District Commissioners: A Close-Up View

Daniel T. Segersin, Council Commissioner, Viking Council

Council commissioners are privileged to work with many wonderful players on the council team—but, as it says in the current issue of the commissioner newsletter: "Next to your professional adviser, district commissioners are the most important members of your Scouting team!" It is the district commissioner who you must rely on to accomplish what you are held accountable for as a council commissioner - serving the units of the council.

The mission of a district commissioner is to mobilize a staff of dedicated volunteer scouters whom strive for ensuring the highest quality of unit program is available for youth. District commissioners are the glue that holds the commissioner service team together. They make sure that the unit commissioners counsel and inspire unit adults, improve their assigned units' program, and help units solve problems before those problems can damage and sink the unit.

At the monthly staff meeting the district commissioner allots major time for assistant district commissioners and their respective unit commissioners to review the health of every unit within their assigned areas.

Unit commissioners share important observations from recent visits with unit people. They give priority to unit trouble spots that could badly disrupt a unit. They identify specific ways to help each unit improve its program and what resources are needed to provide the help.

Above all, the district commissioner is the builder of a complete team of commissioners for the district.

A complete list of specific responsibilities is on pages 7-8 of Commissioner Administration. They are so fundamentally important that I'd like to review some of them with you:

  1. Identifies and recruits enough of the right people as commissioners so that all Scouting units in the district receive regular, helpful service.
  2. Provides opportunities for immediate commissioner orientation, frequent basic training, and monthly learning experience for all commissioners.
  3. Supervises and motivates unit commissioners to visit each unit regularly, identify unit needs, and make plans to meet unit needs.
  4. Administers the annual commissioner service plan, which gives specific purposes for commissioner contact with units at designated times of the year.
  5. Oversees the unit charter renewal plan so that each unit reregisters on time and with optimum membership.
  6. Guides roundtable commissioners to ensure that monthly roundtables are well-attended, and provide practical and exciting unit program ideas.
  7. Works with the district chairman and district executive to stimulate and coordinate the work of the district to meet district goals.
  8. Represents the district as a member of the council commissioner cabinet.
  9. And, attends district committee meetings to report on conditions of units and to secure specialized help for units.

Next, what are the qualities of a good district commissioner?

The district commissioner must be a proven leader capable of enlisting other effective persons to serve. They are upbeat, personable, and a role model for Scouting ideals. They are passionate about the benefits of Scouting and a champion of the unit to make Scouting happen in the lives of young people.

Perhaps the greatest quality is identified by the teacher of leaders, Jim Collins, in his book, Good to Great. Collins' extensive research links leadership success to a blend of personal humility and unwavering resolve for results in the organization.

Great district commissioners channel their ego needs from themselves to the larger goal of a great commissioner staff and units with a great program for kids. This compelling modesty is in stark contrast to the popular image of larger-than-life charismatic leaders.

Great district commissioners are also fanatically driven to do whatever must be done to assure that each commissioner works with each unit to improve that unit's program for its youth. This unwavering resolve produces sustained results as Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers stay in the program longer and learn Scouting values to last a lifetime.

As a council commissioner you want to both support and hold accountable your entire team of district commissioners.

  • Guide and encourage district nominating committees to select outstanding persons as district commissioner. Provide your time and assistance to recruiting the right person for your team!

Keeping in mind that their district executive is their prime advisor—

  • See that district commissioners receive good initial orientation and ongoing training.
  • Provide thoughtful coaching as needed—help build their confidence and self-esteem.
  • Recognize their achievement among their peers
  • And, help them evaluate their performance.

Let me suggest that you visit with your staff adviser and/or Scout executive to discuss how to increase the effectiveness of district commissioners and how to better support district commissioners. Also discuss how the council's district executives and district commissioners can develop an even better team relationship.

Use your monthly council commissioner cabinet meetings to guide, support, and hold accountable district commissioners. They are your most important team members.

Thank you and have another great year in Scouting.