Taking the Reins: My First Experience being In Charge

This Guiding year I got a promotion! My two co-Guiders of four years decided to move on to other things and suddenly I became the one “in charge” of our unit. It was a bit of a scary moment knowing that it would be me and one other Guider who had been with us for the latter half of the previous year trying to make this unit work.

It isn’t that I knew nothing, just that I felt like I did. We had, in the past, all had our job to do. My jobs were cookies and badges. I knew very little of Safe Guide, parental contact issues, camping and myriad other things that were taken care of by others. Thankfully my former co-Guiders were a great resource to help me land on my feet, as well as my Community Guider and the other returning Guider in the unit.

It wasn’t easy, suddenly having some very big shoes to fill, but I think the key to making “my unit” work was to think of it as “our unit” instead. Yes, if anything happens I’m usually the one that parents come to first. But delegation is a wonderful thing! Cookie questions? Not my thing, go ask over there. Camp forms? That’s me. Badge testing? Head on over and talk to the other Guider.  The key to our delegated responsibilities is that we all know what’s happening with each other, without having to be involved. A quick FYI session each week keeps us up to date and we created a unit email account that we can all access so we can keep up with online conversations with parents.

We can all agree that communication within the team is key, and without us having an open forum to ask questions, get advice and ensure that we are all involved, this unit would never work. The other key is efficiency. Although we are all friends and love to chat we try to have a work hard/play hard mentality. Since we all live in the corporate world our planning meetings resemble something in a boardroom versus a living room with minutes, notes, and tables. You just have to find something that works for you and the personalities of your fellow Guiders.

I’m only half way through my first year as the head Guider but, if I may, here is some advice that I think can help any unit – those  just starting out, those with a change of leadership, or even units needing to streamline their processes.

- Delegate. Giving each person a job makes things easier on you and easier on parents since they know who is responsible for what

- BUT…be sure everyone knows what’s happening and how to do each job, because a change is always around the corner and it is easiest when everyone is up to date.

- Set up a communal email address. Parents find it easy to identify what is from the Guiders and everything is in one place for all to access. We sign the email author’s name first, followed by the other Guiders when appropriate.

- Get organized. Keep copies or scans of your documents in one place. Make a binder for resources. Take time to update the girls’ records and identify what needs to be kept and what can be changed.

- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your co-Guiders, Community Guiders, Unit Admins and other Guiders in the area have likely already tackled whatever challenge you are faced with. Use their wisdom, take their advice and ask for help when needed.

- Take a deep breath. Change is scary but also a great chance to spice things up. Use this as an opportunity to be sure that what you’re doing is working for you, as well as for the girls. No matter how you feel you can do it.

The final piece of advice I have for every Guider in any unit across the country is this: sometimes good enough is good enough. Do your best, smile, and enjoy the ride!

By guest blogger and Guider Michelle Parsons, 154th Ottawa Guides. Michelle is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa in Biochemistry. She likes to exercise and bike in the summer, and is learning to cook (slowly). Michelle tries to put as much STEM into her programming as possible. She also enjoys getting crafty and is occasionally known to join in a game of tag or wink murderer with the girls.  Read her past contribution to GirlGuidesCANBlog: The Power of an Expert.

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2 Responses to Taking the Reins: My First Experience being In Charge

  1. Natasha Jai says:

    Congrats on a successful transition Michelle ;)

  2. I very much relate to this post. When I first took on my own unit I was so scared, but realising that I was part of a team and not the only one who could do anything was such a relief! These days I handle most of the parent contact (they get confused otherwise!) but we share planning and organising among the team. It’s great having people you can rely on.

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