them what they wanted?   The responses were interesting, since most of the time I was the final step in what had been a long process with many opportunities for change in behavior and attitude.

Some people believe that if they are well dressed and look nice, their behavior doesn't matter, even if they have good manners.   I don't believe that is the case.   Actions speak louder than words and clothes.   Manners are important, but so is doing the right thing.   Understanding that kids "do as I do, not as I say," is an important to grasp.   Kids understand hypocrisy, even if they can't say it.

I no longer have these weekly shrieking telephone calls from parents or irate students in my office screaming irrationally.   I do, however, sometimes find myself at the end of the telephone or in a conversation that is equally emotionally charged.   The stakes are certainly different, but I'm still surprised when the insults start to fly when someone wants something.   I might have missed this lesson in education, but I still operate in my grandmother's world that "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Most days I have the opportunity to observe adults who teach girls good citizenship by being a role model.  I watch adults adeptly defuse disappointments, frustrations, and tough social interactions by their gently encouraging all the girls in their care.   It is a rare occasion when I see adults who volunteer their time to do this work make missteps with the girls.    But I do want to be sure all who do this work are taking the girls' best interest at heart and their actions speak to whom they are.   Because of the importance of what you do, we owe it to the girls to only have adults whose actions speak louder than words about who they are, and the role models they provide to the girls we have the privilege to work with.

Thanks for all you do.   I share the relief you surely feel to have the cookie program behind you and look forward to the fun we will have this spring and summer spending time with girls, shaping their values and attitudes of the world they live in.

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We are in the process of working on a number of publications for our donors and constituents.   Our best stories are not my stories, but your stories.   I've asked the staff for stories from each part of the council and have received some good ones.   I suspect we have lots of good stories about girls and their troops doing amazing things, and these are the ones we want to share with people that support us.   They want to feel that their money is making a difference in the lives of the girls, and it's your stories that will show them just that.

We had a fund raising event a couple of weeks ago, and a longtime Girl Scout, Dianne Belk, came with her husband.   Dianne grew up poor on a cotton farm in Mississippi.   She wanted to be a Girl Scout, but her family could not afford it, so her mother said she could earn the money by selling the eggs from one of their hens.   Dianne wanted to be a Girl Scout so badly that  she collected those eggs, carefully washed them and walked them a mile to the store where the grocer purchased them from her.   She learned to have confidence as a Girl Scout.  

Dianne went to college with $5 and her clothes in a brown paper bag.   She went on to be one of the first women industrial engineers in the United States.   Dianne was so successful that she was able to retire early.   She and her husband will leave a large portion of their estate to the Girl Scouts, because being a Girl Scout changed her life, and she changed the world.

One of our favorite recent stories is about a girl who wanted to be a Girl Scout.   Her mother said they could not afford the cost.   She convinced her mother she wanted to be a Girl Scout, so her mother allowed her to use all the money in her piggy bank to join.   During the cookie program she sold more than 180 boxes of cookies.   We don't know, but maybe she will be the next Dianne Belk.   Even if she isn't, because of her experience she will be a girl of confidence, character, and courage who will leave the world a better place.

If you have a great story that you would like for us to share, please share it with us at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

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 I find myself in all sorts of conversations about programs, awards, trips, and camp.   It is interesting to me, because too frequently I hear why this and that didn't or doesn't work and it all rolls back to the adult involved.   It doesn't have anything to do with the girls.   When GSUSA moved toward high capacity councils, one of the many facets of their new business plan was to focus more on the GIRLS and less on the adults assisting.   Don't get me wrong, the adults that are assisting are critical to the delivery of the mission.   But for us to be and remain relevant, we must be GIRL LED.

What does that mean if you are a troop leader with a group of Brownies?   I was talking to a really good leader awhile back.   She said she had tried very hard to get two things out of each meeting that took a lot of time.   They were talking when they all arrived and coloring.   She thought both took a lot of time and she had things she wanted to accomplish.   In her wisdom, she had decided that talking was important to the girls.   At any gathering affording the girls free time at the beginning to share what is going on, often shapes the interaction to follow.   One of the values of the Girl Scout experience that I hear from alumnae is the relationship with the other girls of their troop.   When I meet with alumnae group their focus through the years is with their fellow Girl Scouts.

The issue of the coloring book with this leader was an interesting one.   She didn't see the value of it, but she said the girls insist.   If they don't get to color, they aren't happy with their meeting, no matter what they did that day.   I suspect this is more of the same.   Coloring is a time when they can enjoy themselves, talk with their friends, and enjoy their own creativity.   It is what the girls want.   This leader decided she would simply have to plan her meetings in relation to what the girls' needs and preferences were, not hers.   If they didn't earn all the Try-Its, that was fine.   The girls simply want to have fun.

One of our board chairs always emphasized the fun of the program.   Early on, she was always chiding me to be sure whatever we were planning, the girls were learning while having fun.   And what I have seen is sometimes the adults get in the way of what the girls really want.   Do you ask?   I used to work in student affairs at a university.   For years and years we saved the yearbook.   The students wouldn't get it done; someone from the professional staff would "fix it."   Things went much better at our university when I allowed the students to fail at some things.   It was expensive, but it improved their learning.   The students were telling us something about the yearbook and we weren't listening.

There is a very fine line between encouragement and discouragement.   I find that I am not too old to learn from children.   Their world is different than mine and when I can see through their lens, I find some of my views change, for the better.   Are we deciding for the girls or asking?   Are we involving the girls or telling?   Do we need control or are we flexible enough to allow them to make decisions, even though we don't see the wisdom in the decision?   Are we coaching and nudging or pushing and demanding?   Were they given options or told what to do?   Trust them and be prepared to be surprised. 

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