10. Take Some Me-Time

Part 10 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“When you’re leading a group, it can be all too easy to burn out – so it’s important to take care of yourself. Practise saying no, and being polite but firm.”

So this is my guilty post.

I’m glad this is on the list though, as it justifies the recent ‘No’ I handed out.

A couple months ago I was asked to consider becoming a Peer Educator Trainer, a local session was going to be run later this year and they were looked for people aged 19-30 to train to become trainers. I loved the idea of passing on my Peer Educator knowledge and a weekend away with similar aged guiding members would be fun so I said I was interested.

Then I received the email with the details of what would be expected and I was not prepared for the amount of time this commitment would take. One weekend to train in London, completing two qualifications, and then being committed to four weekends a year anywhere nationwide, for the next three years.

At first I was excited by the prospect of gaining a preparing to teach qualification. I was considering it, although it was A LOT more than I expected. I was thinking like a day or two to train and then one weekend away later in the year, and maybe one next year! I suppose I was rather naïve, and I do completely understand why Girlguiding would want that big commitment from the people it is putting their money into training.

So I discussed it with James, and talking it through really put it in perspective. One weekend away on top of the two weekends already with the Brownies, plus the occasional volunteering at a big event and many day trips through the year was already difficult for him to hear. And I hate seeing him like that. So another four was unthinkable. And he was right. One weekend every three months, plus my Brownie commitments, plus not knowing how far I would need to travel before being at work at 9am on the Monday after.

This was a time I had to put James, and my own wellbeing, first. I said No.

I have complete respect for any Girlguiding member that takes on this commitment, I had no idea how much goes into becoming a Girlguiding trainer! From what I had previously read online I thought it would be more laid back, it was a role I had thought I would progress into but it is indeed a huge commitment and that would be one thing too many for me right now.

So I’m going to focus on my Brownies, take a few steps towards helping the local Senior Section and make sure I include some me time during each week.

9. Jump right in

Part 9 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“To keep young members on their toes, try to give them at least one brand new experience to enjoy each term. It can be as small or as big as you like – whether it’s a fun sports event, a food–tasting session or an international trip – all activities are enriching in their own way.”

This is a thought provoking topic! Are we giving our girls new experiences?

It is a difficult one to judge, what we think may be a new experience for the girls could turn out to be a little run of the mill. When we invited in a yoga teacher for a session, one parent commented how much her daughters enjoy yoga. Plus kids have so many opportunities to try out archery, climbing and pedal karts that a day at an activity centre may nor be as exciting as I would’ve found it.

This won’t be for every girl, but here are some of the experiences we have offered which have been quite unique:

Watching the Paralympic athletics. I cannot say another group will ever have this opportunity with us! In 2012 we took a group of Brownies to watch the events in the stadium, while some may have seen other events that year I think this is the only activity we will never be able to repeat! (Although taking the Brownies to another sporting event could be a good idea.)

Spy night. There was a lot of buzz following this themed evening in our unit. The Brownies and leaders dressed up, everyone had code names (I was Alpha Snake) and the Brownies took on four tasks, including a laser room, to claim the four clues to the whereabouts of their Easter eggs. I think these are the rare activities the Brownies cannot experience elsewhere.

Kidzania. This summer we’re hoping to take the Brownies to this interactive indoor city for kids. I know for some they will have visited before but as Brownies we haven’t, and I know some parents want their girls to go but cannot personally take them. I hope this will be an exciting new activity.

Visiting the Police Station. I think this has been the best unit meeting trip we’ve had. The police officers were so accommodating. The Brownies were very excited to see the  vehicles, handcuffs, cells, and all aspects behind the scenes.

8. Keep up to date

Part 8 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Having the latest information is key to leading well, and keeping your email address up to date on Go! will ensure you receive all Girlguiding communications. These, along with our website, will give you the need–to–know on everything from insurance to events.”

I am not one for social media, but for Brownies our leadership team set up a closed group for the parents to keep more informed. Due to this I technically have a Facebook profile, but I keep it clear of friends as I do not want those distractions. What I do use it for is keeping up to date with all things Girlguiding and some other interests too.

I can spend ages scrolling through my Facebook feed, finding out about events tacking place locally for Brownies, discussions from fellow leaders and taking inspiration from what other units have done. We recently got the paints out and each Brownie painted a mini masterpiece following an idea from Facebook – it was messy fun! It all stemmed from one Brownie saying the stain glass paint set we bought her for Christmas went in the bin because her Mum doesn’t let her get paints out. Well, what is Brownies here for!

It also gives us great ideas for trips. We are very close to being within a neighbouring county, and therefore while we don’t receive direct updates about what they are up to we can find out about trips and events they’re offering through Facebook. We’ve joined a few events at venues much closer than the ones offered in our County, and the Brownies gets some great new experiences.

Keeping the parents informed works so much better with Facebook too. On the morning of each meeting I add a status as to what the Brownies are doing that evening. Then in the days following we add a few photos to show what they did. We also use it to remind of consent forms, due payments and changes to meeting times and venues. Plus we can see who has seen the message!

7. Be inspired… and inspiring

Part 7 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“In guiding, we promise to ‘be true to myself’, which means taking steps to be happy in your own skin. Self–reflection isn’t always easy, but it can be rewarding – and being ourselves can inspire others.”

Who the heck am I? And what inspires me?

I suppose I am inspired to make our Brownie unit the best it can possibly be. But I cannot help feeling I am holding some things back, as it isn’t who I am and therefore is difficult / I do not agree with sharing it with the Brownies.

So to start, the good things about who I am and how they impact the group:

I like to challenge myself, and therefore I don’t always choose the easiest option when it comes to planning activities. It is rare the unit uses Baker Ross pre-planned crafts. In the past we have done an owl stitched soft toy on Brownie Holiday – the sewing aspect was quite a challenge. We have also done sequin pinned Easter eggs, not quite so challenging. I think it has been since then, about three years ago, I’ve avoided these sorts of crafts.

Another challenge I give myself when it comes to planning in ensuring we either leave the unit place, or welcome a visitor, at least once per term. In the past year we have been on chip walk (of course), the park, had a visit from a local clay company, a yoga session and visit to Pets at Home. I’m also planning a bouncy castle for the end of term.

I do enjoy a craft, I keep scrapbooks, in the past I’ve made my own cards and bracelets. Oh, and I love to draw! I try to use these things sparingly in the unit though. I know the stigma of the ‘only does crafts every week’ Brownie units. When we do a craft I try to keep it something with some skill. On Brownie Holiday we made awesome dreamcatchers – I will write about those at some point – and for some that was their favourite activity over the on site stuff.

So on the self-reflective side – things I could do better at to help the unit…

Go outside more. I really wish I had the forethought to ensure more of our meetings could take place out on the green during the summer months. We head outside for gardening twice a year, plus sometimes games outside and chip walk. There has been the odd meeting where we decide to spend the entire meeting, circle included, outside. But this isn’t often enough. I hoped Brownie Holiday would tackle this, intending the be outside as much as possible, but some things were just so difficult.

Lead better planning pow-wows. Sometimes I look at the term ahead, a plan decided on by the Brownies, and I wish we could do so much more. But these are the ideas the Brownies have thought of and chosen. I do offer my ideas, but the number wanting to do science experiments and the more educational interest badges are few. There is so much Brownies could do that I never get a chance to lead!

Pamper / girly nights. This is difficult because I just don’t agree with it. I think at Brownies the girls should be playing games, learning about the world and team building. We always do fun activities too. But stopping everything for a pamper evening just seems a waste of time to me. I completely agree with teaching the Brownies how to care for their nails and hair, I recall these things being in my Brownie handbook, but facemasks, nail varnish etc, for a group of nine year olds just seems wrong to me. And I don’t want to encourage an interest in it. Especially when we can run Free Being Me sessions instead.

 

6. Support each other

Part 6 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Sometimes, guiding means leading from behind the scenes, providing support and reassurance. On those occasions, try to listen carefully and respectfully, give constructive feedback, facilitate rather than direct, and provide pep talks when needed. Enabling others – both fellow volunteers and young group members – to take on responsibility is an important part of being a great leader.”

In our unit we have two Adult Leaders and four Young Leaders. Technically one becomes an Adult Leader in Training this month, and another later this year. Three of these four have been with us now for four years, and one has been with us nearly two. Supporting these young people through their Young Leadership has been a difficult task for me but I try my best to offer them every opportunity to complete it.

Each term we have one session where the Brownies give us their list of activities they’d like to do this term. Following that the whole leadership team sits down and discusses how we turn that into a termly plan, and at this point I offer out evenings for the Young Leaders to take over. As Young Leaders they need to complete one activity on the promise, and another couple on the Brownie programme. I make sure they pick activities that are from a different aspect to what they have already done, but aside from that they choose whatever they wish to do.

As they do one activity a term it takes them about two years to complete everything in their qualification. I try to set aside time during term to sit with each Young Leader and check how things are going, and try to help them plan what they should do next towards their qualification.

This year our two eldest Young Leaders completed their awards and I am so happy for them. They worked so hard for it both in the unit and at home.

Again, this is an aspect of leading I find difficult, it doesn’t come naturally to me to mentor these girls through this. I’m unsure if I come across as pushy or demanding, or expecting too much from them. But they have also proved very capable of leading successful activities.

You may look at our numbers and think having four Young Leaders is a lot. In all honesty when the fourth came to us and asked if she could join I felt it difficult to say ‘no’ to a young person wishing to volunteer. But actually having four Young Leaders works in both our favour and the young leaders. It allows them time in the unit to sit out and write up some aspects of the award. They take it in turns to use a meeting to plan their own upcoming meeting. It is rare that all four are able to join us for trips and holiday, but we know it is likely we will have one or two supporting us.

I’ve since had two more Guides wishing to join as Brownie Helpers and it is such a shame we cannot take them. They are directed to the right people to make more enquiries but I think for many joining the group that meets before their own is much easier on them and their parents.

I think moving forward with this I will try to make the arrival time at Brownies, except when speaking with parents, as a time to check in with the Young Leaders.

5. Aim for the Sky

Part 5 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Young or old, there really is no age limit on learning – and we offer plenty of opportunities to help expand personal horizons. Want to improve on safeguarding or first aid? You could try one of our e–learning modules or find out about courses run locally.”

I could work a little harder on this of recent. I cannot actually recall the last training session I attended, probably the county training the year before last. There are so many opportunities in Guiding but sometimes fitting them into your diary can be difficult.

The County I run my Brownies in runs lots of training on first aid, safeguarding, being our best, games, outdoors, etc. I suppose what makes it a little more difficult for me is that I don’t live in that County. A Saturday morning three hour training takes five hours out of my day accounting for travel. I realise this is my own fault but it does put me off trying more things.

The upside is there is lots of e-learning on the Girlguiding website. I have done the Brownie training, the Senior Section training – to prepare me for helping our Young Leaders progress – and the branding training – to ensure our unit website was consistent.

Perhaps I shall make a commitment to complete every online training – to be as prepared as possible. I will update on my progress as I complete more training.

I am in fact signed up for one County training in a few weeks which looks at PR. I would like to be better at getting the word out about Girlguiding in local newspapers, I tried this once before and it wasn’t successful. This is completely new to me so I am very excited for it!

4. Work Together

Part 4 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Being a great leader isn’t about taking on everything yourself – which is a relief! Knowing when to delegate a job to is a valuable skill. For example, you could ask your team to help you identify others’ strengths, and decide who is best suited to a task. By tackling things together, our lives can feel easier and more fulfilled.”

Star Quest District Event

For the Big Brownie Birthday in 2014 I was so inspired by the ‘Star Quest’ resource I wanted to run one for the district! It was hard work but it was made easier by the district team. The District Commissioner organised a venue, the Guide leaders arranged for their Guides to lead a ‘Future’ themed activity, and all the leaders in the district lead the activities I had planned. We had star headband boppers, a newspaper tower competition and  funfair side show games. Another leader then led the campfire songs at the end of the afternoon. It was  fab session that Brownies from 4 different units all attended and enjoyed. Without a team around the session would not have been such a success.

Brownie Holiday

Getting through a Brownie Holiday weekend depends on the team working together and taking on different roles. As the licence holiday I do most of the planning and organising leading up to the event. My fellow leaders tackle the first aid and medication side of things, making sure we have all the health forms, administering medicine at required times. They also lead on the food, preparing each meal with the help of the Brownies and ensuring we take breaks for drinks and snacks. The young leader team are on hand to help with activities, helping dish out meals and also lead the ‘midnight feast’ with the girls on the last night. Having a team of people makes the weekend run very smoothly.

I think for the future I should try to offer my assistance at more district level events, perhaps offering to lead on organising another fun day.