Visiting Units and Attending Events
Attending events: At an event a Manager needs to be available for Leaders to meet, ask questions and chat to. But she should not appear distant from the participants -so to ensure you will ‘fit in’ at an event, be sure to ask about the dress code. If asked to speak formally, always ‘do your homework’ about the local area so your talk is relevant and always be encouraging and positive.
Elizabeth Adnams, Girl Guides Victoria
Visiting Units gives you the opportunity to meet leadership teams and observe what is happening. Once you start visiting Units it will be very clear they all face different challenges and that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. Obviously a significant factor is how long the Units have been operating and the experience of the leadership team. Units also face different challenges depending on the general behaviour of the girls, the number of girls, financial limitations and the quality of the meeting place.
By knowing your Units well you can support your Leaders by:
- offering advice on programming
- providing extra resources or skills where they have gaps
- facilitating the development of Units
- helping smooth the transition between Units
- promoting best practice
- making the right appointments
- facilitating effective Support Groups.
How often should I visit the Units?
The frequency of your visits will depend very much on the size of your Region or District and the density of Guiding in your area. Obviously if all your Units meet on the same night at the same venue, this is going to be very easy. If, on the other hand, your area covers several hundred square kilometres and the meeting places are scattered, you might only get to all your Units once a year. You need to think about what makes sense given your own availability and also what is most valuable for your Leaders. Some District Managers regularly attend the meeting place between the changeover of Unit meetings as this is a good time to catch parents as they are leaving or arriving. Other District Managers and Region Managers with much larger areas schedule annual or biannual road-trips to visit all their Units.
Do I need to wait until I’m invited to meetings?
Traditionally the norm was always for District (and Region) Managers to be invited to Unit meetings. Now it is acceptable for Managers to decide themselves if they wish to attend a Unit meeting. Don’t just restrict your visits to attending Promise ceremonies or to meetings held in the usual meeting place. If your visit is planned in advance with your Leaders, let her decide if and how she wishes to involve you. Some Leaders might be happy for you to play an active role in the Unit activities, facilitating the girls; whilst others might prefer you to just observe from the side-lines.
Can I just drop into meetings?
To really get an idea of the quality of the program it’s important to combine notified visits with drop-in visits. These visits do not need to be long. If your visit is unannounced be careful not to disrupt the program. You might also like to have a reason for making the visit, e.g. checking that a maintenance matter has been attended to. It’s critical that your presence is perceived as friendly and supportive rather than a monitoring visit. Whatever you do, don’t step on the toes of your Leaders during the meeting! If the opportunity arises during the meeting take the time to recognise what they are doing well.
How can I make my visit worthwhile?
As well as using the visit as an opportunity to monitor the program, you might also have something particular you want to focus on – the use of the Girl Recognition System or possible progression between Units. Your visit might be an opportunity to bring specific District or Region resources or you might be able to make a contribution to the program from your own experiences. Visiting a Unit is ALWAYS an opportunity to engage parents and carers in conversations about the value of Guiding and gather their views.
Some girls will be excited to see the District Manager or Region Manager at their meeting place and will want to tell you what they have been up to, whereas others might be a little intimidated or shy. Try and take the opportunity to talk to a range of girls, not just the ones you know well or the Patrol Leaders.
If visiting a Unit with Guides with special needs, take time to get to know them; don’t talk down to them, listen and observe and persevere with any speech difficulties. Be aware of their independence and ask if your help is required before rushing to assist them — if your offer is declined then do not be tempted to help because they seem to need it.
Even your Leaders might get a little flustered when you visit, so try to make them feel at ease – be friendly and give them lots of praise. Visiting the Unit is a great opportunity to show Leaders you are interested in what they do and value their contribution.
Being at Unit meetings and events is the best way for you to find out how Guiding is operating on the ground in your area. You should use your observation skills and ask lots of questions if appropriate. This process will be second nature once you are an experienced District Manager or Region Manager, but if you are starting out some of the questions you might wish to ‘ask’ yourself when you visit a Unit meeting are listed below.
What areas should I explore when visiting a Unit?
- Are the girls happy? Is there lots of smiles and laughter?
- If there are any disagreements, how effectively are they resolved?
- Do the girls seem able to listen to others even when they disagree with them? Are they able to compromise?
- If the activity has been competitive, are there good losers as well as good winners?
- Are any girls being teased? If girls are being teased or excluded, this might be evidence of bullying and should be discussed with the Unit Leader after the meeting.
- When the Leader speaks, does she easily get the attention of the girls? Do they show her respect?
- Do they respond to the ‘silence signal’ – a raised right hand?
- Are new girls welcomed and integrated by others?
- Is the Unit using the appropriate stage of self-government?
- Are girls working in small groups?
- Is there adequate time for small groups to discuss, plan etc.
- Is the Patrol System being used well?
- Is leadership being shared?
- Are younger girls supported and mentored?
- Are the older girls sharing their expertise?
- Are the PLs encouraging and facilitating their Patrols?
- Can you see the girls cooperating? Are they sharing tasks?
- Are all the girls participating? Are there any girls who don’t seem to be included or are marginalised?
Unit membership and progression
- How much diversity is there in the membership of the Unit?
- Do older girls still seem to ‘fit’ with the Unit? Follow up by asking the Leaders what plans are being made to help them progress to the next Unit.
- What is the level of absenteeism from the meeting?
- Do the girls who are attending correlate with the membership records?
- Is there evidence that the Program is being planned with the Guides?
- How does the meeting you attended fit within the intended term Program?
- Does there seem to be variety in the Program over the term or year?
- Were opportunities to go ‘outdoors’ utilised?
- Are outdoor challenges and trips being used to develop awareness and skills?
- Are the girls using the Guide Handbooks and other Guide resources?
- Does there seem to be enough of the basic resources for Unit meetings?
- Is the Promise and Law referred to during the meeting?
- Was the meeting structured in a sensible way – some kind of opening ceremony and a closing or reflection time?
- Are there any activities which would be good to share with other Units?
- Is there evidence that the AGP process is being used? Are the voices of all girls heard?
- How much energy is in the room? Does it feel like the girls are engaged in the activity?
- Are the girls taking risks? Do they seem to be stretching themselves?
- Did you see any peer assessment happening?
- Were games and challenges integrated into the meeting?
- Did the Leaders discuss with the girls the learning that took place?
- Was there opportunity for girls to do their own thing within the constraints of the activities?
- Was there evidence of learning goals for the activities?
- Is it clear what the Leaders’ expectations and boundaries are?
- How is discipline being applied in the Unit?
- If there is unwelcome behaviour – is it handled with respect and in private?
- Has a member of the leadership team been able to spend a little time with each girl?
- Are all members of the leadership team actively engaged with the girls?
- Have the Leaders praised the girls?
- Are the leadership team modelling respect and consideration for each other?
- Are Leaders using lots of positive language to encourage the Guides?
- Is there any evidence of Leaders playing favourites?
- Do parents seem happy to stay and chat with the Leaders?
- How have the Leaders interacted with the parents?
- How have any parental concerns been handled?
Meeting place and management
- Are there any safety issues which need exploring further?
- Are there any maintenance issues which you weren’t aware of?
- Is the First Aid kit adequately stocked?
- Is the meeting place clean?
- Have the admin tasks of the meeting been completed – attendance records checked, money transactions noted and any forms collected etc.
- Are the Guides in the appropriate uniform?
- Is the meeting place left clean and tidy?
- Are resources stored securely and safely?
At the end of the meeting take the opportunity to publicly praise your Leaders in front of the girls and parents. After the parents have gone, take a few moments to sincerely thank your Leaders and recognise the hard work they put into making the Unit successful. If you both have the time and energy, this could also be a good opportunity for some informal coaching about the meeting, the program generally, membership issues or involvement in District events. However generally it is best to arrange a time to catch up more fully at a later date, unless there is an urgent health and safety or risk management issue which needs addressing. If all is going well then no further chat is required except to acknowledge this personally and at next District meeting. Whatever the next steps, remember to send a thank you note/email the next day! You will have observed a great deal at the meeting or event, so make notes as soon as you can, perhaps against the questions, so you can recall the key points for when you next meet with the Leader.
How do I follow-up after a Unit visit?
Ideally the follow-up meeting should happen within the next fortnight. If the Leader is obviously struggling it’s very important to hold this meeting promptly. Try and choose a time when you are either not tired or pressurised and if you are meeting face to face, which is ideal, somewhere relaxed and comfortable like a café or coffee shop.
The starting point for the discussion should be the Leader’s own views of what worked and what didn’t at the meeting, rather than your own. Listening to their assessment will also give you some clues as to where she might appreciate some advice more generally. Your feedback should start off with praise and reflect the positive aspects you have seen. Also encourage her to talk about what she thinks is going well generally. Take the opportunity to widen the discussion too; speak about the overall programming, opportunities to progress girls and how the leadership team is developing.
This discussion should naturally help the Leader to identify areas for improvement and you will be able to offer assistance or support as needed. Have a copy of the Region / State training calendar handy too, in case she would benefit from more structured learning. Agree when it might be best to catch up again, if appropriate, and when you hope to visit the Unit again. Finish the conversation by referring back to what the Leader is doing well.
Last Modified: 18/08/16 at 11:20 AM