The Scouting Lesson That Can Provide an EDGE in Business

Article originally published by Sales & Marketing Management

For most of my life, I have been involved with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization in one form or another. When I joined Cub Scouts with my childhood friends, I had no idea what it was or what Scouting was all about. When I found out that I’d get to embark on amazing outdoor adventures such as camping, hiking, swimming and more, I was all in! Scouting was a part of my childhood. I’m proud to say, I earned the Eagle Scout rank before moving on from the Scouts program. Scouts truly opened my world, and I love that I was able to rejoin the organization again with my kids.

I owe much of my success to the many lessons and good habits Scouting has instilled in me over the years. I can see Scouting’s effects in almost everything I do today: helping others, social impact and leading with empathy. Scouting also taught me the Teaching EDGE method (Explain > Demonstrate > Guide > Enable) as one of the most effective ways to learn a skill. We explain it simply, demonstrate it clearly, guide them through it, and finally enable it. EDGE works whether you’re teaching kids how to build a campfire or teaching a roomful of adults how to use your company’s latest product.

As a father, business leader and now a CEO, I use the EDGE method all the time. I’ve observed in both the business and scouting worlds, there’s no better way to keep your skills sharp than to teach others. Whether you are leading a team, a business unit, or an entire company, it’s critical to have everyone on the same page. To do that, leaders must clearly explain and communicate expectations. They must demonstrate the skills and characteristics they want to see, provide valuable guidance, and enable their people to achieve desired outcomes.

Explain Everything

Explaining is the first step in the EDGE method, and it’s an important skill to master as a leader. Corporate leadership often faces criticism for poor communication and transparency. Leaders often explain who, what, when, and where, but they may not explain why or how. For most, why a decision is being made, how the outcome will be achieved, and how that decision will impact the company, their job and their workload are the most significant pieces of information. That’s why, as leaders, we must clearly communicate as much information as we can as frequently as we can.

Organizations run on information and people need informed decisions to succeed. It’s also much easier to gain buy-in from employees when they don’t feel like their leaders are holding anything back from them. Whether you are communicating about company growth, setting goals, or announcing layoffs, always explain the why and how as simply and directly as you can.

Demonstrate the Behavior You Want to See

Strong company culture is desirable in any organization. Having people aligned with our vision and living in the company’s purpose are important to us as leaders. To achieve that sense of cohesive culture, we must be out front leading the pack. Leaders must demonstrate the kind of business ethics, personal commitment, and positive attitude they want from their employees. “Do as I say, not as I do” does not work in the business world.

If you are implementing your company policy, be the first to adopt it. If you want employees to be more involved in their community, volunteer. And if you feel morale is low in the organization, speak with employees personally to understand what could be done better. No matter what the situation is, if leaders aren’t demonstrating the behavior they want to see, nobody else will.

Guidance Is Imperative to Growth

Guidance is a critical step in the EDGE method. It’s the step that helps people bridge the gap between knowing how to do something and being able to do it well. Leaders, especially those in large organizations, won’t have the time to guide everyone. Instead, leaders should focus on building a mentorship culture and encourage continuous learning. No matter the outcome you want your team or organization to achieve, you are responsible for guiding the path to that outcome.

If you know your employees need upskilling, invest in courses, or set up skill sharing sessions. If performance is down, work with your team to determine the cause and find a path forward together.

And perhaps most importantly, give people the space to try things for themselves and create opportunities for personal and professional growth. It’s imperative to remember that guidance does not mean micromanaging. Instead, leaders should ensure steady progress toward organization goals is being made. They should also help others make the most effective possible decisions in order to reach desired outcomes.

Empowering Is Better than Enabling

The final step in the Teaching EDGE method is “enable.” As leaders, we want to make sure managers and employees have the tools they need to do their jobs, meet their goals, and produce positive outcomes. However, I think it’s worthwhile to go one step further, empowering people to use those tools to their greatest effect.

For example, enabling a marketing team may involve building up your organization’s marketing technology stack. But empowering that team means ensuring they have the time and training they need to effectively use the cutting-edge technology. Similarly, you might enable better diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) initiatives within your company by updating your hiring policy and practices. However, empowering your DE&I program may involve establishing employee resource groups or holding open forums with leadership to ensure you hit the mark.

Empowerment happens when everyone has the tools best suited to their needs and feels skilled and capable enough to use them to produce positive outcomes. In my experience, employees who are enabled by their employers can do remarkable work. But employees who feel empowered drive change and move the needle. And by empowering employees, leaders can give them the EDGE they need to succeed.

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