Try this: Identify potential Scout leaders with the Oreo Test

Wondering whether that parent on the other side of the meeting room would make a good Cub Scout, Boy Scout or Venturing leader?

Try the Oreo Test.

Don Lauer of Troop and Pack 9212 in Summerville, S.C., devised the method, and he said it hasn’t failed him yet.

“Just a simple thing,” he tells me. “Plus I like cookies.”

I think it’s brilliant. Here’s how it works … 

The Oreo Test

By Don Lauer

Pre-Step: Check with other Scouters

I speak with the Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, etc. and see who they may think would be a great help or asset to the pack or troop. Then … I get my game face on …

Step 1: Make your approach

Walk up to a person who shows interest in helping out. Chit-chat with them. I used to be a special investigator for the U.S. government, so you learn a lot about people in a simple conversation (micro-twitches and all), but I digress.

Step 2: Get them laughing

I’m very personable and I love telling jokes … so I’ll admit, I am a bit of a clown, and I get them laughing about some of the fun anecdotes of Scouting. (One hour a week and all, that one time at Scout camp where Rickey the Raccoon ate the Nutter Butters, waking up each Saturday to the forest and smell of burnt pork butt, etc.)

Step 3: Ask them to do a simple favor

After a little chit-chat, I ask them to do a simple favor for me. I ask them if next week they would bring in a pack of Oreo cookies to share as a snack (for the kids, for a leaders’ meeting, etc.).

Step 4: Let the test begin

So why this simple task? I can tell you that 100 percent of the prospective leaders in our pack and troop have been asked to bring in Oreo cookies. They look at me puzzled and I politely say, “See you next week.”

You are probably thinking I’m losing it … especially if you have spoken to my wife lately.

By now you are probably wondering why Oreo cookies, right? So I’ll explain …

Step 5: See what they bring next week

oreo-emptyEmpty-Handed: If they come back next week without them … they will probably have an excuse. I have no use for excuses, I only need solutions.

We all work, go to school, have disabilities, have sick kids, etc. Adapt, overcome, find a way … just like all the other dedicated adults in the pack that on top of life remember the craft, or the Scoutmaster who stays two hours after the meeting helping Scouts and he/she still has to get up for work at 4 or 5 a.m.

oreo-snackSnack-size Oreos: If they come back with the snack-size pack, they did what was asked, but the bare minimum. Bare minimum does not equal good leader quality.

Who wants to work with folks who do the bare minimum? It’s only a matter of time that their work ethic will be dipping into less than the bare minimum, and the program will suffer which means the boys will suffer.

oreo-regularRegular Oreos: If they come back with a thing of Oreo cookies that is the normal pack … they have followed directions, met the challenge and sacrificed $3.50 of their own money and time shopping to get it.

They might just be worth the leader conversation.

oreo-doubleDouble Stuf: If they come back with Double Stuf, now we are talking potential. They exceeded expectations. They get the leader conversation that night. Usually these folks walk in with a smile holding them up.

You get a laugh, they get a laugh, we all get a cookie! Stephen Covey would be proud with the Win-Win-Win!

oreo-nutterNutter Butters: If they show up with Nutter Butters, I’ll make them a Scoutmaster or Cubmaster only if they were paying attention to the anecdotes from Step 2.

I always make two jokes during Step 2: 1.) It’s not a campout without burnt pork butt involved (Scouts burning bacon) and 2.) It’s not a campout without Nutter Butters. I don’t really know why the second, but they always make the backpack trips.

oreo-noshowNo-Shows: More than not, the folks never show up again. They self-eliminate the time I have to spend with them as a leader and more than not, the folks who come back the next week with Oreo cookies bring more than one pack … which is the final test.

oreo-lotsEnough for Everyone: If they bring back cookies to me, who cares… If they thought it through to make sure each and every boy in the pack or troop has a cookie, their heart is in the right place from the word go.

See, I can train you in Scouting … you either have the right heart or you don’t. I surround myself with leadership who has their heart in the game for the boys. The boys come first. Always.

Step 6: Analysis

See, a simple test of Oreo cookies gets me quality leaders who have the right heart, stay the longest in the organization, attract like-minded others, parents and Scouts.

Who would have thought all that from a cookie? End of the day … I don’t care if you are “Dad Eagle, Super Scout” … or a brand-new single mom. Just bring in Oreo cookies next week, and let’s see where this goes.

Plus, you can see the entire room smile that next week when someone walks in with Oreo cookies because no one but the leaders ever know why, and the kids will eat anything chocolate! So, win-win … again!


Feature Oreo photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by mihoda; Empty pockets photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by danielmoyle

70 thoughts on “Try this: Identify potential Scout leaders with the Oreo Test

    • I agree.
      But apparently wanting to make a difference in a child’s life is only important if you listen to dessert whims and power plays.

  1. “The Boy Scouts has been connecting kids with the outdoors for a century, introducing 112 million kids to the outdoors during the Scouts’ tenure. Staying “physically strong” is even a part of the Scout Oath. But it seems many Scouts have simply been giving that portion of the Oath hollow lip service. According to BSA’s internal Body Mass Index data collected at the 2010 National Jamboree, 41 percent of its youth participants are overweight or obese. That’s 10 percent more than the American average. And adult Scouts are struggling even more with their weight. An astounding 77.5 percent of the adult Scout participants at the National Jamboree were overweight or obese. If the Scouts have been getting kids moving in the outdoors for 100 years, why are an unusually large percentage of them obese?” From: “Scout’s Honor” BY Graham Averill, Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, October 2010. Perhaps you should choose a healthier test!

    • BMI is a horrible statistic first off. The maximum weight for me would be 193 pounds. Anything more and I would be overweight. Here is the thing, when I drop that low, people think I am sick because I look sick and unhealthy. I weighed 215 when I went to Philmont and had no problem (until I got a blister towards the end) could run an 8 minute mile, and avg. 20+ mph on a bicycle. Yes we need to get kids more active, but you need to look at the proper data too.

      • Concur with you about BMI. When I worked in my Pentagon office back in the early 2000s, I was responsible for keeping track of my section’s physical fitness (PT) cards as the Army uses 2 minutes of Push-Ups, 2 minutes of Sit-Ups, & a 2-mile run to test everyone’s physical fitness level. At this time BMI was making the news & the Army said to calculate everyone’s BMI.

        Along with doing the PT test, everyone is weighed in and those that miss the screening weight have to a body fat evaluation to see if their weight is under the standard for their height and gender. With about 15 Officers in my section, our average PT score was well above 290 points with a maximum of 100 points in each test. Over half us scored the maximum 300 points.

        In my mid-40s, I had not scored less than 293 points on the PT test since I was 26 years old. I always maxed the sit-ups & run, and if I lost any points it was always in the push-ups. Some young Captain couldn’t believe that I a max PT scorer so I challenged him for the PT test so the loser would buy lunch. I did 80 Push-Ups (well above the number needed for my age) and just a couple under the max for age group with the highest numbers needed for max scores. I did 100 Sit-Ups (quit with 10 seconds left of the 2 minutes) even though I appear a little “soft” in the middle. I also ran my best 2-mile run in a couple of years by a minute. Needless to say, I got a free lunch.

        Back to the BMI. I calculated my BMI (68 inches, 180 pounds) & it came out to 27.37 which put me right in the middle of the “overweight” category. I then calculated the other 14 Officers and almost everyone of them were also in the “overweight” category. There was only one Officer that was in the ‘normal” range who was about 6 foot tall & weighed 140 pounds, which put him in the lower end of “normal”

        I worked out 5 days a week and almost everyone in the office worked out at least 3 days a week if not 5. The BMI counts all weight the same and does not take in account whether the weight is muscle or fat. Muscle weighs more than fat so that that work out a lot are always going to come out in the “overweight” category or in the very high end of the “normal” category. The exceptions are few.

        For the last 10 years of my military career, my weight was always within a pound of the 180 as my screening weight was 181 before having to take the tape test to determine my body fat. On road marches and other physical events, I would usually outdo 75% of the Soldiers, Officer or Enlisted, even though I was 10-20 years older than the youngest Soldiers.

        The BMI should just be one measurement to determine whether someone is of healthy weight. It should not be the only determinant.

    • The real problem is that many parents and leaders go to scouts because they don’t think they can or should push their kids to be active or involved in sports. They have defined themselves as nerds or band geeks, and not athletes. Why not be both? Why penalize those that want to do both by having your meetings on Tuesday nights? Scouts should be on Monday nights when more people in general can make the meetings!

      • this would be a regional and sport specific thing. we fight all kinds of sports and practices for attendance and we are Monday nights. We know what teams our boys are in as such we have some boys that are only there in the spring, other only in the fall, but that said we are a Monday Night troop. The night wouldn’t make an impact on sports here, as they practice some sport every night of the week.

      • The meetings should be determined by the SPL if it is a BOY led troop. Our meetings are on Friday night. They are well attended. Another troop in our town meets on Tuesday. We get the boys who have Karate and tutoring on Tuesday nights.

        • This is fine and dandy for the boy-led meetings. But is it the boys who book camping excursions or do the administrative duties such as scoutmaster conferences or boards of review? Who do the boys turn to for guidance in tough situations?

          A good leader is needed in those situations.

  2. This is the most simple way to find a leader I have ever heard in my thirty-five years of Scouting. How unique! Kudos to Don Lauer! And for those who complain about “giving a kid a cookie” – if you have a great troop, they get all the exercise they need! Keep up the good work.

  3. It’s rather sad that the message and rationale behind the test was lost on some of you. it was a story with a process and a result which one with wisdom will take and adapt to their needs. For those who saw nothing but a half empty glass, or an axe to grind completely unrelated to the purpose — well — re-examine your reasons for being involved in scouting.

  4. There probably is some value to this test, but I don’t think you should punish a parent’s interest in helping by imposing the oreo request on them. We want to include more people not exclude them. Maybe, I am wrong in assuming you mean to literally ask them to bring oreos instead of just reading this and learning from it like a parable and a way to look at peoples actions and judge them. Every scouter volunteer brings something to the table, we should pool our strengths together and not just search for the perfect person. Some may be good speakers, persuaders, planners, gear experts, cooks, disciplinarians, negotiators, have vast material resources, or have more time to share than others. There may be a leader that is not well spoken or great at leading people at first, but instead young at heart and able to inspire the boys with knowledge and interest that can change their lives and spark an interest that leads to a career. It would be wise to take any adult help you can get, beggars can’t be choosers. Scouting also develops adult leaders. Someone with your expertise should have no problem developing great leaders.

  5. Seems cynical and manipulative to me. I’ve only got a few years of scouting leadership experience, but do have about 15 years experience running, helping to run and coaching a community sports program. There are better ways to find volunteers. Ask for small jobs that aren’t make work, let then know specifically what needs to done. be appreciative and ask again. Most people want to help.

  6. I would bring cups and milk too. Great write up and poo poo to all the negative Nelson and Nancy’s.

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