Yesterday this thoughtful comment was posted in response to my recent post “The Convention Game“. This post is in response to you (who posted the comment) and anyone in your situation:
As a current regional leader, I feel that it is the regional board’s job to regulate their peers’ actions before getting the staff involved. Unless someone is going to be seriously injured, I’d rather kick boys out of a cabin myself and stay quiet than alert a staff member and have harsher than necessary actions taken, especially for a first offense.
That’s one of the toughest calls to make. I know the “official” answer: that you should have notified staff, but you and I both know it’s not so simple – “just following orders” is never a sufficient answer, even if it’s orders by your regional director.
Here’s one suggestion though:
Print out the comment and this article and discuss it with your regional director. Go through some hypothetical scenarios. Aside from “telling” or “not telling”, you might hear of other options – such as anonymously letting a staff member know so they can catch the people in the act and deal with them without you being involved. It may sound like a cop-out, but sometimes it’s the best approach. Regardless, knowing how your regional director would likely respond to various situations will help you when it’s 3:00am and you have to make that tough decision.
Here’s a curious observation: I’m probably one of the strictest advisors around, yet I’ve also had the fewest disciplinary issues. How can this be? Well, part of the reason is, I think, that members of my chapter, especially the leaders, feel comfortable letting me know about possible issues before they occur. That allows me to offer them advice and support before the problem occurs, or in some cases help figure out a way for them to do what they want that still fits into the rules (or some variation thereof).
…I wanted to trust that they were mature enough to learn from their mistakes without adult intervention. Too often, even youth leaders in the highest areas of BBYO have not matured fully.
No disrespect, but of course the youth leaders in BBYO have not matured fully. I haven’t matured fully. I’m not even sure I know what that means. People make mistakes. People justify their mistakes even when they know they are wrong (look at all those politicians and their scandals). Many people don’t even learn from their mistakes. My point being…
I don’t follow policy to suck up to regional staff or parents. I happen to have an extensive knowledge of not only policy, but the reasoning behind it (especially related to the extent of BBYO’s liability). How can I express that I’m not trying to act like a suck up? I’m just trying to do my job as a leader.
…there is no easy answer. There is education. You have no problem trying to enforce policy because you understand it, and the reasoning behind it.
If you read some of my older messages, you’ll see I wrote a great deal about policy, particularly some earlier proposals that were poorly thought out. Some BBYO folk (including staff) wondered why I was making such a big deal about policy. It’s because of this very issue – it’s not right to ask members to agree to and follow policy unless those policies make sense. It’s not possible for you, as a youth leader, to educate and convince members to follow policy unless those policies make sense.
And you know what? BBYO’s liability is not the answer for everything, no more than “war on terror” is a reason to blindly throw away civil liberty. Most BBYO policies actually benefit individual members, chapters and the entire order. BBYO as a whole has done an absolutely terrible job teaching the reasons for these policies – no wonder some members don’t think twice about breaking them.
So there is my advice – start with the rest of your regional board. Make sure that you have good answers that make sense as to why these rules exist. When someone accuses you of being a suck up, you won’t need to be defensive – go on the offense! Ask them why they are jeopardizing the organization? Why are they hurting their brother Alephs and sister BBGs? Why are they breaking their promise to follow the rules they themselves agreed to follow? Bring in reinforcements in the form of your other regional board members.
Another reason I have virtually no disciplinary problems in my chapter is that I take the time to teach policy. The Alephs in my chapter don’t just know the rules, they understand the reasons for them. They understand how they benefit the chapter. They even understand that there are one or two stupid ones that I agree are stupid but that we have to follow because we made that commitment as being part of the order. And they know that they can come to me to discuss any of them and I’ll listen and do my absolute best to interpret them in a way that works for them and for the benefit of the chapter.
You also don’t need to wait until convention to teach policy. Use visitations. Use your regional paper. Use releases. Use regional business meetings. You might be thinking there are more important things to do with that time, but if these policies really do help chapters, then teaching them and discussing them should help as well, no? And if you’ve taught it, you won’t have to try to explain it at 3:00am, all you’ll have to do is remind them of what they already know. That should make things easier.
I remember when I first started as an advisor, the chapter I worked with was very picky about policy – they always cleared their events and made sure they had staff. I was surprised by this, and asked them why. The Godol, in a very matter-of-fact way explained, that that’s what AZA chapters are supposed to do, and since they were the best chapter in the order, there was no way they were going to not do those things. (And you wonder where I learned this stuff…).