“Nobody told me that we were meeting at a new location!” This is one example of common miscommunication that I have, on occasion, had to mediate between a troop leader and a family. Of course, the content may change (“We aren’t going to the zoo this year?!?” or “I thought we were doing a different Journey?!”) but the reality of a major miscommunication happening somewhere along the line stays the same.
Receiving questions or comments like these can be completely disheartening and can definitely cause some stress for you as a leader. But, it’s important to remember that there is always another side to the story. Perhaps, in the case of the location change example, the leader might have emailed announcing a location change before the troop meeting and the parent hadn’t checked their email in time, which led to some confusion. Read on for a few friendly reminders to make sure that communication can stay on the right track for your troop!
- Hold a mid-year family meeting to check-in and plan the rest of the year. This is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. I have a troop of older girls (Cadettes through Ambassadors) and we recently met to talk about expectations. As leaders, we wanted to make sure that the girls were really committed to selling cookies. The girls brought to our attention that they were feeling stressed with how much is expected of them at school. We left the meeting with a clear outlook on how to work together the rest of the year.
- Set clear expectations. If you’re asking for parents to take an action on an email or message, include a specific date of when you expect a response. It’s okay to let your families know that you need their permission slips turned in no later than Friday if they want to come on the Science Museum field trip. Parents will understand (and appreciate the consistency), and soon it will become routine.
- Reread your emails before hitting send. I have learned this the hard way (a few times). I have sent emails in a hurry that, when I reread, rambled on and on or were missing pertinent information. Either way, the content of emails made no sense and ended up needing to be clarified with yet another email. On a similar note, reread any emails you receive to make sure you’re understanding them correctly before drafting a response. You want to make sure you’re actually answering the questions they’re asking.
- If you need to have an important or uncomfortable conversation, meet in person. Too many things can be misinterpreted through emails or texts or even phone calls. If you feel uncomfortable facilitating the conversation, reach out to someone (a troop mentor or service unit manager) in your service unit to mediate.
- Practice patience. This is a busy time of year for everyone, including yourself! I sometimes have to remind myself that while something is on the forefront of my mind, it might be on the back of someone else’s. This helps me not sweat it when I don’t get an email response or a text back right away.
Most importantly, thank you for all you do! As a troop leader, you have a lot of responsibilities, one of which includes communicating with your troop families. If you are looking for some ideas on how to make your volunteer role easier, check out this blog post that points out some rad websites that can aid you (and even strengthen your communication) as a troop leader.
Let us know what has been the most helpful communication advice you’ve received as a leader!
Ellen Voermans – Ellen is a lifelong Girl Scout who joined River Valleys as staff a few years ago and is now a Troop Support Specialist. She also leads a troop of Cadettes through Ambassadors in the Camden Wirth Oaks Service Unit and serves on the Forever Green Breakfast Committee. Ellen graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and is currently working on her master’s degree in education. Ellen loves to rollerblade and has completed four in-line skate marathons. Her favorite TV show is (and always will be) Sabrina the Teenage Witch.